- The normalization agreement between Kosova and Serbia centered on mutual recognition can only be achieved with full US involvement/
By AGIM ALIÇKAJ, MRSC. *
Dear President Biden,
I would like to address an important foreign policy issue that you have dealt with for most of your very successful political life in America – the tragic events after the breakup of former Yugoslavia.
Your personal involvement and leadership in stopping four terrible wars, launched by the criminal state of Serbia and led by former war criminal Slobodan Milosevic, has helped save the lives of millions of innocent civilians, especially women and children in Kosova, Bosnia and Croatia. Your dedication to the protection and preservation of human rights, peace and stability in Southeastern Europe is admirable. This issue is very dear to the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Albanian-Americans like me, who have escaped Serbian and communist oppression and are living the American dream in the greatest country in the world.
I will never forget your inspirational speech at an event in New York organized by human rights activists and the leaders of Albanian American Civic League, Joe DioGuardi and Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi on April 28, 2002. You said: “Until the Serbian people look themselves in the face and understand what their leaders have done in their name, they will not be able to shed this notion of victimization, they can never cure themselves of the disease that they are the oppressed… and this cycle will continue and continue”.
Unfortunately, they did not listen to your advice. More than two decades later, not much has changed in Serbia, so the cycle is continuing. The Serbian chauvinistic government led by Aleksandar Vucic, the controlled media and orthodox church are still manipulating Serbian people and promoting hatred for neighboring nations, especially against the Albanian people, based on their fake “historical rights”. A well-known Serbian nationalist, politician, and writer, considered by many as the father of Serbia, Dobrica Cosic has said “Lying is the highest virtue of the Serbian people… The Serbs have rescued themselves in history so many times with lies.”
They never apologized for the genocide against Albanian people, they regard themselves as victims and are still playing the victim. The people of Kosova are in mourning even today as more than 1500 people are still missing. Many war criminals are walking free in Serbia and other territories controlled by them. The murderers of three American citizens, brothers Bytyqi, have not yet been charged. Serbia has not been punished for their crimes against humanity. Justice has yet to be served.
The Serbian obstructionist/enemy behavior against Kosova has become more aggressive after your win of the Presidency in America and even more so after the election of Albin Kurti and Vjosa Osmani in Kosova. They fear you because they know that you understand the situation in the Balkans better than anyone, and that you stand for a peaceful, un-biased, truthful and lasting solution to the Albanian-Serbian conflict based on justice for all. They fear Mr. Kurti and Mrs. Osmani because they know that they are pro-western, uncorrupt, highly educated, very capable, fearless and very popular leaders.
Lately, Serbian nationalists have turned for help to their allies in Europe who are sympathetic to their destructive goals, including French racist parliamentarians and other politicians who come from the countries of the European Union who have not recognized the Republic of Kosova. One of them is the EU mediator in the dialogue between Prishtina and Belgrade, Mr. Miroslav Lajcak. He is looking more like a Serbian missionary and less like an unbiased mediator. He has already shown his bias against Kosova, asking for the change of constitution to accommodate Serbian minority demands, trying to create ethnically clean Serbian municipality associations and giving an interview with a map behind him, showing Kosova as a part of Serbia. This is completely in contrast with western proclaimed values of multiethnicity and peaceful coexistence of people with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
What is even more disturbing is that Serbia is continuing with ethnic cleansing of the Albanian people in northern Kosova and southern Serbia. Recently, the Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic has met Serbian nationalists, chauvinists and hooligans led by Lista Srpska in these areas, by giving them direction on how to obstruct the newly elected government of Kosova. They are using violence against Serbs who do not agree with their policies like Nenad Rasic, whose son was badly beaten in broad daylight by Vucic supporters. Mrs. Rada Trajkovic, a Serbian human rights activist, has stated that she is feeling threatened by Vucic. More violence may follow with the intention to destabilize Kosova.
The European Union policy of appeasing the aggressor (Serbia) and pressuring the victim (Kosova) for 22 years, has simply and logically failed. Western diplomats have been trying unsuccessfully to win over Serbia from alliance with Russia and China at the expense of the Albanian people. This kind of accommodation of Serbian appetite for land grab is so wrong. Serbs are notorious land raiders that will never stop asking for more, until they are convinced that there is nothing left to take.
Putin’s despotic government is supporting their quest for a “Greater Serbia” which serves Russian hegemonic aspirations in Southwestern Europe. This well-planned project has been in the works for more than a century. It is written in detail in the book by Serbian politician, Vaso Cubrilovic, named “The expulsion of the Albanians”. Hundreds of thousands Albanian civilians have been killed or forced to immigrate to Turkey and other countries. Anti-Albanian missionaries are trying to confuse it by comparing it to a non-existent project for so called “Greater Albania”. If this were true, there would be a plan and effort to unite all Albanian lands of Southern Serbia (Preseva, Bujanovc, Medvegja, Nis, Toplice, Kursumlija and Sandjak), Western Macedonia, Southern Montenegro, and Northern Greece with Kosova and Albania.
