Wednesday, July 05, 2006

R. Nicholas Burns Interview With BBC

Interview With BBC
Under Secretary for Political Affairs, R. Nicholas Burns
U.S. Mission to NATO
Brussels, Belgium
July 5, 2006

BBC: Can I just ask you about Kosovo again, but in quality as it were.

Tell me first of all, Undersecretary of State, you have said that 2006 is a key moment for Kosovo but nothing is guaranteed. Given that, why should we expect a conclusion to these negotiations by the end of this year?

UNDERSECRETARY BURNS: I think all of us agree that 2006 has to be the year of decision for Kosovo, to decide Kosovo's future.

Let's remember what happened. A savage war in 1999. A million people who Milosevic tried to ethnically cleanse. He was prevented by NATO from doing that.

Now seven years where these people haven't been told what their future's going to be. They haven't been allowed to determine that themselves. So I think all of us agree in the international community that 2006 has to be the year when the talks conclude, when Kosovo's final status is determined, when all those people who have been waiting to know what their future is will know what their future is. But that's going to entail a major responsibility on the part of the Kosovar-Albanian leadership to do a better job of ensuring minority rights and a big responsibility on the part of the Serb government in Belgrade to step up to these negotiations, to come to the table, to let the Kosovar Serbs be part of those negotiations so they can speak up for themselves to determine their own future, and for both sides to meet squarely in the middle and arrive at a fair decision that will be good for the vast majority of people who want to live a peaceful life there.

BBC: How far are you concerned, though, that this might provide a template for other ethnically divided countries? President Putin has said that if Kosovo becomes independent, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia should similarly become independent.

UNDERSECRETARY BURNS: We disagree completely with the idea that a resolution of the Kosovo problem somehow sets a precedent or establishes a template for difficult problems elsewhere. Kosovo is unique. A major international war was fought there. Some of the worst war crimes in Europe occurred there. The United Nations took Kosovo into its own hands in June of 1999 in passing a Security Council Resolution that effectively said Kosovo's sovereignty will be determined at a later date.sovereignty. We know that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are now and will be part of Georgia as far forward into the future as we can see. But we know that Kosovo's sovereignty needs to be determined and agreed by all of us in the international community. So the two situations are completely opposite and we don't agree at all with this idea that somehow one is a precedent for the other.

BBC: Thank you very much.

Released on July 3, 2006

ENDS

7 comments:

Konaction said...

Talking about sovereignty now, forget the status :)

mitrovica pika pika said...

A very impartial peace of writing. there should be more people like her. Sad part is a lot of people on this site and other places will not accept what she wrote but will try to spin this and not accept the whole as it deserves.Kudos.

p.s. its her opinion so please dont write how she verifies yours or someone elses opinion.


Kosovo's limbo suits both sides
Mirjana Tomic International Herald Tribune

Published: July 6, 2006
MADRID Negotiations under way in Vienna, Brussels and New York on the future political status of Kosovo are expected to end this year. While Kosovo Albanians want independence, Serbia's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, declared during his recent controversial trip there that Kosovo "will always be part of Serbia."

Kostunica visited Kosovo on June 28, the day Serbs mark the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, when the defeat of the Serbs enabled the Ottoman Turks to invade the Balkans and stay there for almost five centuries.

When Western news media refer to Kosovo, they often remind their audience that for Serbs, it represents the cradle of Serbian civilization. They repeat what Serbian politicians tell them. But as the liberal Belgrade monthly Republika writes, Kosovo was "the heart of Serbia during Middle Ages." Today, "80 percent of the population has never been to Kosovo and has no links to the region, except for the mythology that has been consciously produced."

I am the only one among my friends and acquaintances who has actually been to Kosovo on vacation. Like most people of my generation, who attended Belgrade schools during the 1960s and early '70s, I had to memorize epic songs about the Kosovo battle and Serbian heroes. In our free time we listened to the Beatles and dreamed about visiting Western Europe. I never heard anyone say: "Let's spend our vacation visiting Kosovo."

In the absence of massive tourist demand to visit Kosovo, Yugoslavia's Communist authorities organized trips for employees and schoolchildren to visit the region. It was the only contact that most Serbs had with the "cradle of civilization."

