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The OSCE Verification Mission to Kosovo December 1998 - March 1999

Personal Views by Two "Verifiers"
Marc Dickinson and Nicolas Kaczorowski

International Secretariat May 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preamble

Personal Views by Marc Dickinson

Personal Views by Nicolas Kaczorowski

Appendix: Map - KVM HQ and Regional Centres (not available electronically)

Preamble

In December 1998, Marc Dickinson and Nicolas Kaczorowski, both having completed nine months as interns at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) decided to volunteer for the OSCE Verifiers Mission set up to verify the agreement reached by Holbrooke and Milosevic in October 1998.

After the withdrawal of the verifiers in March 1999, Marc and Nicolas returned to Brussels and briefed the International Secretariat on their experiences in Kosovo.

We asked the two to write about their experiences because we believe that they provide valuable insights concerning the situation in Kosovo during that period, the workings of the OSCE mission, the various problems it encountered and suggest lessons for future missions of this nature.

I enclose the two accounts, which I stress, are their personal views, but which I hope all members will find interesting and informative.

Simon Lunn
Secretary general


Personal Views By Marc Dickinson

I. INTRODUCTION

1. The Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) was the first operation of this size to be undertaken by the OSCE. The historical background to the mission has been widely publicised and so needs little elaboration. Yugoslavia was composed of a wide variety of ethnicities and regions such as Kosovo, each with their own legal status. In 1989, President Slobodan Milosevic annulled Kosovo's autonomous status, thus impeding the Kosovars from conducting any internal management. The ethnic composition of Kosovo can only be based on the 1991 census; of a population of 1,983,000, 84% were Albanians, 10% Serbs, 0.6% Turks and 5.4% of other various ethnic groups. Until the abolition of its autonomous status, Kosovo had its own parliament, president, and judiciary. The police however, largely remained in the hands of the Serbs, as it still does to this day.

2. Troubles in Kosovo between the various ethnic groups did not start strictly in 1989 or 1990 with the break-up of Yugoslavia. The failure to integrate Kosovo into Albania in 1913 with its strong Albanian majority, linked it to Yugoslavia and ignited the Albanians' desire for self-determination. Ever since 1913, violence, varying in intensity, between both ethnic groups has been ongoing. President Tito tried to ease the tension in 1974 by granting Kosovo an autonomous status, however this was perceived as too little by the Albanians and too much by the Serbs. The stripping of Kosovo's autonomy in 1989, and Belgrade's brutal crackdown only exacerbated the situation, until it reached what we see today on our television screens, read in the newspapers or hear from people who have been in the region.

3. I would like to emphasise that this paper is based on my personal experience, and that it is not representative of the overall situation. I can only base my assessment on the small microcosm of Kosovo Polje where I was stationed. Other OSCE personnel will have had different, and possibly, diverging experiences. This paper also does not reflect the OSCE's point of view.

II. WHY DID I CHOOSE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE KVM?

4. Why did I choose to participate in the OSCE KVM? Some reasons are purely professional and practical, while others tend to be personal. On a purely professional level, I saw the OSCE mission as a means to acquire additional experience in my career in international institutions and relations. I had worked for the Assembly of Western European Union (WEU) and then for the North Atlantic Assembly (NAA) as a research assistant. I wanted to complement my experience with international institutions with "field" experience. I had read and written reports for the WEU and NAA and I wanted to see if there was a contrast between was what being put on paper and what was actually happening on the ground.

5. On a personal level, I wanted to see if my small contribution could make a difference in conflict prevention and, consequently, help out the civilian populations who always bear the brunt of conflict. I suppose it was also an adventure and a challenge. Consequently I applied to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and gathered the necessary information for the six-month mission. A month or so later, I received a phone call, literally on my last day with the NAA which confirmed what I had been hoping for. The next few days were spent in various shops, gathering the necessary winter gear - which was not provided by either the French government or the OSCE - and books.

III. THE BEGINNING

6. My flight arrived in Skopje on the 12 February. I was part of a group of 13 French nationals, most having had various experiences in this particular type of mission. We were immediately shipped to Bresovica in Kosovo by bus for our week of training. There, we stayed in a hotel and began our training with the observers from other nations. We were class 15, composed of 60 or so future observers. At that point my role within the OSCE mission was still vague. I knew I was going to be an observer but that was about it. I had little clue of what my daily activities would entail. I was also surprised that the French government had not given its KVM delegation more in-depth training or briefing on what the mission mandate consisted of.

7. The week's training was tiring as it consisted of a continuation of classes and a massive amount of information, ranging from topics such as the definition of human rights to what a mine was and how we were supposed to react if we stepped into a minefield. Class 15 learnt rudimentary Albanian and Serb expressions, how to drive 4x4s, use communications, recognise various military equipment and how to deal with the media. Once the training was over, the various observers received their stationing and a few were briefed on their specific roles.

IV. THE STRUCTURE OF THE KVM

8. Kosovo was broken up into five regional centres by the OSCE, with the main HQ in Pristina. Each region was controlled by a Regional Centre (RC). Each RC ran a number of Co-ordination Centres (CC) which in turn ran a number of Field Offices (FO). The Field Office was the smallest unit, generally composed of around 10 OSCE observers and a number of local security staff and interpreters. The FO's role was to gather information from the patrols it conducted. At the end of each day, it would send a report of that day's activities, which would in turn be sent up the hierarchical structure of the KVM, to finally end up in the Fusion Cell in the HQ for analysis. The fusion reports were then sent to the OSCE in Vienna.

9. I was sent to RC5, the Pristina area, which ran from Podujevo in the North all the way down to Strptse in the South. Once in RC5, I waited about five days to receive my final stationing which turned out to be Kosovo Polje, in the former US Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM) headquarters. (Before the OSCE's arrival in Kosovo, there were French, American, British and Russian diplomatic observer missions that divided Kosovo in four sectors.)

V. PRISTINA

10. Pristina was a stereotypical city built on communist architecture. Most of the town was dirty and run down. All the commerce was conducted by small shops, which tried to offer the best they could get their hands on. One could barely feel the embargo imposed on Yugoslavia: while the shops offered limited choice, one could still find more than the necessary products to live comfortably. The population had managed to find a way around the embargo, and most of the items on sale were of good quality. One constantly had to juggle with three currencies: deutchmarks, dollars and dinars. The streets during the day were filled with people conducting their daily activities without too much trouble. One quickly learnt that Serbs and Albanians did not mix; each ethnic group had its own areas, cafŽs and restaurants. Unemployment in the region apparently hovered around 85% to 90%, and the majority of the administrative positions were held by Serbs. The public services were in ruins: trash was no longer collected and most people had to burn it in front of their homes; the bus system did the best it could with what it had, i.e. very decrepit and decaying vehicles. The main roads were decent but large potholes were frequently encountered. Some of the petrol stations refused to serve OSCE personnel, either because the personnel was Serb, or because they had been instructed to do so by their employers.

VI. KOSOVO POLJE

11. Kosovo Polje, the famous historical battle ground was a medium-sized town. The community was roughly 60% Serb and 40% Albanian. There was no immediate apparent tension between the communities, possibly due to the high police presence in the area. The local police ensured the OSCE personnel's safety. The temporary guard house located in front of our compound was a double-edged sword in the sense that if we had encountered any problems with the local population, the police could quickly intervene or act as a mediator to ease the tension. The fact that a guard was always present, also meant, however, that they could write down our every move, including who was entering our compound, such as interpreters and security guards.

VII. KOSOVO POLJE FIELD OFFICE AND ITS STRUCTURE

12. When the Kosovo Polje FO was set up, it was composed of five individuals: the team leader, his deputy, and three observers. The team leader and his deputy were both former military, and their experience in quickly setting up a composite team was apparent. In a matter of days, the FO was operational, but not to its maximum capacity, mainly due to the lack of supplies, including the lack of an armoured car. A few weeks later, the team numbered nine personnel. Supplies slowly trickled through, but it was a constant battle to obtain them. Theoretically, the team was supposed to conduct night patrols, but this proved to be impossible since we only had two civilian 4x4s vehicles. After two weeks, we received the instruction that if OSCE personnel were to conduct night patrols, it should always be with two cars, unless authorised otherwise. Consequently, if our FO decided to conduct such a patrol, it would have had to use its both vehicles, thus leaving it unable to answer any emergency calls. The FO received its third, and only, armoured vehicle three days before the evacuation of the OSCE KVM.

