“My question to the Bush administration is why the double standard? Why does Slovenia, which is 90 percent ethnic Slovenian, get such different treatment than Kosova, which is 90 percent ethnic Albanian?”
In their efforts to rewrite history, some Serbian nationalists and Russian Putinists have blamed US for the break-up of Yugoslavia.
The easily verifiable truth is that it took nearly a year of hot debates, aggressive lobbying, and a string of mass protests in Washington DC, for the Bush Sr. administration to recognize that Yugoslavia as the world had known it for most of the 20th century had ceased to exist.
On April 7th, 1992, President George HW Bush finally recognized the independence of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. To the chagrin of their supporters Kosova and Macedonia were not in the list.
Ethnic communities from the Balkans had worked together during 1991-1992, in cooperation with their friends in US Congress to make this happen. Thousands of Albanian-Americans had joined immigrants from Yugoslavian republics in their vocal rallies in Washington DC, in fundraising and activist meetings. Now their fate had taken different routes. The efforts of Croatian-Americans, Slovenian-Americans etc were redeemed. Many Albanians felt short-changed.
Illyria, the Albanian-American newspaper which had been founded, less than a year ago, by Harry Bajraktari, a young and dynamic community activist and businessman, was unimpressed by the belated change in State Department’s line towards Belgrade. “Baker is 10,000 lives and 10 months too late,” said its editorial of April 18th.
The delay of Bush Sr had its explanations. An appropriate concentration in the Balkans, by the administration, was hampered by grand global designs entertained by President Bush, Secretary Baker et al. They gladly allowed the Europeans to take the lead in tackling the issue of Yugoslavia, which they saw as a minor regional issue and were more concerned on how it could affect the dissolution of USSR. Furthermore, they demurred to follow EC’s example in recognizing the seceding republics. Baker had infamously said “we don’t have a dog in this fight,” as Yugoslavia was going down in flames. His deputy and the man in charge on Yugoslavia, Lawrence Eagleburger was largely suspected as having a deep personal conflict of interest there. Legitimate arguments that Belgrade could be convinced to accept peaceful solutions if recognitions of Slovenia and Croatia were withheld informed UN’s official line as well. Yet, serious observers had concluded that the delay had in fact emboldened Slobodan Milosevic’s nationalist agenda while the war in Yugoslavia had gone from bad to worse.
Now when everything was said and done, Kosova was left in the backburner. Albanian-Americans had been especially hopeful of the influence by the great influential Republican Senate veterans, led by Bob Dole, who was thought to have President Bush’s ear. Kosova was nevertheless a complicated topic and it was a presidential election year. Loyal and traditional Republican leaning Albanian-Americans were dismayed by the fact that Governor Clinton was speaking more boldly on Kosova and Yugoslavia than their initial favorite in the White House.
Meanwhile a new friend of the Albanian-American community was making waves in support of Kosova. Congressman Eliot Engel’s reaction was forceful and immediate and as the time showed, he was only warming up.
Two days after Bush’s announcement recognizing three former republics of Yugoslavia, the young Democrat from New York, took the floor in the House of Representatives and criticized the “two standards” of the Bush administration in dealing with the right to self-determination in the Eastern Europe.
Here’s what he said:
“Mr. Speaker, finally reading that Yugoslavia was no longer a viable entity, President Bush finally recognized the independence of Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia- Herzegovina. I fully supported his decision to recognize these peoples seeking self-determination.
Unfortunately, he did not see fit to recognize the independence of the Republic of Kosova, a country that was also part of the former Yugoslavia. Last September, the Kosovars held a referendum in which 99.9 percent of those voting supported independence. The Serbian Government attempted to squelch the referendum, but 87 percent of those eligible to vote did so.
My question to the Bush administration is why the double standard? Why does Slovenia, which is 90 percent ethnic Slovenian, get such different treatment than Kosova, which is 90 percent ethnic Albanian?
The Kosovar people want nothing more than to be free of Serbian oppression and to be allowed to govern themselves. They have agreed to abide by the human rights standards laid down by the European Committee despite the fact that Serbian oppression has reached unprecedented proportions. The State Department’s own Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1991 states that in Kosova, and I quote: Serbian authorities intensified repressive measures against the majority Albanian population, and arrested and beat hundreds of Albanians on trumped up charges.
Mr. Speaker, if the United States is going to support self-determination of peoples in Eastern Europe, it must support the legitimate rights of the people of Kosova to independence.”
This February 17th, Kosova will celebrate the tenth anniversary of its hard-won independence. It had to go through unparalleled oppression and suffering, a devastating war, and a prolonged interim period. However, in the end, it proclaimed its irreversible independence and the United States was among the first nations to recognize it. Coincidentally it was another President Bush, (George W, the son), who signed the recognition.
Congressman Engel was in Prishtina for the historic ceremony of the historic Declaration and was honored last year with a commemoration postage stamp. What a quarter of century it has been for Kosova, the Albanian-Americans, and our great friends and supporters in US. Happy 2018 and eternal gratitude to all who those who helped!