Tuesday, April 17, 2007

They are manifestly pro-American, having been protected from slaughter and exile by our troops

Independence of Kosovo  |
Under Secretary for Political Affairs >
The Outlook for the Independence of Kosovo


R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of Political Affairs
Statement Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Washington, DC
April 17, 2007

Chairman Lantos, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and distinguished Members of
the Committee, thank you for the invitation to appear before you to discuss the
future of Kosovo, our strong support for its independence and our vision for
progress and peace in Southeastern Europe.

The last three American Presidents -- President Bush, President Clinton and
President George H.W. Bush -- have all had one vision for Europe since the fall
of communism in 1989: a continent that is whole, free and at peace. This
ambition has been the most important foreign policy objective for our country
during the last one hundred years, as we fought two World Wars and the Cold
War to bring about the day when Europe was finally free, peaceful and
undivided.

This objective, however, cannot be realized fully and completely without peace
and stability in the Balkans. While hundreds of millions of Europeans West and
East have found freedom and peace, the people of Southeastern Europe have
remained divided and in conflict. This is the last corner of Europe to find its full
freedom.

Over the last decade and a half, the United States has repeatedly played the
central role to end the wars of Yugoslav succession and to sustain the peace.
President Clinton was right to intervene militarily in Bosnia in 1995 to end that
terrible war. We were right to oppose Milosevic’s attempted ethnic cleansing of
over one million Kosovar Albanians in the late 1990s. America was right to keep
our troops there alongside of our NATO allies in both places to maintain the
peace. The U.S. has had a record of success in the Balkans that has helped
people to escape tyranny and to find peace. We must now act quickly in the next
weeks and months to finish the job by helping to lead Kosovo to independence.

The cornerstone of our policy in this region has long been the promise of
integration of the Balkan countries with NATO and the European Union. This is
surely the best way for the countries of Southeast Europe to rebuild their
societies, see their economies grow and create new and peaceful relationships
with their neighbors. Most of the countries that emerged from the disastrous
and bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia are now on a path to membership in the
EU and NATO. After years of conflict, our American vision is within reach.

But the region cannot move forward without resolving the last major issue
related to Yugoslavia's breakup: the status of Kosovo. When I last appeared
before this Committee to discuss Kosovo in 2005, I spoke about the need to
deal with unfinished business in the Balkans and to accelerate the process to
address Kosovo's status. Since that time, United Nations Special Envoy Martti
Ahtisaari has led a thorough and comprehensive negotiating effort with the
Kosovar leaders and the Serb government. On April 3, he presented to the UN
Security Council his conclusions, including both a detailed set of proposals for
Kosovo's future and a recommendation that Kosovo become independent,
subject to a period of international supervision.

Under the Ahtisaari plan, Kosovo will become independent but will continue a
period of international tutelage for a limited number of years. NATO, for
example, will continue to police Kosovo’s borders and maintain internal peace
until Kosovo is ready to form its own army. The EU will lead an international
civilian effort to ensure the settlement is fully implemented.

Independence for Kosovo

The United States fully supports President Ahtisaari's recommendations. In
particular, we believe that supervised independence for Kosovo is now the only
way forward.

After the violent break-up of Yugoslavia and the ethnic cleansing that Slobodan
Milosevic conducted in Kosovo, any other outcome, we believe, would result in
dysfunctional governance, strengthen the hand of extremists and lead directly
to new conflicts. The reality is that ties between Serbia and Kosovo have already
been severed since 1999 when the UN Security Council, in resolution 1244,
decided to remove Belgrade's authority over Kosovo and place the region under
UN administration. Now, over ninety percent of the citizens of Kosovo are
Kosovar Albanians. They will never accept continued rule by Serbia. They are
manifestly pro-American, having been protected from slaughter and exile by
our troops. They will accept nothing less than independence. In the past eight
years, Kosovo has strengthened its local governing institutions, including by
electing an Assembly, a President, and Prime Minister. We see no credible option
for integrating these institutions with Serbia.

Independence for Kosovo will mark the definitive end of the breakup of
Yugoslavia, thereby allowing all the states in the region to focus on their future.
It will enable Serbia, in particular, to move beyond the tragic and bitter legacy of
the Milosevic era.

Kosovo's independence is a legitimate, fair and lawful outcome. While some
have argued that independence would be a precedent for other separatist
movements, we reject this notion completely. As with solutions to the other
conflicts related to Yugoslavia's collapse, the Ahtisaari proposals are tailored to
local circumstances and bear no relevance to other countries in Europe or other
continents.

