After Kosovo's seven years as a U.N.-administered protectorate,
the time has come to free its people from the deadweight of
international trusteeship and determine its final status. U.N.
Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari recently proposed to the U.N.
Security Council that Kosovo become independent of Serbia. This
proposal, which includes firm guarantees for the protection of
Kosovo's Serb minority, deserves the support of the Bush
Administration, the European Union, and the NATO alliance. It
promises to pave the way for the establishment of a fully
democratic, and ultimately stable and prosperous, nation-state.
The continuation of the status quo is simply untenable. Ethnic
Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo's population, the vast
majority of whom wish to be independent and whose leadership have
supported the Ahtisaari plan. As Lady Margaret Thatcher said in
1999, "It would be both cruel and stupid to expect the Albanian
Kosovans now to return to live under any form of Serbian rule."
The U.N. operation in Kosovo (UNMIK) costs a staggering $240
million a year and has fostered a debilitating culture of
Without clarity on Kosovo's final status, meaningful reform and
progress will not occur. It is now time for Kosovo to have a clear
vision of its future for the first time in nearly a decade.
A Security Guarantee
Kosovo will enjoy stability and security only when its final
status is settled. While independence may eventually achieve
stability and security, the international community must continue
to guarantee both in the short term. International supervision will
be necessary to ensure that Kosovo's transition occurs without
Serbian pressure or aggression. In the longer term, the United
States, through NATO, should offer a security guarantee to Kosovo
to deter any belligerence by Belgrade. By recognizing Kosovo's
independence and guaranteeing its security, the world community
will send a powerful message that Kosovo's sovereignty will be
protected and that interference will be met with repercussions.
At the same time, by inviting Serbia into its Partnership for
Peace program, NATO is using the carrot as well as the stick.
Through NATO, the United States must continue to encourage Serbia
to move toward integration into the Euro-Atlantic framework. While
it is highly unlikely that Serbia will accept Kosovo's independence
in the short term, Belgrade can at least be persuaded to take
the path of least resistance.
The Administration should also send a clear message to Moscow
that it will not tolerate any Russian interference. Moscow's
concern for the protection of Serbian minorities in an independent
Kosovo is specifically addressed in Ahtisaari's plan, designed to
prevent a repeat of the appalling ethnic violence of March 2004.
Ethnic Serbs will hold broad rights to guarantee their position
within a multi-ethnic democracy. If ethnic violence is to be
avoided once again, Kosovo's status must be determined sooner
rather than later. Further sclerosis or indecisiveness will only
encourage destabilizing elements both inside and outside of
Moscow may seek to wield its veto power at the U.N. Security
Council over this issue. Washington, London, and Paris must make
every diplomatic effort to avoid this, assuring Russia that Kosovo
is a special case and will not set a precedent in the region. While
Kosovo could be granted independence through a series of bilateral
recognitions, the Security Council route is preferable, and the
absence of a Russian veto would send Serbia a potent message that
resolution of the Kosovo question must occur through peaceful
The Need for Foreign Investment
Kosovo can no longer rely on international aid for its economic
development. Certainty about its political climate is critical to
fostering investment and growth. With increased stability and
predictability, Kosovo can expect greater economic development,
which is essential to its future. Sustainable economic development
will also reduce chronic unemployment, currently estimated at 35 to
Kosovo already has the foundations of a sound market economy. Kosovo's
membership in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) has
created solid regional trade and investment opportunities, with
access to a market of 20 million people. Both the European Union and
the United States must seek to build on this foundation.
With its vast single market, the European Union can both
incentivize Serbia and aid Kosovo's economic development. Holding
out the promise of market access, free trade, and full accession,
the European Union should negotiate with both Serbia and Kosovo to
actively encourage conclusion of a deal on Kosovo's final
The United States should show its commitment with a free trade
agreement, either bilaterally with Kosovo or with CEFTA as a whole.
As stated in President Bush's 2002 National Security Strategy, free
trade is an important tool in advancing American strategic
Less than a decade ago, Kosovo was a war-torn entity facing a
bleak future. But with the unanimous support of the European Union,
the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, NATO, the
United States, the Western Members of the Kosovo Contact Group, the
United Nations, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.N.
Special Envoy Ahtisaari has managed to unite most of the
international community on Kosovo's future. Neighboring countries,
including Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bulgaria, are also broadly
supportive. This is a major achievement.
While it is likely that the final agreement will be subject to
intense negotiation and review before it is agreed later this year,
the principle of Kosovo's status as an independent nation must
remain paramount. As The Economist noted, independence is
now inevitable, but the question is whether the process will be
"controlled" or "uncontrolled." Inaction would guarantee failure at
achieving a controlled outcome.
The cost of Kosovo's reconstruction and recovery from June 1999
through 2004 was a whopping $2.76 billion, and more than 16,000
NATO troops are still deployed there. For this significant
investment to produce returns, the West must proceed with the
option that has the greatest chance of achieving peace, progress,
and stability, as well as the least risk. No plan will be without
its risks, and it would be foolish to assume immediate success, but
after 14 months of negotiations and the exhaustion of other
options, Ahrtisaari's plan offers Kosovo at least a chance for an
Sally McNamara is Senior Policy Analyst in European
Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of
the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, "UNMIK Fact
Sheet," October 2006.
 The Serbian
Parliament adopted a resolution rejecting Ahrtisaari's plan for
Kosovo's independence on February 14, 2007.
 Levent Koro,
"Kosovo's Economic Outlook in Development & Transition," United
Nations Development Program Kosovo, December 2006
 Levent Koro,
"Kosovo's Economic Outlook."
Threats: Kosovo and Russia," The Economist (U.S. Edition),
March 24, 2007.