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Interview: U.S. Congressman Says Deal With Serbia Gave Kosovo ‘Nothing'

U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher says a chance has been missed to solve the problem between Kosovo's ethnic Serbs and Albanians permanently.
U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher says a chance has been missed to solve the problem between Kosovo's ethnic Serbs and Albanians permanently.
Representative Dana Rohrabacher (Republican-California), who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is one of the United States' staunchest supporters of Kosovo's independence.

He has noted that, like Kosovo, the United States itself was born out of a struggle for self-determination.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Rohrabacher is critical of the EU-brokered agreement reached last month between Belgrade and Pristina, saying it did not create the preconditions for long-term peace and stability in the Balkans.

Kosovo, in his opinion, did not gain sovereignty in its northern region, and Kosovo's ethnic Serbs will not accept living in the Kosovar state. Because of this, Rohrabacher says, a chance has been missed to solve the problem between Kosovo's ethnic Serbs and Albanians permanently.

RFE/RL Balkans Service correspondent Branka Trivic spoke to Rohrabacher about the agreement.

RFE/RL: Could we start with your assessment of the recent agreement initialed by the prime ministers of Kosovo and Serbia?

Dana Rohrabacher:
Let's recognize that Kosovo got absolutely nothing for what they gave up. And what they gave up was the ability to govern the northern tier of their country and a few communities within Kosovo itself.

RFE/RL: Getting sovereignty over the north of Kosovo is nothing to you?

They didn't get sovereignty -- it is just the opposite. This agreement undermines Kosovo's claim for sovereignty because it does not give them the authority to exercise their sovereignty. And if you have to make an agreement that you can exercise your sovereignty, you don't have sovereignty. And so, what they gave up -- they gave up that northern tier.

Now, I'm not saying they shouldn't have. I think that the people of the northern tier that is in question here should have the right of self-determination. There should be a vote. And if the people north of the river [Ibar in the divided city of Mitrovica] vote -- which they probably would -- by 90 percent to become part of Serbia, they should.

But Kosovo had a real chance to get something for this. Meaning, there are groups of Kosovars in Serbia that would like to be part of Kosovo.

RFE/RL: You are talking about the Presevo Valley?

Yes, and they could have gotten an equal exchange of land and population by agreeing to an adjustment of borders. Instead, they got nothing, zero. They can't even now send their police up to the northern part of the country. They can't send their military into the northern part of the country. They are not going to have judges that are chosen by their government -- they are going to be chosen by the Serbian people in the northern part of the country.

This was a great loss of sovereignty for Kosovo. Now, what's going to happen? The Serbs up in the northern part of the country are still going to be seething because they are not citizens of the country they want to be part of. And you can imagine there'll be political groups in Serbia that will try to manipulate that.

RFE/RL: In the recent congressional subcommittee hearing that you chaired, people expressed the opposing view -- namely, that allowing such a territorial exchange would open up a Pandora's box that would affect dangerously the existence of Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and even Serbia.

That's ridiculous. Totally. There is always an excuse not to do something. There's always something right behind the bush waiting to jump out at you if you do the right thing here.

No, in this case, we have many examples where peoples have changed their borders and have gotten along fine. You have the Czechs and the Slovaks changing their borders. You have Bangladesh declaring itself independent. And you have Kosovo -- that was basically the argument against Kosovo declaring its independence. Because, oh, everybody else would have to...

Around the world, you will have all these -- the Basques will want to be independent. But no, this is a matter between the Serbs and the Kosovars. And adjusting the border between those two countries is their business. It is not everybody else in the world.... It is their business. And other people were just using scare tactics to get the Kosovars to accept a deal that gave them nothing.

RFE/RL: But where would that process end? Every little village would want...

The end of the process -- this is totally a nonsense argument. Because the Czechs and the Slovaks splitting, the Montenegrins splitting, the Bangladeshis splitting, the South Sudanese splitting -- did not result in a huge national domino effect in which people all over the world rose up at that moment...or even in the Balkans rose up. How many people rose up after Montenegro got their vote and said, "See?" No, this is a matter. This is a singular issue.

But what you've got is the Europeans, basically the Europeans and the Americans, who will always find a reason not to do something. And, until people who are brave and actually step forward like the people in northern Kosovo, who want to be part of Serbia. One day they will be so raucous that the Americans and the Europeans will then tell Kosovo, "Well, you'd better accept it that they are actually independent now; after all, they are autonomous." And then Kosovo will have zero, because this agreement gave Kosovo zero.

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