The special factors involved in Kosovo -- in particular the non-consensual and
violent breakup of Yugoslavia, Milosevic's policy of ethnic cleansing, NATO's
decision to intervene, and the UN Security Council's decision that placed Kosovo
under UN administration and envisioned a UN-facilitated political process to
decide status -- are found nowhere else and are unlikely to be duplicated. I
would add that the UN Security Council, beginning with the extraordinary
actions it took in 1999, has already been treating Kosovo as a special case for
many years. Although separatists elsewhere may seek to link their cause with
Kosovo, we know of no situation that is comparable and expect that all
responsible governments will reject such comparisons.

Bringing about Independence

We are now engaged in a period of intense diplomacy to bring about Kosovo's
independence as soon as possible, on the basis of the United Nations
recommendations. Led by the President and Secretary Rice, we have begun a
period of intensive consultations with our partners in the Contact Group, the UN
Security Council and the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia.

We are working closely with NATO and the European Union, whose members
agree with us that independence for Kosovo is the only viable outcome. The
United States, NATO, and the EU have invested enormous political, economic
and military resources in Kosovo and the region -- we have the most significant
equities at stake and therefore are most committed to seeing this process
through.

The UN Security Council has already begun discussing President Ahtisaari's
recommendations. In the coming weeks, the U.S. will sponsor a new Security
Council resolution to replace resolution 1244, which established the current
regime of international administration over Kosovo. This resolution will not
actually confer independence on Kosovo. Rather, it will remove political and
legal impediments to independence, as well as provide mandates for Kosovo’s
post-status international supervision under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. We
expect that Kosovo’s leaders will subsequently declare their independence. The
U.S. and other countries will then recognize the new state. Our goal is to bring
the Kosovo status process to a timely and successful conclusion by the end of
this spring. We believe that the Security Council will recognize that President
Ahtisaari's proposals represent the best chance to achieve a sustainable
solution.

We have begun a series of discussions with the Russian government to
encourage it to support this process, or at a minimum, not to block it. I met with
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Titov in New York two weeks ago to review the
Ahtisaari plan and will see him again in Europe next week. I made two principal
arguments to Minister Titov. First, I pointed out that it has been the U.S. and
Europe which have made, by far, the greatest commitment of troops, money and
political involvement in Kosovo for eight years. It is our troops who will have to
cope with the inevitable disturbances if independence is deferred by the Security
Council. Therefore, the U.S. and Europe hope Russia will choose to work
together cooperatively to maintain stability and peace in the region, which we
believe will be realized best by a positive UN Security Council resolution.
Second, any attempt to block Kosovo’s independence will not succeed as
Kosovo’s independence is now, we believe, inevitable.

Need to Act Now

We cannot afford to wait any longer. Until there is clarity, Kosovo's undefined
status will be a source of increasing tension and instability. Already, Kosovo's
lack of status has blocked it from accessing badly-needed International
Financial Institution lending and discouraged foreign investment. The prolonged
period of UN administration has prevented Kosovo from assuming full
ownership of its democratic institutions. Most seriously, Kosovo's people have
been in state of limbo, not knowing for nearly a decade which country they
would ultimately call home. Its ethnic communities have been denied a clear
foundation on which to reconcile and build new relationships.

Our judgment is that further delays would worsen this situation, thereby
strengthening the hand of extremists on all sides who would seek to exploit the
rising frustrations of the people. In fact, we believe the risk of violence is far
greater if we delay Kosovo’s independence than if we decide it soon. Most
experts believe that Southeastern Europe could descend into new war and ethnic
conflict, threatening both the United Nations and NATO personnel deployed in
Kosovo, if the dream of Kosovo’s independence is deferred.

While the vast majority of countries that know Kosovo well support the road to
independence, some, like Russia, have called for yet more rounds of
negotiations between the parties. President Ahtisaari has concluded, however,
based on his experience in the Vienna negotiations, that this is just not
possible. He believes that a continuation of the talks, in whatever format and for
however long a duration, would not bridge the fundamental gap in the parties'
positions. We agree.

To continue this process indefinitely -- to restart the talks, reopen Ahtisaari's
recommendations or otherwise delay resolution of status -- would make it
harder, not easier, to find a sustainable outcome. We could see the unraveling of
the many painful compromises made during the talks. We believe that those
calling for such an extension are less interested in finding an acceptable
common ground than in thwarting the desires of the majority of Kosovo's
people.

We must not allow this to happen. After so many years of uncertainty, the
people of Kosovo and the region have a right to know what their future will be.
The credibility of the international community -- particularly the United Nations,
which has a legitimate and longstanding role to address situations like Kosovo
-- is at stake. We must act now.

Our Vision for Kosovo

Our vision for Kosovo is of a democratic, peaceful, multi-ethnic state on an
irrevocable path to membership in NATO and the European Union.

Since 1999, Kosovo has made substantial progress recovering from war. Under
UN tutelage, it now has a functional government, has conducted free and fair
elections and operates a professional and multi-ethnic police force. The society
has moved forward.

