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The Fourth Plan to Solve the Crisis of North Kosovo

(2011-12-01 13:43:40)






The Fourth Plan to Solve the Crisis of North Kosovo

ZHEN Peng *


Abstract: There are three plans to solve North Kosovo crisis. They are respectively autonomy, partition and territory exchange. The paper gives the fourth plan: partition and territory exchange. The plan includes two parts. One is partition: North Kosovo is been partitioned off Kosovo and incorporated into Serbia. Two is territory exchange: the Serbs enclaves south the Ibar River with Preševo Valley. The plan is most complete one to finish the ethnic contradiction of Serbia and Kosovo.

Keywords: North Kosovo; Serbia; Albania; autonomy; partition; territory exchange


North Kosovo is a region north of the Ibar River with ethnic Serb majority. It includes the four municipalities of North Kosovska Mitrovica, Zvečan, Leposavić and Zubin Potok. As North Kosovska Mitrovica is a part of Kosovska Mitrovica Municipality before the war, so to speak, North Kosovo includes three plus municipalities. It is about one-tenth of Kosovo’s territory (approximately 1,000 square kilometers) and a half of all Kosovo's Serbs live there. Some Albanians live predominantly along the north bank of the Ibar in Mitrovica and in one large village (Čabra) in Zubin Potok.

By comparison with the Serb enclaves south of the Ibar River, North Kosovo is adjacent to the central Serbia. Since 2008 Kosovo declared of independence, the Serbs of the North have insisted Pristina's authority. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon initiated first negotiation on technology issues.[1] As both sides' hostility, the negotiation is indirect, chaired by UN Mediation Expert Andrew Ladley (New Zealand) supervised by the head of UNMIK Zannier. Kosovo’s institutions rejected the whole six-point document.[2]

From this March, European Union had taken charge of the first direct technology negotiation, mediated by Counsellor in the European External Action Service Robert Cooper. Though they had achieved some progresses, both sides kept huge differences in Customs and boundaries.

July 25, Kosovo police special unit suddenly took over two boundary checkpoints: Jarinje (Gate 1) and Brnjak (Gate 31). September 16, European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) transported Kosovo customs officer and border police by helicopter. Serbs built many barricades. NATO troops in Kosovo (KFOR) dismantled the barricades many a time, provoking clashes with local residents.

Continuous moderate German Chancellor Merkel hardened her attitude to Serbia unexpectedly. December 9, EU will decide whether gives Serbian candidacy status. Serbia faces big blackmail. The North keeps the core to the Kosovo matters. There are there plans to solve Kosovo crisis: autonomy, partition and territory exchange.

The first plan is autonomy. Ahtisaary plan designs limited autonomy to the Serbs. At present, many people think it insufficient and support Ahtisaary plus, for example former UK Europe Minister Denis Macshane.[3] “Founder of peace and conflict studies” Johan Galtung recommended Swiss model of cantonisation.[4] International Civilian Representative Pieter Feith suggest Spain Catalonia model.[5] Former UNMIK representative in Mitrovica Gerard Gallucci provided a series of detailed recommendations that are intended to facilitate implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan in north Kosovo.[6]

    But all above programs are still inadequate. North Kosovo needs a regional parliament and government as International Crisis Group (ICG) suggest.[7] I recommend Chinese Hong Kong model. Besides integrated parliament and government, North Kosovo will have full power of taxes, courts and customs. High degree of autonomy would be need instead of limited or medium autonomy.

The second plan is partition. North Kosovo will be partitioned off Kosovo and merged into Serbia. The plan is a very old idea. U.S. ever proposed to partition Kosovo according to which Serbia would get one third but Milošević rejected.[8] The option was discussed by Serbian ex-Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and EU Representative Wolfgang Ischinger, recently by former U.S. Ambassador to Federal Republic of Yugoslavia William D. Montgomery, Gerard Gallucci[9] and former Austrian Vice-Chancellor Erhard Busek. The first Serbian senior office who proposes formally to partition is Ivica Dačić.

The west countries think that the partition of Kosovo is a bad option, fearing a chain reaction. They acknowledge Kosovo is a sui generis case. For example, “The European Council underlined its conviction that resolving the pending status of Kosovo constitutes a sui generis case that does not set any precedent.[10] This is a paradox. If the independence of Kosovo hadnt set any precedentwhy could the independence of North Kosovo set any precedent?

If not draw a conclusion, the Serbs would declare possibly the independence of North Kosovo. The International Court of Justice had concluded that adoption of the declaration of independence didn't violate any applicable rule of international law. There is only one variable. If will the head of UNMIK declare the independence of North Kosovo be invalid?

The third plan is territory exchange. When partition plan is mentioned, Albanians reply that exchanges Preševo Valley with North Kosovo. U.S. Federal Representative Dana Rohrabacher advocates the view. This plan has two big problems. Firstly, territory exchange plan is lesser much benefits than partition plan for Serbia. Secondly, Preševo Valley is a Serbian major route of transportation into Macedonia and Greece, so that Serbia mustn’t give up it. ICG proposed to exchange Gazivode Lake with Valley highway.[7] It is complicated and baseless. Because Kosovo is a sui generis case as the west said, Preševo Valley can’t be compared with it.

One of Serbian ethnic questions is the Albanians in Preševo Valley, and Kosovo ethnic questions are the Serbs in the North and the Serbs enclaves south the Ibar River. Consequently, I put forward the fourth plan: partition and territory exchange. The plan includes two parts. One is partition: North Kosovo is been partitioned off Kosovo and incorporated into Serbia. Two is territory exchange: the Serbs enclaves south the Ibar River with Preševo Valley.[11] But what will be swapped are the peoples not the lands.

Among four plans, autonomy plan is most realistic; partition plan is simplest; territory exchange plan is most unjust; partition and territory exchange plan is most complete. I prefer to the second and fourth plans.

(from Zhen Peng’s official website, December 1, 2011)



[1] Letter dated 12 June 2008 from the Secretary-General to His Excellency Mr. Boris Tadić. UN document S/2008/354.

[2] Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. UN document S/2008/692.

[3] Macshane Backs ‘Ahtisaari Plus’ For North Kosovo. Balkaninsight (2011-10-31): http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/macshane-more-than-ahtisaari-needed-in-the-north.

[4] Galtung Suggests Cantonal Solution for Kosovo. Balkaninsight (2010-02-16): http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/galtung-suggests-cantonal-solution-for-kosovo.

[5] “N. Kosovo solution should be modeled after Catalonia”. B92 (2011-09-10): http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics-article.php?yyyy=2011&mm=09&dd=10&nav_id=76325.

[6] Gerard Gallucci. The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo. Transconflict (2011-11-10): http://www.transconflict.com/2011/11/ahtisaari-plan-north-kosovo-011/.

[7] International Crisis Group. Kosovo and Serbia after the ICJ Opinion. Europe Report N°206, 2010-08-26. P12-14.

[8] Kosovo partition only solution, ex-Yugoslav president says. B92 (2011-05-29): http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics-article.php?yyyy=2011&mm=05&dd=29&nav_id=74627.

[9] Ex-UN official says partition is realistic solution. B92 (2011-08-05): http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics-article.php?yyyy=2011&mm=08&dd=05&nav_id=75773.

[10] European Council 14 December 2007 (16616/07). Para.69.

[11] ZHENP Peng. Independence of Kosovo: Legislative Dilemma. Contemporary Word (ISSN 1006-4206): 2009(10):47. (in Chinese)

* The author is a Chinese scholar. Mr. Zhen is a Doctor of history and a Postdoctoral researcher on politics in Shandong University of China. He researches on the topic of west Balkan.

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