The Virus Of Serbian Nationalism

Ramush Haradinaj, the former Prime Minister of Kosovo, was arrested in Paris on January 4 under a 11-year old Interpol warrant requested by Serbia. The Government of Serbia demands France extradite Haradinaj to face war crimes charges. France should deny the request for extradition and release Ramush Haradinaj, who has already been twice acquitted by international tribunals.

Haradinaj's arrest in Paris has ratcheted up tensions and fanned the flames of future conflict in the Balkans. "The extradition request is an act of war," A Kosovar intellectual told me. "There will be an explosion if France sends him to Serbia."

Serbian nationalism led to ethnic cleansing in the 1990s, which destroyed Yugoslavia. Serbia today is not much different than Milosevic's Serbia, despite the veneer of civility.

Serbia's President, Tomislav Nikolic still champions Milosevic's project to occupy neighbors and establish greater Serbia. The Interior Ministry of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic insists on the arrest of Haradinaj, playing to Serbia's nationalist base.

In 1999, Serbia occupied 20 percent of Kosovo north of the Ibar River. A wall was erected in Mitrovica to formally divide the city.

Belgrade's recent actions show continuing ill will towards Kosovo. Chapter 35 of Belgrade's EU accession process requires good faith by Serbia in its negotiations on normalization of relations with Kosovo. Serbia's manipulation of Interpol's red card process is an abuse of this commitment.

Simply put, normalization between Serbia and Kosovo is a charade, as along as Serbia violates Kosovo's sovereignty.

Kosovo should establish Serbia's withdrawal from North Mitrovica as a condition for resuming the EU-moderated political dialogue on normalization.

And the EU should suspend its talks with Belgrade on Serbia's accession until Kosovo's territorial integrity is restored.

The onus is on Serbia. Normalization starts by withdrawing its appeal for Haradinaj's arrest. Furthermore, Serbia should cease its occupation of Mitrovica and stop its campaign against EU recognition of Kosovo.

Milosevic disinterred Prince Lazarus, the Serbian royal who died in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. The remains of Lazarus were paraded around the country to stoke Serbian nationalism. The virus of Serbian nationalism is alive and well. It is time to bury Prince Lazarus once and for all.

David L. Phillips is Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He served as a senior adviser to the European Affairs Bureau at the State Department from 1999-2001. Phillips is author of Liberating Kosovo: Coercive Diplomacy and US Intervention.