Nobel questions

I hesitate just a moment before applauding the award of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the international negotiator Martti Ahtisaari. He flitted across our screens for trying to jump start decommissioning before going on to greater things. Nothing personal or ideological, just that as the headline says: “ Got conflict? Mr. Ahtisaari is your man.” He’s a professional negotiator and as such, he’s above the fray. If you’re not involved in the conflict, it’s pretty easy to transcend it. David Trimble’s comment on being awoken at 6 a.m. with the news of joint award with John Hume was a typical grump: “I hope this honour doesn’t prove to be premature.” But the risk of being premature is part of the point of the award, to encourage the recipients to keep going and to heighten the profile of the peace process concerned. That’s a risk the Nobel committee itself shares with the laureates; but it was one which in 1998 they managed to avoid:

“Mr. Adams was almost certainly on the list of 139 nominees, the most ever, because the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee today implied strongly that it had considered him for the prize but decided to limit it to Mr. Hume and Mr. Trimble.”
The Nobel committee is often accused of naivety and too much establishment thinking. Most winners fall into two main categories – big international groups doing good works, like the International Atomic Energy Authority and politicians on either side of conflict, Mandela and de Klerk, Arafat, and Rabin and Peres; Kissinger and the North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho. Not all of the prizes stand the test of time like Arafat and Kissinger. Among the most heartfelt were our other Nobel winners, the Peace People Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan. I followed them from that very moment of the movement’s genesis in 1976 when I inadvertently broke the news to Mairead that her little nephew had died. Here is a visionary account which captures some of the atmosphere of the time. The Community of the Peace People began in tragedy and launched in a great emotional surge. Huge public demonstrations were the biggest between the civil rights movement and the hunger strike. For a moment they had a real cross community character about them. But the movement petered out in sad anti-climax, because the it never did and never could acquire a convincing political ideology to surmount sectarianism and continuing conflict. A purely “peace” ideology was and remains too bland. The “ordinary people” concerned were buried under the weight of the Prize itself. It became more of a curse than a blessing. The politicians picked on the bones; some of them were still doing it a few years ago. “Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey, reflecting on republican attitudes to the Peace People, said their good intentions were hijacked by the British government intent on an anti-republican peace.” Sinn Fein were no exception, they all did it.

Perhaps on reflection, the Nobel Prize is best left to professionals – even though without grass roots nominees, it’s much less well founded in public affection and esteem.

  • Ignored international law on Kosovo, precipitated dismemberment of a sovereign state and therefore contributed to problems in Georgia and elsewhere. Then he gets he peace prize! Jesus Christ!

  • What nonsense, Chekhov. Ahtisaari actually tried his damndest to get an areement between the parties, and then a UN resolution on Kosovo. It is hardly his fault that the Serbs did not negotiate in good faith, or that the Russians vetoed his proposal at the UN.

  • When Ahtisaari was special envoy for Serbia did he help mediate a right of return for reverse cleansed Serbs? No. Is independent Kosovo a safe place for Roma has he assured us it would be? No. Did Ahtisaari facilitate mediation? No – he suggested the Albanians get what they wanted. Serbs negotiating in bad faith? The Serbs were prepared to offer Kosovo substantial autonomy. The Serbs were ready to compromise and allow self-government. He might have offered autonomy within Kosovo for the northern Serb areas – he didn’t. He might have recognised Serbian loss in the Nato bombing – he didn’t. He might have suggested that Serbs and Albanians have a common border patrol – he didn’t. Ahtisaari did not attempt to reach a mediated solution for the Serb province. He just imposed Nato’s preferred option.

  • Chekov,

    You obviously don’t have a clue about Kosovo; can I kindly suggest you go away and read something other than Russian and Serbia propaganda?

    Apart from anything else, Ahtisaari actually did assert a right of return for *all* refugees (Article 4.1 of his proposal) and offered extra provisions both for the northern Serb areas (Annex III, esp Article 4) and also for the Serb areas elsewhere (Annex III Article 12) which some people prefer to forget about. Your other points are tendentious.

    Milosevic’s Serbia tried to “solve” Kosovo by expelling and killing the ethnic Albanian population. Post-Milosevic Serbia still hasn’t accepted the consequences of their government’s past actions – it is they, not Ahtisaari, who have to (as you put it) “recognised Serbian loss [of Kosovo] in the Nato bombing”. When you call for recognition of the problems of Roma in Kosovo, do you make similar appeals for the Roma to be treated better in Serbia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe? When you express outrage about the treatment of Serbs on Kosovo, did you do the same when Milosevic was waging war against his own citizens in 1998 and 1999?

