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Healing Kosovo

ICC Note:
This editorial highlights that international efforts to rebuild Kosovo will directly effect the relationship between Muslims and Christians throughout Europe. This is because of the efforts of Islamic militants to take hold of Kosovo and chase out the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The Boston Globe
International Herald Tribune (11/05/06) – The war that drove the Serbian forces of Slobodan Milosevic out of Kosovo seven years ago is not much remembered today, but the nation- building mission international actors have undertaken in that breakaway region of Serbia is now approaching a fateful turning point. Getting Kosovo’s future right is crucial for stability in the Balkans, for the process of European Union enlargement, and for relations among Muslims and Christians across the continent. What happens to Kosovo may also influence ethnic minorities in multiethnic states such as Russia, Iraq and Sri Lanka who form a majority in one region and want to secede and become a majority in a new independent state.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, is poised to present a proposal on the region’s final status that is likely to leave maximalists among both Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority and its Serb minority dissatisfied. Even the timing of Ahtisaari’s presentation is controversial, with some EU representatives wanting to delay it until after elections in Serbia that are expected before the end of the year. The logic of such a delay is politically sound. It assumes that even a protracted UN-backed process leading to some form of independence for Kosovo will provoke voters in Serbia to support hard-line nationalists in the forthcoming elections.

So it makes sense to wait a month or two before undraping a final- status plan for Kosovo that both Albanian Kosovars and Serbs will see as an imposed solution. With so much invested in the rehabilitation of Kosovo, care must be taken to prevent political passions from wrecking the construction of a peaceful and stable Kosovo.

Toward that end, a successful UN prescription for Kosovo ought to include strong guarantees of minority rights. This will be crucial. The new Kosovo will have to be constructed as a multiethnic state in which not only Serbs but Bosnian Muslims, Turks and other minorities are protected. To answer the anxieties of Serbs who are concentrated in the north of Kosovo, the new state must also be truly decentralized. And there must be cooperation with the Serbian Orthodox Church in safeguarding religious and historical sites in Kosovo that are cherished by Serbs everywhere.