Kosovo and Southeastern Europe: Prospects for Stability, Peace, and Reconstruction
His Excellency Eduard Kukan
Foreign Minister of Slovakia
PROGRESS IN THE BALKANS
One year after the intervention of the international community, the events in Kosovo and Southeastern Europe are still the focus of attention for international organizations, government representatives from many countries, journalists, and people in general. If I may speak directly, a year ago I expected that by today we would have made greater progress. At the same time, I would like to emphasize that, as I am convinced, my expectations had not been exaggerated or uncritical. I trust that I do not need to emphasize the fact that in no way did I expect to see a final resolution of the conflict. It was evident from the outset that this would be a long-term process, requiring perhaps decades of patient work to build trust in the region. However, I believe that there has been little progress in building trust and tolerance. The last 12 months have not brought new hope for the peaceful coexistence of all nations and ethnic groups in Kosovo and the wider region of the western Balkans. I see considerable room for improvement in this process.
Above all, I regret that the involvement of the international community was not presented clearly as an operation whose primary aim was to restore normal conditions in the region. We succumbed to the medias interpretation of the crisis situation and their emphasis on those against whom the air strikes were aimedthe Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. To do full justice to the media, I must say that, to a certain extent, this image was suggested to them by us, the politicians. However, after the air strikes were concluded, we probably should have diverted our attentionuntil then focused exclusively on the need to protect the groups that were the most hard hit by the Yugoslav regimeto the future, to the need for tolerance, and the need for the existence of ethnic groups. We should have made it clear that the international community was present in the region to restore general order. It is a paradox that, despite a strong military presence, this has not been achieved. Also in this situation, we demonstrate strength and determination, as well as impartiality.
We are all concerned with the implementation of fundamental democratic principles, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. We have not, unfortunately, progressed very far in this effort. We have not succeeded in suppressing the conviction of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo that they have a right to retribution. Indeed, not only non-Albanian ethnic groups in Kosovo, but even international peacekeeping units have been threatened in the past few months. The reason the international peacekeepers were attacked was because of their endeavors to prevent pointless revenge and childish provocations. The consequences of such actions could be very serious; I have to ask myself whether the Kosovar Albanians understand the aims and the raison dêtre of the international communitys presence. It is unacceptable to use the support of a majority of the world community to implement aims that do not provide for a balanced and justly organized Kosovo based on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244. I feel that the time is ripe to send them a clear message with this content. A part of the responsibility for peace in the Balkans also lies with them.
Having said that a majority of the world community supports the Kosovar Albanians, it is also necessary to point out that this is primarily because they are victims of the Milosevic regime. I would be very glad if they did not waste the capital they gained through distress. Anger and hatred are bad counselors, as suggested by the fate of Slobodan Milosevic and his policies.
THE COMING ELECTIONS
The date of the autumn local elections in Kosovo grows closer; I would like to believe that these elections will create space for the democratic struggle of democratic forces. I do believe that those who will participate in the elections already recognize how serious and momentous those elections will be for them. However, the elections may also lead to a rise in tension or even open conflict. The election campaign, the election process, and the developments immediately following the elections will reveal a great deal about the future stability of the entire region.
We all hope, however, that the elections will be fair and that they will bring results that create conditions for peace and calm. This will require the highest election turnout possible of all those who have the right to decide on the future. Many of these people live away from their homes in Kosovo; unbearable conditions forced them out, but the right to decide on future development cannot be taken from them. In many respects, these will be atypical and unusual elections.
Many Kosovar Albanian leaders subscribe to the idea of an independent Kosovo. This theme will certainly be one of the central issues of the election campaign. I openly admit that I am not an advocate of this idea, and I say this as a citizen of a country that was given birth by the dissolution of the former Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. However, this was a peaceful separation that resulted in the establishment of peaceful relations, and I especially wish to emphasize the adjective peaceful. I am afraid that independence cannot be achieved peacefully if it is not possible to count upon at least a general agreement among all parties to the event. In the case of Kosovo, it can be said almost with certainty that no agreement can be achieved thereat least, not at present. People in the region have suffered too much evil and too much pain to rise above it. I would like to be wrong, but I feel there is too much emotion and not enough pragmatism.
It is said that time heals all wounds, and this may be the case in Kosovo. The model of separation from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, however, would not lead to the definitive restoration of stability and peace, a view that some Kosovar Albanian leaders are trying to present. It appears that the new model of arranging relations in the region is inevitable, but the creation of an independent Kosovo would actually be the exact opposite of the situation that existed before Allied intervention. There is always a wide spectrum of compromise solutions between extremes, and only these can bring peace and stability. The aim should not be victory, which only sows the seeds of revenge and for the regaining of lost positions by the defeated. Responsibility should be the fundamental sentiment underlying all actions made by the representatives of all the interested parties in the continuing Kosovo conflict.
