In the five years since the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia has made great strides in protecting human and minority rights, building democratic institutions and establishing a market economy. These accomplishments have been widely recognized, most recently by the commencement of talks with the European Union toward signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement. So much for what an Oct. 17 editorial described as "poisonous nationalism" in Serbia.

The real problem in Kosovo is Albanian nationalism that has led to the expulsion of more than 200,000 non-Albanians, the burning of 150 churches and the loss of human life despite international governance, monitoring and the presence of NATO-led troops.

Granting independence to Kosovo would dismember a sovereign state, which is against international law and could set a dangerous precedent in the region. Such a move also would be detrimental to the establishment of a multiethnic society. Advocating ethnic self-determination in the name of multiethnicity under circumstances in which the Serbs in Kosovo still fear for their lives is appeasing poisonous nationalism.

What is needed in Kosovo is more international presence, not less, so that the proclaimed standards of democratic civil society are met to a greater, rather than lesser, extent.

Recently, uniformed gangs have appeared in Albanian-dominated parts of Kosovo in defiance of the United Nations, the police force and the international troops.

This is ominous. Violence or threats of violence should not be rewarded by a promise of independence.



Embassy of Serbia and Montenegro