Still Troubled After All These Years
Published: March 3, 2005
According to the timetable established by the Security Council, an international review this summer is supposed to determine whether the troubled Kosovo region has reached sufficient standards of governance and interethnic harmony to start talks on independence. It has not. The government is headed by a former guerrilla leader suspected of war crimes, and less than a year ago, Albanians went on an anti-Serb rampage that left 19 dead and 900 wounded.
After the NATO air campaign in 1999, which drove Serbian forces from Kosovo, successive United Nations administrators avoided defining Kosovo's status. Then in 2002, the United Nations laid down the "standards before status" policy, under which Kosovo was to meet certain standards of democracy and behavior before talk of independence began. But the Serb population boycotted the provincial government, while the majority Albanians failed to seize the chance to show they can govern.
With the summer deadline looming, Soren Jessen-Petersen, the U.N. envoy, told the Security Council last week that it was time to set a clear timetable on Kosovo's status. He's off base. The situation in Kosovo and Serbia is not what it was at the end of the war. Slobodan Milosevic no longer wields tyrannical power; he's a prisoner in the Hague. The Kosovo Albanians, meanwhile, have trampled the rights of the Serb minority.
Under such conditions, setting an independence timetable would reward bad faith. The six-nation contact group - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia - should forcefully set out what Kosovo needs to accomplish. Work should begin immediately on a settlement, which would, at least temporarily, include a semiautonomous zone for the Serbs. That would choke off the Serb minority's hopes of seizing control again. The Albanians should need no further incentive to behave properly.
The West belatedly took the lead in halting Serb atrocities. It would be a shame if it now allowed Kosovo to go from a region in which Serbs persecuted Albanians to a troubled microstate in which Albanians persecute Serbs.