Thursday, June 08, 2006

Kosovo's Turn by Agim Ceku - The Wall Street Journal Europe

PRISTINA, Kosovo -- The prospects for a stable Balkan region, fully integrated into Europe, have never looked better. The time is ripe for the international community to recognize Kosovo's independence from Serbia the same way it just did with Montenegro. With this act, Yugoslavia's disastrous post-Tito era would finally come to conclusion and its former constitutive units would be on track for European Union and NATO membership.

There is no good reason to delay the decision on Kosovo's statehood. We have already more than legally earned our independence, as Serbia forfeited its right to exercise sovereignty over us twice in recent history. First, when it violated its own constitution and unilaterally revoked Kosovo's autonomy in 1989 without gaining the necessary consent of all eight federal units, including Kosovo's, to change the legal status of one of its republics. Second, when in 1998-1999 it engaged in a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Albanian population, destroying its cultural heritage, property and thousands of human lives.

What's more, it is the will of the people of Kosovo to become independent and sovereign, as clearly expressed in a 1992 referendum. And the people would certainly confirm this will for independence again today, if only they were given the chance. If we want Kosovo to be a functional, stable and secure new member of the European family, the voice of its people should finally be recognized.

Keeping Kosovo under international control for much longer is unacceptable to Kosovars. The province has now lived for seven years under the open-ended, hybrid rule of an international protectorate with institutions of self-government. A simple modification of the status quo, such as replacing the United Nations mission with an EU equivalent, is certainly not a recipe for stability. Continuing this status of "permanent transition" can only weaken the legitimacy of the local leadership. Although international support, advice and monitoring are welcome, and NATO's presence here to provide security will remain necessary for some time to come, only full sovereignty will enable the Kosovo government to steer the country toward a better future.

Statehood is also the necessary precondition for economic development, especially in a region handicapped by decades of socialism and ravaged by war. The "mystery of capital," to use Hernando de Soto's words, is not a mystery at all to us. We know very well that without a functioning property-rights system there will be no market development. But without sovereignty, we cannot establish that system. Without sovereignty, the allocation of our resources will continue to be less than efficient. The sale of our public assets has been blocked for years due to Serbia's influence on the international agency charged with carrying out the privatization process. Privatization finally took off more recently, but its proceeds are still held in trust outside Kosovo because of the unresolved political status of our country. And seven years after the war, one of our greatest assets, the mining complex of Trepca, can still not be exploited due to an entanglement of rivaling property claims, millions of debts to foreign creditors, and the unwillingness of Serbia to let go of Kosovo.

Kosovo has a reasonably well-developed financial sector, a good tax system with low rates and simple rules, healthy finances, and a liberal trading regime. But it needs sovereignty to encourage foreign investments and create viable alternatives to the country's gray economy and wean the people from donor aid.

The skeptics who doubt that Kosovo's sovereignty would produce a stable and secure region rely on flimsy arguments. For instance, they claim that Kosovo's independence would endanger the security of the region by opening up the Pandora's box of separatism. Kosovo's independence, however, could only be a pretext, not a precedent, for other separatist movements. No other ethnic group can make an equally strong case for self-determination, as no other minority in the region needs protection from a repressive state.

And there is no need to be concerned for the groups that would become minorities in an independent Kosovo. All of the unresolved minority issues are very high on my government's agenda. We have strengthened the public transportation network in minority communities, funded minority media, promoted zero tolerance for hate crimes and allocated millions of euros to the reconstruction of private property and religious sites. The government is striving to build confidence with those minorities, primarily the Serbs, that believe they don't have any stake in an independent Kosovo.

We are determined to open up the interethnic dialogue, and we have made important progress with the Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian, Bosniak, Turkish and Gorani communities. We regret that the Serb minority continues to reject our offers and instead boycotts joint initiatives as well as the parliament, where it has a substantive representation of 21 members out of a total of 120.

Kosovo has offered Serbs great concessions, including a decentralization plan that guarantees the Serb-majority municipalities autonomous governance. However, Belgrade is not content with this offer. It is not interested in devolution. Instead, it advocates some form of cantonization to undermine Kosovo's sovereignty. To justify this position, the Serb leadership has resorted to its old scare-mongering technique, spreading misinformation about Serbs' supposedly being the victims of ethnic violence. The reality is that Kosovo's crime statistics for the first quarter of this year reveal a sharp decline in crimes with a possible ethnic motive. While Pristina is focused on solving the people's problems, Belgrade is preoccupied with territorial claims.

A sovereign Kosovo can only play a positive role in the wider Balkan region. We want cooperative relationships with other countries, within the framework of the EU and NATO. Albania, with which Kosovo shares a common history, culture and language, is a natural partner. And so could be Serbia if it chooses cooperation and integration over obstructionism and division.


