bosnia report
New Series No: 53-54 August - December 2006
'Serbia can choose the past or the future - it can't have both'
by Morton Abramowitz, Mark Schneider, James Lyon

Mr Koštunica is carrying the late Slobodan Milošević's message that Kosovo must remain a subordinate province of Serbia. But Milošević is dead, the clock will not be turned back to 1999, and Serbia will have to accept an international consensus on Kosovo's final status. The experience of the past 10 years, including Milošević's attempted ethnic cleansing, have made anything less than independence totally unacceptable to the people of Kosovo.

The US and other Contact Group countries are expected to endorse Mr Ahtisaari's final proposal before the end of the year. It almost surely will be independence with continued NATO military presence and international guarantees to Kosovo's Serb minorities. Even if Mr Koštunica continues to stonewall, it is likely that the Security Council will adopt it.

Belgrade has pumped up the return-to-Serbia movements in the northern three Kosovo municipalities and in the adjoining divided city of Mitrovica, where 40% of Kosovo's Serbs live. Serbia has obliged Kosovo Serbs to boycott the UN-backed provisional government, recently making all teachers and health workers tear up their government contracts. Instead, Serbia finances parallel structures of government, through which the northern municipalities have begun raising a paramilitary force. Serbia also maintains plainclothes police in Kosovo, in defiance of the 1999 Security Council Resolution that introduced UN administration into Kosovo.

Belgrade's separatist support seeks to present a de facto partition on the ground to the final status negotiators, despite the Contact Group principles endorsed by the UN of a unified, multi-ethnic Kosovo with no partition, no boundary changes, no return to pre-1999.

The world's message to Mr Koštunica should be simple: choose the future, and allow Kosovo and Serbia to join Europe.

Morton Abramowitz and Mark L. Schneider, The Wall Street Journal, 25 July 2006



No Serbian leader will agree to Kosovo’s independence, because nationalism remains the dominant political force in the country. Prime minister Vojislav Koštunica, the apostle of Serbian nationalism, has been trying in every way to undermine Kosovo’s interim government. The main purpose of his new constitution is its preamble, which enshrines Kosovo as an inalienable part of Serbia. Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians have proclaimed that they will not accept any tie to Serbia, no matter how tenuous. The forced mass exodus in 1999 and NATO’s subsequent intervention, which ended Serbia’s rule and established a quasi-state under UN administration, has made anything other than independence intolerable.

Delay only offers more room for Koštunica to find ways to make a Security Council decision more difficult. The West must ignore Belgrade's siren song. Serbian politics will be chaotic and unstable for the foreseeable future, and Serbian politicians will attempt to present this as an excuse to avoid facing the loss of Kosovo. Likewise, there will be problems establishing ties between Serbia and Kosovo under any circumstances.

But failure to proceed definitively now on Kosovo's final status will produce a worse Balkan situation, one that blocks Serbia's move toward the west and ultimate membership in the EU, condemns Kosovo's ethnic minorities to dangerous ambiguity, and imperils fragile states like Bosnia and Macedonia.

No realistic solution exists for Kosovo but independence. If Serbia wants to join the West, it must not forsake that opportunity by trapping itself in its nationalist past.

Morton Abramowitz and James Lyon, The Guardian (London), 24 October 2006

Morton Abramowitz, a former US assistant secretary of state, is senior fellow at the Century Foundation in Washington and a trustee of the International Crisis Group, where Mark Schneider is senior vice-president. James Lyon is special Balkans adviser for the International Crisis Group stationed in Belgrade.


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