Παρασκευή, 10 Μαΐου 2013

Healing Balkan Wounds with Actual Human Rights

David L. Phillip's opinion piece in the New York Times is, sadly, an exercise in unfounded generalization. His assertion that Albanians are in favor of human rights, democracy, and free markets, whereas Serbs are aggressors, is misleading, if anything, since both peoples have at times displayed nationalistic fervor; therefore, containment of extreme elements on both sides is required. Moreover, the recipe for so-called "minority rights", collectivist in nature, seems to be the preferred solution by international institutions. Yet, upon closer examination, such rights, if granted to whole communities and not individuals, fail to reduce the tensions between different communities - instead, they lead to heightened conflicts, as they usually appear as mutually exclusive, as far as members of different communities are concerned. Furthermore, endowment of rights to communities and not individuals (very often under the pretense of respect for the community's traditions) is bound to lead to suppression of individuals' rights within their own communities. The human rights of women within the Muslim minority in Thrace, Greece, is a case in point: personal and inheritance relationships among the members of the minority are decided by religious judges applying the Sharia, which means that Muslim women are at a distinct disadvantage.

A viable solution is one that recognizes every individual's human rights. The rigorous application  of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms would suffice to that effect. Conveying local authorities with the power to handle local issues, with the absence of central planning in educational or cultural matters, would enable townships to engage in diverse activities suited to the requirements and needs of the respective residents. That would enable localities, where Serbs are predominant, to operate schools in their own language. That would mean that Albanians and Serbs would have the final saying in the running of their everyday affairs - and that the rights granted to each and every one of them would be complementary. Only treating others as fellow human beings, first and foremost, and not as representatives of their nationality, can produce the foundation for mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.


(Hat tip: Ms. Kiki Petriti)