Friday, May 20, 2005

Europe's Next Independent State - The Christian Science Monitor

Out of sight, out of mind. That's largely been the world's approach toward the former Balkans ethnic war zone of Kosovo.

Thankfully, that's about to end.

This summer, the international community is set to review the highly charged issue of Kosovo's political status. Since a 1999 NATO air campaign drove Serb forces from Kosovo, this poor, tense corner of the former Yugoslavia has been in legal limbo.

Officially, it's a province of the country now known as Serbia and Montenegro. It has a Serb minority, but Kosovo's 90 percent ethnic Albanian population demands independence. The compromise since the war has been to have Kosovo administered by the United Nations, and secured by 18,000 NATO troops.

This "between" state is no longer sustainable. Uncertainty has helped drive Kosovo's economy into the ground. Unemployment runs at about 60 percent. Because of Kosovo's undetermined future, neither the World Bank nor the International Monetary Fund can offer assistance.

At the same time, ethnic conflicts have flared. Last spring, Kosovo's mainly Muslim Albanians went on a rampage, injuring hundreds of Serbs and attacking their Orthodox churches, which are part of Serb identity. Nineteen people died. Without a settling of the status question, it's feared violence could flare again.

This week, the Bush administration gave a welcome, if belated, push toward resolving this thorny problem by putting forward a road map toward resolution. If all goes well, final-status negotiations - involving Europe, the US, and both sides in the conflict - would begin in the fall.

Choices for Kosovo
To maintain credibility as a facilitator, the US isn't taking a position on Kosovo's final status. But the Western community is rightly gravitating toward independence.

Such a decision would involve some difficult issues, but considering the alternatives, independence makes the most sense.

Serbia's notion of "more than autonomy, but less than independence" is vague, and simply won't be accepted by Kosovo's majority Albanians. Autonomy was the official status under which "ethnic cleansing" of the Albanians by Serbs occurred, and it was that ethnic violence that led to the war in the first place. Serbia is now a fledgling democracy, but that doesn't erase the Albanians' historic fears.

Partition is also being talked about. But while Kosovo's north is largely Serb, many Serbs are scattered in the south, and it's hard to imagine them accepting such a deal.

That leaves independence, with all its risks and complications. Risks, because the Albanians so far have a poor record in their treatment of Serb and other minorities. And complications, because of the issues independence raises not only for Serbia - loath to give up more territory of the former Yugoslavia - but also for Kosovo's neighbors, which have large ethnic Albanian populations.

Further afield is the precedent that might be set for other secessionist movements in countries such as Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan if the West helps create an independent Kosovo (which was never a state or republic).

But how to persuade Serbia to give up Kosovo? One, it must be promised eventual integration with the world of democratic nations, including the European Union and NATO. And two, it must receive guarantees of protection for the Serb minority in Kosovo.

Protecting the minority Serbs
Kosovo has made some progress, but it has so far failed to live up to UN-endorsed "standards" of a multi- ethnic society. Those standards were to have been met before final-status talks could begin. But the Bush administration is wisely urging that improvement of standards continue along with the talks, rather than having them serve to delay them.

Through negotiations, limits that would calm Serb fears could be set on a free Kosovo. It should not, for instance, be allowed to later join with Albania. Its higher courts - which would guarantee minority rights - might include internationally appointed judges for a time. And it will probably have to work out a long-term deal with NATO. Ultimately, for Kosovo as for Serbia, the promise of integration with Europe would be a strong incentive for good behavior.

Saving Kosovo was a necessary step in 1999. So is setting it free today.


Anonymous said...

Bravo Christian Science Monitor.

Whether you like it or not, the proposed solution by the International Crisis Group for Kosova is being adopted and accepted by foreign governments, other think-tanks, organisations, and the international media.

EU, and recently the US, both have come out publicly with suggestions that are identical to the ones proposed by the ICG: (a) no partion; (b) no union with other countries; and (c) no return to 1999.

Where does that lead to, I let you decide for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Just to remember one thing my friend,no empire has lasted for ever, neither USA one will.
Be careful what you whish for, you might get it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to America all Serbs will now be united in the struggle to liberate Kosovo from occupation.

5, 10, 20 or 100 years it matters not Kosovo will be free once again.

Yes Christian Science Monitor the Christian soldiers will start marching again.

Anonymous said...

As Aerosmith say: Dream on, Dream yourself a dream come true.

This was for the Serbs.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that Aerosmith knows what Kosovo is....
As for the dreams you might get yours for now,I guess EU and Nato and USA are trying to cure cancer called Kosova..
So good luck and see you in some of the next Balkanian wars....

fellow peacekeeper said...

Ahhh, so an independent mini-Afghanistan failed state subsisting mainly by trafficking drugs, arms and women will be a source of stability in the Balkans. A faaaascinating plan.

Anonymous said...

I heard some nice things from the US department of state. Something about the US moving towards the full independence of Kosova. They certainly know where Kosova is. Its right next to the country they bombed.

Anonymous said...

And I don't mean Afganistan or Iraq. I mean Serbistan.

Anonymous said...

Again I urge the civilized reader to notice the difference between Serbs and Albanians:

Serbs: calling on war if someone uses their right to self-governance, dreams of the day when US will fall, still uses phrases like Balkan Wars, thinks ahead to 100 years in terms of WAR not PEACE.

Albanians: asking for independence not destruction of Serbia, try not to bring up discussions about Serbia's human trafficing and drug trade (cause its pointless), are also Christian yet do not say things like "Christian soldier"...

Now let's reconsider Serbia's place in Europe, it must be re-educated before it can even think about applying for EU membership. I strongy urge every EU citizen to do all in their powers to help Serbia in becoming more a peace loving nation then what it is now.

Anonymous said...

What none of you address is the process of Kosovo(a) becoming an independent state. It has to go thru the UN security council where Russia and China has veto power, and greece, france and romania are on the board.

Anonymous said...

Serbs are now planning the next genocide as some Serb said here earlier they plan the ethnic cleansing of at least 700,000 Kosovar Albanians in the next 5,10,20, or 100 years.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Greece, Romania, should think about it this way:

Serbia might be planning to clean up Thessalia, Kavala, Thassos, Katerini, see this Serbian train of thought has to stop now and must not be allowed to grow.

illyria said...

Dont worry my friend! France give up from serbian insane ideas,Russia is hungry for bread, China has its own cancer Taiwan, Greece interests is a friendly relationship with its neibghour Albania, (dont forget there is over 500.000 albanian immigrants) and as much ethnic arvanities (albanians)as well, regarding Romania,please it's worthless talking about.