Day: January 18, 2011

Let’s be clear

“Europe may have reacted hastily” by recognizing Kosovo, a Member of the European Parliament is quoted as saying on Serbia’s B92 website.  This sentiment has appeared regularly in recent weeks, based on unsubstantiated allegations by a Council of Europe rapporteur who opposed Kosovo’s February 2008 declaration of independence.

While the allegations require serious investigation, the efforts to call into question Kosovo’s independence are unjustified.  Kosovo became independent because Serbia stopped treating its majority population as citizens.  This was clearest in Milosevic’s attempt to remove Albanians from Kosovo in 1999, but it was no less damaging to Serbia’s claims of sovereignty when the post-Milosevic Serbian state did not count the Kosovo Albanians on the voter rolls for the 2006 referendum on its new constitution, thus denying them their right under the then existing constitution to block the adoption of a new one by not voting (the then existing constitution required that 50 per cent of registered voters participate in the referendum, a percentage that would not have been reached had the Albanians been counted).

Members of the Kosovo Liberation Army that fought for independence in the late 1990s now stand accused at the Council of Europe of heinous crimes.  These allegations have been circulated for a long time:  they are stock in trade in Belgrade, where officials have investigated them and spread rumors about them for 10 years.  This does not mean they aren’t true–they clearly need to be investigated more objectively and professionally. It does mean we should suspend judgment and treat those individuals allegedly involved, including Prime Minister Thaci, as innocent until proven guilty in a properly constituted court with jurisdiction over the case.  If the allegations are eventually found to be true, a possibility that cannot be excluded, that would still not bear on Kosovo’s independence any more than accusations of corruption against Croatia’s former prime minister bear on Zagreb’s bid for EU membership.

Much more immediately damaging to Kosovo than the unsubstantiated allegations are the claims, reported not only by B92 from EU sources but also by Albanian sources, that threats and fraud plagued not only the December elections in Kosovo but also the January 9 rerun in several municipalities.  These elections were an ideal opportunity for Kosovo to demonstrate unequivocally its democratic credentials.  Whoever has tampered with the voters and the votes has done his country serious harm.

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