My first reaction to media reports on February 16 of jubilant Albanians in Kosovo gleefully celebrating their "independence" from Serbia was simple bewilderment. In the first place, I noted from pictures of their jubilation that they are not waving a Kosovo flag. What they wave is the flag of Albania. Secondly, according to the Kosovo Plan developed by Marti Athtisaari, former president of Finland and the United Nations special envoy to Kosovo, their independence requires that "Kosovo must uphold, promote and protect internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms. All persons in Kosovo are entitled to these rights and freedoms without discrimination of any kind."
History proves that Albanians simply don't recognize the rights and freedoms of others. In fact, when Albania declared itself an "atheist state" in 1967, all churches and other buildings owned by religious groups were closed down. In an article published April 1, 1999 I reported that over 166,000 Greeks were driven out of Albania between 1993 and 1997 From 1991 to 2000 the percentage of Greeks in Albania dropped from 8% of the population to 3% of the population. In Kosovo the Serb population dropped from almost 15% of the population in 1981 to 5% of the population in 2007.
The Kosovo Albanians waving an Albania flag is comparable to illegal alien high school students in California ripping down the US flag and raising the flag of Mexico at their school. They justify their behavior by claiming that California is really a part of Mexico. In Kosovo, Albanians that have flooded across the open borders between Kosovo and Albania are now claiming that Kosovo is really part of Albania. Actually, Kosovo has never been part of Albania, except during World War II when it was overrun by then fascist Italy that had also occupied Albania.
Kosovo has been the home of Serbs for more than a thousand years and part of the nation of Serbia for 700 years although it has been occupied by other nations a number of times. The latest occupation has been nine years by NATO troops. And, like every other state or province within nations, Kosovo had its own budget and its own debt. During these nine years of occupation by a foreign power, Serbia has continued to service that debt, although it has received no taxes from Kosovo during the NATO occupation. Belgrade has been paying $150 million a year to service Kosovo's debt. That compares with less than $20 million a year the World Bank has given to Kosovo from 1999-2006. (A week ago Serbia's Economy Minister Mladjan Dinkic wisely urged his government to stop paying Kosovo's debts as long as it is occupied by NATO and the European Union.) The World Bank reports that since June of 1999 over $2.57 billion dollars has been spent trying to rebuild Kosovo and make a modern, viable state out of it.
In spite of all that money, the World Bank reports that growth in Kosovo "has weakened from 21.2% in 2000 to 4.2% in 2006 in line with declining donor resources." As the Serbs and other minorities have been ethnically cleansed from Kosovo due to crime and violence that KFOR seemed to be unable or unwilling to control, unemployment has skyrocketed to a reported 50-70% of the workforce. The English word independent, in my dictionary is defined as: (1) Not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc; (2) Not subject to another's authority or jurisdiction (3) Not relying on another or others for aid or support (4) declining others' aid or support; refusing to be under obligation to others. That does not define Kosovo. It is clearly dependent on outside money and even outside policing to keep it reasonably in line. How is it that the Albanians in Kosovo with such non-productive backgrounds even survive - much less be granted such favor by the international community that it is being recognized as an "independent nation?"
Actually, the answer to that is in Albanian history. Piracy and illegal trading has been part of Albania's economy for hundreds of years. According to an article by Peter Klebnikov in the February 2000 edition of Mother Jones Magazine, which strongly favors legalizing currently illegal drugs, most of the illegal drugs consumed in Europe are supplied by Albanian crime "families." Klebnikov wrote: "in the six months since Washington enthroned the Kosovo Liberation Army in that Yugoslav province, KLA-associated drug traffickers have cemented their influence and used their new status to increase heroin trafficking and forge links with other nationalist rebel groups and drug cartels." The ascent of the Kosovar families to the top of the trafficking hierarchy coincided with the sudden appearance of the KLA as a fighting force in 1997.
As Serbia unleashed its campaign of persecution against ethnic Albanians, the diaspora mobilized. Hundreds of thousands of expatriate Kosovars around the world funneled money to the insurrection. Nobody sent more than the Kosovar drug traffickers -- some of the wealthiest people of Kosovar extraction in Europe. According to news reports, Kosovar Albanian traffickers launder $1.5 billion in profits from drug and arms smuggling each year through a shadowy network of some 200 private banks and currency exchange offices." That was more than eight years ago. The "Serbia persecution" mentioned by Klebnikov was an effort by Belgrade to stop the killing of Serb policemen.
Time marches on. Today the man who headed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 2000, Hashim Thaci, is the prime minister of Kosovo. Until President Bill Clinton removed it in 1999, the KLA was on the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations. In February 1999 I also wrote about what I could see was a puzzling situation then developing in Kosovo. Frankly, at the time I knew nothing about the area but did know that the Albanians were the poorest, most backward and most devotedly communist nation in all of Europe. They thought the Russians were not proper "communists." I wondered how they could afford to create an army and finance expensive modern weapons to challenge the Yugoslavian army. This was more than 2 years before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but even then in that article I had tracked down connections between the KLA and Osama bin Laden. I observed: "The KLA actually is the successor to the Ustashi regime of World War II which slaughtered over 700,000 Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies living in Croat-controlled territory in the forgotten part of the Holocaust. They have hated the Serbs for several hundred years - the Serbs supported the Allies in World War II and the Ustashi supported Mussolini and Adolph Hitler."
When the Albanians declared Kosovo "independent" the Serbs also gathered. In fact, their leaders - traditional, elected and spiritual, gathered to pray for the survival and the well being of the Serbs in Kosovo, most of whom have already been either driven out of Kosovo or killed in recent years. Crown Prince Alexander II addressed the gathered Serbs at Saint Dmitri Church in Mitrovica, Kosovo as follows: "Peace, determination, decisiveness, faith, and goodwill - these are our only 'weapons'. And, of course, law and justice, which are on our side. I appeal for the respect of human rights."
On one hand we are told that all the problems in the Balkans will simply go away when a "new" nation created by and for terrorists, drug dealers and criminals is recognized by other nations as legitimate and can join the United Nations. On the other hand we have the old nation of Serbia that is praying for the survival of the small group of Serbs still remaining in Kosovo.
I can hardly wait to see what happens next.