Update No: 131 - (28/04/08)
The Kosovo conundrum continues
There is an ongoing saga in Serbia that concerns its breakaway province of
Kosovo. Kosovo is populated 90% by Albanians, who share nothing in common with
the Serbs except propinquity and so subjection for centuries, first to the
Ottomans and then from 1878 to the Serbs themselves.
It declared its independence from Serbia in February and has been recognized by
38 countries. The Serb government fell as a direct consequence. New elections to
parliament are to be held on May 11.
Serbia defended before the U.N. Security Council its decision to hold local
elections in Kosovo after the territory declared its independence. Serbia's
pro-Western President Boris Tadic called the independence declaration an
"illegal act" and said the May 11 elections would go on despite
opposition by the United Nations. "We believe it is important that
everywhere in Kosovo, where citizens recognize the Republic of Serbia as their
state, they choose in a democratic way their own municipal, as well as
parliamentary, representatives," Tadic said in remarks prepared for April
21's closed council meeting.
Western world outcry
This is causing a massive rumpus. U.N. officials have warned Serbia against
holding the vote because it would breach the world body's mandate for Kosovo,
which it has administered since 1999, when NATO airstrikes stopped Serbia's
crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists. That warning was reiterated on April
21 by Kosovo's U.N. administrator, Jochim Ruecker of Germany.
Kosovo's Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, who also briefed the closed council
meeting, said afterward that his government respects dual citizenship for all
citizens in Kosovo, "but local elections ... are illegitimate." He
called Kosovo "a country of opportunity" whose goal is to be a member
of the European Union and NATO.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said it was unacceptable that Serbia has
decided to go ahead with the local elections. "President Tadic: efforts to
conduct these municipal elections are a provocation, and I call on you not to
proceed with them," he said in prepared remarks sent to U.N. media.
The British government, faithful as ever to Washington, wants Serbia to reverse
its decision to try to hold the "ethnically based elections" in Kosovo,
Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers said.
But Russia's U.N. ambassador, whose country has close ties to Serbia, backed
Vitaly Churkin criticized the U.N. mission in Kosovo, saying he told Ruecker at
the closed council meeting "that his presentation and his actions were not
objective. We believe that the Serbs have every right to conduct their
parliamentary and municipal elections when they see fit."
Who is right here?
It would be interesting to have the opinion of a top international jurist or two
on this matter, such as Lord Goodhart of the UK. He distinguished himself in
2003 by adjudging the war in Iraq by the Anglo-Americans perfectly legal, even
while being strongly against it himself on pragmatic grounds that it would lead
It is possible to have a great sympathy for the aspirations of the Kosovar
Albanians for de jure as well as de facto independence, which they already have,
while acknowledging that under international law the Serbs have a case.
After all there is little doubt which sort of candidates would win – the
separatists. The writing has long been on the wall for the Serbs as regards
Kosovo. They might as well forget about it and get on with putting their own
house in order.
Serbia's pro-EU officials urge pre-entry deal before May vote
Pro-Western Serbian officials urged the Netherlands on April 22 to endorse the
Balkan country's pre-entry deal with the European Union despite Belgrade's
failure to arrest war crimes fugitives. Belgrade has not yet signed the
pre-membership deal with the European Union because it has not fulfilled a key
demand set by the bloc to arrest former Bosnian Serb military commander, Gen.
Ratko Mladic, and ex-political leader, Radovan Karadzic.
The two are sought on genocide charges by the U.N. war crimes court in The
Hague, Netherlands, for allegedly orchestrating the 1995 massacre of 8,000
Muslims in Srebrenica, and other atrocities of Bosnia's 1992-95 war.
Belgrade leaders and some EU officials have said that signing the deal would
give a lift to the pro-Western camp in helping to keep nationalists out of power
in May 11 parliamentary elections.
The vote is considered crucial for Serbia's future as it could mark the return
to power of the ultranationalists, more than eight years after the ouster in
2000 of the late former strongman Slobodan Milosevic.