Kosovo: at the door of Europe
‘We are all others, and we are all ourselves.’ (Bauman)
We all agree that the conception of an ‘other’ creates identity. According to the Slovenian philosopher Tomaz Mastnak, ‘the other’ for Europe at first was Byzantium. However, after the Battle of Poitiers in 732 (the last Muslim invasion to penetrate to the north of the Pyrenees), the second ‘other’ for western Europeans was people known in the West as the Saracens. According to Mastnak, Saracens were Muslim people and from this moment ‘the roots of Europe lie in hatred and fear of Muslims’. 1] This fear and hatred against Muslims, in Mastnak’s estimation, have continued and its rude variant was seen in the Bosnia war, in which the Christian West allowed the massacre and ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims. Mastnak also emphasizes that Europe has built its identity by ‘exclusion’ and argues that Europe is a ‘community of exclusion which is created based in the territorial cleaning and ‘blood purity’ (Mastnak 2007, 13).
Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, many Eastern and Southeastern European nations and countries were enthusiastic and hopeful about the end of communist dictatorships and totalitarian regimes. After this, they thought they could live freely, with democracy, equality, and all the values that come with democracy, similar to other countries of western Europe. However, something that nobody expected to happen occurred, namely, the integration of Europe, which in reality brought differences between the ‘old’ nations of Europe and the ‘new’ nations that arose from totalitarian systems. The ‘new’ nations awaiting integration are Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Moldavia, Macedonia, Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Turkey. Two hundred million future Europeans are waiting to define their ‘fate’ in the new European Union. For many countries, there are conditions, referred to as ‘standards’ that have to be fulfilled, before they can become equal members of the EU. Numerous philosophers argue that those standards have not been fulfilled in the states that are known as founders of the European Union. According to this argument, it is logical to think that those states want to be sure of whom they will admit into this union. It is no coincidence that Andrej Stasiuk wrote that ‘the East will completely shake up Europe’ (Stasiuk 2005, 37). This is because the people of Eastern Europe are considered ‘wild, cunning, exotic’. In his article Stasiuk argues:
Moldavians whose main source of income comes from selling their own organs (as a certain newspaper in Germany has reported) will metamorphose as an entire people into clinking coins and ruin the world market of transplants. And what the Albanians will do exceeds any human powers of imagination. (Stasiuk 2005, 38)
This is exactly the essence as to why East and Southeast Europe still are not considered nations worthy of becoming a part of ‘European civilization’. The people of Western Europe are essentially (see Stasiuk extract above) afraid of those from Eastern and Southeastern Europe.
The European Union and Kosovo
For a hundred years, the people of the Balkans (including Kosovo Albanians) aspired towards Europe and everything called ‘European values’. Since the Albanian National Renaissance, the main aspiration of Albanians was not only to throw out the Ottoman Empire, which was in decline, but also ‘integration with ‘civilized’ people of Europe’ 2] Since the time of the Albanian National Renaissance, Europe has been an ideal and remains so today. Many Albanian historians and politicians wrote and declared that all the battles fought by the Albanian national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu, were ‘in the name of Christianity’ to defend Europe. The Cristian origine and the identification with the fighter of Christendom, against the Ottoman Empire, was a huge part of Albanian national pride. It was and still is the main ‘alibi’ for why they ‘deserve’ to be part of Europe, that they are worthy of European civilization and Western civilization.
