PRISTINA, Kosovo -- Once
again, Kosovo appears glaringly on the radars of international news. Eight
years after the US-led intervention in this Balkans province, a solution to its
political status seems to be very close.
Following over a year of
negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia representatives, UN Special Envoy Martti
Ahtisaari has finally presented his proposals for the future of Kosovo, calling
for an internationally supervised independence for the region, with strong
guarantees for minority rights and privileges. The proposed solution seems only
realistic, considering that Kosovo needs independence to move ahead, as the
eight years of political status quo have impeded its further development. Most
importantly, Albanians who make up 90 percent of Kosovo�s population, for many
years have resolutely voiced their will for a sovereign state and have shown
reasonable patience in achieving their goal.
community, including US, EU, UN and NATO has fully backed the Ahtisaari
proposals and has called for a swift resolution to the Kosovo status. Only
Russia has vocally expressed scepticism, arguing against deadlines and insisting
that granting independence to Kosovo may create a precedent for other disputed
territories throughout the world, primarily in the former Soviet states.
Repeatedly, they have joined ranks with their traditional ally, Serbia, in
warning that Kosovo�s independence may denote a breach of international law.
Earlier this year, the
opposition to Kosovo�s independence has been also mentioned by Russian
President Vladimir Putin, in the context of his disagreement with what he
deemed as the unilateral approach to international politics by the US. Russian
diplomats have threatened to use a veto in the UN Security Council, where the
Ahtisaari proposals need to be approved through a new resolution. This Russian
stance is in line with their recently stated foreign policy goals in not just
implementing, but also shaping the international agenda. Such behaviour has
prompted some analysts to talk of a new Cold War, although ultimately what
Russia may seek is merely a genuine acknowledgement of their worthy involvement
in solving world problems.
Russia had also opposed the
intervention in Kosovo in 1999, prompting NATO air strikes over Yugoslavia
without UN approval. Nevertheless, it had thereafter backed a UN resolution
that established the international civil and military administration of Kosovo
that is still in place today. Tough talk on the side, it is likely that in the
end Russia will do the same again, and will not remain the only one disputing a
just solution to Kosovo�s final status.
The fairness and logic of
granting independence to Kosovo have been questioned before and on the same
grounds as Russia: precedence, international law, unilateralism. But be they
from the academic or diplomatic circles, those arguments have always presented
a narrow viewpoint to the problem.
Conflicts may have similar
features, but eventually they are all unique, with different origins,
developments and conclusions. The Kosovo conflict was also historically and
substantially different from other conflicts, so Kosovo�s independence cannot
become a precedent for other disputed territories. The US and the EU have
repeatedly stated that Kosovo is a sui
generis case and whatever the final solution to its status, it cannot be
copied for other disputes.
On the other hand, the
international law should not be deemed as a dogmatic article to be preserved
and interpreted rigidly forever. If it is meant to serve international order
and justice, it should then adapt and develop jointly with the humanity and not
remain hostage to the UN documents of the Cold War era. The recent �Responsibility
to Protect� doctrine serves as a case in point, while the humanitarian
intervention in Kosovo serves as a reminder that international law is not
necessarily appropriate to solve every problem in the world, and especially
when there is a degree of urgency involved, as is the case with Kosovo today.
Finally, seeing Kosovo�s
independence as an American or Western unilateral enforcement is a failure to
appreciate the fact that such �enforcement� will finally right a historical
wrong and restore the lives of millions, who only after the NATO intervention,
for the first time in their lives felt at home in their own region. After all,
doing the right thing unilaterally should not be subject to the approval of
Russia or anybody else.
Regardless of the
high-level international political interplay, Kosovo today is nothing like the
one we remember from eight years ago, when the only news coming out from there
was that of shelling, fighting, refugees and atrocities. Kosovo has progressed
substantially during the years under U.N. administration and NATO protection.
Albanian refugees have returned, destroyed homes have been rebuilt,
democratically elected institutions have been set up and the economy is
recovering. Many positive steps have been taken in establishing a tolerant
environment and cooperation between Albanians and Serbs, so the future looks
Eight years ago Kosovo was
subject to a violent Serbian military and police crackdown that left thousands
dead and about a million refugees dispersed inside and outside of Kosovo. At
present, it is an emerging democracy with the potential of becoming a
functioning state in the once troublesome Balkans. It is the U.S.-led
humanitarian intervention of the NATO alliance that made this possible. Had the
world appeased the brutal politics of Slobodan Milosevic, today Kosovo might
have remained ethnically cleansed of Albanians and in a persisting guerrilla
war. Fortunately, the civilized world didn�t overlook the gross violations of
human rights and it rightfully acted to protect civilians from a discriminatory
and hostile regime.
NATO�s bombing campaign not
only saved countless civilian lives, but sent a message to dictators worldwide
that if they employ excessive violence to quench legitimate popular demands,
the democratic world will not stand by and watch but it will act to protect
justice and human rights. In this imperfect world of ours, such action cannot
be taken in every instance, but the Kosovo intervention is an example that
should inspire similar responses wherever and whenever it is possible. The
humanitarian intervention in Kosovo had brought freedom to the long-suffering
Kosovar people and finally granting them their deserved independence now will
bring them much-needed hope, perspective and determination to move forward,
making Kosovo a genuine success story for the international community. For
sure, an independent Kosovo will always remain a testament to the democratic
world�s unmatched vigilance, compassion and humanitarianism.
Memli Krasniqi is
president of the Democratic Youth of Kosova, and he is a member of the
presidency of the main opposition Democratic Party of Kosova.