13. The problem of receiving supplies possibly resulted from a number of factors, the major one being that all of the supplies travelled through the Macedonian border. On a number of occasions, the Serb border guards impeded the crossing of the OSCE KVM supply convoys. This could be done by using a number of methods, such as closing of the border, or by being finicky on various administrative procedures.

VIII. HUMAN RESOURCES

14. Another problem encountered during my stay in the field was the difficulty of communication between various OSCE personnel. The official working language of the mission was English. Unfortunately, on a number of occasions, our work was hampered because a few of our colleagues spoke little or no English. Working with individuals who did not have even a minimum level of the language not only increased the workload for the rest of the team members, but also put their lives at risk. If the information which was being relayed on the radio was not correctly interpreted or relayed to the other OSCE cells, the team in the field could be faced with a dangerous situation. It could be sent to the wrong area or, in the case of an accident, the backup team might not be given the right grid location to help the team requesting assistance. Facing such a situation where the OSCE verifier did not speak a word of intelligible English was unacceptable. Either the governments sending their nationals to the field should be more careful about their selection process and/or the OSCE should be. Fortunately, such cases were rare and, hopefully, they will not be encountered in future OSCE missions.

15. The balance between civilian and military/former military personnel within the Kosovo Polje team was necessary. The experience of the military personnel was greatly appreciated, especially in fire-fight situations. On a number of occasions our patrols ended up in a hot spot involving an exchange of gunfire between Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and Serb forces. The personnel with military backgrounds immediately knew how to react, and most probably prevented the situation from deteriorating. Additionally, the background of such personnel was an asset when it came to communicating with the Serb and KLA military forces. The OSCE personnel with civilian backgrounds, specialised in fields such as human rights, democratisation or reconstruction, enabled the mission to address a number of other non-military issues, which were sometimes considered as secondary by military/former military personnel.

16. Additionally, some KVM personnel had the distinct impression that their acquired skills and specialisations were not being taken into consideration. There were instances when positions were allocated to certain personnel, not because of their skills, but more likely because of their nationality or contacts. However, one cannot immediately discount the possibility that these individuals might have had hidden talents which they were shy in sharing with the rest of the mission.

IX. THE LACK OF A CEASE-FIRE

17. Originally, the KVM was sent to monitor/verify the agreement which had been signed in October by US envoy Richard Holbrooke and Yugoslav President Slobodan Molosovic. The first difficulty encountered by the KVM was that the agreement had only been signed by the Serb party. The KLA, while it was under strong pressure from the United States to show restraint, had not signed any document to that effect. From my first day of patrol, it was clear that the explicit or implicit commitment to show restraint was not being implemented by either side. The KLA argued that it had not signed the agreement and the Serb authorities were not abiding by it; independence was the only outcome. On the Serb side, the justification for the fighting was that the "terrorists" of the KLA were constantly harassing Serb villages and forces. Both protagonists placed the blame on the other. Since neither party was ready to stop fighting, it was becoming obvious that the OSCE KVM was going to face a situation it had not prepared itself for.

18. Once the daily reports of each field office were processed by the fusion cell in the HQ in Pristina, the reports were then sent to Vienna. The information was then passed on to OSCE member states who then conferred with one another on what action should be undertaken to deal with the situation in the field and in the international political arena. What was interesting, but not surprising, was that the OSCE KVM stayed for so long in the field while many of its reports pointed out the obvious: with fighting continuing, the conditions under which the KVM has been deployed had been overtaken by developments on the ground. Additionally, a number of our unit's reports pointed out that our patrols were constantly encountering Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in villages and on the road. I cannot speak for the other Field Offices, but such reports were a clear indication that the Serb forces, by their actions in the field, were the cause for the gradual emptying of Albanian villages. All of the IDPs we encountered on our patrols were Kosovar Albanians, and not Kosovo Serbs. I am not saying that no Serbs fled from their villages because of KLA actions, but strictly referring to the Kosovo Polje Area Of Responsibility (AOR), we never encountered any Serb civilians fleeing from their villages.

19. During our last two weeks in Kosovo Polje, during the Paris Peace Talks, there was a very distinguishable accentuation in tension and fighting in our AOR. Our patrols encountered more and more armoured vehicles and physically witnessed the attack/burning of Albanian villages by Serb forces (composed of Serb military forces, MUP forces, which could be described as paramilitary forces, and a number of armed civilians). These villages were, before the Serb offensive, still being occupied by a number of KLA fighters, and their families. Once the Serb forces launched their offensive, the few KLA fighters armed mostly with small arms and a few antitank weapons were no match against armoured vehicles, tanks and well-trained troops.

20. On one occasion, I went out on a morning patrol towards one of those villages - Glavotina - which was located in the northern part of our AOR. We had conducted a patrol the previous afternoon near that village and had observed heavy shelling and Serb forces activity in the area. As the morning patrol entered the Glavotina area, we witnessed from a distance the burning of houses. All KLA checkpoints which we had encountered on previous patrols had disappeared overnight. Upon entering Glavotina, we turned a street corner and came face to face with a dozen armoured vehicles and numerous Serb forces resting in the town centre. Many of the houses were still burning and had been destroyed. As we left the town and looked back over our shoulders, we could see the gradual progress of these forces to other villages in the vicinity by the setting alight of other houses. The madness of the situation was that many of the houses being destroyed had been empty. We had asked some Serb forces why they were burning the houses and their answer was that some KLA fighters had been using them to conduct their operations. That, however, to my mind is no excuse nor a valid justification. The KLA fighters were no longer in control of the area and could no longer use those houses. Unless the Serbs were planning on leaving the area, and allowing the KLA fighters back into the village, there was no logic in burning the houses. I can see no justification in the burning of empty Albanian villages other than to deny the return of their inhabitants.

X. THE KLA

21. The low intensity war in Kosovo was being fought by uneven forces. I believe that, to this date, it is impossible to place a specific figure on the number of men comprising the KLA forces. From what our patrols reported on the field, the KLA forces were equipped with light arms and many of the fighters had been only superficially trained. The lack of professionalism of the KLA forces was compensated for by the fighters' motivation in retaining their land and obtaining independence for their nation. The majority of the fighters we encountered were young, with an average age probably around 23-24. Many of these individuals had little or no military training. Their motivation for fighting the Serb forces arose from a variety of reasons: the loss of a family member, protecting their land, and the creation of an independent state. There were reports that some of the fighters had been enrolled by force, but our team never gained proof of this. What really struck me was the terribly strong motivation pushing these individuals to stand up to the enemy forces: it was, however, predominantly a matter of survival and honour.

22. The KLA's command structure was well established and respected throughout its echelons. There was a definite sense that the KLA was gradually turning into a well structured and organised military force. However, the KLA has shown signs of internal instability and no clear leader for the organisation has been officially endorsed. Worse still, there is clear antagonism between the KLA and moderate Albanian representatives. If Kosovo does gain independence or even autonomy, there is a strong possibility of internal confrontation between the various political and non-political factions.

XI. THE CIVILIANS

23. The recurrent theme in my conversations with both ethnic groups was their desire to end the conflict. Of course, a number of them stressed that they could no longer live side by side with someone from the other ethnic group. A majority of the civilians expressed the desire for the war to end, but they always saw the other side as the aggressor. In the rural areas, Albanians and Serbs wanted to go back and work their land. Many of the Serb civilians we encountered emphasised that their neighbour was Albanian and that they were living in peace. True, this might have been the case, but our patrols witnessed the same civilians intimidate and harass Albanians walking through the village by asking them for identification papers. It is hard to determine why these individuals acted in a such a way. Fear or desire for security was possibly a major reason. Since the village they lived in was mixed and on the front-line between the KLA and Serb controlled areas, any unknown individual was treated with suspicion since he could be bringing information to the other side. Both sides, at least when referring to the civilians and their immediate community, were motivated by protecting their land.

