Responsibility for the Balkan crisis

by Yiannis Kartalis

(“Vima”, March 25, 2001)

In view of Albania’s parliamentary elections in June, the Socialist Party has already sounded out the ethnic Greek Omonia party about the possibility of forming a coalition. Albanian leaders favor such outcome because they need Athens’s political and economic support, especially if Silvio Berlusconi finally wins the Italian parliamentary elections.

However, the socialists have not abandoned efforts to capture the hearts and minds of the Greek minority.

A few months ago, they carried out extensive vote-rigging to prevent the election of the OmoniaThe time has come for NATO to pay the price for the futile policy it initiated with its military campaign in the Balkans; in offering encouragement to the Albanian nationalists it opened a Pandora’s Box with fatal consequences for the overall stability of the region as a whole. The result is that NATO is now in danger of losing control of events, while one thing is certain—another NATO military campaign would have even more disastrous consequences than the first.

NATO really has no alternative but to make it crystal clear to the Albanian nationalists that no action intended to bring about a change in the frontiers through violent means will be tolerated. And it does appear as if NATO is belatedly coming to understand this. This is particularly important since it was not only the extremist elements which had interpreted the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia as support not only for the independence of Kosovo but also for the creation of a Greater Kosovo, or even a Greater Albania.

The truth is that this was not an arbitrary reading of events, but seemed to draw confirmation from the whole stance of the West, which with its policy of unmitigated demonization of the Serbs encouraged the Albanians not only to seek revenge but also to convince themselves that now, with the support of NATO, they could finally proceed towards the attainment of their grandiose schemes. And in fact there can be no doubt that NATO did not just want to restore the safe enjoyment of human rights in Kosovo, but also to create an independent Kosovo as a counter-balance to Serbian influence in the region.

The basic problem then is the future of Kosovo. Until this critical issue is settled, there can be no resolution of the crisis. Now that the ‘butcher Milosevic’ (a red rag to the West’s bull) is no longer in power, it should be easier to settle the question. Given that NATO is now cooperating with the Serbs in dealing with the Albanian extremists, it must also be able to sit down with them to discuss the future of Kosovo and the safeguarding of the human rights of the Albanian majority in the region.

Today a moderate and democratic government is in power in Belgrade, one which views the problem of the Albanian population of the country from a completely different perspective from that of the Milosevic regime. The same is true in Skopje. Neither of these governments is persecuting the Albanians, as it did formerly, and they should be encouraged by the West to sit down at the negotiating table to find a lasting solution. But on one condition: that this solution will not entail a re-drawing of the region’s borders.

What must be understood is that the current crisis does not just involve a conflict between the Albanian minority and the government in Skopje, but the question of whether the minorities in the inflammable Balkans are to be allowed to impose a re-drawing of the borders at the end of a gun. If the Albanians succeed in their objective today, they will be giving the green light to other minorities, and this will have dire consequences for the general stability of a region which depends on the preservation of fragile balances.


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