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The Tether Stays on Kosovo

There’s not much left of the Yugoslavia patched together by Serbian royalists after World War I; Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have all left within this decade. Which explains the tenacity of President Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in blocking the Albanian-dominated province of Kosovo from breaking away.

The results of Thursday’s well-rigged referendum, to be announced today, have never been in doubt. The voting will reject international mediation on the fate of Kosovo and put a final stamp on the future of the province and its people. They will remain Yugoslavs.

That result was not expected to find many complaints in Washington and European capitals, since further breakup of Yugoslavia could only be more destabilizing to the region. The Western powers have been encouraging a measure of autonomy in Kosovo instead, but Milosevic is having none of it. His government continues to insist that neighboring Albania presents a threat to his rule, as ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs 9 to 1 in Kosovo.

Political conditions in the province have been inflamed for months. Albanians in Kosovo have staged a series of demonstrations against direct rule from Belgrade. The reaction of the central government, which blames the tensions on the government of Albania, has been prompt and harsh. Many protesters have been killed. On Thursday, Serbian officials reported that more than 20 ethnic Albanians were slain by government troops in clashes when militants tried to cross into Kosovo from Albania.

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Balloting in the referendum took place in Serbia and Kosovo, which with Montenegro are all that remain of the Communist Yugoslavia forged by Josip Broz Tito in the aftermath of World War II. Together, the broken bits and pieces of Tito’s creation are a large part of the Balkans, part Christian, part Muslim, whose bloody antipathies have stained that part of Europe for centuries.

Milosevic’s continuing provocations ensure that Bosnia-Herzegovina, the most explosive breakaway element of Yugoslavia, will remain a problem for Washington and its European allies in NATO, which have their hands full with the Serbs, Muslims and Croats there.


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