But we want to see greater progress in one key area: the protection of Kosovo's
ethnic minorities. Kosovo's Serbs continue to face harassment and
discrimination. This is unacceptable.

I have visited with minority communities and their representatives in Kosovo
many times. In October 2005, I visited a group of Serb families in the town of
Obilic, many of whom had been forced from their homes during the March 2004
unrest. One older couple had built their home in this historic town in the early
1960’s. While their children had moved permanently to Serbia, they wish to stay
in Obilic. They often feel threatened by their Kosovar Albanian neighbors.
Surely, they must be given the right and opportunity to stay. Their stories of
struggle and desire to live in peace made it evident to me that more must be
done to protect these vulnerable populations.

Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku and President Fatmir Sejdiu have sought
admirably to reach out to all of Kosovo’s ethnic groups and in the last six
months they have achieved real progress on many of the most important priority
Standards. Much more remains to be done. All of Kosovo's leaders have a heavy
and urgent responsibility to address these problems. They must do more to
protect the rights, security and property of Kosovo's minorities, as well as rein
in extremists and prevent social instability.

U.S. officials have conveyed these messages to Kosovar Albanian leaders at
every opportunity.

I met with the Kosovar Albanian leadership just last week in New York at the
Rockefeller Estate. I told them that independence would be a hollow victory if
they are not able to build a more stable and democratic Kosovo. I believe they
are committed to the goals of both independence and protection of minority
rights. President Sejdiu and Prime Minister Ceku, in particular, understand that
the U.S. and United Nations will accept nothing less.

The Ahtisaari Settlement

Fortunately, Kosovo already has a roadmap for building a better society: the
recommendations of President Ahtisaari. During more than a year of
negotiations, President Ahtisaari has sought compromises between the parties
on many issues important to Kosovo's future, particularly the protection of
Kosovo's Serbs.

President Ahtisaari brought the parties together to discuss decentralization of
local government, constitutional protections for ethnic minorities, economic
issues and the protection of cultural heritage. Secretary's Rice's Representative
to the Kosovo Status Talks, the retired U.S. ambassador Frank Wisner,
participated in many of these discussions and encouraged the parties to be
flexible. Ambassador Wisner, an extremely distinguished and gifted diplomat,
traveled to the region repeatedly to help bring the parties closer together on the
issues. Calling upon his great experience in world affairs, he supported
President Ahtisaari's work and played an important role in advancing the status
process.

Although the Serbian side did not engage constructively in many of the
discussions, President Ahtisaari was still able to identify significant overlap in
the parties' positions. Based upon the proposals submitted by both sides and
drawing upon his significant experience mediating other difficult international
conflicts, President Ahtisaari has proposed a comprehensive set of governing
arrangements for Kosovo. At the heart of his Settlement lies the need to make
real, immediate improvements in the lives of Kosovo's minority communities.
For example, he proposes mechanisms to ensure minority participation in
institutions, enhance the rule of law, protect holy sites and give local
communities greater say in their municipal governance.

President Ahtisaari's Settlement will provide a foundation for Serbs and
Albanians to build new relationships based on trust and cooperation. His
proposal for supervised independence constitutes a grand compromise between
unqualified independence and return to an impossible status quo ante. As with
any good compromise, neither side is completely happy with all these
arrangements. I am pleased, however, that the Kosovo Assembly -- by a vote of
one hundred to one -- has already committed to implement fully President
Ahtisaari's Settlement. This vote was a sign of great maturity.

International Presence (ICO/ESDP/KFOR)

The United States recognizes, however, that an independent Kosovo will face
enormous challenges. Its new institutions are weak, lacking the ability to fight
corruption, organized crime and ethnically-motivated violence. Kosovo will need
help implementing the arrangements President Ahtisaari has proposed.

Recognizing this situation, President Ahtisaari has recommended a period of
strong supervision of Kosovo's independence by the international community.
International civilian and military presences will remain in Kosovo for a short
period to oversee implementation of the Settlement and provide for a safe and
secure environment.

The United States will participate in the establishment of a new International
Civilian Office in Kosovo, which President Ahtisaari has proposed to supervise
implementation of the Settlement. This office will be led by a senior European
official, with an American as his or her deputy. The head of the office will have
executive powers to overturn laws, remove officials or take other action to
ensure the Settlement is implemented. He or she will report to an International
Steering Group composed of the current members of the Contact Group: France,
Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, United States and Russia, as well as
representatives of NATO and the EU. A joint U.S./EU advance team has been on
the ground in Pristina for months coordinating the post-status transition with
local and international officials.

