WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today condemned Serbian authorities for stopping former President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga as she was trying to enter Serbia. Ms. Jahjaga planned to visit Serbia to speak about the use of rape as a weapon during the 1999 Kosovo War. Representative Engel wrote to European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini about this matter, arguing that Serbia's unwillingness to face its past crimes is reason to slow the country's process of joining the EU.
“For a Balkan country—Serbia, no less—to avoid discussion and acceptance of responsibility for war-time crimes represents a very serious problem. If not addressed, it could result in a repetition of past behavior. Frankly, Belgrade simply is not ready to join the EU’s community of democracies if it does not fully accept the past and if there is no accountability for war crimes,” wrote Rep. Engel.
Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.
Dear High Representative Mogherini:
I have the deepest respect for the European Union’s work to promote dialogue, understanding, and normalization between Serbia and Kosovo. Your leadership, building on Lady Ashton’s efforts, has helped shepherd the signing of critical agreements between Belgrade and Prishtina to advance the cause of peace and stability in the Balkans.
Yesterday, however, the government of Serbia blocked the former President of the Republic of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, from entering the country to attend and speak at a conference designed to promote reconciliation between the two nations. As you may be aware, Madame Jahjaga was scheduled to discuss the tragedy of Kosovar women who survived wartime rape by Serbian forces. The Former President planned to discuss a book on these war-time crimes and the challenges women face to recover from their brutal treatment is an important part of the historical record and key to shedding light on what happened.
I raise this matter with you because I am concerned that it indicates a larger problem in Serbia of avoiding discussion and acceptance of the facts about the Kosovo War. For example, earlier this year, the respected Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center issued a dossier titled, “The cover-up of evidence of crimes during the war in Kosovo: The concealment of bodies operation.” This report describes mass graves containing the bodies of almost 1,000 Kosovo Albanians, mainly civilians killed outside combat situations in Kosovo during 1999, and shows that the decision to conceal evidence of crimes was planned as early as March 1999 at the highest level of the government. The dossier concludes: “No one has ever been held accountable before courts in Serbia for the large-scale operation of concealment of bodies of Kosovo Albanian victims in mass graves.”
I fully respect the accession process for aspirant members of the European Union and the critical decisions that you and your colleagues must make along the way. Unfortunately, I must ask that you strongly consider suspending Serbia’s accession process at this point. For a Balkan country—Serbia, no less—to avoid discussion and acceptance of responsibility for war-time crimes represents a very serious problem. If not addressed, it could result in a repetition of past behavior. Frankly, Belgrade simply is not ready to join the EU’s community of democracies if it does not fully accept the past and if there is no accountability for war crimes.
Again, thank you for the EU’s diplomatic leadership in the Balkans and for your consideration of my concerns.