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ISSUE 121 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/29/2008

Kosova demands liberty

By Nicole Smith
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 29, 2008

On Feb. 17, Kosovo's parliament voted unanimously to finally declare independence from Serbia. Kosovo has been under U.N. control since 1999 when NATO expelled Serb forces.

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of Kosovo said his country is "proud, independent and free." Kosovo would be a democratic country that respected the rights of all ethnic communities. He said there should be no fear of discrimination, and he vowed to eradicate such practices -- which makes me feel more comfortable about a region which is not known for its tolerance and peace.

On Feb. 18, the Serbian Parliament passed a resolution condemning Kosovo's declaration of independence. The resolution formally annulled acts of the government in Pristina, saying Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, retained sovereignty over Kosovo. This sovereignty was guaranteed by the United Nations and international law. Which I found a little confusing: if it's a United Nations issue shouldn't it be solved by the United Nations?

The Serbs are frustrated: under the U.N Security Council resolution 1244 Serbia retains sovereignty over Kosovo, and the 1999 decision in regards to U.N. relations is still intact. But considering more countries are in favor of Kosovo's independence than against it, this doesn't really hold up for me.

Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica denounced Kosovo as a "false state," and criticized the U.S. for supporting Kosovo's search for independence. Kostunica blamed the United States, saying it was "ready to violate the international order for its own military interests."

The United States, in a dramatic and expected showing of support, formally recognized Kosovo on Feb. 18. Other supporters of Kosovo are Germany, Italy, France, the U.K., Austria, Turkey, Albania, Afghanistan, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

Several countries strongly opposed to Kosovo's declaration of independence cited that it may lead to precedent for other states. The countries currently not acknowledging Kosovo are Russia, Spain, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus. Many of these countries are dealing with separatist states and are concerned with the effect Kosovo's situation may produce. However, this point seems to me to be null and void due to the U.N. decision to not let Kosovo set a precedent.

Kosovo Serbs set fire to two border crossings in protest using bulldozers to corner police into a tunnel in the northern crossings of Jarinje and Banja. NATO troops sealed Northern borders of Kosovo in reaction to the violence and fires. The borders have now been reopened. NATO peacemakers were also called in to help. All the violence just seems unnecessary when juxtaposed against the 150,000 person peaceful rally in Belgrade.

Several hundred protestors attacked the U.S. embassy using and tore down the American flag and also briefly setting fire to the embassy -- one unidentified person was found dead at the scene later. The U.S. embassy in Serbia has temporarily called for an evacuation of all non-essential staff soon to be reevaluated. In addition, U.K., Belgian, Croatian, Turkish missions were attacked. The U.N. fiercely condemned the attacks, and Serbian President Boris Tadic called for calm saying that violence only further separated Kosovo from Serbia.

When I first read the headline that Kosovo was free, I felt elated for what had been represented to me as a long repressed people. I am still in full support of the declaration, and I am shocked at the response, not only internationally but also within the boarders of our daily life. Facebook, for example, erupted with anti-freedom groups and events declaring frustration about Kosovo's separation. The violence that has broken out in Kosovo is horrific and simply mob anger being thrust at Kosovo, the United Nations and all the countries in support of this pivotal decision. Not being Serbian I must admit that perhaps ,I do not fully comprehend the enormity and consequences of the situation, but when so many countries that were once repressed are now individual states vying for membership in the United Nations it seems backward to want to deny Kosovo its chance at freedom.

Nicole Smith '10 is from Green Oaks, Ill. She majors in English with a concentration in media studies.

Nicole Smith '10 is from Green Oaks, Ill. She majors in English with a concentration in media studies.

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