Who We Are
  Medical Aid for      Kosovo
  Cultural     Reconstruction
    in Kosovo
  Bosnia Documentary
  Sarajevo '92
  Kosovo History
  Bosnia History
  Action alerts  
  Press releases
  E-mail notices

  On-line books
  FOB Briefs
Search Us
Join Us!

  Reconstruction       Projects
  FOB Newsletter

Center for Balkan Development
Tel: 978-461-0909
Fax: 978-461-2552
[email protected]

CBD Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 1, December, 2005
<back to table of contents>

Nicholas Burns, Undersecretary of State, presents Administration Kosovo Policy at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing
Hearing on Kosovo – A Way Forward?
November 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. gov/testimony/2005/ BurnsTestimony051108.pdf

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.

“The 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 animation.

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.

Elements 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.

Our 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.

“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 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 peacefully.

Our 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 future.

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.

“Belgrade 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 Albanian neighbors.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today