In the period when Yugoslavia was still unified, there were no concerns or doubts about the ‘European future of the region’. Therefore, there was no reason to construct or build European belonging, because there was no feeling of exclusion of ‘Yugoslavians’ from that union. The disintegration of Yugoslavia created a new situation and new conditions for all of the different nations that had been part of that federation. Since the 1990s, Kosovo Albanians hoped and believed that the process of European integration would bring Kosovo integration into the union of European nations. Moreover, during the ten years of Ibrahim Rugova’s leadership, Kosovan politicians argued that in this period when Europe is realizing its dream of integration as a political structure, Kosovo will also become a part of this union. Radical movements in Kosovo called for equal European membership and declared war against the Serbian occupation. The argument used by these radical movements stated that in the new European Union there is place only for independent states and nations. Kosovans believed for more than ten years in this political and national ‘dream’. In 1999, NATO began its boming campaign against Serbia, and NATO troops entered Kosovo, replacing Serbian troops. For eight years, Kosovo was under UN administration, known as the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which was then replaced by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX). Since the beginning of UNMIK, most people in Kosovo began thinking that Kosovo had become a free country that would soon be developed and begin the road to integration into the European Union.
For Kosovo citizens Europe is not only a geographic notion. Europe is also the political structure in which Kosovans have placed their aspirations and hopes. The majority of them aim to be a part of the EU, regardless of their political affiliation or whether they are communists or capitalists, socialists or democrats, poor or rich. On matters pertaining to Europe, there is little disagreement among Kosovans”. The majority of citizens in Kosovo want ‘to become part of Europe’; they only think differently when it comes to the way they hope to make this dream come true. However, everybody now knows that this road is not constructed by Kosovans.
Although it seems a paradox, Europe is a ‘value’ and ‘Europeanism’ is a belief. If someone is referred to as ‘European’, that person is assumed to have ‘civilized values’. Everything that comes from Europe is uncontested; it is the value of the future. It’s the same for the USA. Furthermore, ‘American democracy’ is identifed with ‘European democracy’. Kosovans believe that the US has done much to liberate Kosovo, but Kosovans know that America is far away across the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe Kosovo is the place where Europe and the US still coexist together.
Historically the people of Kosovo, as ‘part of the Albanian Nation’, considered Europe a political structure, which always played games on the back of small nations. Kosovan Albanians are part of those small nations that after the downfall of the Ottoman Empire in 1912 were annexed to Serbia and Montenegro by the great European powers.
Eight years after the war in Kosovo, many intellectuals and politicians are afraid that Europe is ‘again’ playing its old ‘games’ with Kosovo. If until yesterday Kosovans believed in the European future, now they feel only exclusion from the future of this structure, which seems to be presented as ‘Europe’. I say ‘seems’ because Europe is something else of what it pretends to look like. … Kosovans have seen Europe as a final destination, as a Promised Land, but Europeans are seeing Europe as an adventure, without end (Bauman 2004).
Paradoxically, the construction of European ideology is still continuing as in other East European countries, because ‘to be with Europe’ today means ‘to be with the future’.
‘European values’ have spread not only in institutional life, but also in private life. In all sectors the same discourse is found: discourse of the new ideology, discourse of, as Tomaz Mastnak said, ‘European ideology’. This ‘European’ one-mindedness has spread all over Kosovo. But Kosovo has one more paradox: At a time when the US and EU are pointing out their differences, Kosovans see the US and EU as the guarantors of freedom, democracy, and prosperity. Kosovans consider America the friendliest state. This fact does not make Kosovans mistrust ‘European values’, even though Europeans have started to show signs of un-convincingness in front of America. On the contrary the aspiration of Kosovans is integration into Europe. No one contests Europe, but as much as they seek it, much of Europe is like a dream and out of reach.
