This weekend, I attended a huge outdoor concert just outside of Pristina known as the Freedom Festival. Musicians from all over the world performed, including American hip-hop artists Method Man and Redman. The occasion? Ten years of FREEDOM.
On June 12, 1999, NATO forces entered Kosovo after a 78-day bombing campaign. Their objectives included halting all (Serbian and Yugoslav) military action, bringing about the immediate end of violence, and the establishment of a political structure in Kosovo in conjunction with international agreements and the United Nations. NATO’s mission in Kosovo is often touted (by some) as one of NATO’s great success stories, so much so that this week, it was announced that the number of KFOR troops will be reduced to 10,000 by 2010 (whereas in 1999 there were 50,000 NATO troops on the ground).
(There has been significant criticism of NATO’s military campaign against Serbia and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia, in which civilians and civilian targets were subject to NATO bombs. For more information, see Amnesty International’s “Collateral Damage or Unlawful Killings” at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR70/018/2000/en/e7037dbb-df56-11dd-89a6-e712e728ac9e/eur700182000en.pdf).
So, June 12 in Kosovo has been dubbed Freedom Day. This year, the President of Kosovo, Dr. Fatmir Sejdiu, has even released a moving public statement. He stated, in part, “It was ten years ago this day that Kosovo joined the free countries of the world, following a long period of efforts and suffering and struggles in every field: in education, in culture and in a political and armed resistance. Part of these endless and ceaseless efforts was the entire people of Kosovo, who have built the freedom that we enjoy today with a lot of sacrifice, love and unwavering belief”(for the full statement, available in English, see http://www.president-ksgov.net/?id=5,67,67,67,e,1548).
But many young Kosovars are tired of the rhetoric while the nation suffers unemployment and poverty rates that are worse than most countries categorized as “developing.” In fact, according to a recent UNDP survey, Kosovars of all ethnic groups view the economic situation in Kosovo as the biggest threat to the nation’s stability (for the full report, see “Early Warning Report Fast Facts 24,” at http://www.ks.undp.org/repository/docs/FF_24_English.pdf). Finally, they are tired of watching their neighbors advance towards the future they so desperately want for themselves – membership in the European Union and all that comes with it – while corruption remains rampant in their country. Institutionalizing words like “freedom” doesn’t change that.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t enjoy the concert.
Posted By Tiffany Ommundsen
Posted Jun 17th, 2009