Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Negative peace and Carabinieri

by Chiara Baiocco

It’s been a week since our arrival in Kosovo and I am still learning new facts everyday. I have enjoyed all the meetings, and I extremely enjoyed spending some time in Mitrovica. I had the opportunity to talk to to some of my compatriots: Italian policemen from the “Carabinieri” division. The two Carabinieri I talked to were guarding the bridge on the Albanian side, and explained to me that the Italian army is and has been in charge of protecting the bridge on both sides 24/7 from the establishment of Resolution 1244. Carabinieri would go to Kosovo with mandates of minimum 6 months, during which they could go home for a week every 2 months, working for 8 hours a day. The base of the Italian forces in in Prishtina, and so they have to drive to Mitrovica and back before and after their shifts. Other armies go around Mitrovica city centre and some keep certain “risk” neighbourhoods, where Albanians and Serbians live together, under control.

The one Carabinieri I have talked to the most, had been to Kosovo already in 1999, right after the end of the NATO bombing. He explained that the situation then was very chaotic and, Kosovo being his first mission since joining the armed forces, was terrifying to him. He said he could sense the tension in the air, and, even though the bombing had stopped, the city did not seem to be calm at all. He had to intervene many times to prevent outburst of violence around the bridge but also in other parts of the city in the 6 months in which he was in service in Mitrovica. He said that he was not sure whether he would want to come back to Kosovo, as he now has an eight years old child and a baby on the way, but then he decided to do so in order to get rid of his past fear. He described very clearly all the emotions and thoughts he had on the way to Kosovo and the anxiety he felt the night before his first shift in Mitrovica. However, once he got to Mitrovica he said that his anxiety suddenly disappeared. He believes the current situation in Kosovo to be very calm and stable: there has not been any outburst of violence in the past two months. He added that he thought the role of the Italian army to be quite irrelevant now as the situation seems to be completely under control and all the previous rivalries and divisions to be settled.

I was very surprised by his response, since we have had the chance to hear so many different opinions on the matter, and it was made very clear to us that there is still tension regarding how the future of Kosovo appears in the eyes of different groups. However, considering he had a very one-sided view of the conflict, I can understand why he would think Kosovo to be peaceful now. In his view, the absence of conflict means that his job is done as peace has been accomplished (negative peace), but he does not take into account the vulnerability level that affects Kosovo (positive peace). The fact that there are so many different opinions and desires for the future of Kosovo automatically symbolises tension and therefore a possibility for future conflicts.

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