Vol. 11, No. 1, December,
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Burns, Undersecretary of State, presents Administration Kosovo
Policy at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing
on Kosovo – A Way Forward?
9, 2005, remarks as prepared before the Senate Committee
on Foreign Relations
This testimony has been edited for space.
The full transcript is
available online at: http://foreign.senate.
As the history of the last 15 years has demonstrated, the
U.S. has an abiding interest in the Balkans. Thousands of
our finest diplomats and soldiers have spent years trying
to build a peaceful future there. America and Europe worked
well together in the 1990s. We ended the wars in Bosnia and
Kosovo, and our troops have since kept the peace in both places.
In 2004, NATO successfully concluded its historic peacekeeping
mission in Bosnia. We have also worked intensively with all
the countries of the former Yugoslavia to prepare them for
eventual NATO and EU membership. Without stability in the
Balkans, we will never see a united, peaceful Europe that
can be a true partner for the U.S. in promoting democracy
throughout the world. It is now time to finish the job.
Balkans region will not be stable, however, as long as
Kosovo remains in a state of political suspended animation.”
The Balkans region will not be stable, however,
as long as Kosovo remains in a state of political suspended
2006 will be a crucial year of decision for
Kosovo and the Balkans. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended
beginning negotiations to determine Kosovo’s future
status, a recommendation the Security Council endorsed on
October 24. Secretary-General Annan has announced his intention
to nominate former Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari as the
UN Special Envoy to lead the process. He is, in our view,
a superb choice: an experienced and resourceful diplomat who
commands broad respect in the international community.
The Secretary-General’s actions have begun
the process that will lead to an internationally recognized
future status for Kosovo. I hosted a meeting of the Contact
Group with President Ahtisaari in Washington last week to
kick off these efforts. We expect President Ahtisaari will
begin his work as soon as the Security Council endorses his
nomination this week. The U.S. will very soon name a senior
American envoy to assist in the negotiations and be ready
to bring U.S. credibility and influence to bear when and where
it can help to promote a settlement.
We understand that diplomatically, this will
be tough going. The parties to the talks, the Kosovar Albanians,
Kosovar Serbs, and the government of Serbia-Montenegro, will
see their vital interests at stake. We expect them to participate
constructively and to restrain more extreme groups from using
violence to gain political ends. Although we will be working
for a peaceful settlement, NATO troops will have to be ready
to defuse potentially violent situations.
of a Settlement
The United States will not support a specific outcome at this
stage. It is important that we and our allies remain neutral,
because the future of the province is the sole responsibility
of the Albanian and Serb people of Kosovo and the Government
of Serbia and Montenegro. But the final result should respect
the basic facts of Kosovo. Today 90 percent of the people
are ethnic Albanians who were treated cruelly, even viciously,
by the government of Slobodan Milosevic. They deserve to live
in security and peace. The Kosovo Serb population also needs
to be assured that they have a future there and that their
churches and patrimonial sites will be respected.
There is, however, potential for common ground.
The aspirations of Serbs, Albanians and Kosovo’s other
ethnic groups are alike in that they all want a future in
which they can live secure lives, participate in democratic
government and enjoy economic opportunity. There is already
agreement that Kosovo will be self-governing in some form,
that it will also remain multi-ethnic and will protect the
cultural heritage of all its inhabitants. The U.S. will continue
to work to ensure these concepts are incorporated into Kosovo’s
future status, because to make a political determination without
these principles would leave the door open to future conflict,
and put at risk the war we fought to prevent ethnic cleansing,
and the strenuous efforts our diplomats and soldiers have
made to keep the peace.
As with any process of negotiation, neither
side will get everything it wants. To reach a lasting result,
both will sometimes be required to make compromises that may
seem to violate important interests in the cause of peace.
The U.S. and its European allies have decided
on several guiding principles that must shape the process
of determining a future status for Kosovo and guide the work
of the Special Envoy. We have made clear that a return to
the situation before 1999 is unacceptable and that there should
be no change in existing boundaries of Kosovo, and no partition.
Other principles for a settlement include full respect of
human rights, the right of refugees and displaced persons
to return to their homes, the protection of cultural and religious
heritage and the promotion of effective means to fight organized
crime and terrorism. The Contact Group agreed to exclude those
who advocate violence and that, once begun, the status process
must continue without interruption.
We will ensure that the result of the process
meets three key criteria: First, it must promote stability
not only in Kosovo, but throughout Southeast Europe. It must
also provide full democratic rights for all people, especially
minorities. Finally, it must further the integration of the
region with the Euro-Atlantic mainstream.
The U.S. must remain committed to continued
involvement in Kosovo as a status agreement is negotiated,
because we have too much invested in Kosovo and the Balkans
to risk failure by withdrawing prematurely. Even after a determination
of Kosovo’s future status is made, we will remain committed
to peace and stability there. As long as a NATO force is required,
the U.S. plans to be part of it.
