Kosova's independence — declared two years ago — is the realization of a nation's yearning and a triumph over brutal repression.
We resisted through non-violent means for decades, including from 1989-1998 when I led a government-in-exile as Prime Minister. We were forced to take up arms to defend ourselves in the late 1990s, and remain grateful to have had NATO's help in 1999 to end the repression and bloodshed.
In only two years since declaring independence, Kosova has demonstrated resolute commitments to democratic processes, the rule of law, and inter-ethnic equality. Kosova's independence is a stabilizing factor for the Western Balkans, and will neither be compromised nor reversed.
Recognized by sixty-five states, all states of the former Yugoslavia except Serbia, and all but a few NATO members, Kosova's sovereignty and increasing self-responsibility can bring to a halt to debates about peoples and borders. Irredentism is, in the new Europe, a thing of the past. Kosova exemplifies that principle.
And, Kosova's effect on regional stability can be seen in recent nation-wide municipal elections that not only assured a viable opposition but also confirmed the government coalition. At the same time, consistent with the Ahtassari Plan, Kosova is creating new minority municipalities — and the much larger Serbian minority participation in those late 2009 municipal elections support the wisdom of that policy. A market of more than seven million Albanian speakers in Kosova, Albania, and Macedonia also augurs for a stable and prosperous cross-border region of trade, investment, and development.
Democracy has been tested in Kosova and has emerged victorious. American, EU, and NATO's nation-building efforts have been tested and, in this case, have worked. Kosova today, little more than a decade after NATO's intervention forced Serb military withdrawal, is a stable, self-governing, sustainable democracy.
But, that is hardly to say that Kosova is without challenges. Indeed, Kosova has and will continue to confront enormous obstacles notwithstanding independence.
The legacy of Belgrade's brutal rule was an exhausted population, ruined infrastructure, and despoiled land. People had fled, buildings, housing and roads were destroyed, livestock killed, communications disrupted, and commerce brought to a standstill. The Serbs left, but they left viciously.
Still on our arduous "to do" list are combating endemic corrupt practices that, while not unique to Kosova, are debilitating. Too, we have much to do to convince other governments that they should recognize Kosova, and exchange diplomatic representation. While some countries await an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling, most simply need stronger arguments — and we can provide them.
Further, the north of Kosova, where the Serb minority is more concentrated and Belgrade's interference most pronounced, must be addressed with international help. This zone requires internationally overseen, direct talks — lest incidents occur that might tip the scale towards confrontation not compromise. With considerable irony, Serbia needs Kosova to fully re-enter Europe while Kosova needs Serbia to realize its European goals. It is not too far fetched to say that the futures of both peoples remain intertwined as they have been for centuries.
Independence has enabled us to do for ourselves what must be done for our citizens. Such self-reliance is as welcome as it is daunting. While the journey of securing the well-being and prosperity of all Kosovars has only begun, we have taken critical first steps. Support of the International Community will continue to be essential, particularly to ensure that further Serbian interference is deterred and channeled into cooperation not confrontation.
Kosova is still very, very early in its life as an independent state. But, even at such a stage, I have seen the rapid maturation of my country's political and socioeconomic life. Our capacity for success was born from our struggle to achieve independence.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dr. Bujar Bukoshi is a Member of Parliament in Kosova, a vice-president of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), a party he co-founded with Ibrahim Rugova in 1989, and a renowned physician and surgeon. Bukoshi served as Prime Minister of Kosova's Government in Exile from 1989 through 1999.
McClatchy Newspapers did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy Newspapers or its editors.