Don't Delay in Macedonia
Don't Delay in Macedonia
Внимавајте на македонската криза..може да прерасне во нова балканска трагедија
Внимавајте на македонската криза..може да прерасне во нова балканска трагедија
Op-Ed / Europe & Central Asia 3 minutes

Don't Delay in Macedonia

Two years ago today, talks to prevent a war in Kosovo collapsed. The government of Slobodan Milosevic then used massed troops to begin a rampage of ethnic cleansing and murder. NATO initiated its bombing campaign on the principle that security in Europe rests on peace and the rule of law across the Balkans.

But on this anniversary, we are seeing ominous signs of a new wave of Balkan conflict. The rapid escalation of fighting in northern Macedonia in recent days demands a prompt Western response in order to maintain the integrity of a multi-ethnic Macedonia. Hesitation or delay in the face of Macedonia's mounting problems will only make matters worse; in the near term, NATO is the only institution that can act effectively to move the situation from confrontation to dialogue. KFOR and NATO elements inside Macedonia must work closely with the Macedonia government to interdict the flow of arms and fighters across the border.

We must make clear to the government of Macedonia that it too is under close scrutiny. The use of force alone will only worsen the underlying problem, not resolve it.

The longer-term solution rests on Macedonian commitment not just to say the right things about the Albanian minority but to follow through with actions. Discussion of the constitutional status of Macedonian Albanians and other minorities should begin without delay in Macedonia's parliament. Greater attention to underlying problems -- education, health, housing and economic opportunity -- among Macedonian Albanians is urgently required. The international community can and should help make this happen. Later this year, Macedonia will conduct a new and hotly debated census. The international community should monitor this census to make sure that it is seen to be fair and includes all who see Macedonia as their home.

The causes of Albanian discontent in Macedonia are real. But they are inflamed by a broader problem, whose effects are also destabilizing southern Serbia and Kosovo itself, and that is the crippling slowness of progress toward real self-government for the people of Kosovo.

The apparent slowness of progress has helped give birth to a new generation of Albanian extremists, from bombings in Kosovo to shootouts in southern Serbia to fighting in Macedonia. They are armed, organized and too eager to fight -- for they see nothing to gain from patience and peace. As Kosovo's friend, I want to say clearly that the actions of the radicals -- and the Albanian diaspora that supports them -- are only undermining Kosovo's chance at a freer and more peaceful future.

We and our NATO allies must help Kosovo's leaders show that moderation, not extremism, is the key to progress. Kosovo's new leaders, and its people, must know that NATO will not step in again to protect them, this time from the consequences of their own extremist actions. There is a great danger that radicalized Albanians will now do what Milosevic no longer can: destabilize Macedonia and push ahead with the ethnic cleansing of parts of Kosovo. And the people of Kosovo should have no illusions: Renewed conflict will postpone, not hasten, the day when they can take full charge of their own affairs.

Instead of speeding Kosovo's self-government, violence adds to the impression that Kosovo is ungovernable.

Instead of reinforcing the need for NATO's presence, the streams of fighters out of Kosovo hearten those who say Kosovo does not deserve NATO and especially U.S. protection.

And instead of making Kosovo central to the plan for long-term peace in the Balkans, the current insurgencies suggest that strengthening Kosovo's autonomy will lead to war in Macedonia and constant struggle with Serbia. That is the wrong message.

But blaming the Kosovars is not a policy; others, including the United States and our NATO allies, have responsibilities which we must meet.

In Kosovo and along the border with Serbia, KFOR must prevent provocations and provide support for European Union monitors on the ground. International negotiators must insist that local Albanians have a place at the negotiating table with KFOR and Belgrade, and work toward a shared solution that ends fighting in the area. Failure to respond authoritatively only encourages the extremists -- and increases the danger to our troops.

Ultimately, the international community must recognize that the nub of the problem is the continuing delay in moving the province toward democratic self-rule and the resolution of its final status. Troubles across the region are unlikely to ebb until Kosovars are fully engaged in building up their own institutions. Stabilizing Kosovo means following through on our promises and holding elections for a legislative body with real powers; moving forward on the transition to self-government; and committing to a clear timetable for final status negotiations.

Kosovo's people deserve self-rule. Albanians elsewhere -- Macedonia, southern Serbia -- deserve fair and lawful treatment. It is in the profound interest of the United States and our allies to see that they get it quickly. But Kosovo's leaders and its people must show understanding that Albanians have nothing to gain -- and everything to lose -- by exporting or inflaming conflict in the Balkans.

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