The agreement on the ‘normalisation of relations’ signed by the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia has been praised by almost everyone as a ‘historical agreement’. And indeed it is historic – but apparently for completely different reasons than those the EU and other bureaucrats praise it for. From the EU’s gaze and perception of the Balkans, everything that is not an outburst of our primitive ethnical passions is indeed a historic achievement. Peace is almost considered a state of exception. In this regard, the mere fact that the Kosovo and Serbian Prime Ministers have met is a major victory over the primitive tendencies keeping the Balkans as it is: in the permanent state of pre-war explosion. In this respect, what is historic about Thaçi-Dačič agreement?
Lets put things in a rather schematic manner. With this agreement, the dream of EU integration for a multiethnic Kosovo has been demolished. By imposing this agreement, the European Union has violated its own principles and values, which it otherwise promotes and/or imposes on us. However, it is crucial to note here that their dream has very little to do with reality: far from engaging in some kind of apologetic cry, I maintain that the basic knowledge of the history of the Albanian-Serbian question proves this dream to be a fake. The Serbian-Albanian question is not ethnical (two nations having conceptual problems with the existence of the other, because of which each of them has to be trained in tolerating the other, etc.), but it is a political question. Over-emphasising this issue is of crucial importance, because, to put it rather simply, by breaking away from this tendency the entire ideological edifice, imposed on us from 1999 onwards, would shamelessly collapse. This way our perspective on the problem would change and the site for political intervention would appear in its ‘basic dimension’ – the colonised against the coloniser. The struggle against multi-ethnicity should perhaps be one of the top-priorities in the Republic of Kosovo. On this note, it should be said that according to the political-legal documents of Kosovo, the people of this country are reduced to ethnical groups, deprived of any political subjectivity whatsoever.
In this regard, the struggle against the multiethnic conception of the Republic of Kosovo, as well as the struggle against the “historic agreement” signed in April 19th (and its ratification by Kosovo Parliament last week), would be the struggle for the re-politicisation of the Albanian-Serbian question. To summarise the essence of the agreement, I would argue that if it were implemented, the effect would be twofold:
1) it will create a parallel or autonomous ‘province’ within the borders of the Republic of Kosovo. This will be an ethnic ‘province’, with executive and (up to a point) legislative competences of the “Association of Serbian Municipalities.” The closest comparison (albeit not totally accurate) would be that of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
2) It will necessitate ethnically based solutions for the rest of the region. By dividing the country on ethnical lines, in the name of the ‘co-existence between different cultures, religions and ethnicities’, it make it impossible to prevent further division of the country, which will lead to changes in the borders of (at least) a few neighbouring countries.
Having said this, we should point out that there has been opposition to this agreement, both in Prishtina and Belgrade. Nevertheless, this opposition has come from the defenders or promoters of particularist or identitarian politics. They are the pro-EU partisans and the nationalists. Clearly, there is an opposition between the two, but the antagonism is a false one. It obfuscates the clear demarcation line between truly antagonistic tendencies. The true antagonism should be between the very field in which this (false) opposition takes place, and the third part: the radical emancipatory left. The non-existence of the left (marginal intellectual groups are not to be counted here) is the reason why there is no real opposition against this agreement.
Kosovo is arguably the poorest country in Europe, with an unemployment rate of 48-50%, with serious constraints on its state sovereignty, and it remains the most isolated country in the region. In this regard, the country is vulnerable to all sorts of neo-imperial experiments. On the other side, Kosovo is still subjected to the hegemonic tendencies of the state of Serbia. In this sense, the struggle for the right to unconditional self-determination (by which one should understand ‘a deliberate, emancipatory and inclusive process of collective self-determination’, Hallward) is liberating on both levels: not only the people of Kosovo would be able to ‘make the way by walking in it’ (Marx), but also the people of Serbia would be liberated from the dominating character of their state. The dominators should be liberated from their domination.
Taking all this into account, the agreement between Thaçi and Dačič is indeed historical, precisely because it negates the emancipatory potential, and promotes the existing state of the situation, that of an ethnically divided country and so forth. Its historical importance relies on another missed chance for the true liberating and emancipatory acts in this region. In short, Kosovo has had enough of being the West’s ‘privileged’ site of fantasy investment.
Agon Hamza is a philosopher based in Pristina. He is a founding member of the Dialectic Materialism Collective.