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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Remarks > 2003 > May

U.S. Policy Toward Kosovo

Janet Bogue, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Central Europe
Testimony Before the House International Relations Committee
Washington, DC
May 21, 2003

(As prepared)

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I am pleased to meet with you to discuss the Administration's policy towards Kosovo and, in particular, the question of final status. Early next month it will be four years since the end of the Kosovo conflict and the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 that created the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR). Since then, with strong support from the United States and others in the international community, Kosovo has steadily emerged from the devastation of a brutal, ethnically-driven war, and has taken important steps toward becoming a democratic, multiethnic society. However, significant challenges remain. Kosovo's journey is not complete.

Mr. Chairman, Kosovo has made real progress in governance, law and order, ethnic relations, security, and the economy. Challenges remain in all these areas as well.

After three successful elections, including the Kosovo-wide elections in November 2001 that created the Provisional Institutions of Self-government (PISG), Kosovo has a government and developing democratic institutions. This is a major achievement. Understandably, the performance of the young institutions has been uneven. It will take additional time and training before the quality of Kosovo's civil service reaches a satisfactory plateau. Providing equal opportunities for minorities in the administrative structures of government is another challenge for Kosovo.

There is considerable progress in the establishment of law and order. Since June 1999, we have seen a steady drop in most major crime categories. The Kosovo Police Service (KPS) is assuming most police functions and is quickly approaching its full capacity of 6,500 personnel. At the same time, the number of UNMIK international civilian police is dropping. Approximately 10 percent of the Kosovo Police Service's officers and rank-and-file are ethnic Serbs, a composition well received by the force and the communities it patrols.

Unfortunately, there is less progress in establishing the rule of law, particularly in creating an integrated judiciary and closing the Belgrade-supported parallel courts that continue to exist in predominantly Serbian municipalities. The United States provides training to strengthen Kosovo's judiciary. Another challenge is organized crime. Kosovo needs greater capacity to tackle this problem, including in witness security. The United States contributes to the resolution of this problem financially. The head of UNMIK's Department of Legal Affairs, Paul Coffey, formerly headed the Department of Justice's organized crime efforts, is bringing important expertise to this battle.

Ethnic relations in Kosovo are improving slowly but unevenly. The most positive development is the participation of Kosovo Serbs and other minorities in elections. This has resulted in significant Serbian and minority representation in the Kosovo Assembly. There are several municipalities in Kosovo with Serbian majority councils or significant Serbian participation. Tensions continue in many areas, however, and while the number of incidents is down, there is still violence against Serbs and Serbian property. There are also remaining constraints on freedom of movement in some areas of Kosovo, alongside marked improvements in others.

We, together with the international community, continue to support the right of all refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes. Kosovo's security and political climate has improved and we expect significant minority returns this year. To support that, the United States is increasing its contribution for Kosovo regional returns to $14.4 million in new assistance for '03. An improved partnership on the ground between UNMIK, NGOs and Kosovo governmental entities on returns is encouraging as well. Work remains, however, and we continue to urge Kosovo's political leadership to help create an environment in which returns are sustainable.

Mr. Chairman, the NATO-led KFOR has helped facilitate refugee returns and freedom of movement. Although the security situation remains fragile in Kosovo, KFOR's presence has been invaluable to establishing an overall safe and secure environment within which UNSCR 1244 implementation can occur. KFOR currently consists of 25,000 troops from 36 nations. The U.S. provides 2,250 of those troops. Total troop levels in Kosovo are assessed every six months through NATO's periodic mission review (PMR) process. This includes a full review of NATO's military tasks and the security situation on the ground, and makes recommendations accordingly. NATO is currently completing a review that will lead to a formal decision by NATO ministers when they meet in early June. While I cannot speak for NATO, we expect that this review will recommend a further reduction in KFOR's troop level by year's end, reflecting improved security on the ground and a shift in the structure of KFOR's forces.

We are closely focused on Kosovo's economy. Unemployment remains at up to 50 percent throughout Kosovo and spikes to 70 percent in some areas. To address this and other serious economic problems, the U.S. has provided significant support to establish sound macroeconomic and structural policies for economic recovery. This, combined with donor support and a high volume of contributions from the Kosovo Albanian diaspora, allowed gross domestic product to grow by 11 percent in 2001 and 7 percent in 2002. Inflation has also dropped in this same time period to roughly 7 percent. Agricultural production is approaching pre-war levels. Kosovo's governing institutions and UNMIK recently passed a series of laws that should pave the way for more foreign investment in Kosovo. Privatization is also beginning to move forward. We are encouraged by the enactment of telecommunications and land-use regulations. The latter was the last important piece of legislation necessary to launch privatization of Kosovo's former socially-owned enterprises. Tendering of the first six companies is slated to begin this month and an additional six have been identified for near-term privatization.

