Daan W. Everts (with a foreword by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer), Peacekeeping in Albania and Kosovo; Conflict response and international intervention in the Western Balkans, 1997 – 2002

In: Security and Human Rights
Lodewijk (Lo) Casteleijn Member of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee; Senior Research Associate, Clingendael Institute, The Hague, the Netherlands,

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Daan W. Everts (with a foreword by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer), Peacekeeping in Albania and Kosovo; Conflict response and international intervention in the Western Balkans, 1997 – 2002, I.B.Tauris, July 2020, 228p. £. 13,99 paperback

Fortunately, at the international scene there are those characters who venture into complex crises and relentlessly work for their solution. Sergio Viero de Melo seems to be their icon. Certainly, Daan Everts, the author of Peacekeeping in Albania and Kosovo belongs to this exceptional group of pragmatic crisis managers in the field. Between 1997 and 2002 he was the osce’s representative in crisis-hit Albania and Kosovo. Now, twenty years later, Mr Everts has published his experiences, and luckily so; the book is rich in content and style, and should become obligatory reading for prospective diplomats and military officers; and it certainly is interesting material for veterans of all sorts.

Everts presents the vicissitudes of his life in Tirana and Pristina against the background of adequate introductions to Albanian and Kosovar history, which offer no new insights or facts. All in all, the book is a sublime primary source of diplomatic practice. The largest, and clearly more interesting part of the book is devoted to the intervention in Kosovo. As a matter of fact, the 1999 war in Kosovo deepened ethnic tensions in the territory. Therefore, the author says, the mission in Kosovo was highly complex, also because the mandate was ambivalent with regard to Kosovo’s final status. Furthermore, the international community (Everts clearly does not like that term) for the time being had to govern Kosovo as a protectorate. In contrast, the preceding intervention in Albania in 1997 was limited in size, duration and mandate.

After the looming breakdown of political, judicial and administrative institutions and a stream of refugees, the Italian-led military coalition alba intervened in Albania in the spring of 1997, in combination with a civilian osce ‘presence’ to reinstate democracy, the rule of law and free media. Everts’ main task in Tirana was to canalize the unruly relationship between the main political parties (the dp of Berisha and the sp of Nano), to act as trouble-shooter and to prepare a new Constitution which, indeed, later on was approved in a popular referendum. Everts provides exciting reports about these intricate events. The antagonism between political forces was not resolved, but at the end of 1998 one could say that despite all heated exchanges and notwithstanding the continuing presence of a self-serving ruling class the democratic process did function more or less. Before he left Tirana, Everts even organized a massively attended soccer match between the rivalling political parties, which thanks to his own creative whistling ended in a 1-1- draw.

At that time, Albania was already flooded with hundreds of thousands of refugees from Kosovo. The territory - part of Serbia with a 90% Albanian population - was left aside in Dayton in 1995, which as Everts observes, had left the Kosovo time-bomb ticking. The population was subjected to cruel suppression by Serbia under the Milosevic reign.

In this situation, the Albanian-Kosovar leaders were driven to articulate their resistance and their national aspirations in a more radical way and increasingly with military means. In the following years, the influence of the Kosovo Liberation Army (kla) of Hashim Thaci increased, and joined the side of the civilian ‘President’ Ibrahim Rugova. In this same period, Serbian repression became even more severe. More than half of the Albanian-Kosovar population fled from their homes as refugees. Intensive diplomatic endeavours were to no avail. As well known, in April 1999 nato started bombing targets in Serbia, though not formally sanctioned by the UN Security Council. In his concluding remarks Everts maintains, however, that though the Kosovo intervention of 1999 may not have been mandated legally in all respects, there are reasons to regard it as legitimate: ‘with diplomatic efforts exhausted and the humanitarian disaster unfolding an international military intervention became unstoppable’.

In the beginning of June 1999, Serbia gave in and withdrew its forces from Kosovo. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 placed Kosovo under interim international administration and charged nato with the military tasks of the mission, and the osce with the civilian part, with involvement from the unhcr and the EU. After the war, Daan Everts was asked to lead the OSCE-Mission in Kosovo (omik) in close co-operation with the successive overall UN-representatives Sergio Viera de Melo, Bernard Kouchner and Hans Haekkerup. Everts stayed in Pristina until after the general elections of November 2001.

The mission was confronted with chaos and destruction, with government and rule of law virtually imploding. There were four ‘governments’ among which that of ‘President’ Rugova and one of the representatives of Thaci’s kla.

And there was the immense flow of refugees. Everts describes the miracle of the return from abroad within one month (June 1999) of 650.000 Albanians to Kosovo; furthermore, hundreds of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (idps) were resettled. At the same time, however, numerous Serbs began to leave Kosovo, in the end more than 100.000; in addition, several tens of thousands of Roma felt forced to leave.

