Friday

18th Oct 2019

Opinion

20 years on: Kosovo is still waiting

Twenty years ago this month, my region was wrought by unspeakable violence and crimes which at the time the world had thought it would never see again.

Nato saved us.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Its intervention between March and June 1999, based not on territorial ambition but on values, made clear that the world would not stand by: Slobodan Milosevic's campaign of ethnic cleansing could not be met with impunity.

It was, as Czech president and tireless peace advocate Vaclav Havel called it, "the first war for values".

The intervention led to the successful return of over one million refugees, and, ultimately, the independence of my country in 2008.

Indeed, Kosovo's very existence is a testament to the engagement and will of the transatlantic community working in partnership, through Nato and the European Union to craft, design and then push a vision for long-lasting peace.

But the Kosovo mission remains unfulfilled.

In a world in turmoil, we are at risk of turning inwards, of seeking out the supposed safety of isolationism, and of ignoring problems which have not yet been completely solved.

Kosovo is one such issue: our attempts to resolve historic disputes with Serbia continue; our efforts to fully integrate with the international community remain unfinished; and our citizens tire of a process that has dragged on for over 20 years.

At a time when the EU is faced with the "EU fatigue" of many of its citizens, us Kosovars seek closer integration.

Our history has taught us that we are stronger together, not apart.

Our political leadership is united in its determination to finish the peace process with Serbia.

We wish to finalise our dialogue with Belgrade, which was started by the EU and supported by the UK, the US, and the rest of the transatlantic community.

We need a comprehensive settlement so we can take our rightful place within the EU as the most pro-Western country in a hitherto unstable region currently threatened by harmful Russian influence. 

Like in all peace talks however, our success requires international engagement.

Joint path to EU membership

We need the international community to lean in, just as it did 20 years ago, and again in 2008, to ensure that Kosovo and Serbia make the necessary steps to achieve a lasting peace, and a joint path to EU membership.

Without clear transatlantic commitment, we are at risk of descending back into a fierce diplomatic battle.

Memories run deep, here in the Balkans, and the UK, the EU, and the US are seen as indispensable partners to ensure that relations with Serbia are fully normalised .

We seek nothing short of victory over toxic nationalism and populism, which has divided the Western Balkans for centuries.

We believe, just as we did when we signed up to the EU-sponsored dialogue process, that through diplomacy and cooperation, we can lay the groundwork for a better future for all our citizens.

Kosovars are young and resourceful; we have so much to contribute to the European project and want to be given the opportunity. 

What does this mean in practice? We want the transatlantic community to signal its unequivocal support for a peaceful settlement through a strong and united engagement.

We want the EU to agree that normalisation requires actions on both sides, and that both Serbia and Kosovo will need to make tough decisions to reach a lasting peace.

We have to use the unique chance president Donald Trump provided to president Hashim Thaci of Kosovo and president Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia to reach a historical deal.

We have to use the legacy chancellor Angela Merkel's direct commitment, when in 2011 she initiated the dialogue process, under the auspices of the EU.

In times of uncertainty this is a chance for all transatlantic partners to unite for the future of Europe, bringing about peace on a continent whole and free. 

As we have said repeatedly: we are ready to show the political courage and vision to come forward with realistic and far-sighted solutions.

Negotiations take two to tango, however, and we cannot negotiate with an empty chair: Serbia must show good will too.

In a world of change, where there is so much to divert us, let us not forget that we have the potential to solve one of Europe's last remaining conflicts.

Let us prove, once and for all, that nations, working together in partnership, can put aside a history of conflict to create a future built on peace and prosperity for all.

Let us finish the task that NATO started 20 years ago today.

Author bio

Behgjet Pacolli is Kosovo's first deputy prime minister & minister of foreign affairs.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Why it's time for the Kosovo Security Force

The Kosovan deputy PM calls on Nato members to follow the US in supporting the enlargement of the Kosovo Securitiy Force. "Kosovo owes it to both its own people and the international community to take this step", Behgjet Pacolli says.

Europe's empty fortress

It is too easy only to criticise the rightists and their fixation with barbed wire, Trump for his wall on the border with Mexico, Orban for his xenophobia.

Catalonia shows dangers of jail terms for non-violence

Time and again, across the world, efforts to "decapitate" non-violent movements, and refusals to engage in political dialogue with them, have led to situations like we are seeing today in Catalonia.

Polish election: analysing why PiS won

Support for democracy was particularly low in Poland with only 19 percent consistently supporting democracy - only Hungary and Bulgaria scored lower.

News in Brief

  1. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  2. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  3. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  4. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  5. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  6. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products
  7. G7: Libra should not operate until all risks addressed
  8. Kurds agree with US-Turkey ceasefire but not safe-zone

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.

Column

The benefits of being unpopular

Paradoxically, the lack of popularity may be part of the strength of the European project. Citizens may not be super-enthusiastic about the EU, but when emotions run too high in politics, hotheads may take over.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us