A separate EU Security and Defense Policy Rule of Law Mission will be deployed
to Kosovo to focus on the police and justice sectors. This mission will also have
executive powers to carry out some of the most sensitive law enforcement
functions, like war crimes investigations and the fight against organized crime.
It will also focus on building the capacity of the Kosovo Police Service and
judiciary, so that these institutions may some day take over all responsibilities
from the international community.

NATO, which has been the prime stabilizing factor in Kosovo and the region, will
remain. The NATO-led Kosovo Force, which currently numbers approximately
16,000 troops -- including about 1,600 U.S. National Guard soldiers -- will
continue to provide security. NATO will also supervise the establishment of a
small, lightly-armed Kosovo Security Force. Development of the Kosovo Security
Force will be important for hastening the day when Kosovo can provide its own
security and NATO can draw down its forces from the region.

Economy

Kosovo's independence will not be sustainable unless we move quickly to spur
economic development. The years of conflict and uncertainty have ruined the
Kosovo economy. Unemployment in Kosovo is high, direct investment is minimal
and Kosovo's infrastructure is poor

To help Kosovo with its immediate development needs, the World Bank and the
European Commission are planning a major Donors Conference. The
Administration is prepared to make a sizeable contribution to this effort. The
President’s 2007 Supplemental Budget requested $279 million for U.S. foreign
assistance in Kosovo. $151 million is requested in the President’s 2008 Budget,
Together, these budgets amount to approximately 22-25% of the anticipated
international contribution.

A large percentage of this assistance will be dedicated to manage Kosovo's
share of Serbia’s debt. This is critical to ensure that Kosovo does not begin its
life as an independent state with a crushing debt burden. We will also assist in
projects to tap Kosovo's economic potential, particularly in the energy sector.

Serbia

As we move to the conclusion of the Kosovo status process, we must look
comprehensively at the entire region, particularly to the future of Serbia. Serbia,
a friend and ally of the United States in two world wars, is of immense regional
importance. The Milosevic era of the last fifteen years was a tragic anomaly in
our long history of warm relations. Now, however, the people of Serbia are
charting a new course for their country, a path of integration and normal
relations with their neighbors. After having rejected Milosevic's policies of
nationalism and division, Serbia seeks to return back to the European
mainstream.

Today's leaders in Serbia oppose the independence of Kosovo. Many of them
feel they are being punished for the crimes of a previous regime. It is true that
Serbia today is much different from the country of Milosevic. Although Serbia's
current leaders did not perpetrate his crimes, they do have a historic and moral
responsibility to deal with the legacy of its past. We are encouraging Belgrade to
leave the baggage of the Milosevic era behind as it walks through the door to
the Euro-Atlantic community. First, Serbia needs to meet its international
obligation to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia. Cooperation with the ICTY -- in particular, the apprehension
of indicted war criminal Ratko Mladic -- is of great importance to the
normalization of Serbia's relation to the world.

But Serbia also has responsibilities with respect to Kosovo. We strongly
encourage Serbia to support implementation of the Ahtisaari Settlement, in
particular by encouraging Kosovo Serbs to take advantage of its broad and far-
reaching provisions. President Ahtisaari went to great lengths to address
Belgrade's legitimate interests in Kosovo. We also look to Serbia to establish
normal political and economic relations with Kosovo, just as it has with the
other successor states to the former Yugoslavia.

The United States believes that Serbia has a bright future, one that includes
greater integration into the Euro-Atlantic community, rapidly escalating private
investment, job growth, and more social and economic interaction with its
neighbors. U.S. businessmen have a nose for detecting future trends -- and,
after only a few years of activity, now are the second largest group of foreign
investors in Serbia, with over $1.3 billion invested in a wide variety of activities,
from manufacturing to media to banking.

The United States will encourage our partners in both the EU and NATO to do
more to recognize Serbia's potential and accelerate its Euro-Atlantic integration.
For example, last fall, at the NATO Riga Summit, we supported Serbia's entry
into the Partnership for Peace program. We already have substantial assistance
programs underway in Serbia, and we are considering doing more, consistent
with current legislative restrictions. The next few months will be difficult but we
and our European friends will continue to help the Serbian leadership stay on
track, keep focused on a brighter future and bring their society closer to the
Euro-Atlantic family of democracies.

Conclusion

This is the American vision for Southeastern Europe. This vision, however,
cannot be realized until both Kosovo and Serbia move beyond the conflicts of
the past and set themselves on an irrevocable path to the European Union and
NATO. Therefore, we must act now to solve the last major issue related to
Yugoslavia's bloody collapse.

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, with the resolution of Kosovo’s
status, the region of Southeastern Europe is poised to enter a new chapter, one
that provides a better future for its people. The United States, which has played
the central role in bringing peace to this region, is absolutely committed to
bringing about Kosovo's independence. With your support, I believe we are
capable of achieving a historic, bipartisan success for U.S. foreign policy.



Released on April 17, 2007

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