Congratulations are in order as Kosova moves to forms its own army
By Harry Bajraktari
The parliament of Kosova kicked off today a 10-year transition plan towards the transformation of Kosova Security Force (KSF) into a full-fledged army.
It is both a courageous and a careful decision that proves once again the maturity of the young republic. It is courageous because Kosova institutions stood up for its rights as a sovereign country and fulfilled the will of the people. It was democracy in action. It was challenged by a climate of baseless panic and disinformation produced mostly by a growingly alarmist Serbia. However, the leaders of Kosova stood fast.
It is also a carefully thought and planned move. The transformation has only just begun. There were great celebrations in the streets of Prishtina, but changes are mostly symbolic, and the process is sober and serious. The structure and the mission of KSF will remain unchanged as the security force coverts itself into an army. A long process of military capacity building in cooperation and consultation with NATO, US and other allies has taken its first step.
This is how young democracies should behave. This is how countries that care about peace and stability of their region should act.
The decision has been criticized by Serbia, which is now calling for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Belgrade maintains that the new army’s real intention is taking control of the north of the country and implementing an ethnic cleansing of the local Serbs. It has gone as far as to threaten with military intervention.
Kosova has been criticized also by NATO and EU for the timing of this change and the lack of inclusion of the Serbian political parties in the process.
The concerns of our allies are important and Kosova is working hard to address them. However, in all honesty, if by “good timing” they mean waiting for an approval from Serbia, then it is a futile plan. Kosova is not rushing this process. This step is taken as the country approaches the 11th anniversary of its independence and the process will take another decade to be completed. 21 years is very long time for any country. Instead of criticizing them, NATO and EU should praise the leaders of Kosova for their patience and restrain.
On the other hand, the allegations coming Serbia are completely unfounded. There are no plans to change the operations plans of the armed force of Kosova. The only country that has practiced ethnic cleansing in Kosova is Serbia and it has still to recognize and apologize for forcing one million of Kosovars out of Kosova within a few days, in 1999, in a move that earned worldwide condemnation. On the contrary, Kosova has been sponsoring for years the return of the ethnic Serbs in Kosova, has funded the rebuilt of their homes and has given them ample local decentralized powers like nowhere in Europe. Similarly, Kosova’s Army will defend all the people of Kosova, including the ethnic Serbs. Just like KSF, it will be a multi-ethnic force with a growing number of ethnic Serbs in its ranks.
If Serbia really wants to help the situation in Kosova, it should stop pressuring and threatening the local ethnic-Serbs to quit their positions in the republic’s multi-ethnic institutions including the police and the army.
I also hope that the call for an urgent session in the Security Council will not be taken in consideration. The world has many places that deserve urgent attention, where wars and famine are risking the lives of millions of people. Serbia and its ally, Russia, should stop trying to misrepresent the situation in the Balkans and treat it like a war zone. It hurts everyone, including the Serbs that the government in Belgrade claims to protect. But if this urgent session take place, I hope the threat of Serbia to intervene militarily in Kosova takes center stage. It has been the only recent threat to peace in the region that merits discussion.
Finally, I would like to express once again my deep gratitude to the United States of America, for its principled foreign policy in the Balkans, for being a great ally of Kosova, and for showing once again leadership when many of our European allies are demurring.
In my lifetime, I have seen some major milestones in the history of Kosova, including its liberation in 1999 and its declaration of independence in 2008. Today will count as one of those great moments, when a sovereign country, a freedom-loving people is exercising the legitimate right to defend itself.
Congratulations to the long-suffering people of Kosova on this great day for them. Congratulations to President Thaçi, Prime Minister Haradinaj, and Speaker Veseli. Congratulations to all the parties and the civil society for showing unity and determination in this great moment in history. God bless the United States of America and God bless the Republic of Kosova!
Harry Bajraktari is leader of the Albanian-American community from New York. He is the founder and former publisher of Illyria newspaper.