As reported yesterday, two of Kosovo’s border posts were burned down by an angry Serbian mob. The SRSG and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hasim Thaci have already condemned the attacks. The SRSG and Thaci have also appealed for calm.
But what about statements by Serbia’s government officials, like Tadic or Kostunica, that condemn the attacks and appeal to its people for calm? As I unfortunately predicted, no such statements were uttered by either Tadic or Kostunica or any ranking government official for that matter about the border post burnings. In fact, and inexplicably, Serbia has officially endorsed the attacks on the border posts. Completely irresponsible.
After all, Serbia’s Kosovo minister, Slobodan Samardzic, commented yesterday that the burning of the border posts was “in accordance with general government policies.” Are you kidding me? What kind of government policies are designed to intentionally to provoke and inflame a population? What kind of government policies explicitly condone violence? What kind of government policies are created to destablize a region?
I thought that perhaps Samardzic was a maverick and was saying something off the top of his head. And, obviously, if Samardzic’s comments were not correct, surely Serbia’s higher government officials, such as Tadic and Kostunica, would have said something by now, rebuking Samardzic’s comments. Samardzic’s comments were uttered more than 24 hours ago.
No comments or rebuke at all by either Tadic, Kostunica, or any high ranking government officials. A stoney silence by Serbia’s ranking government officials. Without question, then, Sebia’s government has endorsed these attacks. Of course, Serbia certainly has the right to be frustrated and to take any diplomatic measures it sees fit against Kosovo independence. But to explicity endorse this type of violence is disturbing. Serbia’s position also undermines the status of Serbia’s government as a rational and compassionate body.
Guys, what the hell are you doing? What planet are you from? Is this your idea of moving Serbia forward into Europe? Perhaps Tadic and Kostunica should read the book by Hans Christian Anderson, “The Emperor Has No Clothes.”
Kosovo’s honeymoon as an independent state was rudely shattered yesterday when hundreds of Serbs converged on two border checkpoints separating Serbia from the newly free state and destroyed them with plastic explosives. United Nations peacekeepers evacuated by helicopter the police officers manning the checkpoints, and the vandals then used a tractor to push the metal sheds that functioned as checkpoint buildings down a hill and into a river.
The checkpoints were at Jarnije and Banja, 20 kilometres north of the divided city of Mitrovica. Serb authorities in the four districts implicitly endorsed the attacks, calling on Belgrade to “urgently take steps” to protect Serbia’s territorial integrity – in other words, to take military action to prevent the writ of the newly independent state extending to Serb majority areas. The Serbian Kosovo minister, Slobodan Samardzic, said “today’s action is in accordance with general government policies”.
It was widely predicted in the run-up to independence that the four Serb-dominated districts contiguous with Serbia in the north-west corner of Kosovo might issue a counter-declaration of partition from the Albanian-majority Kosovo. That has not happened, but some Western officials in Pristina said that the border attacks brought de facto partition closer.
Last night, French and American troops belonging to the KFOR peacekeeping mission were said to be attempting to seal the vandalised crossing points. The top UN official in Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker, condemned the attacks. “Any violence is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” he said.
The violence extended to Mitrovica north, the Serb quarter of the city, where for a second day thousands of protesters marched through the town to the bridge that separates the two communities. Monday’s demonstration had been peaceful, but yesterday they used rocks and sticks to vandalise UN vehicles as they marched. The previous night several loud explosions were heard in town, one of them damaging several cars near a UN building.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, insisted that there was no cause for alarm. “Everything is under the control of the Nato authorities, Kosovo police and the United Nations,” he said. “Kosovo is integral, inseparable, and Kosovo territory is recognised internationally.”
The above article was published on February 20, 2008 in the Independent. Author of the quoted article is Peter Popham.