WASHINGTON – Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), made the following statement at the 7th Annual Winter Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, during a debate on Kosovo’s decision to declare independent statehood. The debate took place a day after the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia, was attacked by Serb protesters of U.S. recognition of Kosovo:
“The people of the former Yugoslavia have paid a heavy price because of the repressive and extreme nationalist policies of the Milosevic years. It was clear that the protection of minority communities would require our attention. Nine years ago, the international community, led by NATO, acted to end brutal attacks against the Kosovar Albanian population. This intervention led to an international decision to suspend Belgrade’s governance and place Kosovo under an interim UN administration.
“Kosovo represents the last unsolved conflict resulting from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. I understand that we have different views to the actions taken by Kosovo by its declaration on independence. I would hope that we would all agree that status quo was unacceptable. We should also agree that open dialogue is important, demonstrations should be peaceful, restraint should be encouraged, and embassies must be protected.
“I believe – as does the U.S. government – that the Ahtisaari plan advanced through the UN represents the best option for the democratic future of Kosovo and the protection of the human rights of all its ethnic communities. It was for that reason that the United States recognized the independence of Kosovo and has urged similar action by each of our OSCE states. That recognition is based on the commitment of Kosovo to implement the Ahtisaari plan, protecting the rights of all of the citizens.
“The Ahtissari plan deserves support, because it is a comprehensive approach that provides considerable advantages for the Serb community and other minorities and mandates international supervision to ensure that the advantages are recognized. It includes new Serb dominated municipalities, the opportunities for direct and transparent links to Serbia, the protection of cultural and religious sites, the certainty of political representation, and the whole range of individual human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“I am sure that, for their goals to be achieved, Kosovo needs the help of international institutions, including OSCE. The OSCE mission in Kosovo has had strong outreach to vulnerable and isolated populations and should be allowed to continue. Kosovo should be represented here and made accountable for the OSCE norms by formally accepting our large body of common commitments.
“UN Security Council Resolution 1244, acknowledged Kosovo’s status needed to be determined, and an independent Kosovo was clearly an option. Further delay would reward those who are intransigent and encourage a hardening of positions.
“In closing, I want to stress the unique nature of Kosovo. It must be viewed in the context of the breaking up of Yugoslavia, the history of ethnic cleansing and crimes against civilians and an extended period of UN administration. In short, the circumstances made a special case and cannot be seen as a precedent for any other situation in the world today.
“Let us work together to achieve a democratic government for Kosovo that respects human rights of all its citizens.”