Serbia's people should not be punished for the Milosevic era

Published on January 10, 2007, The Financial Times

Category: Organized Crime in Kosovo

By Slobodan Samardzic

From Mr Slobodan Samardzic.

Sir, Joseph Biden ("Opponents of a new Kosovo must be stopped", January 3) is right to suggest that "stability in south-east Europe would be a welcome bit of good news". But Senator Biden's position on Kosovo reflects a disappointing lack of appreciation for both international law and the progress of Serbian democracy since the Milosevic era.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) explicitly confirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia. This resolution also envisioned Kosovo realising its autonomy within Serbia, which Serbia is determined to achieve as we seek a European model of autonomy for Kosovo. The Serbian government is actively involved in negotiations towards a solution for Kosovo that respects international law and the United Nations, which Senator's Biden's proposal does not.

Serbia's historic transition to democracy since October 2000 is already the good news story in the Balkans. On the other hand, the world has witnessed the lack of democracy and human rights in Kosovo during this same period. I am puzzled by Mr Biden's assertion that independence for Kosovo - though a weak, corrupt and potentially failed state - would somehow enhance regional stability in the Balkans. This is not explained. Many European countries and analysts fear such a scenario.

Senator Biden's attack on Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is unfair. Mr Kostunica, a lifelong leader of the democratic political opposition in Serbia, defeated Slobodan Milosevic for the Serb presidency in 2000. The people and government of Serbia today should not be punished for events that took place in Serbia and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s during the Milosevic era.

If "bad news" out of the Balkans is to be avoided, any decision on Kosovo's final status must be negotiated with Belgrade and its democratically elected government. If damage to the credibility of the international system is to be avoided, any agreement on Kosovo's future status must be reached in a way that neither violates international law nor undermines the UN.

Slobodan Samardzic,

Co-ordinator of the Serbian Negotiation Team,

Belgrade, Serbia

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