In Kosovo, Some Meddling Midwives Threaten a New Birth of Freedom

Glen Lavy

6/19/2008 5:06:15 PM - Glen Lavy

The birth of a new nation is an extraordinary thing to behold, especially when the gestation period has been as long, as difficult, and as painful as the one that has produced a newly-independent Kosovo.

Kosovars are making a deliberate and admirable effort to heal the ethnic rifts that have so bitterly divided their populace for so long, and their excitement is palpable, as they prepare to assume their rightful place in the community of nations. How tragic, then, for a people who have yearned to embrace the freedoms that have empowered the United States and so much of Europe, to see those freedoms stillborn in a constitution deformed by the self-serving dictates of others.

The constitution approved by Kosovo’s Parliament without debate on April 9 is a distinct improvement on earlier drafts, and to the casual observer, the document is replete with explicit references to the civil rights and personal liberties cherished by free peoples all over the world. But the fine print harbors some ominous sections that elevate political correctness to the inevitable exclusion of personal liberty.

Many of these contradictions can be attributed to the influence of non-government organizations from outside Kosovo that have inserted themselves into the process. Accountable to no one, these groups have corrupted the already-complex constitutional process, subjugating the liberties of the Kosovars to the promotion of a one-world, UN-dominated agenda.

While tipping the legal hat to civil rights like freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and the press, and freedom of political association, the current constitution ruthlessly limits those rights to the whim of the prevailing political powers.

Free speech provisions, for instance, are shackled to passages forbidding communications that offend others. Freedom of assembly can be curtailed easily by limitations imposed on any group that disagrees with the government or with the classes that the government chooses to protect, such as “sexual orientation.” Freedom of conscience can be invalidated if following one’s religious convictions violates the “health or rights” of someone else. (So medical professionals, for instance, can be compelled to perform abortions, even if they believe such procedures are murder.)

As written, Article 55 of the Kosovo Constitution apparently authorizes the national Assembly, under certain circumstances, to create “limitations to human rights and fundamental freedoms,” if those rights and freedoms contradict the current political climate.

Worse, this new constitution – on which the people of Kosovo had no vote and no input – makes no provision for the balance of powers. The president is chosen not by the people, but by the Assembly. While Kosovars elect the members of that Assembly, the constitution is clearly designed to support a system that places a maximum of power in the hands of a minimum of leaders.

The new constitution is not only inconsistent with democracy, it is inconsistent with independence. This is best evidenced by Article 53 of the constitution they’ve ratified – a passage which cedes all interpretations of Kosovo human rights to the European Court of Human Rights (the court of the Council of Europe). No truly independent country asks an international tribunal to interpret its internal, national laws.

Instead of an independent nation, the new constitution subjects Kosovo to the edicts of the European Union, with no voice in the choices the EU makes. In effect, Kosovo has decided to solidify its independence by sacrificing its national autonomy.

Despite the precipitous ceremonial signing of the constitution by Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu in April, and its near-unanimous approval by the Assembly, observers from several Western organizations met with Kosovar political leaders shortly afterward to urge crucial revisions in the document. The President, Speaker of the Assembly, and the leaders of the major political parties listened politely but made no commitment to make the changes necessary to provide true freedom for their people.

Those meetings sought to refine a document that is, in so many respects, a beautiful culmination of the hard work of countless thoughtful Kosovars to balance the rights of all individuals and ethnic groups within this often volatile region. The hope is that the seeds of oppression – sown so slyly by outsiders from the far Left – can be uprooted swiftly, and that, in their place, true freedom can finally bloom and grow in the lives of all the people of Kosovo.