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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

is unacceptable.

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


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