False Attempt at the ‘Rashomon Effect’ in Edi Rama’s Stance towards Kosovo

Albanian PM Rama is attempting to provide alternative facts for what is happening in Kosovo by exaggerating and trying to present himself as a misunderstood hero in the midst of this exaggeration. However, in the situation in Kosovo, things are too straightforward and clear to create such a fog and use the Rashomon Effect.

In an entirely unfounded comparison, Edi Rama equated Palestine with Kosovo as an argument for why his stance against Albin Kurti [and earlier against Ramush Haradinaj] is “in the best interest of the nation.” 

He also took a blunt stance in the Palestinian conflict, simplifying the history unbelievably and blaming Arafat for the lack of peace. 

This seems to reflect a degree of desperation for legitimacy in the eyes of the West. 

If there’s one thing a person is more likely to get wrong in life, it’s probably historical determinism, an entirely unreasonable belief that history repeats itself, and that by studying history, we can predict the future. 

It becomes even more absurd when attempting to predict the future leads to finding parallels, not with your own history, but with someone else’s history far away.

And yet, here we are with the Prime Minister of Albania on a day when a video that seems to contain his authorship erroneously states the date of Tirana’s declaration as the capital, declaring his deep historical knowledge not only about Albania but also about the Israel-Palestine conflict, making parallels based on a strained logic with the Serbia-Kosovo conflict, and making apocalyptic predictions. 

According to Rama, the fault for the situation in Palestine lies with Yasser Arafat because he didn’t sign the peace agreement over two decades ago. Rama doesn’t see any fault in the current Israeli policy led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who openly rejects the possibility of reconciliation. Palestine “has not been destroyed by Israel. It has been destroyed by its own political class.” [Rama’s speech] And also, Rama said: “Look at where Palestine is,” as a warning of where Kosovo might end up. 

The excessive stretching of the Prime Minister’s logic seems to be linked to the political choices he has made for several years, which have cast him publicly as a person willing to trade national interests for his political interest of the moment, something deeply undesirable in Albanian politics.

In an attempt to justify all criticisms of his misguided stance on Kosovo and to give a visionary appearance to his positions, which many see as purely opportunistic, he excessively exaggerates historical comparisons. He needs a simplified historical model for the Middle East in order to transpose this model to Kosovo, to declare himself a ‘misunderstood hero’ who is mistakenly accused of being an ‘opportunist traitor.’ 

Kurti is the second Prime Minister of Kosovo with whom Rama has significant troubles. In the past, former Kosovar PM, Ramush Haradinaj, narrowly escaped a historical trial in which Edi Rama sought to be declared innocent of the accusation of conspiring to exchange territories with Serbia. But this time, Rama appears to be in an even weaker position. 

He is trying to become an international protagonist by asking Kosovo to do things that the Prime Minister of Kosovo considers harmful to his country. Rama must convince the Albanians that what Kurti considers harmful is actually the necessary evil, but when it comes to asking what benefits will come from these actions, Rama promises something vague in the future.

No one can say with certainty which party was at fault, which had more, or which had less responsibility for the failure of peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine in the years 1993-2001. 

Many researchers refer to the positions declared by the parties after the negotiations failed as a situation of the “Rashomon Effect.” It’s a very interesting term also known as a literary technique. It was coined by a short story published in 1915 by the Japanese writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. In the story, individuals involved in an event provide an account of what happened after the event, but as both protagonists and witnesses, they present different perspectives, which become confusing due to subjectivity, varying perceptions, memories, and the reporter’s expressive ability or inability.

According to Arie M. Kavowicz, a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the problem of not achieving peace seems to be linked to the necessity for each party to confront the extremists within themselves. In the negotiation process, there is a need for a mediator to hold the parties accountable and confront their positions, instead of the facilitative role played in the failed negotiations by the United States. 

Rama’s stance that “Arafat is entirely to blame” is naturally from someone who is not a specialist in the field, and this position seems to be linked solely to his desire to dramatize the situation in Kosovo and should be understood in this context. However, before jumping to such conclusions, Rama should see that Israel has had a government that has officially positioned itself against peace for over fifteen years, continues to build settlements on occupied land, which, according to the peace agreement, should be part of the Palestinian state, and has maintained a humanitarian blockade on Gaza since 2006 in the name of security, failing to achieve security and also imprisoning an entire generation of Palestinians.

But this is not a concerning issue. Rama has little chance of playing the role of a global leader in the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

What is not entirely concerning but still annoying is the inappropriate comparison with the situation in Kosovo. 

To begin with, Kosovo and Serbia are in a completely different situation than Israel and Palestine. Kosovo has no conflict with Serbia and makes no territorial claims against Serbia. It doesn’t maintain parallel structures in Serbia’s territory and does not work to undermine the rule of law in Serbia’s territory. 