In Kosovo there is minimal debate about Kosovo’s future role in the European Union. Although there have been small discussions, they were not polarized, because as the Slovenian philosopher Tomaz Mastnak said ‘European ideology can not be challenged with arguments’, (Mastnak 2007, 23) 3] because ‘indifference to rational argumentation can be institutionalized as the freedom of press and speech’ (Mastnak 2007, 11). 4]
It cannot be said that pro-European movements exist in Kosovo but one also cannot deny this. What Mastnak named ‘One-mindedness of European ideology’, can be found everywhere. Such “One-mindedness” is spreading in all new states of East and Southeast Europe. In Kosovo, leftists, rightists, radicals, and liberals, all at once declare the necessity of Kosovo’s integration into the new European Union. There is no doubt, as in other countries, about the ‘goodness’ of entry into the EU. Kosovans speak only about ‘positive consequences’ of entry into the EU. For many Kosovans, the only doubt is if the EU is ready to include Kosovo in its membership. There is a well-known discussion between the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare and Kosovan literature critic Rexhep Qosja. In his book ‘From one December to another’ Kadare writes:
Inclination of Albania would have been directed to the Christianity, because it has been linked to culture, old memories, and nostalgia of the time before Ottomans. As the years were passing, the last Islam religion, that came along with Ottomans, started to wane (At first in Albania, and then in Kosovo), replacing it for Christianity, or more exactly for Christian culture. At least, one bad thing (the abolition of religion at 1967) led to a good one. Albanian nation would do a big historical correction, which would rush to its integration with mother continent: Europe. (Kadare 2006, p.31)5]
While Qosja argues that Europe hesitates to accept Albanians (in Albania and Kosovo) into its breast exactly because the majority of them are Muslims (Qosja, 2005).
Kosovo Albanians are calling themselves the oldest nation in the Balkans and one of the oldest nations in Europe. This fact is enough for most of them to feel ‘European’. Many authors in Kosovo do not accept to speak about the ‘idea’ of European identity. According to them, there is no crisis of this identity; this ‘identity’ is defined. Kosovan writer Mehdi Hyseni argues that the debate about European identity, between the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare and Kosovan literary critic Rexhep Qosja, is ‘as old as Albanians and Europe, is not discussable and even not actual because Europe since the Roman Empire is in awareness of European Identity of Albanians. On the other side, Albanians are aware that they are part of the European Identity as well. In this sense, no disagreement exists between Albanians, not even with Old Europe or with the new one’.6]
With respect to Kosovan identity, Albanian and Kosovan politicians proclaim that Western democracy, today, more than ever, has opened the doors for Albanians. (Prela 2005, 54)7]
The majority of citizens in Kosovo believe not only in the European future, but also believe they ‘deserve’ European membership. Arguing about the idealization of ‘identity’ among Kosovans, philosopher Shkelzen Maliqi wrote:
Albanians are one of the nations historically retarded and idealization of their pure identity often is inspired by the elements of their traditional ethnic life and their organization of so-called Para modern type of life, which has no similarity with other nations in the region. The institution of ‘oda’ is idealized and named as democratic original institution, considering the fact that democracy is in the Albanians genes, as a gift given from the God, but accidentally the ‘historical conditions’ and occupations did not give the possibility for Albanians to develop their entire talent of first and autochthon democrats. (Maliqi 2005, 51) 8]
What does it mean to be European? Does being European have consequences? Why is it ‘good’ for the people of the Balkans to be European? In general the Balkans is identified with ‘bad’ and ‘wild’, whereas Europe is identified with values such as ‘civilizing, democracy, and liberating’. But people in the Balkans are not attracted by fictive Europe, and the concepts of democracy and civilization that come with it; they are attracted by pragmatic, practical, and real Europe. They are attracted by the welfare of nations who are members of the EU, i.e., by their social policy. They think Europe is ‘the dream” and the promised future. How can they reach this promised ‘land and future’? They started to construct the idea of belonging and of merits. The ’Balkan people deserve to live as other parts of Europe, because they are geographically in Europe.’ In the Balkans this is the main construction of being European.
In this construction lies the feeling of inferiority, because deep inside, one person from the Balkans believes that she/he is different from another person from Western Europe.
Jenkins agrees that ‘identifying ourselves or others is a matter of meaning, and meaning always involves interaction: agreement and disagreement, convention and innovation, communication and negotiation’ (Jenkins 2004, 4). Can you be European if you only live in the place called Europe? No, asks Bauman:
You are not necessarily a European just because you happen to be born or to live in a city marked on the political map of Europe. But you may be European even if you’ve never been to any of those cities. (Bauman 2004, 22)
How could someone in the Balkans understand this statement?