To spur economic growth, the United States has also encouraged Kosovo's inclusion in regional trading structures through the Stability Pact's Trade Working Group, which has been effective in linking South Central Europe together through a network of bilateral free-trade agreements. We are also seeking a creative solution for Kosovo to access lending from international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, without prejudicing a status outcome. The International Financial Institutions are unable to extend credit to Kosovo because neither the UN administration in Kosovo nor the Kosovo institutions are able to provide a sovereign guarantee.

This brings me to the important issue of Kosovo's final status, the focus of the Committee's hearing today. Mr. Chairman, the President has a vision of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. We have all seen the consequences -- including for the United States -- when that is not so. In South Central Europe -- including Kosovo -- this means peaceful, prosperous democracies on good terms with their neighbors, in which everyone enjoys fundamental human rights and freedoms. The President's vision includes the integration of South Central Europe into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, particularly the European Union and NATO.

While the United States remains strongly involved with Kosovo -- diplomatically, financially, and militarily -- we welcome the European Union's strong financial assistance and close involvement in Kosovo and throughout the region.

Mr. Chairman, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 created Kosovo's special circumstances, including its own institutions of government, UNMIK, and KFOR. Resolution 1244 also says that there will be a political process for determining Kosovo's future status that takes into account the Rambouillet Accords.

The United States supports the approach of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Kosovo, Michael Steiner, who laid out in April 2002 eight benchmarks that should be achieved before the question of final status is addressed. This approach is called "standards before status." The eight benchmarks are:

  • Functioning Democratic Institutions
  • Rule of Law (Police/Judiciary)
  • Freedom of Movement
  • Returns and Integration
  • Economy: Legislation, Balanced Budget, Privatization
  • Respect for Property Rights (Clear Title, Restitution)
  • Dialogue with Belgrade
  • Kosovo Protection Corps (Size, Compliance with Mandate, Minority Participation)
Regardless of final status outcomes, Kosovo needs to meet the benchmarks if it is to be a functioning, multi-ethnic democracy with an operating economy. Kosovo needs to meet the benchmarks so that its institutions have the ability to deal with the challenges posed by unemployment and organized crime. Kosovo needs to meet the benchmarks to be in a cooperative relationship with others in the region. And Kosovo needs to meet the benchmarks to participate in European integration. In other words, Mr. Chairman, Kosovo needs to meet the benchmarks for its own sake -- and many of Kosovo's elected leaders acknowledge that.

How long will it take to achieve the benchmarks? That depends largely on the success of Kosovo's institutions and on the determination of Kosovo's leaders and people to do so. It also depends on the international community's support. Mr. Chairman, the United States is strongly committed to helping Kosovo achieve the benchmarks; we support refugee returns, economic development, training in governance, development of an independent media and an independent judiciary; equal opportunities for minorities and women in Kosovo's political and economic life; and the development, within Kosovo, of institutions that protect international recognized human rights.

In addition, we support transferring to Kosovo's institutions by the end of 2003 all remaining governing competencies under Chapter V of the Constitutional Framework Document; these will help Kosovo fulfill the benchmarks. (Competencies under Chapter VIII are vested exclusively in the Special Representative and UNMIK, and cannot be transferred.)

Mr. Chairman, there are those in Kosovo who seek immediate independence. There are those in Serbia who seek immediate partition. We oppose both moves. We believe that a decision today on final status would risk destabilizing Kosovo and the broader region, which has only now emerged from a decade of crippling conflicts. An immediate decision on final status would inflame those in the region who seek violent solutions. That could lead to resumed fighting in Kosovo, and to renewed fighting in Southern Serbia and Macedonia. Clearly, this would be devastating to the region and to the President's vision of the future.

Why would this be any different through the process of "standards before status?" Mr. Chairman, the standards, or benchmarks, deal with many of the issues that at present are major sources of political volatility and regional instability -- like refugee return, unemployment, and lack of functioning institutions of local government. Final status for Kosovo should be a stabilizing factor in South Central Europe; it can be, provided the benchmarks are achieved.

But the benchmarks will not be achieved in the midst of a discussion of final status. That subject brings to a halt discussion of anything else.

For these reasons, the Administration opposes the Resolution before the Committee that calls for Kosovo's independence. Such a resolution could lead to confusion about the position of the United States; and could detract from the work of institution-building and ethnic reconciliation that needs to be done. Thank you again, Mr. Chairman.


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