  • Dec

    The Serbs were prepared to offer Kosovo substantial autonomy. The Serbs were ready to compromise and allow self-government.

    Far be it from me to detract from Nicholas’ demolition of your arguments, but are you seriously suggesting the above were ‘fair compromises’ in a state where around 92% of the population was Albanian?

  • Ah, but, Dec, you don’t understand that the opinions of the people actually living in Kosovo don’t count because it was historically Serbian territory. Under the Serbian argument, the dead get to vote!

  • “Apart from anything else, Ahtisaari actually did assert a right of return for *all* refugees (Article 4.1 of his proposal) and offered extra provisions both for the northern Serb areas (Annex III, esp Article 4) and also for the Serb areas elsewhere (Annex III Article 12) which some people prefer to forget about. Your other points are tendentious“

    I know what Ahtisaari asserted. His assertions were worth nothing as Albanians knew they would be. He provided the optics which allowed the illegal dismemberment of Serbia along ethnic lines. He underpinned the idea that there was no need for Albanians to compromise.

    “Milosevic’s Serbia tried to “solve” Kosovo by expelling and killing the ethnic Albanian population.”

    He tried to expel Albanians after Nato’s bombing commenced as any impartial account will teach you.

    “Post-Milosevic Serbia still hasn’t accepted the consequences of their government’s past actions – it is they, not Ahtisaari, who have to (as you put it) “recognised Serbian loss [of Kosovo] in the Nato bombing”. When you call for recognition of the problems of Roma in Kosovo, do you make similar appeals for the Roma to be treated better in Serbia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe? When you express outrage about the treatment of Serbs on Kosovo, did you do the same when Milosevic was waging war against his own citizens in 1998 and 1999?”

    What Serbia hasn’t accepted is the abject humiliation which was opportunistically inflicted. It hasn’t accepted that Nato and the US have a right to carve up sovereign states, contrary to international law, if they see fit. I have no difficulty calling for better treatment for Roma where that treatment is bad, in whichever state they live.

    “Far be it from me to detract from Nicholas’ demolition of your arguments, but are you seriously suggesting the above were ‘fair compromises’ in a state where around 92% of the population was Albanian?”

    Kosovo is not, was not a state. 140 countries do not recognise Kosovo as against 48 who do. Autonomy would certainly have provided certain safeguards for Albanians whilst preserving the legal territorial integrity of Serbia.

    “Under the Serbian argument, the dead get to vote! ”

    Under Ahtisaari’s argument it’s perfectly legitimate for Nato to act as the sponsors and the airforce of a terrorist group. Then enforce the aims of that group against a sovereign nation state.

  • So much nonsense here, but it all boils down to this one particular lie:

    “He tried to expel Albanians after Nato’s bombing commenced as any impartial account will teach you.”

    a) Note the use of “tried”, as if implying that poor Milosevic’s plans were somehow thwarted. In fact, of course, more than half of Kosovo’s population were displaced from their homes, and more than half of those were expelled from the coutry entirely. No, Milosevic was succeeding in his plan to make Kosovo an Albanian-free zone.

    b) “after” – the fact is that the refugee crisis was already severe by the time the NATO campaign started, because the Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanians had begun twelve months earlier, and that was what prompted NATO’s actions after Serbia (as per usual) failed to take the negotiation process seriously.

    c) “after”, again – the implication that it was somehow appropriate for Milosevic to react to the bombing by killing and expelling his own citizens is worth noting.

    The simple fact is that if Milosevic had not decided to build his political career on the oppression of Albanians and other non-Serbs, Yugoslavia would not only still be united today but in the European Union as a whole. But he and Serbia chose a different path; and cannot accept that they have had to pay a price.

  • Dec

    Kosovo is not, was not a state. 140 countries do not recognise Kosovo as against 48 who do. Autonomy would certainly have provided certain safeguards for Albanians whilst preserving the legal territorial integrity of Serbia.

    Given that the US and EU (& indeed most western democracies) recognize Kosovo and that dozens of other countries plan to do so, what’s your point?

    btw “certain safeguards” – lmao

  • I find this knit-picking over Martti Ahtisaari’s role in international peace-making – what earned him this year’s Nobel Prize – truly offensive.

    Whether you like his role in Kosovo or not – and certainly Bubba and Blair were calling the shots, or should we say bombing, at the time – the former Finnish President has a very distinguished career for well over 40 years now.

    If you don’t like what he did in Namibia, South Africa, Aceh, the EU, etc., please tell us who you think should have gotten the award.

    And if you have no nominations, please just shut up. We have already had more than enough bashing of officials in political hot spots.