Jan 11, 2007

Kosova: Final Status Must be Priority for 2007

In an open letter to the new UN Secretary General, a former US Congressman emphasises the urgent need to prevent further delays to a resolution of Kosova’s status.

Below is an open letter published on 10 January 2007, written by Mr. Joe DioGuardi, former US Congressman and President of the Albanian American Civic League, to the new UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon;

Your Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki-moon:

As you begin your service as Secretary General of the United Nations, there are many immediate issues on your plate; not the least of which is a decision on Kosova's final status. As the leader of this powerful organization it is up to you to set the tone and the pace for 2007. The U.N.'s recent decision to delay resolution of Kosova's final status until after Serbia holds its elections on January 21, while not surprising is devastating. Many view it as the latest attempt on the part of the West to appease Serbia, a centerpiece of the international community's misguided foreign policy approach to the Balkan conflict ever since the NATO bombing campaign ended Slobodan Milosevic's genocidal march across Southeast Europe seven years ago.

The United Nations, the Contact Group, and the European Union could have taken the opportunity at the end of October-when Belgrade forced a constitutional referendum to make Kosova "an integral and inalienable part" of Serbia-to insist that Belgrade finally break from its horrific past. The West could have insisted that Serbia dismantle the Milosevic system, extradite Bosnian Serb commanders Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karazdic to The War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague (ICTY), and recognize the new reality in Kosova. Instead, immediately after the referendum, the West bowed to Serbia's ruling coalition led by Vojislav Kostunica and Boris Tadic, and it asked two million Kosovar Albanians, who have been waiting for freedom since Slobodan Milosevic invaded and occupied Kosova in 1989, to wait once more.

The time is long past for candor about the facts on the ground in the Balkans. The U.N. must take a stronger leadership role, if the international community will not clarify their plans for Kosova in 2007. Otherwise, Kosova's political leaders need to do the truth-telling vigorously and publicly. Some of the truths are:

1. With the international community's decision to renege on its promise to resolve Kosova's status by the end of 2006, Serbia has won a significant round in its campaign to delay status resolution indefinitely and was rewarded for its intransigence. The specter of a win at the polls by the ultranationalist parties is a ruse, but one that has effectively divided the Contact Group.

2. No matter what date final status is put on the table, the settlement package that U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari plans to deliver to Prishtina and Belgrade at the end of January is a prescription for continuing instability and renewed conflict. Kosova's independence will not be recognized, it will not have a foreign ministry or an army, and an EU-led "International Civilian Office" will control much of its political life. The Ahtisaari plan will enable Belgrade to get what it actually wants: a Kosova with "more than autonomy and less than independence" through a decentralization plan that will enable Belgrade to maintain control of the Serb majority in the north.

3. Kosova will be forced to lobby for its independence country by country and for admission to international institutions such as the United Nations. Every time that even one Serb screams about their rights, Kosova will be charged with not living up to European standards, and support for its independence will diminish. Kosova is poised to become another Bosnia-- a failed, aid-dependent state with an international presence for years to come.

4. With all due respect, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the international community is on the verge of producing a dreadfully complicated mess that will never get righted. There is no such thing as a "controlled" independence or a "conditional" independence. There is only full independence. Kosova deserves its independence, and it deserves it now. Establishing Kosova as a sovereign nation is the only route to Kosova's political, economic, and social progress and to lasting peace and stability in Southeast Europe. It is time that the Kosovar leadership insists on this. It's Kosova's last chance.


Joe DioGuardi

Former Congressman and President of the Albanian American Civic League.