WASHINGTON — During the past seven years, according to Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremic, Serbia has held democratic elections, established a market economy and strived for active participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.
Jeremic, who met with reporters at the National Press Club in Washington on July 27, says that for Democracy to now truly flourish in the Balkans, the tiny province of Kosovo must remain part of Serbia, which is the largest block of the former Yugoslavia.
He stressed that progress made by Serbia since 2000 will “likely be reversed if the imposition of independence of Kosovo takes place.”
“If we falter,” he asserted, “so will the rest of the region.”
For Serbia, Nothing Special About Kosovo’s Plight
For sure, the majority in Serbia’s government opposes Kosovo’s independence bid. According to Jeremic, if Kosovar independence is imposed by the international community without the sanction of the U.N. Security Council, there will be consequences both in the Balkans and across the globe.
The precedent set by such a development may, for instance, be expected to cause ongoing conflicts to escalate or reignite frozen conflicts in other areas of the world, he said.
In speaking to the international press corps, Jeremic appeared intent on dispelling any notions that the case for Kosovo’s independence is somehow autonomous, or different from other independence disputes around the world.
“Despite all attempts to claim otherwise,” he asserted. “Precedents cannot be renounced or denied — precedents just happen.”
Former Yugoslav and Serbian President Slobodon Milosevic’s crimes were not unique to Serbia — ethnic cleansing has occurred in Rwanda, the Darfur region of Sudan and the Kurdish region of Iraq, Jeremic said.
Specifically comparing the Kosovo issue to that of Kurdistan, he added that encouraging the forcible partition of Iraq in order for the Kurds to form a state of their own is not in the interest of any stakeholders.
“Now of course one can say that the Middle East is not the Western Balkans and that Iraq is not Serbia, but the parallels are striking,” Jeremic said. “I think they deserve our consideration.”
Could There Be a Compromise?
Jeremic asserted that the answer to the Kosovo problem is for Serbia and Kosovo to work together with the United States, the European Union, Russia and other nations to find a lasting middle-ground solution acceptable to both sides.
The solution, he said, should be based on a number of precepts, including the consolidation of democracy in Serbia, reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians and an unconditional commitment to forging a lasting peace.
He added that both the United States and Serbia share common values and a vision for a peaceful future in the Balkans, but overcoming present challenges are key to achieving a lasting peace.
“When we tell you that there is a clear and present danger to the values we have fought so hard for and have infused in the hearts and minds of our citizens, we expect you to hear us,” he said, referring to the U.S. government.