24. In the rural areas, the land represents everything. It not only is a means for providing food, but it is intrinsically linked to the individual's history and, most importantly, honour. Many of the individuals we encountered on our patrols in the rural areas pointed out that their families had been living on the land for centuries. Taking the land away from them not only meant that they would have lost their means to live, but also their identity. This was true of both the Serbs and the Albanians. This intrinsic attachment and link to the land is not unique but it was heavily emphasised by the people in Kosovo.

25. The Serb civilians' fear of losing their land and identity could be attributed to two factors. The first was the fear that the Kosovar Albanians were struggling to obtain independence for their nation. The arrival of the KVM compounded that fear as they perceived OSCE personnel as siding with the Kosovar Albanians. The nationality of the Head of Mission led them to believe that the KVM was not the result of a consensus between various OSCE member states but that the mission was entirely controlled by a single country. It was a constant daily struggle to explain that the OSCE mission was based on impartiality, and that our goal was to avert any escalation in the fighting by reaching a peaceful solution between the two ethnic groups. The ethnic Serbs often referred to OSCE personnel as an occupation force, sent by the West to support the Albanians' struggle for independence. That belief was probably the result of propaganda disseminated by Belgrade but also of the early mistakes of OSCE personnel.

26. Additionally, the unfortunate decision by some OSCE personnel to repeatedly confer with KLA fighters without stopping to speak to the Serb authorities or forces and explain why they were doing so, reinforced the Serbs' belief that the KVM was actively supporting the Albanian cause. By the time the gravity of the mistake was understood, it was doubly hard to communicate with the Serb population and try to explain the purpose of the KVM and reiterate its impartiality. After a certain period of time, however, a level of trust was gradually developing.

27. Concerning the Belgrade propaganda machinery, it is important to note that many of the houses in Kosovo, even in the most remote countryside, had satellite dishes. While Kosovo did have a daily feeding of Serb propaganda, it also had access to Western news. What many of the Serbs did not understand was why the Western media was constantly vilifying them, describing them as bloodthirsty fascists. Was their interpretation of the Western news influenced by their belief that Belgrade was telling them the truth? Did they unconsciously refuse to accept what the West was presenting as fact to its own populations? Was the Western media simply vilifying the Serb population to sell the justification of air-strikes? It is almost impossible to answer these questions. It is important to note, however, that in war both sides use propaganda for their own goals and that in this day and age, it is not hard to obtain access to various forms of information. While Milosevic did abolish all independent media in Belgrade, he could do nothing about Western information travelling the airwaves.

XII. NGOs AND IDPs

28. The KVM was also entrusted with helping the various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other institutions such as the UNHCR and the Red Cross. The OSCE acted the best it could, as a co-ordination cell between the various NGOs and their activities in the field. Such a co-ordinating role was vital in order to avert any overlapping of activities by the different NGOs. Many of these humanitarian organisations, especially the NGOs, would often be harassed by some Serb civilians and Serb forces which viewed their actions as a way of helping the KLA fighters. The OSCE verifiers, by escorting the NGOs, enabled them to undertake their humanitarian activities by providing a sense of security. Considering the number of IDPs travelling through our area of responsibility, there was a clear need for humanitarian action. Some villages would sometimes see their population triple in a matter of hours. Unfortunately, due to the numerous police checkpoints around the main towns, many Albanian villagers feared leaving their village to buy food for the IDPs. The IDPs themselves in many cases could not enter the main towns due to lack of identification papers and the great fear they had of the Serb authorities. There were numerous reported cases of Albanians having their identification papers confiscated by police forces. This not only placed these individuals in a dangerous situation if they were controlled again by the police forces, but also impeded their obtaining social security or access to hospitals.

XIII. TRUST: A CONSTANT BATTLE

29. The question of trust was fundamental to properly conducting our verification mission. The information in our daily reports was collected from various sources: what we had personally witnessed and the various individuals we spoke to. Information from the latter source had to be handled with care, and we were constantly trying to find other sources for corroboration. Both parties tended to divulge information which not only portrayed them as a the victim but would additionally represent the adversary as the culprit for the fighting. Both sides would try to use the OSCE personnel to their advantage.

30. We rarely physically witnessed fire-fights. The fighting, while it could be heard from a distance, would suddenly die down as soon as we entered the area. When asked which side had initiated the fighting, both parties would blame the other. After having by chance witnessed several fire-fights however, one can only conclude that both sides were to blame at one time or another. With experience, however, we usually found that the information being forwarded by the KLA tended to be more reliable. This does not mean that the information the Serb forces and civilians passed on was immediately set aside.

XIV. CHECKPOINTS

31. Checkpoints were encountered in both towns and sometimes in the rural areas. They had numerous uses, the main one being in asserting the presence of Serb forces in the region. Additionally, as previously indicated, these checkpoints would regularly stop buses and the Serb forces would verify the identity of the passengers. Considering that KLA fighters were viewed as terrorists, there was a logical justification in searching the buses and checking the identity of the passengers. However, there were some abuses when only the Albanian passengers were asked for identification, and were sometimes asked to leave the bus and return home.

32. Additionally, the checkpoints would be used to stop the IDP influx in the major towns such as Pristina. It was logical for the Serb authorities to impede the IDPs from entering the main towns en masse, where television crews could have easily portrayed the internal exodus of the Albanian population to the rest of the world. The Serb authorities also feared that the KLA would infiltrate the IDP columns and continue their terrorist activities within the major cities. There were numerous attacks in Pristina, ranging from drive-by shootings and the throwing of grenades into shops of both ethnic groups to the planting of bombs in crowded areas.

XV. CRIME

33. Adding to the confrontation between the KLA and the Serb forces was the constant activity of the mafia, mainly undertaken in the major towns. On a number of occasions, our patrols were asked by the police to verify with them crime-related deaths. On these instances, the problem was establishing whether or not these deaths were indeed crime related. Due to the embargo, many of the products found in Kosovo were illegally brought into the region. Organised crime too flourished under such circumstances, especially since the police forces were focusing on terrorist activities. Crime-related deaths were also relatively high since many civilians owned weapons, ranging from handguns to automatic assault rifles.

XVI. ORCHESTRATION OF ETHNIC CLEANSING

34. As previously stated, it is hard to evaluate whether or not what was happening on the ground was orchestrated by the regime in Belgrade. The various patrols, however, did encounter a number of burning villages and numerous groups of IDPs on the road while the Paris Peace Talks were taking place. It was hard to believe that the Serb delegation had gone to Paris to negotiate a peace deal in view of what was happening in Kosovo to the Albanian population. It is also hard to believe, considering the nature of the regime in Belgrade and its composition, that the Serb leaders knew nothing of what was happening in Kosovo. If they were aware of what was happening, they did little or nothing to stop it or from getting worse. The accentuation of Serb military activity during our last few weeks in Kosovo could have been the direct result of the Serb regime's perception that the Paris Peace Talks were nothing other than an ultimatum. They probably deduced that NATO was about to take action since they did not sign the plan which had been presented to them in Paris. This resulted in a massive wave of panic on the Albanian population's behalf, creating the massive exodus we have all seen on television.

XVII. THE LAST DAYS AND THE EVACUATION

35. In my view, the evacuation should be considered a failure of the OSCE mission overall. However, when I look back on the Kosovo Polje local region, I do believe that the team made a difference, and maybe, if time had been on our side and with the appropriate means being made available, we possibly could have made a greater difference. When looking back on the impact of our daily patrols, I often recall the various faces of the civilian populations, Serb and Albanian, and the gratitude the majority of them showed towards our presence and interventions. The success of our work resided in areas such as humanitarian help, co-ordinating the various NGOs, mediating between the various factions and simply providing a form of security by a mere presence on the ground.

