Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

Support for an Independent and Democratic Kosovo

  • Hon. Alcee L. Hastings
    US












House of Representative

110th Congress, First Session

Madam Speaker, I have just returned from official travel as Chairman of the Helsinki Commission to several locations in Europe and the Middle East. One stop was Kosovo, which is presently high on the international agenda. As we all know, the Special Envoy for the UN Secretary-General, former Finnish President Maarti Ahtisaari, has submitted a comprehensive proposal for settling the status of Kosovo. If adopted, the proposal would end the eight years of limbo in which Kosovo has found itself since the NATO intervention ended a long period of brutality and repression by Serbian authorities under the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic. Nevertheless, some countries represented on the UN Security Council have problems with the Ahtisaari plan, and Russian opposition, based at least in part on issues having little if anything to do with Kosovo and the Balkans, would doom action at the United Nations. Last week’s G-8 summit failed to break the impasse within the international community.

During my stay in Kosovo, I was thoroughly briefed by the U.S. Office in Pristina, led by Tina Kaidanow, as well as by Brigadier General Douglas Earhart of the 29th Infantry Division, who commands U.S. forces in Kosovo as well as multinational task force located in the southeast portion of Kosovo. The head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, German Ambassador Werner Wnendt, provided the perspective of one of the international missions in the field. I also had the opportunity to meet the Kosovo Prime Minister, the Minister for Communities and Returns and representatives of the Kosovo “Unity Team.” I traveled to Mitrovica where I also met representatives of the Serb community, and I visited areas at different locations where housing has been built to accommodate the return of those Serbs and Roma displaced by violence. Based on my observations, I support the Ahtisaari proposal. It provides for independence for Kosovo, which I believe can be justified on grounds of what happened in Kosovo under Serbian rule as well as the right of self-determination, a right included in the Helsinki Final Act. The overwhelming majority of the people of Kosovo want independence, and the United Nations made it a credible possibility in Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted at the end of the Kosovo conflict in 1999. 

At the same time, and perhaps more important, the Ahtisaari proposal contains provisions regarding the decentralization of powers to Serb- majority municipalities, numerous human rights protections for ethnic communities, and the protection of religious and cultural heritage sites so important to the Serb community. If implemented, these provisions offer a good possibility for the Serb and other non-Albanian communities to survive in what would be a multi-ethnic Kosovo. Independence would be supervised by the international community, to ensure both a smooth transfer of authority and full implementation of the proposal. As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I remain naturally concerned about the human rights situation in Kosovo. My priority is a Kosovo where human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected, and where democracy, tolerance and the rule of law are established, regardless of the course or outcome of deliberations on Kosovo’s status. Such a Kosovo does not yet exist; many problems remain. I do believe, however, that in a situation where no answers are easily found the Ahtisaari plan has the best potential to achieve these goals, and I will work to ensure that the Helsinki Commission encourages their achievement even after status is determined. 

I wish to conclude my remarks, Madam Speaker, by announcing my intention to cosponsor House Resolution 309, expressing the sense of the House that the United States should support independence for Kosovo. Some of the concerns expressed in an alternative piece of legislation, House Resolution 445, are ones that I share, but continued delay on this issue helps nobody on the ground. The Ahtisaari proposal, in addition to addressing status, provides a means for securing the return and sustainability of the Serb and other ethnic communities in Kosovo, and I believe the people of the region would be best served by trying to make its provisions a reality.

Category
Country
Issue
Date
Filter Topics Open Close
Press Releases

HEARING – Silenced Dissent: The Plight of Poli...

Jun 13, 2024

Rayburn 2212 Stream live here WASHINGTON—Across the globe, individuals continue to be targeted, arrested, and imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of speech, assembly, and association. Persecution on political grounds represents a fundamental violation of human rights and democratic principles. Autocrats and dictators’ unjust detention of political prisoners undermines the rule of law, […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Silenced Dissent: The Plight of Political Prisoners ...

Jun 13, 2024

WASHINGTON—Across the globe, individuals continue to be targeted, arrested, and imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of speech, assembly, and association. Persecution on political grounds represents a fundamental violation of human rights and democratic principles. Autocrats and dictators’ unjust detention of political prisoners undermines the rule of law, stifles free expression, and erodes […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

BRIEFING – The Proliferation of Russian-Style ...

Jun 13, 2024

Thursday, June 20, 2024 2:00 p.m. Cannon House Office Building Room 210 WASHINGTON—In 2012, Russia adopted a foreign agents law which has been used repeatedly to crack down on independent civil society and opposition, closing organizations and jailing dissenters. Over the past several years, there has been a proliferation of Russian-style foreign agents laws in […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission House Leadership Marks Fourth An...

Jun 06, 2024

WASHINGTON—Today, Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) marked the fourth annual Counter-Kleptocracy Month. The U.S. Helsinki Commission has marked Counter-Kleptocracy month since June 2021 when the Commission helped to launch the Congressional Caucus against Foreign Corruption and Kleptocracy (Counter-Kleptocracy Caucus). The Caucus is also chaired by Reps. Wilson and […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Supporting Georgia’s Sovereignty and Democracy

Jun 04, 2024

WASHINGTON—The recent adoption of a Russian-style foreign agent law heralds an openly anti-western turn by the ruling Georgian Dream government, and their concomitant alignment with Russia as well as other authoritarian powers such as China. After three decades of a pro-west, democratizing, and Euro-Atlantic-facing strategic agenda, Georgia’s government is clearly and violently breaking faith with […]

screen-reader-text
Briefings

Russian Crimes Against Ukrainian Civilians: Findings...

May 30, 2024

Russia has targeted Ukrainian civilians since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.  Civilians have been arbitrarily detained, transferred, mistreated, tortured, and even killed extrajudicially as an apparent part of Putin’s war strategy.  Thousands have disappeared or are being held without being able to communicate with their families. In February, 45 OSCE states invoked […]

screen-reader-text
Briefings

Ukrainian Culture in Wartime

May 29, 2024

Russia has damaged or destroyed countless Ukrainian museums, libraries, cultural centers, theaters, schools, and sites of religious and historical significance. These physical attacks are accompanied by the Kremlin’s public denigration and even denial of a distinct Ukrainian national identity. This combination of physical destruction and insidious propaganda has by design posed an existential threat to […]

screen-reader-text
In the News

“MEGOBARI Act” Envisages Sanctions for Undermining, ...

May 27, 2024

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Wilson, Cohen, Hudson, Veasey Introduce MEGOBARI Act

May 24, 2024

WASHINGTON—Yesterday, U.S. Helsinki Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Commissioner Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-09), and Commissioner Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33) introduced the bipartisan Mobilizing and Enhancing Georgia’s Options for Building Accountability, Resilience, and Independence (MEGOBARI) Act. This vital legislation aims to bolster democratic practices, human rights, and the rule of […]

screen-reader-text
Statements

Helsinki Commission House Leadership Statement on 80...

May 24, 2024

  Today, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) made the following statement: “We unequivocally condemn the brutal deportation of Crimean Tatars orchestrated by the Soviet regime in 1944. This horrific act, which forcibly uprooted an entire population from their homeland, represents a grave violation of human rights, […]

screen-reader-text
In the News

Rep. Joe Wilson introduces bill to sanction individu...

May 23, 2024

screen-reader-text
In the News

US to consider major military, trade package to Geor...

May 20, 2024

screen-reader-text