AIM: start

MON, 13 AUG 2001 19:58:07 GMT

President George Bush in Kosovo!

AIM Pristina, July 28, 2001

It is rumoured that the American President George Bush asked the first man of the international administration, Hans Haekkerup, “Did you arrest more mules or Albanian rebels?” while he was trying to explain the operation of the NATO led peace forces in preventing the transfer of violence from Kosovo to Macedonia.

It seemed that the man, whom those soldiers stationed in Kosovo with their votes helped become the President, was more preoccupied with the speech he prepared for them in the American camp “Bondsteel” near Urosevac. But, irrespective of the fact that “he did not care much for his international hosts”, President Bush congratulated his soldiers on “the excellent job they have been doing in preventing the spreading of violence into Macedonia”. According to President Bush (who directly accused the Albanians) the greatest challenge today was Macedonia, where armed rebels were threatening peace and stability. Namely, he openly accused: “Here in Kosovo some are trying to help the rebels. Let me put it plainly: The United States are against those who resort to or support violence against democracy and the rule of law. That is why the American forces in Kosovo are preventing the transfer of arms into Macedonia”. He highly assessed the dedication of his soldiers, who received his words with ovations. The President said that he had therefore “proclaimed sanctions against individuals and organisations assisting the rebels”, referring to his executive order issued in late June on imposing sanctions against certain number of Albanians from Macedonia, as well as Kosovo, including several members of the Protection Troops in Kosovo and Albanian party officials.

“The United States, the EU and NATO strongly support constant efforts exerted at achieving a political agreement, which will satisfy both the legitimate demands of the Albanian population and protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Macedonia, its political unity and democratic future. I call on all sides to observe the truce. I call upon the elected leaders to work with the EU representative Leotar and Ambassador Perdew on overcoming the remaining differences and achieving an agreement which would keep Macedonia at peace and on its way towards Europe”, said President Bush, once again warning the supporters of rebels to stop assisting them.

He claimed that those supporting the revolts in Macedonia were actually working to the detriment of Albanian interests in the entire region and that the people of Kosovo should focus on Kosovo, the development of functional civil institutions, as well as the establishment of a political climate which supports democracy and makes it stable, as well as the rule of law, ethnic tolerance and cooperation with neighbours. That is why the November elections have been assessed as an important step in that direction. He invited all people of Kosovo to take part in this so as not to deny themselves the benefits of democracy.

The US President did not meet with any of the local leaders in Kosovo, thus conveying his disagreement with their policy stands. It seems that this was at the same time the harshest “reproach” for “ungrateful stands” of spoilt leaders of Kosovo who, despite everything, assessed his visit as an extraordinary event. That is why they said that “although Bush did not meet with the local leaders, the fact that he came to Kosovo is a kind of communication with Kosovo and Kosovars which testifies to the American resolve to implement the political process in Kosovo to the very end”. Apparently, the promise of continued international, especially American presence warmed up the “chilled” hearts of Kosovars.

“We are aware that both military and political American contribution is of fundamental importance. We shall not hastily and unilaterally withdraw our forces from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. We came here together and we shall get out together”, said Mr.Bush while signing the Law on the Benefits of American Soldiers in Kosovo. However, he mentioned that their primary target was to see the day when sustainable peace would rule in Kosovo, when democratically elected local authorities would be able to assume full responsibility and the NATO forces could go home. That is why he asked for additional international efforts which would help build civil institutions and promote the rule of law. According to him, that implied transfer of responsibility for public safety from combat forces to specialised units, the international police and, finally, local authorities. “The NATO’s dedication to peace in this region is stable”, he said adding that, nevertheless, the deployment of these troops should not last forever.

Form a stage improvised on the American army trucks, President Bush said that the aim of the only super power of the world “is the development of free and tolerant world from Kosovo to Kashmir and from the Near East to Northern Ireland”. He underlined that the world could no longer allow the differences to be used as an excuse for murder and reason for domination. Mr.Bush claimed that his administration was engaged in the construction of united Europe, free and peaceful, which would also include the Balkans. “Several years ago this vision might have seemed unreal, but today, after I met with our forces here in the “Bondsteel” camp, this vision seems very close”, emphasised Bush. Looking at the peninsula, Bush observed that “Croatia has become a responsible factor of regional stability”.

“The people of Yugoslavia have chosen democracy over dictatorship and sent their former dictator to the Hague. The latest elections in Albania, although not perfect, nevertheless represent a step forward in its democratic development. The Government in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a moderate one which wants to be a serious partner of the international community in order to prepare its country for European integrations. For the first time in history, all Governments in the region are democratic, dedicated to mutual cooperation and prepared to join Europe”. But, parallel to this optimistic assessment, he also mentioned that there were still some hard challenges ahead, underlining the fact that civil institutions were weak and susceptible to corruption and that the widespread organised crime was sometimes behind narrow nationalistic programmes.

According to him, these parts rather heavily depended on the international aid. He also remarked that ethnic extremists were still adding fuel to the fire of intolerance instigating violence and hoping to thus overthrow democracy so as to change borders and promote their criminal objectives.

It seems that this time the message of the American President was more than clear. Although he was the second US President to visit Kosovo after the war, this time the vocabulary of his administration was not “flattering”. It appears that the first to feel President Bush’s “deadly” language were local Albanian leaders who were not his “favourites” this time. The observers have concluded that this was perhaps the first time that they felt that “their political aspirations and their promotion implies the observance of international rules of political behaviour”!