You'd be forgiven to think this is the early 1990s in the Balkans. The SPS is in power in Serbia, there are political arrests and even log revolutions. Obviously, this is the 2010s, but one thing that hasn't changed since, is the politicians' readiness to use violence and breach human rights for their political gain. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of Serbia (and former spokesman of Slobodan Milosevic), Ivica Dacic, boasts openly that he can arrests at will Kosovo Albanians who travel through Serbia's territory, after arresting several Kosovo Albaniain trade unionists. True to his mentor's teachings, he does that in the hope that his actions and rhetoric will help his SPS get more votes in the 6 May elections. And it might work. In the tit-for-tat bonanza of arrests the Kosovan politicians decided that it's a good idea to use special police to arrest some people accused of working for Serbia's parallel institutions, of which nothing resulted. They've learned a lesson or two from their former Serbian masters. These incidents are usually accompanied by the mandatory chest-beatings and mutual threats, which makes it all look so funny if it wasn't dangerous.
But this is less worrisome, compared to cases of actual murders. A bomb blast in northern Mitrovica killed an Albanian community leader and wounded his wife and children. This led to a small exodus of Albanian families from the northern Serb-dominated part of the city. May be this was the intended result. As talks are expected between Pristina and Belgrade on the issue of the Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, Belgrade is anxious to show that Kosovo authorities can not control the area. It wants a mini-Republika Srpska within Kosovo, with increased international opposition to the idea of dividing Kosovo. And the stubborn Kosovo Albanians living in that area are an obstacle to this idea. Meanwhile local Serbs continue to barricade themselves into the 1990s in the hope of obtaining a Serb entity in the north so as they won't have anything to do with the despised Kosovo Albanian-run institutions.
Bloody Macedonian salad
Further south in Macedonia, such murders have happened too. And there might even be a connection between them. First, a Slav Macedonian policemen killed two Albanian Macedonians. A wave of interethnic incidents had everyne perplexed as to who is behind this. Mutual accusations between the two biggest communities in Macedonia are the norm, but many people pointed at outside forces. After the civil society organized a multiethnic demonstration for peace things calmed down. Then, five Slav Macedonians were killed by unknown perpetrators. It seems someone is really determined to destabilize Macedonia. Could it be that the neighborhood bullies want to spark around of armed conflict so as to redraw the borders? May be.
And then there was a twist in the story. The Macedonian government arrested 20 people in connection with the quintuple murder. The police had stated that it was a professional execution, so the arrests should bring relief to everyone. Among the arrested were a 64 year old retired carpenter, a shepherd and a 60 year old widow. Huh? These people were involved in a professional execution? Wait there is more. They are accused of terrorism. The Macedonian government wants everyone to believe that they are "radical Islamists" and that some of them "fought the international forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan". Yes, Macedonia has caught some people who supposedly fought against NATO forces. Right before the NATO summit in Chicago. The summit where Macedonia expects an invitation to join NATO. An invitation which is blocked because of the name issue between Macedonia and Greece. How convenient.
It's such a blatant and in-your-face charade that not even the strongest government supporters believe it. (This is not to say that no one of the arrested had any connection with the quintuple murder, but it doesn't seem plausible at all that any one had responsibility for them.) Knowing full well how dangerous is this game, the government has not mentioned the ethnicity of the arrested so as to control the inter-ethnic tensions. But is is known that they are Albanians, "the usual suspects" in the inter-ethnic Macedonian drama. It seems the Macedonian government will stop at nothing to find a shortcut to its international acceptance. If an intern at NATO put in its website that NATO started a war against shape-shifting lizards, the Macedonian government will find some of those among the Albanian community. It is such absurd behavior that to call it anti-Albanian seems to dignify it (someone invent a name for that please, I came up with Lizardry). Why bother being responsible in settling disputes with neighbors, and accountable to your citizens, when you can build historical disneylands and scapegoat a whole community to create fear to legitimize your rule?
Legitimization is key, since it is often lacking in the Balkans. Lacking internal legitimacy politicians seek it abroad. Thus photo-ops with western leaders are valuable currency. Why do western leaders patronize and reward this clownish and dangerous behavior you ask? Stability is the word. You see, the stabilizers are the de-stabilizers themselves. If you are a human rights activist you are a favorite martyr, but if you have a bunch of guys with guns, you are a preferred partner. So, a few photo-ops as pizzo are nothing. It is a nice arrangement. The politicians are full of demagoguery about EU and NATO integration. While they continue to operate without any accountability. At the same time, human rights and freedom of speech are continuously under threat.
So that arrangement doesn't work. If anything is to be learned by the Arab Spring it's that you can't have stability by supporting unaccountable leaders at the expense of human rights. This kind of negative stability may work in the short term but it doesn't ultimately. It just feeds extremist ideologies. So, the message to EU and NATO leaders is, don't patronize these politicians. It's the local citizens who pay the true price of the pizzo, and the only way to stop paying Danegeld is to get rid of the Dane.
Transformation of Kosovo
Sui Generis Independence
Rule of law or rule of violence
Reciprocity of respect