Veton Surroi: "The new Kosovo-Serbia paradigm lies in a narrative of peace"

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 19, 2019 10:10

Veton Surroi:

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  • “Forgetting is a threat to societies that seek to resolve open conflicts which are part of a common memory. What is being currently discussed serves to distract people from the real conflicts and the real tragedies that have been suffered through the war,” Surroi said.

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TIRANA, April 18 - On Thursday, the Albanian Institute for International Studies, in cooperation with the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society, organized the foreign policy forum titled "New Paradigm for Kosovo and Serbia," where keynote speaker Veton Surroi said both countries should finally create their own "peace narrative."

Surroi began his lecture by saying the new paradigm being sought is like a mystery within a mystery box.

Firstly, he explained, Kosovo should be understood today through the Mitrovica Bridge; in its North there is a majority of Serbians, while in its South there is a majority of Albanians.

This is a geopolitical separation as well, between Russia and the Western world, and it creates a sort of pressure. Over the the last twenty years, according to Surroi, Russia has successfully led a project that seeks to hamper the Western establishment in the region, and especially in Kosovo.

"Some principles have been used: the first, ephemerality. For Serbia, everything concerning Kosovo is temporary, because only Serbia can decide when it becomes permanent. The second principle is duality - the inclusion in dual institutions, especially in those that are run by Serbian authorities still. All these principles have been supported by the Russian vetto, which is quite powerful," Surroi said.

Paradoxically, he further stated, Russian politics have been financed by NATO and the EU. The entire human and military NATO capital has been used to implement the Russian strategy  summed up as "foot at the door" - a strategy that doesn't allow the completion of independence.

EU duality appeared after a development that came as Serbia's reaction to the Kosovo independence. The EU allowed Serbia to make a case at the UN and integrated duality in its own peace negotiations, allowing each party to come to the table to negotiate holding their own beliefs and values.

"This brought about the future issue of showing that the first principle of these negotiations is that there is no principle," Surroi said during the forum.

The second principle, according to him, is that there is no agenda - each of the sides gets to decide what is important.The third principle is that, ultimately, the mediator will decide and shape the agreement, rather than the parties negotiating themselves.

"The fact that we have still to come to an agreement is because the process of negotiations has been regarded not with the seriousness it deserved, with negotiators discussing 'banal' issues, instead of the historic and important open-ended issues between them. Meanwhile, not even the few issues agreed upon have found implementation so far," it was said.

Further on, Surroi discussed the hottest Serbia-Kosovo so far: that of territorial exchange, or "border correction," as it was called by Kosovo and Serbian leaders.

The EU, with its principle of no principle, allowed this discussion between Kosovo and Serbia to take place to a certain degree - a discussion Surroi called "Humanitarian population exchange."

"The EU allowed itself to be part of a negotiation that could wake up people in the morning telling them 'excuse me, you are living in the wrong side of the border' and we will help you go away. Hopefully, in the upcoming Berlin meeting, Macron and Merkel will once and for all reject this idea, but a sort of harm has already been done because the narrative has prevailed for a long time," Surroi said.

According to Surroi, there are several issues with this idea, such as the issue of the Serbian minority losing its identity, the fact that both sides' majorities were against the 'border correction' idea and the fact that a new separative line might create a rift between Albanians and Serbians, rather than between Kosovo and Serbia.

Surroi believes that coming up with a non-EU solution through an EU-mediates process is an issue to pay attention to and, preferably, change.

"This leads to the question of how to change the course of things, because applying the same principles will not lead to new results. We have to look at the EU paradigm that was applied after WWII," Surroi told the audience, which consisted of scholars, ambassadors and political experts as well.

Surroi believes that what should be taken into consideration is that Kosovo remains an unresolved conflict and only a Permanent Peace Treaty between Kosovo and Serbia can be considered a good solution.

Furthermore, the agreement can only be achieved within the European habitat and based on European principles. In addition, the agreement should create the possibility of a free area not only between Kosovo and Serbia, but also within the EU.

"Forgetting is a threat to societies that seek to resolve open conflicts which are part of a common memory. What is being currently discussed serves to distract people from the real conflicts and the real tragedies that have been suffered through the war," Surroi said.

"The Serbian society in particular has been unable to remember, thus heal and move forward. Serbia wants to build upon forgetting and this is an issue, because societies that seek to forget are unable to heal. For Kosovo, too, it would be easier to turn European if we built our happiness not based on past misfortunes, but on common happiness, including here the happiness of our Serbian neighbors," Surroi said.  

Although, Surroi admitted, this might looks illusionary currently and as something that cannot be achieved, nothing else has worked so far. Common trade has not been able to solve all the problems, as there has been no normalization to accompany it.

Free trade is a weak copy of the Marshall Plan, which was built on legitimate institutions, which are absent both in Serbia and Kosovo.

Finally, Surroi said the new paradigm should be a paradigm of community - not creating separations, but creating communities.

These communities should include security communities that go beyond Kosovo's NATO aspirations and Serbia's anti-NATO ones, and timely communities that will seek to understand the countries' common history by projecting to the future.

The new paradigm should be a paradigm of community  - not how to create separations, but how to create communities.

"Serbia and Kosovo live inside the war narrative, but we can create the peace narrative. Humans don't have a 'war' software inside their heads. Kant said a stable peace can be achieved when there is nothing left to push states towards war. This is the kind of paradigm that we should seek," Surroi concluded.

Surroi is a journalist, publisher, civil society activist and politician. In 1990, he established the "Koha" magazine, which in 1997 turned into the first independent daily newspaper in Kosovo - "Koha Ditore." He later also established the national broadcaster Kohavision (KTV).

As a member of the Kosovo delegation in 1999, he was a signatory of the Rambouillet Accord, which brought the liberation of Kosovo.

In the period 2005-2008, he was a member of the leadership of the Kosovo delegation in the Vienna negotiations of the Kosovo independence.

He is the author of nine books, of which "The One and Only Fight of Azem Berisha to the Castle" (2005), "Book of the Butterflies" (2011), "The Snake's Feet" (2014), "The Name of the Autonomy" (2015), "The Gorillas We Didn't See" (2017), "The Ambassador of Melchizedek" (2017) and "the Macchiato Cow" (2018) have been translated to English.


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 19, 2019 10:10