36. What is clear, when looking at the overall situation, is that the KVM did not obtain the implementation of a peaceful solution by either side. On numerous occasions the KLA provoked the Serb forces. The opposite, however, was also true. The police forces closed their eyes to the numerous armed civilians in the streets and rarely tried to impede the armed civilians' nocturnal provocations. However, speaking for the Kosovo Polje Field Office, relations with the high-ranking police officials were developing positively. The same could be said about the KLA commanders. A level of trust, comprehension of both parties' points of view, and mediation were surely being reached. Only time could have told whether or not our work could have had a more positive impact.

37. It is important to note that the objective of sending 2,000 verifiers in Kosovo was not reached. Consequently the mission never functioned at its full operational capacity. Achieving what the OSCE KVM did at such short notice was a logistical miracle. On the one hand, it seems to me that had the OSCE been given more time and resources, a military intervention might have been avoided. On the other hand, while we were on the ground we did witness the slow but steady emptying and destruction of villages. The Albanian population's fear of the Serb forces heading towards them or the actual forcing out of these populations by various hostile forces led to the abandoning of these villages.

XVIII. THE MILITARY ASPECTS AND THE SERB FORCES

38. The surveillance and monitoring of military forces, however, was an area where the OSCE was not so successful. On a number of occasions, our patrols were called upon to "follow" Serb military "convoys", consisting of only two armoured personnel carriers, a truck and a jeep. Granted, any military movement can be of importance in the sense that it only takes a tank or two to silence a KLA position. However, it would have been more logical to follow "real convoys" comprising numerous trucks and tanks. On a number of occasions, our patrols were distracted from more important tasks, such as monitoring certain areas considered as hot spots.

39. Relations with the Serb military forces were, at least for our FO, limited. As previously stated, we frequently had meetings with police or MUP forces. Our FO's manpower did not allow us to develop professional ties with local military forces. The only times when we actually met the Yugoslav army was in the field, when they were either patrolling or conducting "exercises". Their reactions ranged from outright antagonism to indifference but could never be described as violent. Many of the soldiers, in the early stages of my stay, appeared to be young and freshly trained conscripts. However, with time, troops with apparent combat or field experience started to appear as the military convoys grew in size and the situation on the ground deteriorated.

40. Additionally, while we were theoretically entitled access anywhere in Kosovo, certain areas, mainly the military sites, were off limits to OSCE personnel. I clearly remember the airfield, south-west of Pristina and the army barracks, just outside the province's capital, which were completely barred to us. On a number of occasions, when we did try to enter those compounds, we were greeted by soldiers loading their AK47s under our noses, clearly making us understand that our presence in those areas was undesirable. While it is questionable whether or not those soldiers would have used their weapons against us, one cannot blame OSCE personnel for retreating under such circumstances.

41. In our last week in Kosovo Polje, it became apparent that our presence was no longer restraining the Serb forces from conducting their military activities. These forces, even when our presence was obvious, would continue their offensives, regardless. It is hard to determine if these operations were a direct result of the KVMs failure in accomplishing its mandate or if the Serb authorities had decided that NATO was going to conduct their bombing raids and that Kosovo was lost. The KVM, however, did have a limited impact on Serb military operations. While the mission did not avert the war, it did, for a while at least, restrain the Serbs from entering a high intensity war with the KLA and prevent a certain number of civilians from being harmed or killed.

XIX. THE LOCAL STAFF

42. There is one final point I would like to address before I end this paper. During and after the evacuation of the KVM, I was distraught by the fate of our interpreters and the other local staff the KVM had employed. As the contingency plans for the KVMs evacuation were being discussed, the question of what would happen to the local personnel was not brought forth immediately. Only in the final hours of our stay in Kosovo did we learn the measures to be taken concerning their safety: we were to take our local staff to secure points within Kosovo. What were those safe areas? In our case, it was the Control Centre in Pristina. From there onwards, the local staff was to make do with its own means. There was no doubt in our minds, or theirs for that matter, of what could, and most probably would, happen to most of them. Maybe wrongly, I associated the KVM's evacuation and the local staff's fate with what had happened in previous military evacuations around the world. Granted, a number of local personnel had said outright that if the KVM did evacuate, they preferred to stay behind. However, a number of them did express the desire to leave the country. While the evacuation of the mission was perfectly carried out, it was heartbreaking to see some OSCE vehicles crossing the border with only one passenger, or packed with computer gear, or even laden with more than the authorised 15 kilogram evacuation bag. How many local staff could have been helped to safety? One might argue that the border police would have stopped them anyway or that the OSCE could not have evacuated everyone it had employed. But at least it would have tried and I am quite sure the Serbs would have been happy to see more Albanians leave the province.

XX. FINAL IMPRESSION: THE QUESTION OF IMPARTIALITY

43. When looking back at the mission, I believe that the majority of the OSCE verifiers were genuinely committed to their task and thoroughly applied themselves in obtaining the best they could produce. Yet, I would like to touch upon the issue of impartiality, and this, to my eyes, is probably one of the issues which struck me the most there during my stay. Originally, the OSCE KVM was to be impartial, but I must stress that this was not always the case.

44. The OSCE is a grouping of various nationalities, each with its own national agenda. It would be na•ive to believe that all the personnel sent abroad on a mission similar to that of the OSCE in Kosovo would have identical views and priorities. After all, we all were subject to our own nation's media which tended to reflect a general opinion, if not to say our government's. We know, when looking at the example of the United Nations for instance, that such organisations rarely act of their own will. They rely upon the good will of their member nations to undertake field operations. Certain UN operations, or conflicts where it could have intervened, were never properly addressed because of certain nations' national agendas. The OSCE KVM, I personally believe, did suffer from the same problem.

45. The impartiality of certain OSCE personnel was more than questionable. This not only undermined any credibility the mission needed to professionally undertake its mandate, but also created rifts within the mission itself. One had the distinct impression that the national policies of certain countries were reflected through some of their personnel's approaches to the situation in Kosovo. Consequently, a certain amount of distrust settled in between certain nationalities, thus impeding the proper functioning of the mission. Additionally, as stated earlier, the blatant political stance of certain OSCE personnel towards the various ethnic groups in Kosovo definitely harmed the mission potential and undermined the true professionalism of other OSCE personnel. I hope that the individuals who discredited the KVM, either because of their lack of professionalism or because of other more nationally motivated political reasons, realise the harm they brought not only to the mission, but also to their colleagues.

46. To sum up my overall impression of the KVM, I believe that the majority of observers did the best they could with what they had. Many, if not all of us, openly expressed the desire to return to Kosovo, probably because we feel that we left a job undone and that the OSCE's presence did make a difference while we were there. Personally, seeing and especially remembering the people I worked with, should they be Kosovars or part of the international staff, is itself a motivation to return. Such missions and situations create strong bonds between individuals, bonds which would rarely exist outside such exceptional circumstances. More importantly, what I saw and experienced in Kosovo has changed me forever. I suddenly came to realise that a simple personal act, an act which would be considered as banal here in the West, can have a tremendous impact on someone's life. I will never forget the pain and suffering of the populations I encountered, and if that pain and suffering can be avoided anywhere else around the world, then every effort from us is worthwhile and should be undertaken.


Personal Views by Nicolas Kaczorowski

I. INTRODUCTION

1. On arriving in Kosovo I decided to keep a record at regular intervals of the situation, of my impressions and opinions and of my analyses of the progress of the crisis. Today this enables me to share that intense experience, which is a partial view, in both senses of the word, of the realities on the ground and clearly not universally valid. It is partial in one sense because I saw only a very small part of what was happening at the level of Kosovo as a whole: the relevance of my experience goes no further than this. Each town, each hamlet and each district has its own characteristics, on which it would be rash to generalise. Lastly, it is partial because the opinions set out here reflect my view of reality at a given moment, without standing back or distancing myself from the event.

II. A LONG WAIT

2. I left Paris on 31st January 1999, two and a half months after my mission order had been sent to me by the French Foreign Ministry. Vienna had accepted my application to verify one of the frontiers of Kosovo. Which one? I did not know, and in any event this appointment was in general terms only and likely to change.