Representation of Europe in the Public Sphere in Kosovo
As in other Eastern European countries, there are many organizations in Kosovo, which promote the idea of ‘Europe’. These organizations are working in different fields including in the areas of politics, economics, culture, social issues, human rights, and the environment 9]. There are three types of international organizations in Kosovo: international NGOs (of which there are more than 100 registered); the UNMIK structure (including OSCE components); and EULEX and the KFOR Multinational Brigade. In general, international staff is always considered superior to local staff. In the hierarchy of international organizations, you cannot find any superior (in leadership positions) local employees (Andersen 2002).
This “One-mindedness” also occurs throughout the economy, in the health sector, and throughout small businesses, essentially in the entire public sphere. To obtain a good job, you have to speak English. Even in small shops and small businesses, the owners are looking for employees who speak English.1 Even when English is not a necessity, it is prefered.
However, this ‘One-mindedness’ is not only present in international organizations and institutions. Most of the political parties in Kosovo present the commitment and aspiration for European membership as their main goal. All promise the ‘paradise’ called ‘Europe’.
‘Now we have finished the creation of our national state, and now we need to start building a state which will become member of EU’, has declared many time Kosovo’s former prime minister, Agim Ceku.2 10]
Also both, Prime Minister Thaçi and President Fatmir Sejdiu refused to represent Kosovo at the Islamic Conference, (Islamic Conference, held at 15 march 2008 in Dakar), because of fear of identification with the Islamic world. Kosovo was represented at the conference by low-ranking politicians.
All Kosovo officials, from the president to the lowest-ranking official, speak only very highly about their “Western friends”. Subconsciously or otherwise, they avoid speaking about Europe as a clumsy political structure that acts either very slowly or not at all.
Kosovan politicians and politicians from Albania are using the same discourse of being part of ‘Europe’ as an idea and a value, perceiving it as a ‘supreme good’. They have the ideal: Europe. They think that all everyday problems will be solved with entry into the EU and that this union will help ‘poor’ people in the Balkans.
To show their commitment to Europe and to prove that Kosovans are not anti-Christian, but that on the contrary their roots lie in Europeanism and Christianity, the Prishtina Municipality started building a Catholic Cathedral in the town centre.
Furthermore, in a lecture held for students of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at the University of Prishtina, former Prime Minister Agim Ceku said that in this period of time Kosovan diplomacy has not been focused on Islamic countries, out of fear that this could send a negative message for Western countries.3 11]
Why is Kosovo still, after many years of aspirations and commitments, excluded from this ‘promised’ union? While Kosovans blame both themselves and their ‘enemies’, namely Serbia and Russia, many also believe that Kosovo will be knocking at the door of Europe for many years, similar to Turkey, because of Kosovo’s Muslim citizenry.
A majority of Albanians in Kosovo are Muslims. However, religion has never been the common link of kinship. The Albanian language and culture became the crucial elements of construction of common national identity between Albanians in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia.
However, this fact does not mean that religion has not played a role in Albanian society. In Albania, communism destroyed much more Islamic than Christian culture and today, in so-called post-communist Albania, Christians enjoy a higher social status than Muslims. (Seventy percent of Albanians identify as Muslim, 20 percent as Orthodox, and 10 percent as Catholic). After the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Albanians in Kosovo hoped to establish an independent Kosovo under protection of Western countries and organizations. On the other hand, Serbian nationalists have tried to prove that Albanian Movement should be suppressed in order to stop Islamic penetration into Europe. Depicting Kosovans as Islamists, Serbia hoped to win the support of Europeans. Why did both sides, Albanian and Serbian, try to show their commitment to Western and Christian Europe?
