In the coming months, a fundamental decision will be made that will challenge the capacity of the international community, particularly Europe, for conflict resolution. The issue is Kosovo’s status – the last unresolved piece of the bloodstained Balkans puzzle. For Serbs and Albanians alike, Kosovo is a place haunted by history. But the world must not allow their freighted narratives about the past to cloud our actions to build a better future.
In the 1990’s, following its atrocities in Bosnia, Slobodan Milosevic’s Serb regime abolished Kosovo’s long-standing autonomy, suppressing the rights of the province’s overwhelming Albanian majority. Instead of simply watching in horror, as it did at the start of the Bosnian war, NATO decided to intervene before Milosevic’s forces could again devastate one of the constituent ethnic groups of the former Yugoslavia. Security of the European Union and Europe’s moral responsibility after the crimes of World War II were at stake.
Following NATO’s intervention, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1244, placing Kosovo under UN administration. Since 1999, the international community’s policies with regard to Kosovo have had wide international support, including from Russia.
Now the time has come to resolve Kosovo’s status permanently. Otherwise, the stability that the UN has brought to Kosovo, and the region, will not last. Unemployment is now running at over 40% in Kosovo and breeds political volatility. Without access to sovereign lending from the World Bank or the IMF, Kosovo’s economy will continue to stagnate.