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Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety Tufts' R. Bruce Hitchner, classics professor and chairman of the Dayton Project, weighs in on the future of Kosovo in the aftermath of the country's declaration of independence from Serbia.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.22.08] On Feb. 17, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, the conclusion of a three-year process. But in the midst of the celebration, a series of outcries from Serbia and Russia began to rise above the cheers, as the two countries remain in denial over the separation.

Professor R. Bruce Hitchner, chair of the classics department at Tufts, had his hand in Kosovo's independence process when it was in its early stages in his role as chairman of the Dayton Peace Accords Project, which created a blueprint for the new state's constitution. Hitchner was among the members of the delegation that brought the boilerplate constitution to Kosovo in February 2005.

In the days since Kosovo's independence was announced, Serbs have joined together in protest, attacking the United States embassy and the United Nations police guarding the entrance into Kosovo. As turmoil continues to unfold, E-News spoke to Hitchner to discuss his views on the state of Kosovo and the surrounding region.

Discuss the Dayton Peace Accords Project and how it has evolved over the past three years since initial discussion with Kosovo. Where does it stand now?

The Dayton Project (DP), as it is now known, worked in collaboration with thePublic International Law and Policy Group (PILPG), to produce a draft constitution for Kosovo in 2005 and early 2006. The objective of this was to assist the Kosovar authorities in meeting the ‘Standards before Status' benchmarks set by the U.N. mission in Kosovo. The draft text was delivered to the provisional government in February 2006. Since then the Kosovars and international community have continued to negotiate the details of the constitutional draft. Neither the DP nor PILPG is currently engaged in the negotiations. However, the DP continues to be actively engaged in the constitutional reform process in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This initiative, which began in 2006, was supported by the European Commission, Nordic States, Switzerland, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The DP partnered in this effort with the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Public International Law and Policy Group. I also advise the High Representative in Bosnia, Miroslav Lajcak, on constitutional reform issues.

How do you feel Kosovo will hold up on its own in the time to come?

Kosovo is a weak and an institutionally underdeveloped state. However, the European Union (E.U.), with the support of the U.N. and U.S., has put a substantial transitional administration on the ground in Kosovo to assist the new state in building its capacity.

What do you feel will be its greatest hurdle to cross down the line?

If Kosovo is to succeed, it will need a functioning government capable of meeting the needs of all its citizens, as well as its international obligations. This will take time, and will require the sustained support and cooperation of the E.U., U.S., and U.N. Further down the road, it is in the interests of both Kosovo and its now hostile neighbor, Serbia, to find some accommodation. Otherwise, both Kosovo and Serbia will find it difficult to achieve stability and prosperity, and more importantly, achieve integration into the E.U. Russia, which is now re-engaging in the region, can play a constructive role to this end, but I do not expect that to occur in the near term. It is also important that the U.S. remain actively engaged in Kosovo to ensure the latter's security.

What are your thoughts on Serbia's reaction and what do you think the split will ultimately mean for them?

Serbia has constructively decided not to employ force as a tool in its efforts to challenge the legitimacy of Kosovo as a sovereign independent state. This is a difficult time for Serbia, but Serbia must recognize, and privately many political leaders in Serbia do, that returning Kosovo to Serbian authority would have greater consequences for Serbia's and the region's future than accepting the reality of Kosovo's independence. Indeed both Serbia and Russia were always aware, whether they acknowledged it or not, that independence for Kosovo was always an option—and the only viable one under the circumstances—under U.N. Resolution 1299.

What are your expectations for the future of the region?

Perhaps surprisingly, Bosnia, not Kosovo, is the country that really keeps U.S. and E.U. policy makers awake at night. Bosnia is still deeply divided along ethnic lines, and over the past two years the political situation in the country has slowly deteriorated. Until the E.U. and U.S. come to grips with the deeply flawed constitutional structure of Bosnia created by the Dayton Agreement which keeps the country divided, Bosnia will remain the most politically unstable state in the Balkans and in the heart of Europe.

Are you working on any other current projects in that region or elsewhere?

As previously stated, I am actively engaged in work on constitutional and political reform in Bosnia. The Dayton Project has just presented to the High Representative and international community a proposal for revitalizing the international mission in Bosnia. We also continue to work with the political parties and others in the country on moving constitutional reform forward.

Interview by Kaitlin Melanson, Web Communications

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