Never accept ethnic cleansing
Artikel i Financial Times
Last week saw what there was of international policy in on Kosovo go up in
With more than 100 houses razed, dozens of churches destroyed, nearly 30
dead, more than 600 civilians injured, UN facilities severely damaged and
Nato being forced to evacuate the minorities it could not protect, the
political as well as physical damage has been enormous.
What went up in flames were large parts of the international efforts
since 1998 to achieve a stable compromise over the future of Kosovo.
It was early in Rambouillet that an ambitious effort at a settlement was
done. But it failed, and instead of peace we got a war that ended with
peace being even more distant.
Humanitarian concerns were in focus back then. During the 78 days of the
air campaign and the ethnic carnage on the ground, nearly 1m Albanians were
forced to flee to other countries.
The immediate success of the United Nations and Nato was the rapid return
of those Albanians. But this coincided with the failure to prevent up to
250,000 people, primarily Serbs, being forced or choosing to flee.
The Kosovo war drew broad public support as it was seen as an attempt to
stop ethnic cleansing and promote the long-term vision of a multi-ethnic
Since then, the difficult task given to the UN interim administration has
been to build up multi-ethnic institutions and to try to make it possible
for those who fled to return.
The core issue of the conflict disintegration through a new state or
integration in some sort of common framework has, however, not been
addressed. As long as the core issue was left open, expectations of a final
settlement for one side merely fuelled the fears of the other.
There has been some progress. The small number of remaining minorities
participated in the 2001 elections and broad-based provisional institutions
were set up. There was hope that some minorities who fled would return.
The policy loudly proclaimed by the international community was "standards
before status". Only when a decent, multi-ethnic Kosovo had been built
could the question of its future status be addressed. Recently, mid-2005
was set as the date to begin an assessment of progress on the standards.
Then came Kosovo's Black Wednesday and everything changed.
The explosive violence in Mitrovica was one thing. But as attacks against
Serbs, the UN and even Nato were unleashed throughout the province, the
entire policy of managing the region crashed down. There can be no question
that it this was a deliberate attempt to drive away as many Serbs as
possible, to attack the UN as much as possible and to test how far one
could drive Nato into accepting the new realities.
We will learn over time to what extent the offensive was pre-planned and by
whom. political objective was abundantly clear in the choice of targets.
This was a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Kosovo changed dramatically. And the rage risks spreading across the
region. Mosques were burning in Belgrade and Nis, and a church was set on
fire in Bosnia.
Instead of the mantra of "standards before status" we must now urgently
choose between either a policy of status or a policy of standards. In the
US, some are now saying that a multi-ethnic Kosovo is not realistic and
that in the wake of the violence we should reward the perpetrators with
immediate independence: status without standards.
But giving in to violence today would give a powerful incentive to the
ethnic cleansers of tomorrow. It is a principle as dangerous in the fight
against ethnic violence as it is in the fight against terrorism. It risks
betraying everything we have stood and fought for in the region for more
than a decade.
Reasserting a demand for standards means reasserting the authority of the
international community. This will entail a resolute approach in Kosovo
itself. It is imperative that both the possible organisers and the obvious
perpetrators of of the violence are swiftly brought to justice. Otherwise,
we might as well just sit back and wait for the next wave of attacks.
There must also be a pledge by the Kosovo authorities to rebuild the
damaged houses and destroyed churches out of the their own budget. There is
no standard more basic than this that should be demanded of Kosovo's
At the same time, we must contemplate a tougher approach to some
fundamental issues. We should tolerate the division of Mitrovica no less
than we have tolerated the division of Mostar. On the fundamental status
issue, we should clearly state that, with the exception of changes of
borders, any solution agreed between Pristina and Belgrade is acceptable to
the international community. Any solution that does not have such agreement
In many respects, Kosovo looks like a Palestine in Europe. More than 70
per cent of the population is below the age of 30, unemployment is above 50
per cent, the economy is moribund, even emigration has become more
If these issues are not addressed properly, we risk setting up a state
destined for failure. It is high time we wake up to the realities of Kosovo
not in order to accept betrayal of our principles, but in order to assert