Kosovo's Not Ready for Independence

Published on August 3, 2006, The Wall Street Journal

Category: Violence Against Christian Serbs and Their Holy Places

Morton Abramowitz and Mark L. Schneider astutely opine that Kosovo's Muslim Albanians must reach out "even more to Kosovo's Serbs on issues of decentralization, protection for monasteries and refugee return" prior to any decision regarding Kosovo's future status ("Balkan Choice," editorial features, July 25). While Messrs. Abramowitz and Schneider correctly recognize the Kosovar Albanian leadership's lack of progress in rectifying these problems via provisional institutions, they mistakenly assume that an independent Kosovo is not only inevitable, but beneficial to Europe.

As I recently stated during testimony before the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the situation of religious freedom in Kosovo has deteriorated to an utterly intolerable condition under accepted international standards since the United Nations administration of the Serbian province began in 1999 and Kosovo's provisional government developed. Not only have none of the churches in Kosovo destroyed during the March 2004 pogrom against Christians been restored. The number of mosques throughout Kosovo has grown significantly with funding from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states infamous for exporting extremist religious ideology, which proudly demonstrate with plaques on these mosques their contributions to the spread of religion-based terror. Although many mosques are empty, such a process of remapping the historical religious landscape of Kosovo in and of itself has serious symbolic and perilous political repercussions for the security environment of the entire region.

Clearly, the problem of internally displaced persons, the incapacity of Kosovar provisional institutions to prevent violence, and the gross mistreatment of religious minorities by legislative and other socio-political means by current Kosovo institutions demonstrate the lack of democratic infrastructure that would prevent the region from further collapsing into the very ethnic and religious violence that the international community initially intervened to stop. Quite simply, Europe cannot afford a failed state, nor should the demands of Kosovo's Muslim Albanian leadership force an unnecessary and ill-conceived independence -- particularly one built on a foundation of the threat of violence.

As talks on the future status of Kosovo continue, the need to examine the record of political and social developments in the province to determine the level of preparation of Kosovo for either autonomous or independent government is most urgent. Until the end of ethnic and religious violence perpetrated against Christians and ethnic minorities, especially Serbs, is guaranteed, the independence of Kosovo cannot and must not be an option.

Joseph K. Grieboski
Founder and President
Institute of Religion and Public Policy

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