Mr. Ceku is prime minister of Kosovo.


WARchild said...

The battle of op-eds is on now!

Visit Prishtina said...

Whoever is writing these pieces (this is not the only one) for PM Ceku is doing a great job.

There is much more substance to PM Ceku's editorial today than to Tadic's piece yesterday.

Serbs are playing the "fear card" and have a negative attitude towards the future (much like the Conservatives used to do in the United Kingdom), whereas the Kosovars seem to write and see the future more positively.

Chris Blaku said...

That was a well written editorial from Ceku that delivered on all issues in spades.

NYoutlawyer said...

Things are getting interesting in Kosovoville. In time, albanians will self-destruct.

Around 2,000 people attended a demonstration outside the headquarters of the United Nations mission in Kosovo, calling on the international body to leave the province. The UN has run the territory since NATO bombs drove out Serb forces seven years ago this week. The UN security council resolution 1244, which placed Kosovo under UN control, is up for renewal on 10 June. Kosovo's 90 per cent ethnic Albanian majority is pushing for independence from Serbia. The activist and former political prisoner Albin Kurti led the demonstrators. Kurti's followers accuse the UN mission - UNMIK - of stifling development in Kosovo, and of holding back the region's independence.

NYoutlawyer said...

May I just say, PUKE. This two-faced war criminal is fooling no one. What he is really saying is, gives us independence, and then no one can tell us what to do as we drive all non-albos out of our new criminal, corrupt nation.

Bg anon said...

Well I think this was better from Ceku - this time he mentioned all the relevant subjects that might be able to persuade Western policy makers.

The lobbying campaign does continue but one incorrect observation is that Tadic is playing the fear card. He is playing with the only cards he has.

Its only accidental that Tadics's current card is the fear card and Cekus is the hope card.

Rewind the situation 8 years or so (ok this is tricky since Milosevic was in charge) and it would be the Kosovo Albanians playing the fear card and the Serbs saying what the Albanians are saying about the Serbian minority today - there is nothing to worry about, there is a hard core minority who resist peaceful overtures etc.

Neither Serb or Albanian fear card is invalid if that card is based upon reality.

One comment is pretty transparant though that Western policy makers will remark upon is that Pristina is focussed on peoples problems and Belgrade is preoccupied with territorial claims.

Problems equals things like standards or unemployment, territorial claims equals nation status. Everybody knows that Pristinas primary concern is the claim to its own territory or state.

ANYC said...

It appears that whatever Ceku does or says, he is labeled a war criminal by serbs and they will stick with that, although there is no evidence to back up their claims-Hague would have acted on this already. To make matters worse, this kind of labeling only hurts K-serbs the most as they are being frightened by Belgarde into noncooporation.

Serbia seems to need a basic claning of itself from radical elements. Sort of similar program to de-nazification. Only then can they prove to their neighbours that they are genuine in their efforts to promote peace and stability. And this should apply to their parliament, government, military,acadamy of sciences, etc. Until this sort of cleansing occurs the Serb population will be held hostage by people with delusions of grander-which will take them absolutely nowhere. The sad thing is that serbia lost its wars in a worse way possible. There were no absolute changes in the end to eradicate and ban radicals. This, in the long run, has proven more costly than if there had been an outright invasion as was the case with Axis powers during WWII. Changes would have been imposed, and a new generation of thinkers would have risen. Rather sad...

Dardan said...

Well said Mr. Çeku!

Br.BK-Destroyer Of Galaxies said...

Mr. outlawyer,

Given the eloquence and professionalism of mr. ceku's opening paper, you should consider infusing some substance into your reponses if you care to be taken seriously.

NYoutlawyer said...

I could give a rat's ass how you take me.

Do you think that that criminal wrote his own speech? He is a former miltary thug, set up by the UN as their interim puppet. Open your eyes and stop living in your shifter illusions.

Free and Independent said...

The issue here is not whether Mr. Ceku wrote those words, the issue is that he meant them and he has acted on them.

He has been funding Serbian religious renovations and his government has set aside funds for Serbian houses, Serbian media in Kosovo and community building with Serbians but Serbians, just like you, influenced by Belgrade instead of taking these opportunities and cooperating to make for a better society they get angry whenever they sense that Kosovo can become a multi-ethnic and tolerant society.
Say whatever you like about Prime Minister Ceku but he fought for what he believed and has shown great ability as a Prime Minister.

Don't hate him or assume that he didn't write what he published because you are too envious of his persuasive and fact based paper.

A1comment said...

I'm guessing he's willing to do the absolute bare minimum it takes to present himself as a democrat to gain independence when really he is, as many are there, an ethnocentric, hatefull, land grabber. His action in Bosnia and Croatia speak louder than words.