3. There was a long wait before my departure, but this enabled me to think about this mission, which was regarded as risky. I re-read Security Council Resolutions 1199 and 1203 and the Holbrooke-Jovanovic agreement of October 1998, which had set up the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) and defined the responsibilities of the verifiers. Thus I had a clearer but purely theoretical view of the missions to be performed in Kosovo, where there had been a vast increase in tension following the massacres at RaŤak and then at Rogovo. The possibility that the OSCE verifiers would be evacuated was already in everyone's mind.

4. I also made use of this time to acquaint myself with the situation, which had been dealt with at length in the media, in this region of Serbia and with its cultural and religious identity. Psychological conditioning seemed to me to be essential, because of the insecurity and instability in the area and also because of the living conditions, very different from our West European standards. For the first time I prepared myself to experience what war meant, to detest it and to involve myself in driving it from our European frontiers. I had studied, analysed and dissected it in detail in a theoretical context but had never experienced it. This mission was an opportunity to experience war from the inside in order to understand it better. In addition it was a personal challenge which I had to take up in order to find out what my own limits were. Was I capable of bearing the unbearable and confronting the unspeakable?

III. THE DEPARTURE FOR SKOPJE

5. I was quite ready to face up to this situation, extraordinary as it was in every sense of the word. I took with me my ideals and my good intentions; that which gave meaning to my action can be summarised as a willingness to take an active part in restoring peace in Kosovo. I realised that my influence on the peace process as a whole would of necessity be limited, but I wanted to believe that I could make a difference. I wished to make my contribution to this project, which I regarded as a noble cause: keeping the peace in Europe and setting up a democratic process in this province of Serbia. I was determined to participate in organising and supervising elections that were to sanction the emergence of a democratically elected president and parliamentary assembly. My experience and skills in supervising elections, gained in Serbia, Bosnia and the Czech Republic, might then be used at the proper time, i.e. when the time came to organise elections in Kosovo.

IV. A SHORT COURSE AT THE OSCE TRAINING CENTRE

6. On our arrival a bus was waiting to take us to the training centre, which all members of the mission had to pass through to prepare for their work as verifiers. The centre was at Brezovica, a former winter sports resort in the south of Kosovo much appreciated by the former apparatchiks of the Titoist regime. The training was intense and concentrated: only four days were assigned to cover an area of knowledge too extensive to be really effective. This programme provided for a general presentation on the situation in Kosovo, a briefing on the structures of the KVM, on the thorny issue of human rights and on the evacuation plan, as well as a more technical part putting the emphasis on first aid, the importance of mastering communications equipment (using GPS, VHF radios and satellite telephones), identification of the various types of mine and their dangers, and lastly driving a 4x4 vehicle on snowy ground. The content, clearly too ambitious for the time available, was relevant but insufficient.

7. I shall return to this problem of initial training, which might have been given in part and more effectively by national governments before the verifiers went onto the ground. Every country has military personnel available who could have dealt with the technical aspects of this type of mission.

8. Our respective postings were revealed at the end of our training. The idea was to form international teams in order to avoid grouping by nationality in the Regional Centres (RCs). However, the diplomatic observation missions (KDOM) set up before the KVM and subsequently absorbed by it had stayed together and had inherited particular regions. For example the Prizren RC was dominated by the former British KDOM, Pec by the Americans, and Mitrovica by the French. Lastly, Russia and the former Soviet republics were over-represented in Gnjilane, the town where I was to work.

V. ARRIVAL AT GNJILANE

9. I realised very quickly that Gnjilane differed from the rest of the province. In fact the Gnjilane region, in the eastern part of Kosovo, remained very calm right up to the evacuation (during the night of 20-21 March), in spite of the underlying tensions and the enormous frustrations that had built up since the suspension of autonomy in 1989. Nevertheless this explosive cocktail of harassment and humiliation, the root cause of profound resentment, had never degenerated into open conflict. What were the reasons for this relative calm?

10. Serb representation was proportionally greater in Gnjilane than in the rest of the province: the region has about 15-20% Serbs - the figures vary from one source to another. In addition there were many Serbian villages, almost homogeneous in ethnic terms, in our area of responsibility, which also included an area with a Serb majority to the north.

11. The Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) had no power base in the region and launched no military operations there. This lack of visibility and absence of activity on the part of the UCK made any Serb military action unjustified. This does not mean that there was no army or police presence. On the contrary, all the Serb villages were closely protected by federal forces, which had taken up positions at strategic points such as schools, factories or crossroads. In addition to this occupation of the ground, they issued weapons to the civilian population for self-defence.

12. Consequently, which brings us to the third reason, the Albanians in the region saw no advantage in seeking confrontation with the Serbs, who were very heavily armed and protected. The contest would have been unequal and lost before it began. The presence of the federal troops had a deterrent effect, acting as a damper on any initiatives by the Albanians. The Kosovars were well aware of the ravages caused by the war in the rest of Kosovo and avoided provoking the forces of order in any way. Their aim was to continue to live in peace, in spite of their ethnic solidarity.

13. The last reason frequently referred to was the collusion between the local Serb and Albanian mafias, who saw no advantage in the region being set ablaze.

14. There was no sign of the war, with its retinue of suffering and destruction. However, in spite of this apparent calm, a simple incident might have triggered a violent implosion in the region, at white heat as a result of ten years of grievances. The potentially explosive situation gave the OSCE a major role in the prevention of open conflict and in keeping the peace in this area.

15. Following another day of briefing aimed at giving us additional information on the special characteristics of Gnjilane, our priority was to find somewhere to live. The great number of properties available for letting made this an easy task. Many families were prepared to let part of their houses in exchange for a payment representing several months' salary (the average salary was about DM 150 per month). Many Albanians had in fact been dismissed from public service departments (post office, telephone, police, public transport, etc.). The rate of unemployment was at an all-time high; the population survived thanks to transfers of money from Kosovars who had emigrated to Switzerland and Germany. Kosovars had also lost control of positions of responsibility in state undertakings in 1989.

VI. WHAT LINE SHOULD WE TAKE?

16. We soon found a house to share where the living conditions were reasonable, even though we had to cope with cuts in water and electricity supplies from time to time. We no longer needed to concern ourselves with these practical matters and so could get down to work.

17. Many questions crowded into my mind, but my principal concern was to know exactly what my mission entailed; this had never been referred to during the previous briefings. What was the role of the verifiers having regard to the situation on the ground? What were the aims, and by what means did we think that we might achieve them? Specifically, what did my day-to-day work involve?

18. This might seem surprising, but no-one would answer these simple but basic questions that might give some purpose to our work. The only answer I was able to obtain seemed to me to be vague and not very convincing: we were to patrol the villages in order to demonstrate the presence of the OSCE "waving patrols while showing the flag". My team, which consisted of police officers, military and civilians, was responsible for patrolling sensitive points in the town of Gnjilane on foot or in vehicles: these points were the barracks, the police station, the Interior Ministry and the crossroads. Every morning patrols were formed, based on the complementary skills of a policeman, a military man and a civilian. A patrol area was then decided upon and assigned to each team. On returning, each of them had to review its observations, which would then be the subject of a daily report assembling all relevant information.

19. The 20 February was a typical day in our work as verifiers, which I regarded as more and more pointless. It involved following military convoys in order to pass on all possible information on their composition, the number of troops, the types of weapons carried, the destination, etc. The failure of the Rambouillet negotiations and the rise in tension had led to a great increase in the number of convoys and changed us into "convoy hunters". This took up most of our time and energies, and sometimes exposed us to no purpose. Thus two verifiers suddenly found themselves in the middle of a military training camp that was not shown on the maps. In the same way, following a "shadowing operation" we frequently had to obey orders from the Yugoslav army under the threat of a heavy-calibre submachine gun. What was the value of missions of this kind? Almost zero, because we knew full well that the military were taking up positions in the Serb villages or travelling from one barracks to another carrying equipment or troops, or on the way to the local training camp. These operations accounted for 99% of the convoys. So was there any relevance in spending our time following them? Could we not have used this time for constructive action in this region, where tension was rising?

