Dividing Kosovo - a pragmatic solution to frozen conflict

Article published on Oct. 3, 2008
community published
Article published on Oct. 3, 2008
Earlier this week Serbian President Boris Tadic stated, that he would not rule out partitioning Kosovo if all other options on Kosovo’s final status have been exhausted. "Intellectuals in Serbia and the international public are debating the issue of a partition and this is one of the options that have been emphasized all these years in searching for a solution to Kosovo's future status.
I can only think about this when all other possibilities have been exhausted” Tadić told a news conference. (B92, 1/10/2008)


Although Tadic did not specify where the line of partition would run, it is most likely to include the municipalities of Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok as well as the northern half of the flashpoint town of Mitrovica. This area in northern Kosovo is overwhelming ethnic Serb and Pristina’s influence holds little weight here.

However just half of the 100,000 Serbs living in Kosovo actually live in northern areas while the rest are in isolated enclaves that dot the former province. One should also remember that about 100,000 - 206,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Kosovo is living in Serbia.

Kosovo Serbs pro and against

Senior Kosovo Serb politicians claimed President Boris Tadic’s declaration had sent a negative message to Serbs living in the enclaves that are spread out across Kosovo.

Meanwhile the Vice president of the Serb National Council, moderate politician Rada Trajkovic claimed the partition of Kosovo would complete the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo. (BIRN/Balkan Insight Daily 2/10/2008)

On the other hand a deputy for KiM in Serbia Parliament Stojanka Petkovic believes that partition could be a solution. ‘The project of multiethnic Kosovo has failed since it turned out that the Serbs and Albanians cannot live together’, Petkovic says. (Blic 3/10/2008)

Partition as pragmatic solution

Personally I came early 2001 to same conclusion than Ms. Petkovic above and since then considered partition as best possible outcome on the ground. I justify my point e.g. with following arguments:

If negotiated and accepted by Belgrade and Pristina partition deal is according international law, not against it like forced, imposed solutions The deal can serve as positive precedent for similar cases in international politics Both parties can focus their energy to improve economy and living conditions of their citizens without never-ending dispute over Kosovo status North can be integrated directly to Serbia without need to make creative solutions for parallel structures; South can concentrate its development needs without endless dispute about authority in North EU and US can focus their actions in Kosovo to capacity building and economical development instead of using huge military/police presence to keep there some order

One big topic of course is the question about enclave Serbs and historical heritage. While agreeing about partition one tacit condition for Kosovo republic should be implementation of self-governance and cultural heritage clauses of Ahtisaari plan.

EU should also implement/finance a sufficient housing program in Serbia to solve its refugee/IDP question. Enclave Serbs could through this housing program find a good alternative to enclave live. The Balkan history is full of examples about more or less voluntary migration of peoples/nations around the region, a housing program could this time make it moderate or at least tolerable.

Bottom line

I know that my point of view is not according some top level ideals about modern multi-ethnic societies and it can violate some persons’ human rights e.g. freedom to choose fixed abode. However partition can be a practical, pragmatic and realistic solution to end a frozen conflict. It can be sustainable base from where both parties can focus to improve their daily live. Who knows maybe after some peaceful period borders start melt down, interaction between individuals from different ethnic groups’ spreads and multi-ethnic region is ordinary routine.

More about Balkan politics in my BalkanBlog