The first time I visited Kosovo was in the late '60s. My parents took me on a tour of Serbian medieval monasteries, sources of culture and literacy before the Ottoman invasion and defenders of Christianity and tradition during the Muslim domination. Most monasteries were left to rot, but thanks to the efforts of monks and nuns, they functioned. In my early teens, Kosovo was a cultural shock: I remember veiled Albanian women in traditional costume selling food and crafts on filthy sidewalks.

Thirty years later, when I traveled to Kosovo as a journalist for a major Spanish daily and witnessed omnipresent underdevelopment, I wondered what had happened to the aid that had gone to Kosovo. According to a friend who had a leading position in the League of Serbian Communists, before Slobodan Milosevic came to power, all development aid was channeled to Kosovo Albanian Communist officials. Belgrade had no say on how it was spent.

As a reporter of Serbian origin, I did not feel welcome in Kosovo. In Albania, however, where I also went on a professional assignment, this was not the case. Our common Balkan cultural heritage created an immediate bond. My conclusion was simple: It was politics that created animosity, rather than a difference in cultural heritage.

Nowadays, after the 1999 war, deaths, expulsions, massacres and innumerable violations of human rights, the chance is small that young Kosovo Albanians and young Serbs would ever meet. If they did meet, it would be abroad. And if they became friends, they would not boast about it. A Vienna-based Albanian from Kosovo told me: "My mother's best friend is Serbian. When we go to Kosovo she has to hide it."

The Serbs who remained in Kosovo live in enclaves protected by international troops, while hundreds of thousands of Serbs, poor and rich, have emigrated from Kosovo during the past decades.

The poor live in Serbia's shantytowns; local Serbs consider them primitive. Some would like to go back, but fear prevents them. The rich, on the other hand, do not plan to return to Kosovo, where crime prospers and the electricity supply is unreliable.

Serbia's foreign minister, Vuk Draskovic, claims that the future status of Kosovo is of utmost importance for Serbia's future, but like other Serbian politicians, he does not specify why it is so important. Does Serbia's economic or political future depend on the status of Kosovo? Or would the loss of Kosovo mean that Belgrade politicians had to face the real issues affecting Serbia's population: crime, corruption, quality of education, unemployment, health care, democracy and human rights, low living standards, isolation from the European Union?

At the same time, the ambivalence about the status of Kosovo suits politicians: Serbian politicians evoke the Kosovo myth in order to postpone addressing their real problems; their Kosovo Albanian counterparts can always blame the lack of independence as the source of all evils, including unemployment, crime, corruption, crumbling infrastructure and the failing economy.

Mirjana Tomic, a freelance media consultant, lives in Madrid.

MADRID Negotiations under way in Vienna, Brussels and New York on the future political status of Kosovo are expected to end this year. While Kosovo Albanians want independence, Serbia's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, declared during his recent controversial trip there that Kosovo "will always be part of Serbia."

Kostunica visited Kosovo on June 28, the day Serbs mark the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, when the defeat of the Serbs enabled the Ottoman Turks to invade the Balkans and stay there for almost five centuries.

When Western news media refer to Kosovo, they often remind their audience that for Serbs, it represents the cradle of Serbian civilization. They repeat what Serbian politicians tell them. But as the liberal Belgrade monthly Republika writes, Kosovo was "the heart of Serbia during Middle Ages." Today, "80 percent of the population has never been to Kosovo and has no links to the region, except for the mythology that has been consciously produced."

I am the only one among my friends and acquaintances who has actually been to Kosovo on vacation. Like most people of my generation, who attended Belgrade schools during the 1960s and early '70s, I had to memorize epic songs about the Kosovo battle and Serbian heroes. In our free time we listened to the Beatles and dreamed about visiting Western Europe. I never heard anyone say: "Let's spend our vacation visiting Kosovo."

In the absence of massive tourist demand to visit Kosovo, Yugoslavia's Communist authorities organized trips for employees and schoolchildren to visit the region. It was the only contact that most Serbs had with the "cradle of civilization."

The first time I visited Kosovo was in the late '60s. My parents took me on a tour of Serbian medieval monasteries, sources of culture and literacy before the Ottoman invasion and defenders of Christianity and tradition during the Muslim domination. Most monasteries were left to rot, but thanks to the efforts of monks and nuns, they functioned. In my early teens, Kosovo was a cultural shock: I remember veiled Albanian women in traditional costume selling food and crafts on filthy sidewalks.