Former President Martti Ahtisaari’s plan was the biggest most painful compromise Kosova had to make in order to get supervised limited independence – a multiethnic country even though more than 90% is Albanian, a flag with no national symbols, a meaningless national anthem and extraordinary rights for the Serbian minority like nowhere else in the world. Yet again, Kosova is being pressured by some Western diplomats for more compromises, now with the aggressor, the chauvinistic Serbia who has never stopped trying to destroy Kosova. I wish these mediators would understand. Enough is enough. Freedom cannot be negotiated nor compromised, ever. Even former President Ahtisaari said in an interview for Croatian newspaper “Vecernji list” on July 28, 2012 that: “If Serbia wants Russia let her go there, no more concessions are acceptable”.
There will be no solution without full, permanent, and serious involvement from the United States of America. The Agreement for Economical Normalization facilitated by the Trump Administration and signed in Washington on September 4, 2020, was a publicity campaign organized by a very unconventional, undiplomatic diplomat, Mr. Richard Grenell. He helped remove the democratic government of Albin Kurti in Kosova to elect a puppet government of Avdullah Hoti which resulted in him signing an agreement serving exclusively Serbian interests. They were hoping that Serbian-American money and votes in swing states like Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania would help the election of President Trump. Even though they lost, Mr. Grenell continues to undermine the newly elected Kosova government – a recent win in the free democratic elections that was historical and magnificent on its own. I hope that your Administration will disregard his pro-Serbian unworkable agreement and unconstructive views.
The only good thing about the agreement for economical normalization was the recognition of the independence of Kosova by Israel, a long overdue act expected from a democratic pro-American country based on the excellent historical relationship between Jewish and Albanian people. Even this rightful recognition came with controversy over the location of the Embassy in Jerusalem due to Europe’s strong opposition. This situation can be handled and resolved only by America’s leadership. On the other hand, Serbian government is not acting at all on their promise to relocate their Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As usual, they are continuing to play both sides: sympathetic to Palestinians and friendly with countries like Iran, while lying and trying to convince Israel that Serbians problem with Albanians is the same as Israeli-Palestine conflict.
The reality is that the conflict between Kosova and Serbia is political and only a political solution can resolve it. A permanent comprehensive solution is not easy, but it is very clear and simple. It must start with the realization and demonstration by the Serbian people that they are not a victim. An apology for war crimes should follow with new efforts to bring unpunished war criminals to justice. This will make possible a constructive dialogue between two equal parties which should be mediated by unbiased American and European diplomats to discuss and achieve an agreement for guaranteed, equal protection and preservation of human rights of Serbian minority in Kosova and Albanians in Serbia. The final result should be a mutual recognition in present borders with no ethnically clean municipalities and no extraterritorial status for any religious institutions anywhere. This can only be achieved with serious and decisive economic and diplomatic pressure on Serbia by America and Europe.
Mr. President, in your speech you emphasized that America should stay involved until the job is finished. I do believe that you have the knowledge, the experience, the wisdom and the power to finish this job. You have already secured your space in American history by becoming the 46th President of the United States. Finding a final and just solution to the conflict between Kosova and Serbia will be your permanent legacy in Albanian history alongside President Wilson, President Clinton and President Bush. Moreover, you will also enter Serbian history as the American leader who helped the Serbian nation release and liberate themselves from the devil within.
Throughout history, the Albanian people have shown respect and unsurpassed tolerance for other religions, races and ethnic groups. Nothing illustrates this better than the salvation of all Jewish people who lived or reached Albanian lands while escaping from Nazi persecution during Holocaust. I am very proud that my father Arif Aliçkaj was a part of this noble all-Albanian effort, recognized in US resolution H.Res.812 in November 2012. As one of the oldest civilized nations in Southwestern Europe, Albanian people have given to the world many great personalities like Skanderbeg, who for 25 years defended Europe from invading Ottoman Empire and Saint Mother Teresa, the symbol of humanity and care for people in need all over the world.
Albanian people have never attacked any other nation, they always had to fight back foreign invaders, to protect their homes and their children. All they want now is to be able to exist and live freely in their ancestry lands. Kosova has chosen its European pro-American path. It is time for Serbia to choose to become part of a democratic Europe or remain under the influence of Russia and China with all the negative aspects of the totalitarian systems.
It is a fact that Albanian people love and respect America more than any other nation on earth, while everyone knows that the majority of the Serbian people would always side with Russia over America. This will never change.
May God bless you, your family and the American nation!
May God bless the Albanian nation!
*Member of Executive Board of the Albanian-American Civic League and a member of the Council of Vatra.