Before democratic institutions can be built, some basic requirements have to be met. Firstly, Everts describes his efforts to set up the Kosovo Police Service (kps), in particular by establishing a training school for aspirant police agents. However successful this school was, the growth of the security forces in subsequent years could not cope with the numbers needed. Throughout Everts’ book, there is the frustration about the inability to improve security and the rule of law, and to stand up against the unremitting impunity: ‘multi-ethnic society never stood a chance’. The author underlines that the kla, with its grass-root nature, could have done more to stop the sliding-down of the human rights situation and the rule of law.

Secondly, the military units of the kla, which played such an important role in the resistance against Serbia, had to be disarmed, which was not done wholeheartedly, but nevertheless succeeded without major problems. Furthermore, the osce played an important role in setting up genuinely Kosovar media organizations.

A crucial task was to prepare Kosovo for autonomous internal governance and administration. This presupposed the dissolution of the provisional governments and the formation of political parties and preparing elections. It turned out to be a task of Herculean dimension. As the main political formations emerged Rugova’s Democratic League of Kosovo (ldk), and the kla-sponsored Democratic Party of Kosovo (pdk). The most difficult task was to integrate the Serbian Kosovars into the democratic process, also because they (as Kosovo formally was part of Serbia) were oriented to Belgrade politics. A specific obstacle was the situation in Mitrovica in the North of Kosovo, which in June 1999 was not fully brought under control of nato and osce and followed its own, Serbia-oriented course.

The voter registration by the osce for the municipal elections of October 2000 was very successful with the exception of the Serbian voters, who overwhelmingly abstained from participation. Everts is proud that he succeeded in ensuring, as a basic rule in all elections, that women were strongly represented on the party-lists.

After the municipal elections, it was time to install the legal framework for general elections, the Constitution and the Central Election Commission. Despite many difficulties that succeeded. And, now, in the general elections, the IDPs from Kosovo in Serbia participated in great numbers. The November 2001 elections again produced Rugova’s ldk and Thaci’s pdk as the biggest parties. This time, after tremendous efforts of Everts and his staff, the involvement of Serbian voters was so successful that after the elections they had substantial representation in the new parliament, and even became the third party.

The word peacekeeping in the title of Everts’ book mainly refers to the work done under the mandate of the osce, which is in his own words “the prime institutional focus of the book”, notably concerning basic democratic and human rights, reconciliation, institution building, media development and elections. In Kosovo, the international community worked through two separate, independent multinational institutions: nato/kfor for the military and UN/unmik for the civilian tasks. As part of the latter, the osce unit omik worked in Kosovo in cooperation and under protection of the nato operation kfor. It would have been interesting to read a bit more on the interaction and complications between the two. In the book, the military part of peacekeeping in the Western Balkans is referred to, but not dealt with.

The author gives a careful judgment of the (war)crimes during the Serbian rule of Kosovo and the ethnic tensions, and indeed revenge, afterwards. Everts considers it crucial to recognize rights and wrongs as they occur, irrespective of who they are attributed to. The osce published in the summer of 1999 a document on Serbian cruelties in Kosovo. As Everts says, it shows the indiscriminate way in which civilians of all ages, men and women, were subjected to inhuman treatment, including torture, rape and killing – purely on account of their ethnicity. In December 1999 the osce on Everts’ initiative issued a second document: an inventory of cruelties against Serbian citizens in the second half of 1999, this time committed by Kosovar-Albanians. However, the author contends, the ethnic violence this time was not part of a centrally directed strategy and differed starkly in terms of quantity and seriousness.

That said, the international community then, and ever since, stuck to the position that accountability and reconciliation could not succeed without sincerely and intensely dealing with the past. And that not only with respect to the Serbian crimes, but also those committed during the war and after under the responsibility of the new rulers of Kosovo.

Regarding the latter, Everts would have strongly preferred a trial in Kosovo itself and not by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (ksc) that was created (under Kosovar law) in 2016 in The Hague. He feels that this Court was established on rather dubious grounds, at least partly in order to compensate for the perceived anti-Serb bias of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Now, it is paradoxical to see that many important political (former military) leaders of Kosovo who enforced and shaped Kosovo’s (semi-) independence recently have been indicted by this Court.1

Through the years, it has been a central requirement of the EU that properly dealing with the past and regional reconciliation is a prerequisite for a stable and profitable mutual relationship, and for agreeing, at last, upon the final status of Kosovo. Everts suspects that, in the end, the problems of divisive relations in the Western Balkans probably only can be overcome by wholesale accession to the EU.

The extraordinary book Peacekeeping in Albania and Kosovo by Daan Everts provides us with an illuminating background to the, after twenty years still not yet solved, problems of accountability, integrity, reconciliation and the rule of law in the Western Balkans.


Among others Jakup Krasniqi, Salih Mustafa, Kadri Veseli, and Hashim Thaci, who early November 2020 resigned as President of Kosovo in order to make himself available to the Court in The Hague.

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