By Agim Aliçkaj, MSc. */
(Dis)Respect for the Democratic Values in Kosova by Ambassador Richard Grenell/
Dear Mr. President Trump,
While I feel very uneasy to address you in these difficult moments, when you are fully engaged in saving the American people and the entire world from the cruel virus, COVID-19, there is an urgent issue that I must address that affects the future of an entire country.
Three decades ago, I was forced to leave my beloved country of birth, Kosova, as thousands of Albanians did. We were targeted and persecuted by the communist and terrorist dictatorship led by Serbian war criminal, Slobodan Milosevic. I was fortunate to settle in the United States of America, the most powerful and greatest democratic country in the world, the symbol of freedom and justice, the guarantor of peace and security of the whole world, and the biggest supporter of the Albanian nation.
This displacement was followed by Serbia’s cruel wars against the people of former Yugoslavia which included Slovenians, Croats, Bosnians and Albanians. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and monstrous massacres took place in Bosnia and Kosova. Albanian mothers of Kosova are still grieving over their missing children. The horrible consequences of the war still linger heavily in the collective memory of the people of Kosova.
Historical facts and credible documents reveal information about the crimes that Serbs and other neighbors have committed against Albanians in their quest to seize their lands. They reveal the heroic resistance of the Albanian people, always fighting for their freedom. They also reveal our people’s unsurpassed tolerance and respect for all different nations, races and religions. Nothing illustrates this better than the salvation of all Jewish people who lived or reached Albanian lands while escaping from Nazi persecution during the Holocaust. I am very proud that my father Arif Aliçkaj was a part of this noble all-Albanian national effort.
During President Clinton’s term, America, who was assisted by other NATO members in siding with truth, justice and liberty, came to the defense of the innocent Albanian people by bombing their Serbian aggressor in 1999. They helped the people of Kosova gain their freedom from Serbian occupation. The freedom for which many sons and daughters of the Albanian people fought and sacrificed their lives for – generation after generation – for more than a century.
During President Bush’s term, after many years of tough and exhausting negotiations mediated by Finnish President Ahtisaari, America helped Kosova declare its limited independence, for which the Albanian people of Kosova had to painfully make the ultimate compromise. Even after continued efforts by Serbia to challenge Kosovo’s independence, it was also validated by the International Court of Justice in the Hague. The benefit of the agreement was that it did not touch the current borders of the Republic of Kosova. However, it came with two big and unjustified errors. First, this agreement did not address the rights of the Albanian people who live in their autochthonous lands within Serbia. Those who should have been protected in exactly the same way as the rights of the Serbian minority in Kosova. Second, there was no consequences or real punishment for the defeated aggressor, Serbia, and their criminal behavior. Milosevic and few of his henchmen were arrested and convicted, but there was no demand for reparations of the war, no public apology and no pressure to return the remains of thousands of the missing persons to the families still in mourning.
These unforgivable mistakes enabled Serbia, who to this day is still ruled by former collaborators and supporters of Milosevic, to launch an unprecedented hostile campaign against the young state of Kosova. With its state-sponsored deceitful propaganda, based on pure lies and no facts, as well as expensive lobbying campaign in Washington, Serbia has managed to present itself in the international public opinion as a victim despite having been the aggressor. In this disgusting endeavor, they were helped also by failed politicians and governments of Kosova that managed to come to power after the death of President Ibrahim Rugova. Instead of working hard to build and strengthen the new democratic state, they were involved in illegal anti-democratic affairs that are harmful to the new Republic.
A few months ago, we were hopeful in how your administration became more actively involved in finding a solution to the Albanian-Serbian conflict. We thought that based on American values, Ambassador Richard Grenell, your Special Envoy for the Kosova-Serbia talks, would do the right thing, This being, pressuring the Serbian aggressor to recognize the rights of the victimized people of Kosova to exist in the lands that they have called home for centuries.
Ambassador Grenell started the process by asking Kosova to unconditionally remove its 100% tariffs on the Serbian goods and Serbia to cease its hostile activities against the Albanian people. We understood this as his effort and desire for an unbiased mediation. However, after a brief period of time, he completely and openly sided with Serbia. When Serbia confronted him publicly by declaring that they would continue their hostile actions no matter what and would never recognize the independence of Kosova, he did not get angry. He simply “forgot” about pressuring Serbia and focused only on pressuring Kosova. He continued to facilitate secret contacts and talks between Serbian President Aleksander Vuçiç and Kosova President Hashim Thaçi. Vuçiç is a chauvinist with deep hatred for the Albanian people and a Milosevic supporter with a possible criminal background. Thaçi is a politician that is detested by the majority of the people of Kosova and considered the principal player responsible for most of the failures of the last 20 years. Based on the Constitution of the Republic of Kosova, he is not authorized to lead the talks between Kosova and Serbia.
It was so absurd that Ambassador Grenell continued with his demand for the removal of the tariffs by Kosova in order to begin the dialogue with Serbia while at the same time talks between Vuçiç and Thaçi continued behind closed doors. The newly formed democratic government of Kosova, the government of hope and domestic anti-corruption, led by the mostly voted leaders in the country, Albin Kurti and Vjosa Osmani, did not reject his demand. With great respect for America, they offered a real, timely and logical proposal for the removal of the tariffs. They acted based on the promises that they made to the voters during their campaign, same as you Mr. President. This was not accepted by Ambassador Grenell. The actions that followed, including inviting Thaçi to Washington who represents PDK, the largest party in opposition for a meeting with Vuçiç, and especially of Hyseni, who represents LDK, the junior partner of the ruling coalition, raises a reasonable suspicion that the Ambassador encouraged the removal of the legitimate democratically elected government of Kosova. It was unbelievable and incredibly painful to read the statement of Your Ambassador, supporting the holding of the session of the parliament to vote for the motion of no-confidence against the government amid extraordinary circumstances when Kosova, America and the entire world was fighting for life or death against COVID-19. The majority of the democratic world, including Spain, who is not considered a supporter of Kosova, were against this move.