Message to Kosovo Albanians
In October I met with the Kosovo Albanian Team of Unity, established
by President Rugova to lead talks. The challenge for the Kosovo
Albanian community is for this team to live up to its name.
As late as last week, there were troubling signs that Kosovo
Albanian leaders are anything but unified. In my two trips
to the region since June, my strong and repeated advice to
them has been to put aside their political and personal differences.
If Kosovo Albanians aspire to independence, this is their
greatest opportunity to make the case to the world that, should
they become independent, they will be able to govern effectively
and in a way that promotes stability in the region.
I made clear to them that independence must
be earned. First, Kosovo must continue to develop a functional,
democratic government that can safeguard the rule of law.
Second, there must be generous provisions for the security
of minorities, including decentralized authority. Finally,
Kosovo must be able to assure its neighbors that it will not
export instability. The UN standards define the goals Kosovo
should achieve in preparing for self government. Kosovo’s
progress in implementing these standards will be the ultimate
measure of how well it makes its case.
I also urged the Kosovo Albanian leaders to
be ready to compromise. Finding the right balance between
majority rule and minority rights is never easy, but it must
be done. To the south, Kosovo’s Macedonian neighbors
have made important progress in addressing the concerns of
their Albanian minority — progress that could provide
some useful examples as Kosovo deals with the similar concerns
of Serbs and other minorities.
Kosovo leaders should act now to create a positive
environment for the status talks and make a convincing case
that there would be a secure future for minorities should
Kosovo become independent. They should announce that decentralization
of government will be pursued throughout Kosovo, and that
ethnic interests will be given consideration in drawing municipal
boundaries. NATO acted in 1999 to prevent the ethnic cleansing
of more than one million Kosovo Albanians and it would be
a tragic irony if Albanians themselves now tried to inflict
a policy of retribution and intimidation against their Serb
minority. The U.S. and its allies will simply not tolerate
such an outcome. They should also apprehend and punish those
responsible for hate crimes committed against minorities in
March 2004. They should state publicly that the independence
they seek is only for Kosovo, without any changes to its present
boundaries. No country, including the U.S., is prepared to
support an irredentist “Greater Albania” or an
independent Kosovo that aspires to exceed its present borders.
the settlement of Kosovo’s political status, it
must remain multi-ethnic, and Serbs and Albanians need
to work to create conditions under which they will be
able to live together peacefully.”
If Kosovo leaders want to present themselves
as worthy of independence, they must stop all acts of violence
and intimidation against minorities. Those responsible for
such acts must understand that they are actually undermining
the goals which they profess to support.
I warned them that an attempt by either side
to use violence as a political tactic during the negotiation
will be put down swiftly and firmly by NATO. Whatever the
settlement of Kosovo’s political status, it must remain
multi-ethnic, and Serbs and Albanians need to work to create
conditions under which they will be able to live together
Messages to the Serbs
The Kosovo Serb community, and indeed the government of Serbia
and Montenegro, must also assume a heavy share of responsibility
for successful negotiations. When I met with Kosovar Serb
leaders in October, I urged them to become more involved politically
in Kosovo itself. Serbs have told me they would prefer local
autonomy for themselves in Kosovo. If this is so, it is in
their own interest to participate in the institutions of local
government that will be responsible for a future Kosovo. By
refusing to participate in elections and in the Kosovo Assembly,
Kosovo Serbs are missing a chance to have a say in Kosovo’s
Belgrade must also help Kosovo’s Serbs
ensure that they will have a place in whatever political structure
emerges. I told Prime Minister Kostunica that his government’s
policy of having Serbs boycott elections and participation
in the Kosovo Assembly has been a major miscalculation. The
Serb community is losing political influence in Kosovo and
there is now a net outflow of Serbs. As Kosovo will remain
multi-ethnic, it will retain important connections with Serbia
regardless of its political status. Many Kosovo Serbs will
remain citizens of Serbia in any case and will need access
to Serbian government services. Many important Serbian cultural
sites, including some of the most historic Serbian Orthodox
churches, are located in Kosovo.
can best protect the interests of Serbs by encouraging
them to participate in politics and begin to integrate
themselves with their Kosovo Albanian neighbors.”
The Serb government will have to look for means
to cooperate with a future Kosovo to preserve these cultural
treasures. Belgrade will also want to engage in a discussion
of security issues to ensure that settlement of Kosovo’s
status does not undermine the fragile stability of the region.
Whatever Kosovo’s future will be, Belgrade can best
protect the interests of Serbs by encouraging them to participate
in politics and begin to integrate themselves with their Kosovo
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with