There are also Catholic Albanians living in Kosovo, and relations with Muslims consistently are described as good. For many years, Catholic Church services have been attended by thousands of Muslims and Catholic Albanians. But the low number of marriages between the two religious groups shows that religion still plays a certain role for Albanians in Kosovo (Duijzings 2000).
Today there are two trends among Albanian intellectuals concerning the role of Islam in the construction of national identity: Occidentalism, which rejects Islam as part of European culture; and Multiconfesionalism, which favors subordination of religion to national identity. This second ‘trend’ is largely accepted by intellectuals, including Albanian writer Islamil Kadare, who declares that Albanians are from birth European, because of their Christian origin.
We are always talking about the secular society of Europe. But the secular Europe of today is unable to answer the question of whether European unity should be defined by the common heritage of Christianity and Western civilization or by its modern secular values: liberalism, human rights, democracy, and tolerant and inclusive multiculturalism (Casanova 2003).
What will come of these secular values in the overcoming post-secular Europe? There are three main projects of a future Europe: The first project wants Europe to be a world superpower; the second is socialistic Europe that respects human rights and democracy; and the third project attempts to defend and strengthen existing European countries (Jacobs & Maier 2005). Many philosophers agree that current members of the European Union intend to strengthen existing states and not work towards the inclusion of other nations and states into this union. Europe and its identity have exclusionary characteristics and do not proclaim post-national citizenship on a territorial basis. This seems very doubtful for the future of a ‘new Europe’ and for the creation of a multicultural society of Europe. At the same time, one of the standards that Kosovo has to fulfil for entry into the EU is the creation of a multicultural society!
1] For more: Jacques Le Goff, 2005, The Birth of Europe, Blackwell Publishing, London & Tomaz Mastnak, Evropa: Istorija politickog pojma, Beogradski Krug & Centar za medije i komunikacije, Beograd, 2007.
2] From Sami Frasheri, Faik Konica to today’s authors. All political philosophy of ex president of Kosovo Ibrahim Rugova is based on the idea of Integration in Europe (Sami Frashëri, Shqipëria, c’ka qenë, c’eshtë dhe c’do të bëhet, Rilindja, Prishtinë, 1980, & Faik Konica, Shqipëria, kopshti shkëmbor i Evropës Juglindore, Toena, Tiranë, 1992.)
3] Tomaz Mastnak, in original: ‘Evropskoj ideologiji ne mozes se podupreti argumentima’ (Tomaz Mastnak, Evropa: Istorija politickog pojma, Beogradski Krug & Centar za medije i komunikacije, Beograd, 2007, p.23.)
4] Tomaz Mastnak in original: ‘Indiferentnost prema racionalnoj argumentaciji institucionalizuje se kao i sloboda stampe i govora’ (Tomaz Mastnak, Evropa: Istorija politickog pojma, Beogradski Krug & Centar za medije i komunikacije, Beograd, 2007, p.11.)
5] Ismail Kadare, in original: “Prirja e Shqipërisë do të ishte drejt fesë së krishterë, ngaqë ajo lidhej me kulturën, kujtimet e vjetra, dhe nostalgjinë e kohës paraturke. Me kalimin e viteve, feja e vonë islamike, e ardhur bashkë me otomanët, do të zbehej (së pari në Shqipëri e më pas në Kosovë), derisa t’ia linte vendin fesë së krishterë, ose më saktë kulturës së krishterë. Kështu që së paku nga një e keqe (ndalimi i fesë më 1967) do të vinte një e mirë. Kombi shqiptar do të bënte një korigjim të madh historik, çka do të shpejtonte bashkimin e tij me kontinentin mëmë: Evropën”. (Ismail Kadare, Nga një dhjetor në tjetrin, Toena, Tiranë, 2006, p. 31.)