20. Incidentally, the two examples above show how dangerous our mission was and emphasise how lucky we were that no-one in the ranks of the KVM was killed or seriously wounded. Incidents of this kind were obviously more frequent in the areas most seriously affected by the war and formed part of the daily life of the verifiers. Was it not irresponsible to expose civilians, with no experience and poorly trained, to such war-like situations? Would it not have been sensible to think about logical and continuous training for "a civilian peace force" whose role would be to act in such cases?

VII. UNCERTAINTY, THE ROOT CAUSE OF INERTIA

21. Our life was lived at the tempo of the peace negotiations, listening to the latest news from Paris and sketching out our own hypotheses and scenarios. Would the warring parties sign in the end? What would happen in the event of air strikes? What would be the fate of the KVM? Would we have to be evacuated? These questions returned like a leitmotiv, emphasising the climate of uncertainty that hung over the mission and paralysed it. The same doubts reappeared at regular intervals whenever the negotiations marked time. We scrutinised each statement and each development coming from Paris in the hope of seeing a break in the deadlock, some positive advance capable of breaking through the inertia into which the mission had sunk. We were constantly in a state of alert, ready for evacuation should the situation require it. Phases of optimism were followed by the downward spiral of pessimism: preparation of our 15 kg kitbag, the finishing touches to the evacuation plan and exercises designed to test the warning procedure were all signs that evacuation was imminent. At the same time, contradictory signs gave rise to confusion in the minds of the verifiers. The arrival of additional equipment (vehicles, radios, GPS, etc.), discussions on redefining the mandate and structures of the KVM, and at the same time its build-up, fortified by new arrivals, contradicted the theory of imminent evacuation.

22. The lack of clear instructions and the circulation of conflicting messages left the verifiers in a state of complete disarray, causing a loss of motivation among the members of the mission.

VIII. THE EVACUATION

23. The KVM came to an end - even though the official statement spoke only of "suspension" - de facto - at about four o'clock in the morning, when we were evacuated to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Only 12 hours after the announcement of our departure from Kosovo we were already on the way to the frontier. We had all understood that the venture was over when our director came out of his office, his eyes red with emotion, following a last meeting with the interpreters.

24. The atmosphere among the verifiers a few minutes from departure was somewhere between resignation and disappointment. The anxiety was tangible ... Were we going to get out of Kosovo unharmed? We wanted to believe that it was in the interests of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) to let us leave the country safe and sound, but Milosevic had proved several times that he was unpredictable.

25. On the last night before returning home I had to face the impassive gaze and set expression of one of my Albanian friends, who had asked me if we were leaving tomorrow. The reply stuck in my throat. I found it difficult to meet his eye. I was ashamed to be leaving ... he simply told me to be careful. This was a frequent reaction among the Kosovars when they said farewell to the verifiers. They knew that the Serbs were capable of preventing our departure. Their personal fate seemed to come second to our safety. What a paradox!

26. As I looked at the line of orange OSCE vehicles extending over several hundred metres I could not help thinking of all those unarmed and frightened people that we were leaving behind. In my heart of hearts I was sad, disappointed and frustrated and feared for the lives of the inhabitants of Kosovo. I feared for their lives when they were left to themselves. When I write "inhabitants of Kosovo" I do not refer solely to the "Albanians of Kosovo". The Serbs of Kosovo, who are culturally closer to the Albanians of Kosovo than to the Serbs of Serbia, are also badly affected by the war. The Serb people are innocent; they are the hostages of a power-hungry Milosevic. Like the Kosovars, they are hungry and fear for their lives. Propaganda has transformed the other ethnic group into an enemy whose existence must be denied.

27. Four and a half months of effort to prevent the worst! And now what? Did we really succeed in preventing crimes or had we done no more than put off the day of reckoning? Revenge and reprisals against those who had sheltered or "collaborated" with the international staff of the OSCE could not be ruled out.

28. The worst did not happen, and the evacuation was conscientiously escorted by the Serb security forces. How distressing to see the Serb police clear the way for the verifiers, creeping off like thieves when the dawn had hardly broken. Collaboration by the customs officers was total, and enabled us to cross the frontier between Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in a few minutes. We had never crossed the frontier so quickly! Remember that a few weeks before some 60 verifiers had spent 24 hours at the frontier. What hypocrisy on the part of the federal officers, only too happy to be free at last from the OSCE verifiers who were preventing them from putting their gruesome plan into effect! What a political victory to see the OSCE withdrawal in the small hours of 21 March! The OSCE was taking the road to exile, as would the Kosovars driven from their land a few days later.

29. With the OSCE on the other side of the frontier, the Yugoslav army had a free hand to resume control of the whole of Kosovo, part of which was still held by UCK fighters. Systematic and intensive bombardment of the villages held by the UCK was the most probable assumption. There was nothing new in this scenario, because the army had been carrying on in this way for several months already. The intensity of these actions heralded a new phase in the conflict. What would now be the reaction of the Kosovars left unprotected? The alternative is simple: to flee or to take up arms alongside the UCK.

IX. RELIEF

30. On arriving in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia we celebrated our return to the free world, happy and relieved to have escaped any form of aggression; and God knows the capabilities and possibilities for harm on the Serb side were numerous. There was nothing glorious about being evacuated during the night, but this was justified for reasons of safety. We had to pass through several Serb villages which had shown themselves to be very hostile throughout our mission. By travelling at night we avoided provocation.

31. Shortly after our arrival in Skopje we moved on to the shores of Lake Ohrid, on the Albano-Macedonian frontier and not far from Greece. We would stay there for several days to ponder the fate of the KVM. It made me sick to see the verifiers on holiday, lounging about on the shores of the lake. That impotence to which I have already referred made me sad and ill at ease. Our sole concern was whether we would be paid in spite of the evacuation and whether we would have to pay the hotel bills; Kosovo had become the least of our concerns. Pitiful!!!

X. THOUGHTS ON THE SHORES OF LAKE OHRID

32. We had very little information about developments on the ground, but there were said to be 18,000 soldiers in Kosovo and 31,000 on the frontiers (at the time of writing there are said to be 70,000). Astounding! Milosevic still had a few days in which to sign, after which NATO would order air strikes. I no longer believed that there would be a last-minute climbdown by Milosevic. NATO would strike, and peace would be a little further off. Was there any possibility of a return for the thousands of Kosovars who were already fleeing the region? Returning was not a realistic prospect for anyone in the immediate future; but if the OSCE returned, it would certainly be without the consent of the Serbs, and well escorted by NATO or some other international force.

33. It was not very likely that strikes would solve the crisis in Kosovo. They would only make attitudes a little harder among the warmongers who were ruining Serbia in the hope of staying in power. These strikes would cause the Serb population to rally round their leader, who was the main cause of their misfortune and ostracism from the international community. Unity would develop around the common enemy, personified by NATO and directed and controlled by the United States, as depicted by Serb propaganda. Was it responsible and realistic to rule out any land action from the outset? The verifiers were talking to each other nineteen to the dozen as they interpreted the situation from the viewpoint of their experience on the ground.

34. At the hotel rumours were increasing in number among the verifiers because of the lack of transparency, which produced absolute confusion. The information vacuum gave rise to the most ridiculous rumours, a new one every minute. At the same time we were awaiting our second evacuation, to our respective countries, marking the clinical death of the KVM. It was a long wait ... the evacuation of the KVM was endured as if it were a painful and violent abortion.

XI. GREY AREAS

35. The beauty and serenity of the place were conducive to sustained thought. What was the exact purpose of the KVM after it had been clearly established that the cease-fire no longer existed? No-one was in a position to say; we were awaiting a redefinition of our objectives in the light of the signature of a peace agreement. Our hands were tied by the situation on the ground. That is why the mission became locked into a humdrum routine which mainly involved following military convoys, identifying the location of military equipment and listing and recording troop movements. Thus the mission mandate shifted inexorably towards the collection of military information; the possibility cannot be ruled out that such information was of interest to NATO in preparing for air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).

