Rugova death won’t halt independence

The death of Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova has left a great deal of uncertainty at the helm of the province. Deaths of political leaders are inevitable, but the loss is not always expected to affect the substance of negotiations, in this case those regarding the final status of the divided province. Despite their differences, all Kosovo Albanians share a single goal, unconditional independence. Without doubt, Rugova pushed for independence in his own diplomatic style. His commitment to non-violence won him favor among Western governments. This meant that he was often more effective than the hard-line separatists in the area. In truth, Kosovo’s independence is only a matter of time. The turning point was the 1999 military campaign that extracted the region from Serbia. The protectorate status that has been in place since the NATO bombings against Milosevic’s forces is nothing but a transitional phase. Washington has already taken its decisions and all that is left is to set some conditions and a time frame. It is extremely unlikely that UN standards will be fulfilled. Pledges about the return of Serb refugees are empty, as are promises of a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Kosovo. In truth, independence will mean the Albanization of Kosovo. Despite the presence of foreign peacekeepers in recent years, Kosovo Albanians have come up with ways to drive out Serbs and other minorities. When the internationals are gone, things will only get worse… The only way to entice Belgrade into an agreement would be to cede some territories in the Mitrovica region to Serbia and provide guarantees for the protection of Serbia’s cultural and religious heritage. This is not on the cards yet; in fact, Washington and ethnic Albanians have ruled out the prospect. A deadlock could force that back onto the agenda, unless Washington chooses to snub Belgrade altogether.

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