It is unfortunate that Kosovar Albanians feel they must subscribe to the idea of independence. It is also unfortunate that Kosovo Serbs question their further participation in the AIC, making it possible that this community will not even take part in the elections. If they do not participate, there will be very negative consequences, especially for themselves; it will be unfortunate if the Serb element is nowhere to be seen. If we are to continue in the normalization of relations, it is necessary to understand the distribution of power, and I believe that rational consideration will triumph over emotional pressure. I would be very glad if the electorate firmly rejected extremist forces and did not yield to cheap demagoguery; but this is difficult, as we have seen demonstrated many times in post-Communist countries, including the Slovak Republic. Several elections have taken place over the past ten years in our country during which the people have gained necessary insight into the true nature of the political struggle and learned how to distinguish between sincere endeavors for the public good and the pursuit of individuals personal interests. I very much hope that the price of imprudence in Kosovo will be minimal and that the political responsibility of its leaders will triumph.
PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF THE ELECTIONS
The question of elections is also being hotly disputed in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a whole. Reports from Belgrade tell of the efforts of the opposition to set a date for early elections; however they are not able to muster the necessary pressure to attain this goal. It seems that the Otpor movement has knocked Mr. Milosevic off-balance. It provides new hope and a road to success. Student movements have played a very significant role in the historical development of many countries. In the former Czechoslovakia they made the older generation take a hard look at themselves, and saw an unflattering picture.
The inability to set a new date is also a clear signal to the representatives of all opposition parties. There is something in their approach that is being rejected by the public. People tend to concentrate on individual leaders, with their respective assets and shortcomings, rather than on the goals these leaders wish to achieve. The people see that there are too many of these leaders, that they have differing concepts of the countrys future, and that they have conflicting values that cause divisions though they speak of unity. The entire population wants the situation to improve, and the majority of people are in favor of a change in regime. It seems that all of the fundamental conditions for change are there. What was missing in Serbia, however, were clear and sincere ideals and the necessary will and enthusiasm for change that would appeal to all citizens, even though not everybody would engage on the same level. The young generation has the potential to spread the message that change must come, and I believe that the time for this has arrived.
INDEPENDENCE AND MONTENEGRO
Although I have already mentioned the question of independence, I must return to it in connection with Montenegro. I admit that I am concerned about the process of separation and fragmentation that is taking place throughout the world in parallel with globalization. We all probably perceive a certain contradiction between these two processes. This, however, is only an apparent contradiction, as globalization brings about more information and a greater awareness of cultural and other differences, which are thus enhanced. However, the gaining of independence by Montenegro would not fit into this context. It would be strange if independence were to come about simply as a reaction to what I hope will be only a short-term crisis between two entities of a common state. I believe that a settlement within the existing federation, brought about by democratization of the society, would be a better solution because it would revitalize the region.
If my address so far seems to be overly critical, because it largely conveys a feeling of dissatisfaction with developments since the end of the NATO air strikes, let me also emphasize the positive developments since that time. To do that, allow me to switch to another problem that is closely connected with the region of Southeastern Europe. I have in mind the Stability Pact.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE STABILITY PACT
NATO very successfully fulfilled its military objective at the height of the crisis, and is continuing to fulfill it today through KFOR troops, whose role in the area is exceptionally important. After the air strikes were concluded, it was expected that the European Union would make an equally vigorous entry onto the scene. It may surprise you to learn that the developments in connection with the reconstruction of the Balkans fill me with hope, particularly because the amount of resources for project implementation has exceeded our expectations. Though many people are dissatisfied with the pace of implementing the Stability Pactwe would all like to see the first large, tangible result, the first completed projectI recognize that implementation takes time. Earlier in this address I compared time to a healer; however, time can sometimes be the enemy. It shows no mercy, knows no exceptions or concessions. Regretfully, certain civilian structures do not function as effectively and efficiently as those of the military.
I regard recognition of the United Nations role as a positive phenomenon. Precisely at the height of the crisis, many people believed that the U.N. and the international community had failed, and that there was no justification for the U.N.s existence. It is true that the U.N. did not emerge unscathed from the situation. But it is now evident that the global organization is a necessity. Of course, it requires internal reform, and I believe that the calls for such reform will not fade away with the decrease in negative responses to its actions. I equally believe that reforms will not be restricted simply to questions concerning administrative functions, but that problems will be tackled concerning the reappraisal and redefinition of the core values upon which the activities of this organization are based.
RECONSTRUCTION IN THE BALKANS
Southeastern Europe is waiting for outside assistance with economic renewal and the construction of an infrastructure. Donors, however, feel it important to also strengthen democracy, and they wish to dedicate a significant proportion of funds to the construction of democratic institutions and civil society. As has happened in Central and Eastern European countries, we can expect our society to be dissatisfied with the intended use of funds. People may feel that, in the face of a number of social problems, support for, for example, the independent media or non-governmental organizations that desire to engage the public in the solution of local problems is simply a waste of resources. This is not the case, but I do not feel that I have to emphasize and explain this fact at this forum.
The most important point is that the results of the Donors Conference in Brussels reaffirmed the international communitys awareness of its responsibility for the reconstruction of the Balkans. This has made me particularly happy. The fact that the results have exceeded our expectations is wonderful. It fills me with optimism for the Balkans and for all the countries of Southeastern Europe.