I would like to quote here the Rapporteur for Kosova at the European Parliament, Eurodeputy Viola von-Cramon, who recently tweeted of the decision: “An own goal of the USA in #Kosovo with a historical dimension. How can you an ambassador be pleased to see a functional government tumbling in the #CoronaPandemic? Unbelievable. Irresponsible. I feel terribly sorry for the people of #Kosovo. They don’t deserve this.”
Mr. President Donald J. Trump, as a devoted American and a conservative Republican, please allow me to use my right for the freedom of speech, with good intentions but with a broken heart and present you with some of my more concrete and direct points:
– I appreciate and support your “America First” platform and your statement at the UN that “other leaders of the world have the right to do the same for the countries they represent”. So, why was this right flagrantly denied to the Prime Minister of Kosova? The recent actions of Your Ambassador benefit only the Serbian-Russian hegemonic interests in the Balkans and may qualify as “Serbia First, Russia Second, America Third, and Kosova Last.” I also like your other slogan “Make America Great Again”, but in this case, it seems more applicable to “Make Serbia Great Again”.
– During your last confrontation in the US Congress with the impeachment efforts by the Democratic Party to remove you from the office based on their allegations of your “Russian collusion”, you said that “this is a witch hunt” and that “it should never happen again to any president”. So, how could the same happen to Prime Minister Kurti with the blessing of Your Ambassador, only because he was standing up for the legitimate rights of his own country?
– I salute the recent statement by the representatives of the State Department that in the meetings hosted by Ambassador Grenell there was no discussion about changing the borders
between Kosova and Serbia. If so, what were they talking about and why are these negotiations not transparent? More importantly if the people of Kosova, despite all the pressures, do not accept any land swap negotiated between Thaçi and Vuçiç, will America still defend the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Republic of Kosova within current borders as recognized in 2008? Why is there no mention of the sovereignty and territorial integrity lately?
– How is it possible that the America we know during your presidency is supporting politicians it once denounced as corrupt? Some of them being known criminals, from political parties that have ruled Kosova since the declaration of the independence?! How can they be accepted as legitimate participants in negotiations to resolve the problem that they themselves have created? How can they trust those who brought Kosova to the brink of failure, causing a tragedy for their own people and major problems for America at the time when there is a need to be focused elsewhere on bigger issues?! How is it possible to support the collapse of the newly formed democratic government of Kosova, which in its 40 days of work proved that it has the capability to lift Kosova out of poverty and the state of hopelessness?!
I am very sorry Mr. President, but this has nothing to do with the democratic values of our beloved America. By supporting this anti-democratic act, your administration will ultimately be responsible for potential turmoil and destabilization that may follow in Kosova, the Balkans and Europe in its entirety after the ending of the Corona virus crisis. Even more so if Thaçi and his cronies are encouraged by your representatives to continue with using undemocratic means to rule Kosova.
– After his trip to America, emboldened by Ambassador Grenell, President Thaçi launched an open unprecedented, undiplomatic and arrogant attack against European representatives. Do they really think that Europe can be pressured to accept and implement an imposed solution, without its participation and consent, when as you know Kosova and Serbia are both situated in Europe?
– With their recent actions, President Thaçi and few of his friends in Kosova, supported by some important people in Your Administration, have increased Serbia’s appetite for annexation of more Albanian territory. Over more than a century, Serbia has forcefully occupied and ethnically cleansed Albanian people in major cities and regions like Nis, Toplice, Leskovac, Sandjak, and so on. If they manage to take Northern Kosova and Mitrovica, they will ask for more like Podujeva, Gjilan, Prizren, Shkodra, Durrës, and perhaps even Prishtina and Tirana. Documents from unbiased historical sources prove this ambition. One thing is very clear, Serbia will only stop when it is definitely convinced that there is no chance for grabbing of more Albanian lands.
– A permanent solution to this problem is difficult but possible and simple. America and the democratic world that have recognized Kosova in its existing borders, should make it clear to Serbia that the times of changing borders have passed once and for all. That the equal political and human rights for the Serbs in Kosova and the Albanians in Serbia will be guaranteed and preserved. Only a serious and decisive pressure by America and the democratic countries of Europe on Serbia can achieve this. The problem is not in Kosova, it is in Serbia and can only be resolved there. This country suffers from an unabated hatred for Albanians and other surrounding nations. Until Serbia is cured, these problems will persist. The alternative of changing the borders is very complicated and impossible to implement, it will cause the destabilization of the Balkans and all of Europe for decades to come. Most importantly, the people of Kosova and other Albanian lands will never ever accept it.
– I would like to emphasize that opinions, views and positions expressed in this letter are not only mine, they are also of those of more than 90% of hundreds of thousands of members of the Albanian diaspora in America, Europe, and all over the world, as well as of more than 60% of Albanian people in the Balkans. I also think that it is important to let you know that I am not affiliated and do not support any political party in Kosova. Like many other compatriots, I support only those leaders that prove themselves by working hard and with dedication for the wellbeing of the people and the nation.
Please, President Trump!
Do not push away the friendly Albanian people who love America more than any other nation on earth. Serbia may pretend to love America for its temporary interests, but everyone knows that the majority of the Serbian people would always side with Russia over America and this will never change.
May God bless you, your family and the American nation!
May God bless the Albanian nation!
* Member of the Executive Board of the Albanian-American Civic League and a member of the Council of Vatra.