KOSOVO DECLARES INDEPENDENCE: BYE, BYE, SERBIA
After losing four wars in the Balkans (vs. Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo), Serbia has officially lost Kosovo, which they consider “cradle” of their civilization.
The independence of Kosovo marks the end of the dissolution of- what was once – the former Yugoslavia ruled by Belgrade. Kosovo has about 2 million people, 90% of them ethnic Albanian. The vast majority are Muslim, mostly secular and unabashedly pro-Western.In declaring independence in Parliament, Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaci (a former leader of the guerrilla force resisting onslaught of Christian terrorists who regard Kosovo as their medieval religious heartland) struck a note of reconciliation. By addressing parliament in both Albanian and Serbian, he pledged to protect the rights of the Serbian minority.
The head of the Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo, Bishop Artemije, has denounced the Serbian armed forces for doing nothing and called for war.“Serbia should buy state-of-the-art weapons from Russia and other countries and call on Russia to send volunteers and establish a military presence in Serbia,” he said.
Serbian nationalists and Russian allies angrily denounce the independence move.
Belgrade has angrily reacted with a televised address to the nation by a nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica lashing against the United States, NATO, and the European Union for supporting Kosovo independence.Kosovo’s independence represents one of President George W. Bush’s last opportunities to advance his freedom agenda in Europe. Most European governments plan to join the U.S. in granting diplomatic recognition to the new state.
In advance of the declaration, the White House reaffirmed its support of a plan by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari that recommended granting Kosovo internationally supervised independence.“On Kosovo, our position is that its status must be resolved in order for the Balkans to be stable,” Bush said during his trip to Africa.
“Secondly, we have strongly supported the Ahtisaari plan. Thirdly, we are heartened by the fact that the Kosovo government has clearly proclaimed its willingness and its desire to support Serbian rights in Kosovo. We also believe it’s in Serbia’s interests to be aligned with Europe, and the Serbian people can know that they have a friend in America.”In April 2007, U.N. envoy Ahtisaari recommended that Kosovo be granted internationally supervised independence. But talks that followed failed to yield an agreement between the ethnic Albanian leadership, which pushed for full statehood, and Serbia, which was willing to offer only autonomy.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a recorded statement after the independence declaration that the U.S. welcomed Kosovo’s “clear commitment to implementing far-reaching provisions” of Ahtisaari’s plan to protect ethnic minority communities. “The U.S. is now reviewing this and discussing the matter with its European partners.”He added, “We long believed that the Ahtisaari plan … was the best way to promote regional stability and enable both Serbia and Kosovo to move forward on the Euro-Atlantic path. The United States will remain steadfast in its support for the rights of all ethnic and religious communities in Kosovo.”
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joseph Biden, welcomed “the independent country of Kosovo into the community of nations” and said it was time “to inaugurate a new era of progress and conciliation in southeast Europe.” Biden, D-Del., said in a statement that Serbia’s future “is with Europe, not against it,” and hoped the U.S. would encourage Serbia “to turn the page on the self-defeating policies of the recent past.”
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, traveling with Bush, said shortly before the Kosovo parliament convened that the U.S. was aware “there are a lot of deep-rooted emotions that go with this. We are sensitive to this.”
Kosovo was administered by the U.N. and NATO since the war ended in 1999. The province is still protected by 16,000 NATO-led peacekeepers.