Kosovo status

Had an interesting talk over coffee with the Gray Falcon recently. (Everything from Balkans issues to Hans-Hermann Hoppe's "Democracy: The God that Failed" )Then I ran into him again Thursday at former ambassador Melady's press briefing on the Hill re: the current Kosovo situation. Melady said it's an "open secret" that the President hasn't made up his mind yet. At the same time, he and others expressed surpise at the flood of national Albanian flags ("flags of another sovereign state") flying in Kosovo. "Has a decision already been made?" he asked at one point.

The Gray Falcon says:

"Though the U.S. government continues to insist it has not made up its mind about Kosovo, facts increasingly suggest otherwise. In mid-May, the Washington Post published a deliberately leaked story from the State Department that the Bush administration is adopting a 'new' Balkans policy - one formulated by Clinton-era officials. Outlines of the policy - independence of Albanian-dominated Kosovo, dissolution of Serbia-Montenegro, and the centralization of Bosnia-Herzegovina - echo the arguments made by former Clinton officials (e.g. Richard Holbrooke) and the International Crisis Group, a powerful foreign policy lobby that has cheered Balkans interventions throughout the late 1990s.

The choice of former Clinton-era State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns, now the Undersecretary for European Affairs, to spearhead this policy cannot be a coincidence, nor can the fact that Clinton hands Richard Holbrooke and Pierre-Richard Prosper attended last month's ceremony in Srebrenica on behalf of the current administration."

The overarching theme in those two meetings (the other was Friday's briefing for congressional staffers etc, which I also attended) is protection of minorities in the province. The destruction of historic landmark churches and monasteries happened after all, while the province was under international 'protection.'

Of concern is lack of progress. Ivan Djurovski, Melady's former research assistant said of all the NGO's he interacted with, none employed Serbs. Same with reconstruction groups. No doubt some are employed, but apparently not many. This is one indicator of a failure to effectively interface with an ethnic minority.

Apart from the destruction of historic sites, there are reports Serbs with land cannot safely cultivate it, because doing so puts them at risk of kidnapping, assault and murder. In addition their classification as internally displaced persons means they receive less aid than if they were labeled refugees, something Djurovski considers an injustice.

Also reportedly a problem, KFOR forces have no unified command in an emergency and have different perceptions of their duties. During the wave of church destruction some believed they were only to protect life, not property, soldiers from Italy and the US believed they were to protect both. Czech soldiers said they were simply overwhelmed. According to former ambassador Melady the only method they had to communicate during the destruction was by cell phone.

Those present at the meetings said besides evidencing a lack of political maturity the riots also showed effective protection for minorities was not in place. Besides Christian Serbs, minorities include Turks, Muslim Slavs, and Roma.

David Scotton, senior advisor to the National Albanian American Council said he has been in Kosovo and disagrees with the assessment of Serbs living in fear in thei enclaves. He said we have to remember that the church destruction "only lasted for 72 hours."

Regardless of the outcome of final status talks, the goal of foreign policy advisor Melody Divine is to have Congress move to help ensure the protection of those minorities and of historic and religious sites. She notes:

"Congressional interest and involvement will be key in ensuring that the international community places a high premium on the protection and integration of the minority communities within Kosovo, and the preservation of the remaining cultural sites."

Also here's a recap of some recent reaction:

  • EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana warned Kosovo leaders on Wednesday not to lose momentum in meeting UN-set democratic standards, key for opening talks on the province's final status. "I was a bit surprised to see a slowdown of the process of the standards and the process of decentralization," Solana said after his brief visit to the province.
  • At a congressional hearing in May, Charles English of the State Department reported, "Discrimination remains a serious problem. Access to public services is uneven. Incidents of harassment still occur. Freedom of movement is limited. And too many minorities still feel unsafe in Kosovo." See "Closing the Books on Kosovo" by Doug Bandow, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=4038
  • In an exclusive interview with ISN Security Watch, Kai Eide (Norwegian ambassador to NATO responspible for assessing Kosovo's progress and readiness for final status talks), now working on a report on the situation in Kosovo for the UN, added his voice to those who have expressed concern recently, saying he was disappointed by what he had seen in Kosovo in the last few weeks... "Quite honestly, I would have liked to have seen much more progress and political maturity in Kosovo among its leaders," Eide said.
    Posted by Picasa