ANALYSIS - Kosovo's exceptional diplomacy is a lesson for all
It was impossible to imagine that Kosovo would be in this stage of serious diplomacy almost twenty years ago
*The writer is a genocide scholar based in Sarajevo.
Last week President of the Republic of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu met with Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States Nancy Pelosi in Washington DC. This represents the capstone in a series of high-level meetings Kosovo diplomats have had in the last couple of years, and it also shows a clear line and serious strategy of the youngest European state.
NATO intervention and Kosovo's independence
It was impossible to imagine that Kosovo would be in this stage of serious diplomacy almost twenty years ago. Rampaged by the Serbian forces, the country was recovering from decades of systematic discrimination and state-sponsored war crimes in 1998 and 1999. For years, the Slobodan Milosevic regime oppressed the Albanian minority in Yugoslavia, similar to the Yugoslav Communist state.
Kosovar Albanians had a different language and traditions, and were seen by the Yugoslav authorities as subjects who needed to be colonized. In the eyes of Serb nationalists, Kosovo has a strong mythological meaning; this was also the site of the famous Kosovo battle in 1389 between the Serbian and Ottoman armies. With a touch of religion and ideology, this mythology had become the key ingredient for the Serbian Orthodoxy.
The 1999 NATO-led intervention in the Kosovo war saved Kosovo and the Kosovar Albanian population. That is why NATO is never forgiven by the Serbian and Russian authorities. Kosovo proclaimed independence in February 2008 and the International Court of Justice in 2010 handed down an advisory opinion on Kosovo's declaration of independence, stating that there was no violation of international law.
Russia has an eye on the region
Kosovo today remains in the eye-sight not only of Serbia and also of Russia. Vladimir Putin frequently brings up the NATO invasion, which took place a year before he became president of Russia. Russia has been attempting to destabilize the Balkans for years, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia. With the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the Russian involvement in the region is certain to grow in the coming months. For the Belgrade regime, it would be political suicide to admit defeat and the loss of Kosovo. Thus, a land-swap or controlled conflict would come in handy for Serbia.
More support needed for Kosovo
The US base Camp Bondsteel in eastern Kosovo which houses roughly 1,000 troops is important for the peace in the country. However, neighboring nations such as Macedonia, Montenegro, and notably Bosnia and Herzegovina remain vulnerable to Serbian and Russian influence. For this reason, more support needs to be given to Kosovo. For instance, due to a large diplomatic offensive by Serbia, almost half of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) members have still not recognized Kosovo's independence. Serbia has been able to prevent major Muslim countries from recognizing Kosovo by playing the card of the Yugoslav Non-Aligned Movement legacy.
New Kosovar diplomacy can be a model for others
Still, slowly but surely, Kosovo will get the support it needs. Kosovo remains committed to joining NATO and the EU and has stood firmly aligned with the West. The path to the EU is slowed down as five EU member states have yet to recognize Kosovo. An immediate step the EU can undertake now is to grant visa-free travel for Kosovo citizens.
Two decades ago, Kosovar Albanians faced a genocidal onslaught. Now they are striving for a future their parents could only dream of. Many of the country’s young politicians were also children refugees back in 1999 when NATO intervened to save Kosovo.
The new Kosovar diplomacy is a model for others to follow. This is a direct result of young, well-educated diplomats being given a chance to prove themselves.
**Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.