It is Serbia that has a conflict with Kosovo and does everything it can to undermine the functionality of the state of Kosovo. The situation between the two parties, Kosovo and Serbia, is clearly different from that of Palestine and Israel, even for the reason that the parties’ positions in the negotiations [not peace, as there is no war there, but normalization of relations] are also known. Serbia wants concessions from Kosovo, specifically the creation of the Association of Serbian Municipalities, while refusing to sign any agreement or recognize the state of Kosovo. Kosovo agrees to the establishment of the Association but seeks Serbia’s recognition in the process. The international community supports Serbia and has imposed sanctions on Kurti. 

Rama supports the internationals and claims to have instruments to resolve the conflict. According to his statement on Tuesday, “the great thing about Kosovo is to unilaterally sign and unilaterally execute the entire agreement.” As for the benefits that Kosovo can gain from this, according to Rama, they can be paraphrased [because the sentence is too long to be quoted in full] as an attempt to do the best possible before the Europeans, with the assumption that they will finally be convinced of who is to blame in the conflict, and therefore, Kosovo will be able to start the recognition process by those five European countries that do not recognize it. 

There are many, Albanians and foreigners, who see Europe’s stance as biassed in favour of Serbia due to more geopolitically important considerations than the functionality of the state of Kosovo, such as keeping Serbia in the Western sphere and away from Putin. And many see it as concerning to create the Association of Serbian Municipalities without Serbia recognizing Kosovo in terms of Kosovo’s state functionality.

For those who don’t know, the association consists of several Serbian enclaves spread throughout the territory of Kosovo, where the heads of police would need approval from the leaders of the Serbian List for their appointments. In other words, the organiser of the attack in Banjskë would have a role in appointing the police chief from his position as vice president of the Serbian List. 

Many see the creation of the association without recognition from Belgrade as a tool that leaves open the annexation of at least four out of ten municipalities, which are on the border with Serbia, by Serbia in the future. More than this, the concern is about the ability of the Kosovo Police to control the territory of Kosovo, the risk of smuggling, organised crime, and other issues that raise questions about the functionality of the state of Kosovo itself.

However, despite all of these, one thing is certain: the positions of the parties are very clear, and there is no Rashomon Effect, as in the case of Middle East peace negotiations. The conflict, most likely, will remain frozen for a long time because the international pressure on Kurti is unlikely to force him to accept what he does not want to, while Serbia does not seem to be under any pressure to end the conflict with itself by recognizing Kosovo. 

And in any case, the comparison between Kosovo and the Middle East is entirely exaggerated for the simple reason that there is no war between Kosovo and Serbia. Serbia lacks the capacity for conventional warfare because NATO guarantees that such a war will not happen. 

Serbia has been trying to stir up trouble in Kosovo for two decades, maintaining the so-called “parallel structures” and glorifying individuals who attacked in Banjskë. The reason Serbia does this is linked to its internal politics. Both Vučić and Netanyahu are populist leaders who support their own power by promoting what Orwell called “primitive patriotism.” However, what is noticeable is that the means that Serbian politics has to disturb Kosovo seem to be already weak and weakening further. The attack in Banjskë seems to reveal, on one hand, the weakness of the Serbian regressive forces and, on the other hand, the ability of the Kosovo Police to manage such a challenging situation.

Above all, the Serbian population of Kosovo did not appear very enthusiastic after the attack, suggesting that Belgrade is lacking individuals willing to act as kamikazes in support of Vučić’s politics of primitive patriotism.

Of course, the problem that Kosovo has, more than Serbia, is the need for economic development and the creation of prosperity for its entire population, including Serbs. In this context, the conflict that Serbia maintains with Kosovo is likely to serve as a distraction from the growth potential of the economy or as a justification for the failure to achieve development. 

For this reason, Kosovar society should not allow Kurti to hide behind the conflict, which clearly is not such a significant issue and doesn’t hinder the necessary work for economic development. 

With such confused statements, Rama is attempting to provide alternative facts for what is happening in Kosovo by exaggerating and trying to present himself as a misunderstood hero in the midst of this exaggeration. The Rashomon Effect shows how parties describe an event in different and contradictory ways, reflecting their subjective interpretation and justifying their own behaviour, instead of an objective truth. However, in the case of the parties’ stance on the situation in Kosovo, including Rama’s stance, things are too straightforward and clear to create such a fog. And in the absence of fog, Rama’s attempt to predict a terrible future for Kosovo through comparisons with the Middle East does not need to be taken seriously. 

The article was initially published in

Gjergj Erebara is a journalist for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, in Albania. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.


19 October 2023 - 16:51

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