6] Mehdi Hyseni in original: ‘Kjo “temë” e vjetër sa vetë shqiptarët dhe Evropa, nuk është e diskutueshme, as aktuale, sepse Evropa qysh nga koha Perandorisë Romake, është në dijeni për identitetin evropian të shqiptarëve. Gjithashtu, edhe shqiptarët e kanë të qartë se i përkasin identitetit të Evropës. Në këtë kuptim, nuk ekzison asnjë mosmarrëveshje përbrenda shqiptare, as me Evropën e vjetër, as me Evropën e re.’ in: (http://www.rexhepqosja.com/)
7] Vladimir Prela in original: Veçimi ideologjik apo pushtues na nxori ne shqpitarëve në brigjet e Europës demokratike, pra në Perëndimin e ndërtuar si një bashkësi që mbështetet në një sistem vlerash universale: - në një shoqëri të organizuar mbi bazën e ekonomisë racionale dhe në parimet e tregut; - në një shoqëri ku të drejtat enjeriut vëzhgohen dhe mbrohen; - në një shoqëri që me ligj, institucione dhe mentalitet, nuk pranon dallime racore apo fetare; -në një system ku zgjedhjet e lira parlamentare dhe ndarja e pushteteve është e shenjtë; Në një rajon ku respektohet sovraniteti, ku ekziston dhe respektohet patriotizmi, por edhe ku kufijtë janë të hapur me njëti – tjetrin. Sot, më shumë se kurrë, demokracia perëndimore i ka hapur rrugën shiptarëve drejt integrimit në vlerat e mirëfillta të qytetërimit. (Vladimir Prela, ‘Identiteti eshte i mundshem edhe ne Globalizem’, in Kush asht Kosovari, Java, Prishtine, 2005, p.54.)
8] Shkëlzen Maliqi, in original: ‘Shqiptarët janë një prej kombeve historikisht të vonuar në zhvillim dhe idealizimi i puro identitetit të tyre shumë shpesh inspirohet me ato elemente të traditës së jetës fisnore dhe të organizimit të jetës së tipit paramodern, që në dukje nuk kanë paralele me kombet fqinje. Është idealizuar psh. institucioni i rendit të odes, duke u quajtur institucion burimor demokratik, madje edhe duke u konsideruar si dëshmi se demokracia paskësh qenë e shënuar në gjenet shqiptare, si dhunti e falur nga Zoti (mbase e tipit të ‘popullit të zgjedhur’), vetëm se fatkeqësisht ‘rrethanat historike’ dhe pushtimet e shpeshta të huaja nuk u paskan mundësuar shqiptarëve zhvillimin në plotëni të këtij talenti të tyre prej democratëve të pare e autokton. (Shkëlzen Maliqi, ‘Identiteti shqiptar’, në Kush asht Kosovari, Java, Prishtinë, 2005, p.51.)
9] Not only organizations and institutions are proclaiming idea of ‘Europe’, but in this ‘game’ are more consistent political parties, for which one of the biggest result is if they are ‘being or becoming’ the members of Unions of those parties in Europe. President of Liberal Party in Kosovo, Gjergj Dedaj, in every speech in the media, doesn’t forget to say how his party is member of Union of Liberal Parties in the Europe. For him, and for many of them, this fact is enough to win the election. All heads of political parties in Kosovo declares that their aim and aspire is to ‘Europe’, as a supreme good. Ex president of Kosovo is well known as ‘biggest friend’ of Western ally (America and Europe)
10] Ex-Prime Minister of Kosove, Agim Ceku, in original: ‘Përfundon procesi i shtetit kombëtar, nis ai i shtetit anëtar të BE-së.’ (Daily Koha Ditore, 13 Jun 2007, p.15.)
11] In original: ‘Kryeministri Agim Ceku, u ka thënë studentëve të FSI se ka munguar fokusi diplomatic i Kosovës në botën islame nga frika se mos po jepet mesazh negativ tek vendet perëndimore.’(Daily Koha Ditore, 3 May 2007, p.2.)
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