The Serbs' case for Kosovo

Published on April 3, 2007,

Category: Violence Against Christian Serbs and Their Holy Places

Stability, security cited as arguments against independence

For the record... Jasmina Boulanger, president of the Serbian Unity Congress

INTERVIEW. If Kosovo wants independence, it's going to have to go through Serbs to do it.

And the Serbs aren't budging.

Last week, Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku pleaded with Kosovo Serbs to accept a United Nations proposal calling for U.N. supervised independence for Kosovo — with full independence from Serbia possible at a later date. U.N. Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, who drafted the proposal, said last week that "the only viable option for Kosovo is independence." However, despite full NATO support for the plan, Serbia wants Kosovo to remain within its borders and has cited concern about the welfare of Kosovo Serbs.

After the former Yugo-slavia's bloody 18-month crackdown against Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian community and a 78-day NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 that left an estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians and 1,000 Serbs dead, Kosovo Serbs became the target of reprisals that forced 200,000 of them to flee.

Jasmina Boulanger, president of the California-based Serbian Unity Congress, says that despite concessions within Ahtisaari's plan that would let minority Serbs govern their own affairs, she fears that worse attacks could transpire if Kosovo independence comes to fruition.

What makes Kosovo so important to the Serbs?

This is our soul. It has been part of Serbia for more than 800 years.

It is like our Alamo or our Jerusalem. It is the cradle of our nation. To have the United Nations and the West come in and redraw boundaries, that's how World War II was started.

The one thing that seems to bind Serbians and ethnic Albanians is a distrust of the United Nations and Ahtisaari's plan. Where does that distrust come from?

I share that distrust as an American. They're the people who gave us oil for food. They're not being an unbiased broker in Kosovo and they're presenting a one-sided solution.

What would happen if full independence was achieved and the U.N. and NATO's Kosovo Force pulled out?

If the U.N. and KFOR were gone — not that they were good at protecting the Serbs in Kosovo anyway — it would not be good. Three years ago, there was a three-day outburst of violence in which churches were attacked. I think we'd see much more of that. Serbs in Kosovo are facing genocide if independence is declared. They will be dispossessed and you will see 250,000 refugees from ethnic and religious conflict.

The Ahtisaari plan provides for autonomy and protection for majority-Serbian communities within Kosovo and proposes a strong role for those communities in the new Kosovo government. Will that help?

The problem with the places in Kosovo where Serbs are in the majority are that you have to get there. You can't go in a car with Serbian license plates because you may be attacked. There is little continuity to the areas that the State Department has called "municipalities." You have Serbs living in enclaves surrounded by barbed wire and KFOR. There are almost no Serbs at all in the capital of Pristina. Monks can't leave their monasteries without escorts and their monasteries get hit with grenades. It's very rough.

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