36. Obscure links between the OSCE and NATO:* it is therefore right and proper to wonder whether there were links between the OSCE and NATO and to speculate on the role that the OSCE might have played in passing on military information, both in the context of possible intervention by the extraction force and in the event of military action. To what extent was the information gathered by the verifiers accurate and rigorous enough to be usable by NATO? Were not the intelligence systems available to the Alliance sufficient in themselves? Did not the very high mobility of military equipment make the information passed on by the OSCE completely irrelevant? Consequently, though little credence might be given to the assumption of co-operation between the two institutions, for whom was this information, collected on a daily basis by the verifiers, intended and to what end? To put pressure on Milosevic at the negotiating table? Indeed, but was there really any need to supply him with evidence of what he had planned and then ordered anyway?

37. The principle of impartiality infringed: if, on the other hand, this assumption proved to be true, then that collaboration raised ethical problems which, I agree, are not in the forefront of the minds of the decision-makers or the military, particularly in time of war. Had the OSCE been mandated to carry out this kind of mission? Was it our undeclared aim or had it become a necessity when faced with the intransigence of Milosevic and the inevitability of military action? But in this specific case, what of the impartiality that the OSCE was supposed to observe in its day-to-day action? Were the criticisms coming from the Serbs accusing the OSCE of being a pro-Albanian organisation completely without foundation? How could it hope to be seen as respecting the principle of neutrality if at the same time it was co-operating militarily with NATO, which was threatening the Serbs with air strikes? The hypothesis of a link between the OSCE and NATO, if it existed, and it cannot be ruled out, raises the question of the theoretical impartiality of the OSCE, which I had always endeavoured to respect. It was obviously becoming more and more difficult to maintain strict neutrality between the two communities: whereas the Albanians welcomed us with smiles and the V-sign for victory, the hostility of the Serbs took the form of stone-throwing, gibes, obscene gestures and threats. However, I believed that it was our duty to react professionally when confronted with this kind of situation, making a clear distinction between our professional requirements and our inner feelings.

38. To conclude on this point, I should like to add that a possible collaboration between the OSCE and NATO should not be criticized in any way from the military and political viewpoint. It was perhaps necessary and indispensable having regard to the situation. Nevertheless, in ethical terms I felt that I had been betrayed by this collaboration, which ran counter to the OSCE's principles of impartiality and neutrality, principles which were expressly written into our mandate and which guided my actions. This drift, if it existed, damaged the KVM, all too often accused of working for the UCK. Was this accusation, many times repeated, completely without foundation? Not necessarily! Why, when the rules set by the OSCE for the funerals at RaŤak were clear - no weapon would be tolerated - was it is not made public that the UCK had attended the ceremony displaying light weapons. Why had this information never been passed on by any foreign media? Had attempts been made to hush up this matter? If so, who had done so and for what reasons? Can you imagine what would have happened if the Yugoslav army or police had acted in this way? I leave these questions for you to consider.

XII. THE REASONS FOR A RELATIVE FAILURE

39. We must now examine our consciences in order to find the reasons for this failure. We might then perhaps be able to begin to learn the necessary lessons in order to avoid the same loss of direction in future. Responsibility is shared between the attitude of the local parties and the internal malfunctioning of the KVM.

40. The warlike attitude of the parties: responsibility for the relative failure of the KVM rests primarily with the warring parties. Milosevic had never respected the agreements signed in October 1998 which provided inter alia for the establishment of the KVM; he used this agreement to perfection, like the Rambouillet and then the Paris negotiations, to reinforce his troops and to reorganise them with a view to implementing the "horseshoe" plan, the preparation for which I had been able to observe. This breathing-space enabled him to prepare for a major offensive aimed at stripping Kosovo of its Albanian constituent. At the same time the UCK, though it is true it was not a signatory of the agreements, had shown no sign of any restraint in their provocations. Perhaps it might have been sensible to involve the Kosovar party in the October agreements? However, it must be acknowledged that the fragmentation of the Albanian representation in Kosovo made the task more difficult.

41. The military situation: the situation on the ground made it extremely difficult for the mission to operate. The verifiers had been transformed into firemen, struggling to put out fires which were increasing in number and becoming uncontrollable. At the outset our mission was not an operation to restore or keep the peace, but merely to verify agreements that had never been respected. We had neither the mandate nor the resources to restore peace in Kosovo. We made every effort to contain the violence within the limits of our resources. Is it necessary to remind the reader that we were not armed? What could we do under the threat from a kalashnikov? We had no other choice but to obey orders from the army and the police if we did not wish to put our lives at risk.

42. Under these conditions paralysis of the mission was inevitable. We were dependent upon developments in the political and military situation in order to do anything at all. No-one dared to involve himself too heavily and with much enthusiasm in projects dependent on the fate of the negotiations for their implementation.

43. A mandate overtaken by events: the mandate of the KVM was obsolete even before the mission became fully operational. We had come to Kosovo in order to verify a cease-fire that had never existed except on paper. The lack of a clear and precise mandate was the reason for the general confusion in which the mission operated, shaken by events as horrible as they were unexpected such as the massacres at RaŤak or Rogovo, carried out before the very eyes of the verifiers.

44. Apart from external factors, the failure of the KVM was due to organisational difficulties arising from the haste with which the OSCE had set up the mission.

45. The impotence of the verifiers: in a few weeks we had become completely powerless military convoy hunters and an agency for recording the abuses and violations committed by the Serb or federal security forces. We were powerless because we lacked any means for action and any power of compulsion. What could we do when a man was arrested in the street without legal grounds? What could we do when a lady told how her husband had been forcibly taken away to an unknown destination? And when someone stated that he had been beaten at the police station? Or again when a person's disappearance was reported to us? The answer is nothing, except to write one more report. Our mandate did not authorise us to intervene and our decisions had no binding force.

46. The lack of verification standards: the KVM headquarters in Pristina had never been in a position to lay down clear and precise guidelines. What were we supposed to verify? What should we regard as important? On the basis of what criteria? With what aims? No-one had ever directed our actions, so everyone was free to do as he thought fit or to take an initiative without consulting anyone. The reason for this confusion was the inability to establish verification standards when our mandate had already become obsolete. What was the point of establishing criteria which the failure to respect the ceasefire had rendered null and void? This deficiency gave rise to a lack of cohesion in action by the RCs, which very seldom consulted each other.

47. A lack of unity: the absence of guidelines had transformed the various RCs into loose cannons, organising their work as best they could having regard to the basic characteristics of their areas of responsibility. This tendency certainly gave the mission flexibility, which had become essential because of the wide variety of situations. There would have been no sense in applying the same rules in Drenica, where there was fierce fighting, as in Gnjilane, where peace had been maintained throughout our mission. Nevertheless verification criteria should have been defined that would have given our daily work and actions more purpose; this might have avoided the frustration that arose from the vagueness that cloaked the true objectives of our mission. This effort would doubtless have given the KVM a measure of consistency in harmonising the data collected.

48. A lack of leadership: the shortage of leadership at the level of RC4 (Gnjilane) was obvious. The head of RC4 was appointed only after our evacuation, during our brief stay at Ohrid. Without doubt this vacuum at the head of RC4 was detrimental to its smooth running and to specific and constructive action in a region that was still relatively calm. Gnjilane was probably the only the area in Kosovo where the mandate for which the KVM had been set up on the spot could be applied. I do not think that we were able to exploit this opportunity to the full. The absence of a leader had given rise to internal struggles for power. As a result energies had been concentrated much more on the personal fate of some members of the mission than on seeking a solution to the problems of Kosovo.

