Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, says Kosovo should become an independent state provided it guarantees the safety of minority Serbs as well as the security of Serbian religious and cultural monuments. Mr. Holbrooke spoke with Eurasian correspondent Jaroslaw Enders.
Mr. Holbrooke says Kosovo will become independent only if the government led by ethnic Albanians gives ironclad guarantees to the Serb minority. The Albanians, he says, have been making things harder for themselves by being aggressive towards the Serb minority. The Albanians need to recognize, he says, that they cannot drive the remaining Serbs out of Kosovo.
"It is obvious to anyone who has been in Kosovo and visited the religious monuments, that, like in Jerusalem, two different, ancient cultures coexisted on the same land and must continue to find a way to do so," Mr. Holbrooke says.
Kosovo is nominally still a province of Serbia. It has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 when a NATO military campaign on behalf of oppressed Albanians forced Serbian troops to withdraw. The United Nations is in the process of starting negotiations aimed at determining Kosovo's final status. Those talks could be completed by the middle of next year.
Mr. Holbrooke was the principal negotiator in drafting the 1995 Dayton accord that ended the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, another constituent part of the former Yugoslavia. While advocating eventual membership for all of the former Yugoslav republics in the European Union, Mr. Holbrooke says, with the notable exception of Slovenia, which has already joined, none of the western Balkan states are currently ready for membership.
"The European Union is an organization of states with common standards and values," Mr. Holbrooke says. "And that is not true in Serbia, that's not true in Bosnia, that's not true in Croatia. As long as things like Kosovo are unresolved, as long as the Serbs are behaving the way they behave in various parts of the Balkans, as long as a country exists called Serbia and Montenegro, a country that exists only on paper and does not function as a country, the European Union would be taking a serious risk in bringing (such) places in."
But Mr. Holbrooke says he hopes all of the Balkan nations will one day join the E.U.