No false choice for Serbia

Published on June 3, 2008, The Diocese of Ras-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija

Category: News from the American Council for Kosovo

It is inaccurate to portray the recent election in Serbia as a choice between "fervent nationalist and anti-Western" hostility to the European Union, supposedly represented by former Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Radical Party leader Tomislav Nikolic, and a "progressive," pro-Western course in the person of President Boris Tadic ("Serbia's mighty challenge," Editorial, May 16).

Not a single party participating in the election opposes the European Union. As Mr. Nikolic wrote in a recent Op-Ed in The Washington Times ("Serbia goes to the polls," May 9), the real choice before Serbian voters was whether the "rule of law, European integration and economic liberalization [must] go hand-in-hand with Serbia's legitimate national interests," versus choosing "an illusion of faster integration promised by other parties" — such as Mr. Tadic's — "that would undermine Serbia's territorial integrity." Mr. Nikolic and Mr. Kostunica simply insist that European integration must be consistent with international standards affirming the inviolability of Serbia's entire sovereign territory, including the province of Kosovo. This is hardly "ultranationalism."

Claims of ethnic cleansing against Albanians in the 1990s do not justify separating Kosovo from today's democratic Serbia. The terror campaign directed at Kosovo's Christian Serbs both before and after the 1999 war is only the culmination of decades, even centuries, of violence perpetrated by Muslim Albanians under the sponsorship of Ottoman Turks, the Axis powers during World War II, the postwar communist regime of Josip Broz Tito and now NATO. Theresulting preponderance of Albanians in Kosovo resulting from terrorism is neither a legal nor moral justification for secession.

The Times is correct that the status of Kosovo was not resolved by recognition of its supposed independence by the United States and a few of our allies. Rather than futilely trying to force an illegal solution to a complex problem, the Bush administration — or its successor — should heed the recent call by Russia, China and India for resumed negotiations for a settlement consistent with accepted principles of international law.

A coalition among Serbian parties committed to that outcome would not be extremist, just patriotic and principled. If someday our country faces a similar challenge, I hope Americans would feel the same way.

JAMES GEORGE JATRAS

Director

American Council for Kosovo
Washington


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