49. Human nature's fascination with power: this fascination had been the source of a dissipation of effort and had sometimes destroyed any possibility of effective co-operation. Power fascinates, and everyone tries to keep it or to monopolise it a little more to the detriment of his neighbour. Information is very often seen as the key to this power; that is why it is not shared. He who controls information controls power! In addition, the restructuring of the mainly military KVM and its development towards the KIM (Kosovo Implementation Mission), which was supposed to be a more civilian mission, was the opportunity for power plays which had a paralysing effect on the mission as a whole. Struggles for power among individuals were supplemented by institutional conflicts among the various decision-making levels [HQ, RC, CC (Co-ordination Centre)], which argued continuously about prerogatives. For example, the CC directors regarded themselves as rulers in their domains and took the view that appointments were dependent only upon their goodwill. At the same time the regional centres took a very poor view of the increasing autonomy of the CCs as regards management, action and operation. The RCs were afraid of losing control of their CCs.

50. Gross mismanagement of human resources: another problem lay in the management of human resources at the level of Vienna, which had been submerged by a massive influx of applications. In the light of the urgency of the situation, those who arrived on the ground first were given the posts that were available - or the most coveted posts - without necessarily always taking each candidate's experience and qualifications into account. The principal result was the appointment of persons lacking the competence and experience essential to the level of responsibility conferred upon them by their position; this was probably detrimental to the efficiency of the mission. I had the opportunity to work with people whose international experience was impressive but whose qualifications had never been used to the best advantage. Using over-qualified persons as mere verifiers gave rise to frustration and a loss of motivation that is quite understandable.

XIV. DO NOT BELITTLE SUCCESS!

51. From my point of view, the evacuation during the night of 20-21 March was synonymous with failure. That is indisputable, but nevertheless does not mean that we had not made some progress and recorded successes (this assertion is made after the event, and I think that with time and in retrospect I have become less pessimistic about the achievements of the mission). It is difficult for me to say whether extension of the mission might have had a beneficial impact on the situation in Kosovo as a whole. I think the continuation of the KVM might have been beneficial in the Gnjilane region, still spared by the war. On the contrary, the deterioration in the situation was such in the rest of Kosovo that the battle was already lost; verifiers were no longer in a position to restore peace. Delaying the evacuation might have affected the lives of the verifiers irreversibly, and no government was prepared to assume that heavy responsibility. It was a wise decision, even though many verifiers complained about the hasty evacuation of the KVM. Some of us still wanted to believe that we were useful. For my part, giving up had been unfortunate. The fact that the KVM was a failure is indisputable, but this did not mean that we had made no progress or achieved no successes over the whole of the Kosovar territory.

52. Peacekeeping: by our day-to-day work we had kept the peace in the Gnjilane region, which had not been directly affected by the war throughout our mission. There had been no fighting in that locality, which remains an achievement of the first importance. I dare to think that our work in Gnjilane and the surrounding area was not in vain and that we had shared in maintaining a relative peace in the region.

53. Constructive initiatives on a micro-scale: within the KVM I had met dozens of highly motivated persons anxious to "make a difference" on the ground and who had demonstrated incredible qualities of imagination and initiative. When it was possible they had taken micro-initiatives on community, hamlet or village scale. These ideas had come from verifiers who had an excellent knowledge of the ground and who were convinced that their projects were not in vain. The objective in all cases was the same: to explain, to reconcile, to unite and to bring together the Serb and Albanian populations through dialogue. Re-establishing confidence was essential in order to reconcile the two communities, whose principal emotion in common was fear of the other. Verification was no longer enough.

54. Building confidence: this could not be done without explaining the role that the OSCE had to play in Kosovo. This stage was essential, in order to be able to set up a dialogue with those who hurled stones or abuse at you. That is why priority should have been given to overtures directed to those populations that had been deliberately misinformed rather than ignoring or demonising them. A few verifiers and I had begun to set up a project which, unfortunately, could not be brought to completion because of the "collapse" of the KVM. This involved visiting Serb and Albanian schools in order to show that the KVM had a human face, represented by the verifiers. The aim of our project was to show that we were human beings, with families, friends, experiences, a past and fears and anxieties. Our basic aim was to explain and convince that we were impartial and neutral and were not pursuing any political objectives for the benefit of either community. This effort to inform and explain would doubtless have saved us from being the targets of stones and all kinds of missiles.

55. Nevertheless I found in two months of mission that confidence was growing. The simple fact of going to bars or restaurants, places of worship or sports centres helped to give us greater visibility and contributed to our integration. The people could then identify the OSCE by faces that they knew and by those they met in the street, not only in their armoured "pumpkins". In time friendly relations were built up with tradespeople, interpreters, guards or drivers, and they began to come to us with stories and to recount their histories and the story of their life in Kosovo over ten years: they managed progressively to share their frustrations, their fears, their desires and their dreams without embarrassment or restraint. Was it really necessary to open a human rights office in the centre of Gnjilane, which was visited by few for fear of reprisals, when this work was being done on a daily basis by the verifiers? Unfortunately the decisions had been taken by officials who for the most part did not have the slightest knowledge of the ground.

56. Building up the sense of security: "What use are we?" was a question that kept coming back into my mind. On the admission of the Albanians, however, apparently the presence of the OSCE had reassured the local population and built up their sense of security. Fear diminished when an OSCE vehicle was seen in the middle of the village. The inhabitants recovered part of their freedom of movement, limited by the fear of arbitrary arrest and gratuitous acts of brutality. Today I am convinced that our occupation of the ground had a moderating effect on the Serb forces, who were unable to organise massacres or ethnic cleansing on the grand scale before the eyes of the verifiers. Nevertheless the massacres at RaŤak and Rogovo clearly showed how limited the preventive and moderating effect of our presence was.

XV. PROVISIONAL PERSONAL CONCLUSIONS

57. I will need more time to absorb all the lessons from my experience in Kosovo, both at the human and personal level. The fact that I was confronted with all the horrors of the war has undoubtedly made me more realistic and affected my initial pacifist, idealistic views. I went out there with my ideal of peace and returned two months later immensely frustrated. It had been brought home to me what Bosnia had already taught us - the impossibility of imposing peace on warring factions whose only language is weapons. Only these factions can decide on the appropriate moment to halt the fighting and sit down together at the negotiating table. At long last I now realize the lengthy road the EU still has to follow to find the means of implementing its policy of peace, a noble cause, the attainment of which cannot only rely on declarations of intent.

58. Indeed, it seems to me that in Kosovo the international community has once again demonstrated its inability to prevent conflicts in the Balkans, a focus of crisis which threatens the stability and prosperity of Europe as a whole. This new conflict highlights the lack of a consistent regional policy and of a long-term view on the part of those who govern us. The Kosovo crisis raises questions about the determination and the political will to solve these problems as soon as they emerge. Every European chancery knew about the explosive situation in Kosovo long before the first atrocities committed by the Serb forces. Why wait ten years before reacting? Was Kosovo the price to be paid for the return of peace in Bosnia? Were the Albanians of Kosovo sacrificed on the altar of political realism when the Dayton Accords were signed?

59. Would we Europeans be in this position today if we had paid more attention to Ibrahim Rugova's repeated cries of alarm? Did we give him all the credit and all the attention necessary? Did we not merely content ourselves with sanctioning his efforts for peace without giving him all the political support essential to put pressure on Milosevic and to obtain concrete results on the ground? As a result did not our passivity undermine the basis for a political and peaceful solution in Kosovo? Are we not also responsible for the build-up of the UCK, which has profited from the exasperation and hardening of attitudes of local populations, weary of statements of intention from our leaders? Was not the UCK indirectly the product of the inability of the community of States to support Rugova's peace policy actively and effectively?

60. In my view, to a large extent we have created the conditions for the deadlock in which we find ourselves today. Is not President Milosevic now ready to take his seat at the negotiating table because he seems to have achieved his military and political objectives: to eradicate the "UCK terrorists" and to strip Kosovo of its Albanian population, the conditions for his remaining in power, at the head of a united and cohesive nation. From now on it remains for him to have his conquests endorsed by establishing himself, once again, as the man the community of States cannot ignore. That community will certainly pride itself on having won a military victory over Serbia, whose military potential will have been largely destroyed, but who will enjoy the political victory? Have we not seen it all before...

  
   © NATO Parliamentary Assembly 2004 By iBi Center