Friday, November 17, 2006

No more delays for Kosovo

No more delays for Kosovo
The New York Times
Published: November 17, 2006

For the past seven years, the tiny Balkan region of Kosovo has been in limbo. Administered by the United Nations, it is not an independent state. But it is no longer a province of Serbia. That ended after Serbia's rulers tried to kill or drive out Kosovo's ethnic Albanians - and NATO went to war to save them.Limbos are not stable. And the UN mediator in talks on the region, Martti Ahtisaari, was expected to announce by the end of this year that it was time to start Kosovo on the path to closely monitored independence. Instead, he put off the decision until after Serbia's parliamentary elections - scheduled for January - for fear of bolstering Serbian ultranationalists.

This postponement, only the most recent of many, should be the last.After the 1999 war there has never been a realistic possibility of rejoining Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo was supposed to earn independence by proving its willingness to govern responsibly and to protect its ethnic Serb minority. A lot more needs to be done on both those fronts.But the United Nations has limited patience to keep administering Kosovo, and without the stability of statehood there will be no foreign investment and the beleaguered economy will not improve. Lack of economic prospects is feeding Albanian nationalism, and until Kosovo's status is settled, anger will remain close to the surface.

Even as it moves Kosovo toward statehood, the United Nations should keep a substantial military and advisory presence there, both to ensure the rights of the Serb minority and to encourage democratic development.Belgrade will always object to Kosovo's independence. The best chance of moderating its reaction is the promise of eventual membership in the European Union and a clear warning that Europe will be watching how it treats its new neighbor. The Kosovars should be clear that donors and everyone else will be watching just as closely to see how they treat their own Kosovar Serbs.

No more delays for Kosovo - Opinion - International Herald Tribune

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