A senior Bush administration official Wednesday expressed satisfaction
with Kosovo's progress since its independence in February. But
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Dan Fried says
challenges remain for the former Serbian province, including
ethnic-Serb thuggery. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State
The State Department's top European affairs expert
says the relative quiet and political success of Kosovo since February
has silenced critics who forecast dire scenarios for the region,
including ethnic violence and refugee flows.
Secretary Fried acknowledges continued challenges for the fledgling
state, including a still-lagging economy, a restive Serb minority in
the north, and political thuggery he says may be inspired by some
officials in Belgrade.
The majority-ethnic Albanian former Serb
province, which had been administered by the United Nations since 1999,
declared its independence in February over the strong objections of
Serbia and its main diplomatic ally Russia.
In a talk with
reporters, Fried said an independent Kosovo has now been recognized by
43 countries including along with the United States most of Europe and
a majority of U.N. Security Council members.
he rejected the notion that Russia's refusal to recognize Kosovo, and
by extension its refusal to allow recognition by the Security Council,
dooms Kosovo to semi-statehood.
"It is a completely-independent
country, whether or not there is a U.N. resolution that says so. It is
independent," Fried said. "It's been recognized as independent by
two-thirds, of Europe, Japan, Australia. It is an independent country.
I regret very much that Russia chose to make this harder rather than
easier, and thereby making it harder risks stability, and making it
harder put as risk Serbia's European future. It was not helpful."
said he hopes that with time, Moscow will become less strident and
obstructionist over Kosovo and will not try to prevent the new moderate
government in Belgrade from pursuing what he called a European future.
dismissed, as having no legal status, the separate parliament declared
by ethnic-Serbs in northern Kosovo late last month. He said many
Kosovar Serbs are prepared to accept the new political reality but are
afraid to say so - intimidated by what he said is rampant thuggery by
Serb extremists, some of whom cross into Kosovo from Serbia.
have Serbs coming over, and it is sometimes hard to tell whether
they're sort of private nationalists, semi-connected with the
government, or official," Fried said. "There seem to be some of all of
them, and the Serbs should not be sending over, or supporting thuggery.
That's not responsible. And we hope the new government will act in a
Fried said the United States will commit $400
million in aid over the next four years at a donors' conference for
Kosovo being convened by the European Union late next week.
said he expects the conference to raise more than one billion dollars
overall to help boost the economy of the new state, which is one of the
poorest parts of Europe with an unemployment rate about 40 percent.