Thirty years later, when I traveled to Kosovo as a journalist for a major Spanish daily and witnessed omnipresent underdevelopment, I wondered what had happened to the aid that had gone to Kosovo. According to a friend who had a leading position in the League of Serbian Communists, before Slobodan Milosevic came to power, all development aid was channeled to Kosovo Albanian Communist officials. Belgrade had no say on how it was spent.

As a reporter of Serbian origin, I did not feel welcome in Kosovo. In Albania, however, where I also went on a professional assignment, this was not the case. Our common Balkan cultural heritage created an immediate bond. My conclusion was simple: It was politics that created animosity, rather than a difference in cultural heritage.

Nowadays, after the 1999 war, deaths, expulsions, massacres and innumerable violations of human rights, the chance is small that young Kosovo Albanians and young Serbs would ever meet. If they did meet, it would be abroad. And if they became friends, they would not boast about it. A Vienna-based Albanian from Kosovo told me: "My mother's best friend is Serbian. When we go to Kosovo she has to hide it."

The Serbs who remained in Kosovo live in enclaves protected by international troops, while hundreds of thousands of Serbs, poor and rich, have emigrated from Kosovo during the past decades.

The poor live in Serbia's shantytowns; local Serbs consider them primitive. Some would like to go back, but fear prevents them. The rich, on the other hand, do not plan to return to Kosovo, where crime prospers and the electricity supply is unreliable.

Serbia's foreign minister, Vuk Draskovic, claims that the future status of Kosovo is of utmost importance for Serbia's future, but like other Serbian politicians, he does not specify why it is so important. Does Serbia's economic or political future depend on the status of Kosovo? Or would the loss of Kosovo mean that Belgrade politicians had to face the real issues affecting Serbia's population: crime, corruption, quality of education, unemployment, health care, democracy and human rights, low living standards, isolation from the European Union?

At the same time, the ambivalence about the status of Kosovo suits politicians: Serbian politicians evoke the Kosovo myth in order to postpone addressing their real problems; their Kosovo Albanian counterparts can always blame the lack of independence as the source of all evils, including unemployment, crime, corruption, crumbling infrastructure and the failing economy.

Mirjana Tomic, a freelance media consultant, lives in Madrid.

dave said...

Fanastic article. Just passed it on to another American friend who only 20 minutes ago asked me what exactly is happening with Kosovo right now.

I also know several Serbs and Albanians (as well as Macedonians, Bosnians and Croatians) living outside of the Balkans who are all good friends, but don't really mention those friendships when they are at home. Tomic makes a great analogy with her visit to Albania and the comment on politics versus cultural similarities.

So it's time to just let Kosovo be indepdenent and for everyone to move on with the development that the region deserves!!

Serbs In Kosovo are in Danger said...

It is just so obvious that Burns hates Serbs, it's really disgusting.

Serbs In Kosovo are in Danger said...

Mirjana Tomic is one of those people who thinks the best things in life have to do with Money and popularity. Who cares about Kosovo or the Serb culture when you can have nice things. He worships the West and wants to be a westerner. He would probably much rather be English or American. He would gladly and happily give away Kosovo and the Serb culture if he could by CD's in Berlin or London.

mitrovica pika pika said...

"He worships the West and wants to be a westerner. He would probably much rather be English or American. He would gladly and happily give away Kosovo and the Serb culture if he could by CD's in Berlin or London."

Wow, a very nice peace of prose. However, what would you like to be?
And its a she.

Fatos said...

Serbs In Kosovo are in Danger said...

Serbs In Kosovo are in Danger said...

Mirjana Tomic is one of those people who thinks the best things in life have to do with Money and popularity. Who cares about Kosovo or the Serb culture when you can have nice things. He worships the West and wants to be a westerner. He would probably much rather be English or American. He would gladly and happily give away Kosovo and the Serb culture if he could by CD's in Berlin or London.

At 5:55 PM, ivan said...

Mitrovica,

I am glad you pointed this article out. This actually proves that in Serbia people have different point of views on Kosovo and Metohija issue, and they do speak out without any fear. I guess thats what democracy means.

On contrary when i posted here that a Kosovo albanian girl told me that Kosovo albanians should not get the independance, all of you accused me that either she has Serbian roots, or that she is the creation of my imagination.

Now tell me who is closer to democracy?


I AM ASKING THE SAME QUESTION IVAN :)