The Kosovo question | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 25, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 25, 2008

The Kosovo question

KOSOVO'S independence is a triumph of the right of self-determination and freedom. Serbian military and security forces had for years suppressed the freedom movement of the people of Kosovo through one of the worst genocides in history. Following Nato intervention and resistance by the KLA, Serbian military and security forces were forced to withdraw from Kosovo. This was followed by the formation of a United Nations interim government under UN Security Council resolution 1244. The main objective of the UN resolution was to prepare Kosovo for a democratic, multi-religious, multi- ethnic and multi-cultural society, paving the way for resolving its final status. It was clear that Kosovo would not revert back to the rule of Belgrade after the genocide.
Kosovo finally declared its independence through a vote in the elected parliament of the Republic of Kosovo. Mr. Hashim Tachi, a former student leader and brave freedom fighter, became the first prime minister of the Republic of Kosovo.
It was an honour to have been appointed directly by the then UN Secretary General Kofi Anan as his representative in Kosovo from 2000 to 2005. After intensive and prolonged negotiations, I was able to achieve a degree of consensus on vital issues involving creation of a democratic multi-religious and multi-ethnic Mitrovica, which became a model for the rest of Kosovo, through peaceful means with full guarantees to the rights of the minorities, rule of law and economic development with private sector/market economy forming the main engine of growth.

Bangladesh position
Kosovo's march towards independence was, in many ways, similar to Bangladesh's. I strongly feel that the delay on the part of Bangladesh government to accord recognition to Kosovo is affecting our vital national interest and principal objective of our foreign policy. Bangladesh should consider according recognition to Kosovo without further delay for the following reasons:
-Kosovo, like Bangladesh, was subjected to genocide and won its independence through a bloody war of independence after the KLA, the "Mukti Bahini" of Kosovo, waged a heroic fight supported by its allies.
-Kosovo has emerged from socialist one-party government to become a democratic multi- religious, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural pluralistic society with a market economy and a free media. It is predominately a Muslim majority country in the heart of Eastern Europe, but the Kosovo Albanian Muslims are very tolerant and firmly committed to democracy and human rights, and are against misuse of religion for political ends.
-Recognition of the Republic of Kosovo is vital for peace and stability, not only for Kosovo but also for Serbia and the entire Balkans. Serbia's fragile transition to democracy and free market economy is being threatened by the defeated Milosovic forces and the rise of radicals and extremists in former Yugoslavia, who are allegedly responsible for the assassination of the former prime minister Djindic.
In fact, a majority of local Kosovo Serbians told me that they wished to live in peaceful co-existence with Kosovo Albanians in Kosovo, but could not do so due to opposition coming from radicals in northern Kosovo and the Serbian Orthodox Church backed by Belgrade. The international media and many governments have been misled into believing that this is opposition by local Kosovo Serbian's to the independence of Kosovo.
Belgrade has no love lost for Kosovo. Historically, Kosovo Serbians and Kosovo Albanians have worked together, particularly in the Trepca mines located in Mitrovica. Building of a democratic, liberal, and tolerant Kosovo based on human rights and free market economy is crucial to the success of building a democratic, and pluralistic Serbia.
The objection that recognition will give encouragement to the secessionist movements and tendencies in the Balkans and elsewhere is totally incorrect, and based on distortion of truth and reality on the ground in Kosovo, particularly in northern Kosovo.
The factual position is that, after the dissolution of the former Republic of Yugoslavia (RY), all its constituents, including Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, and Macedonia, have gained independence except Kosovo. Serbia is not the successor state of RY. So the question of secession does not arise.
Kosovo has emerged as an independent state like other constituent republics/provinces of RY due to dissolution of the Yugoslavia federation. To deny independence to Kosovo after a genocide and bloody war of liberation would not only be against the will of its overwhelming majority of Kosovo Albanians, who constitute 90% of the population, but could also ignite fresh conflict in Kosovo engulfing the whole of the Balkans. It could create another opportunity for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to use this conflict to serve their designs.
In fact, the hidden agenda of Belgrade is to partition Kosovo. This would set a dangerous precedent in the Balkans as Kosovo Albanians are a significant minority in Macedonia and control the Macedonian economy, and may demand a similar partition of Macedonia.
This would open a Pandora's box and destabilise the Balkans. Swift recognition of Kosovo will put on end to Belgrade's partition plan engineered by the radicals, and stabilise the situation in Kosovo and the Balkans.
I congratulate the leadership of US, the EC, and other countries which have granted recognition to the Independent Republic of Kosovo and for assisting with the consolidation of their independence.
At the same time I regret the unhelpful role of Russia in trying to block Kosovo's recognition and independence which carries grave risk of not only Balkan instability but possibly creating another bastion for international terrorism and militancy
Despite all the challenges of a newly emerging state, Kosovo has made impressive progress. The business environment in Kosovo is becoming one of the most competitive in Europe, and there is a young, educated population as its workforce. Kosovo has achieved a high degree of macroeconomic stability, inflation is close to zero, and the financial sector is steadily growing stronger with a stable monetary policy as the euro is the official currency in Kosovo.
This is the right time to get into Kosovo and take advantage of the business and investment opportunities. As Kosovo is rebuilding it needs practically everything. Among others, opportunities exist in IT, communication, food processing, construction, manufacturing, minerals, trade, transport, tourism, real estate, and much more.
As Bangladesh emerged as a democratic and secular republic after independence, Kosovo has also emerged as a liberal, multi-religious, multi-ethnic state. Though a predominately Muslim country in the heart of Eastern Europe, it is committed to human rights including guaranteeing full right to the minorities. It has also rejected socialism and opted for a free market and private sector oriented economy.
Friendship with Kosovo will open the door for excellent opportunities in economic, trade and business between not only Bangladesh and Kosovo, but also with Albania, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia as labour and goods are becoming expensive in these countries as in the rest of Europe.
I believe Bangladesh should accord recognition to Kosovo forthwith.

Rashed Ahmed is a former Bangladesh Ambassador, and UN Regional Administrator/Representative in Kosovo.

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