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Vol. 72/No. 10      March 10, 2008

Kosova ‘independence’ includes
continued NATO occupation
(front page)
Kosova’s national legislature issued a “Declaration of Independence” February 17. The document welcomed the presence of the thousands of NATO and UN troops that have occupied Kosova since 1999.

While declaring Kosova “an independent and sovereign state,” the national legislature accepted governance by a European Union “rule of law mission” that will include up to 2,000 cops and judges. The declaration presented no deadline for the foreign troops or EU administrators to cease running Kosovar affairs.

Washington and most countries in the European Union quickly recognized Kosova’s “independence,” while the governments of Spain, Greece, and Cyprus, as well as Serbia, Russia, Romania, and Slovakia opposed the move.

Kosova, 90 percent of whose 2 million people are ethnic Albanians, was formerly a province of Yugoslavia. When working people carried out a socialist revolution there in the 1940s, Kosovars won recognition of their language and cultural rights. To help overcome a legacy of national oppression that had left Kosova the most economically backward part of the country, additional state resources were allocated for its development. In 1974, Kosova was granted regional autonomy.

Fraternal relations of class solidarity prevailed among working people of Yugoslavia’s several different ethnic groups in the early years after the revolution. But as the Stalinist-led government relied more and more on capitalist market methods, conditions worsened for working people, especially Kosovars.

Stalinist regimes throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The bureaucracy in Yugoslavia was no exception. Rival factions of the ruling bureaucrats began scrambling for control of the nation’s resources as they sought to integrate Yugoslavia into the world capitalist economy. They often invoked reactionary nationalist appeals to win support. Yugoslavia was broken up into several republics. Kosova remained a region under control of the Serbian government.

In 1989 Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic revoked Kosova’s autonomy and imposed emergency rule, which lasted for 10 years. In 1999 he launched a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” that killed up to 12,000 people and expelled 1 million, mostly Albanians. After fomenting ethnic violence in Yugoslavia for years, Washington and European imperialist powers intervened. In 1999 NATO bombed Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, for 78 days straight, forced Serbian troops out of Kosova, and seized control of the region. NATO forces occupy Kosova to this day.  
Belgrade reacts to declaration
In response to the declaration by Kosova’s national legislature, the Serbian government organized a rally in Belgrade February 21, closing down schools and offering free train rides to boost attendance.

“Serbia has annulled and will annul every act of the illegal and fictitious state created on its territory by the use of force,” Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told the crowd of 200,000. Following the rally several hundred Serbs attacked and partially burned the U.S. embassy before Serbian police intervened. The embassies of Britain, Germany, Turkey, Croatia, and Bosnia were also vandalized. Washington announced it was temporarily evacuating most diplomatic personnel from Belgrade. The European Union suspended talks on EU membership with the Serbian regime.

The “declaration of independence” was welcomed by the three leading U.S. presidential contenders, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Republican John McCain. “Kosova’s independence is a unique situation,” said Obama. “It is in no way a precedent for anyone else in the region or around the world.”

Meanwhile, in predominantly-Serbian northern Kosova, several hundred Serbs set fire to two UN border posts February 19. Slobodan Samarzdic, the Serbian government minister for Kosova, said the assault “might not be pleasant but it is legitimate.” He added that Belgrade plans to “take over the customs in northern Kosovo.”

“The security of Kosova is a guarantee of NATO and no one can attack. Everything is under control,” Kosova prime minister Hashim Thaci told the Associated Press.  
Fight for self-determination
That high opinion of the foreign occupation is not unanimous among working people in Kosova. The group Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) opposes the imperialist-imposed plan and the ongoing occupation of Kosova, while fighting for self-determination.

“Lack of self-determination and self-rule enables international companies to buy very cheap our publicly and socially owned enterprises in the process of privatization, but also to control our natural resources and shape the fiscal policy,” Albin Kurti, 33, a leader of the group, told the Militant via e-mail.

Kurti said the EU-run government “will have immunity from Kosova’s law” and Belgrade will retain some control over majority Serb areas.

“Kosova didn’t really need a UN mission here,” he continued, “but our own seat in the UN. Likewise, we don’t need an EU mission to rule over us, but Kosova’s inclusion into the EU as an independent, sovereign state.”

Kurti called for “strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, non-violent protests, and demonstrations… . for self-determination for the people of Kosova, for civil rights and freedoms, for equality and prosperity.”

Kurti was arrested a year ago, after a demonstration for self-determination in which two students were killed by UN police and 80 wounded. He was jailed for five months then placed under house arrest for another five and a half months. He still faces charges of “leading a crowd that committed a criminal offense.”  
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