Over the last three decades, Kosovo has been at the core of Albania’s diplomacy and international political involvement. In particular, a small group of Albanian career ambassadors with a long experience in diplomacy and multilateral relations have played a significant role in supporting Kosovo’s path to independence and international recognition.
Many important decisions by various international organizations—at least 35 decisions by the OSCE, including the so-called “consensus minus one” for the exclusion of former Yugoslavia from the 1992 Helsinki Summit—bear the work and influence of Albanian diplomats and foreign allies they rallied in support of Kosova.
Years of work and several teams of professionals under the leadership of Martti Ahtisaari were invested in the preparation and negotiation of the Ahtisaari Plan on Kosovo’s status, in particular, her independence and constitution.
This work along the political and diplomatic path exhausted all the peaceful diplomatic means, and, in the end, it was a bloody war which brought Kosovo’s independence, followed by her recognition by more than half of United Nations members. This occurred despite the unrelenting systematic efforts by Serbia to prevent the international recognition of Kosovo and undermine her progress.
Serbia appealed the legality of the unilateral declaration of independence to the International Court of Justice, hoping to undermine its legitimacy, but the UN’s highest court affirmed Kosovo’s independence ruling it did not violate international law.
Yet, all of this seems to have been forgotten. As if the hard and long efforts and war never happened, as if the international community and NATO never intervened, there is now talk and efforts (by some) towards a territorial exchange between Kosova and Serbia.
Those that advocate and work for land swaps seem oblivious to the fact that soon they will not be in the same positions of power, as happens in every democratic or partially democratic system. The self-conceit of being destined to become historical leaders of the Albanians has blinded them of the truth they are most likely destined for the dustbin of history. Why, am I saying this?
If they choose to walk down the path of territorial exchange and they succeed, they will destroy all efforts made by Albanians over the last three decades. They will also destroy the Ahtisaari Plan and the negotiations conducted by Albanian teams. More importantly, these efforts question Kosovo’s independence by attacking its foundations, undermining Kosovo’s cause from within.
Exchanging territories implies it could have easily happened at the time when the constitution of Kosovo was being written and negotiated; hence, it was a mistake this exchange did not happen then.
More importantly, it delegitimizes the fundamental cause of the war to liberate and make Kosovo independent of Serbia.
It undermines the raison d’etre of the inviolability of Kosovo’s borders as it was recognized even as an autonomous region under the Yugoslav Socialist Federation. It would also violate Kosovo’s territorial integrity.
If this scenario becomes reality, it will delegitimize NATO’s intervention in Kosovo and Kosovo’s Independence. It will also threaten broad and sustainable peace in the turbulent Balkans, and it should be considered as a deceitful paradigm promoted by certain leaders in Albania and Kosovo.
It will reward and further motivate the Serbian anti-Kosovo politics, which for the past two decades has been fully engaged to undermine every single achievement and every progress made by Kosovo.
Serbia’s anti-Kosovo strategy has primarily aimed to bring under Serbia all territories inhabited in part by Serb minorities and all territories, which due in good measure to Serbia, are not fully under the control of Kosovo central government, including certain territories that are rich in minerals.
But more than anything, it will erase the century-old sufferings and efforts by generations of Kosovo Albanians and all their human sacrifices, which led to Kosovo’s independence.
Despite the will to walk down this path by some Kosovar or Albanian leaders, despite efforts by their media surrogates to sell land swap as an advantageous solution, and despite the increasing number of foreign countries offering their take on the issue—it should be avoided by any means. Other countries’ opinions should be heard with an open mind; their positions and motivations should be analyzed, but their opinions and stances should be analyzed only the grounds and reasons discussed above.
The issue of national borders is critical, sensitive, and has broad consequences. It affects the interests and aspirations of the Kosovar and Albanian people who should indispensably have a say and a role in the decision.
This issue cannot be decided by a handful of people, even if they are the leaders of the respective countries. It should be decided through a referendum in Kosova: the people of Kosovo should decide how do they want to settle this critical issue for their future.
Albania should not be involved directly on this issue, but only offer its support for any choice made by the Kosovo people. It could, of course, provide its honest and weighted advice, but only if this is asked jointly by all Kosovo’s institutions and leaders of Kosovo.
Zef Mazi is an Albanian career diplomat, who has served as Ambassador of Albania to the United Kingdom, the OSCE, and the UN. This opinion appeared initially in Albanian in the Java News.