5 April 2004
BERLIN – Kosovo has become Europe’s capital of organized crime and there are doubts over whether NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers will be able to build a multi-ethnic society there, an influential German army officer said Monday.
“It’s getting harder and harder to explain the sense of serving in Kosovo,” said Colonel Berhard Gertz who heads the German Armed Forces Association – a high-profile lobby group for troops.
Gertz, in a Die Welt newspaper interview, painted a grim picture of Kosovo after last month’s violence between ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs which left over 20 people dead, hundreds injured and Serb homes and churches torched in a three-day rampage.
“We have to ponder whether the Kosovo concept – which is supposed to yield peaceful relations with Albanians and Serbs living together – can still be realized,” said Gertz.
The latest events made this doubtful, said Gertz, adding that this meant a re-evaluation of the military presence was needed.
Gertz noted the violence had been planned and carried out with military precision but that NATO intelligence had failed to pick up any advance warning.
“This does not bode well for KFOR troops being able to contain future unrest,” Gertz said.
He underlined that German troops in Kosovo were confronted with grim realities of the province.
“Those who are there on frequent missions can certainly see that nothing has gotten better and the country has become the centre of organized crime in Europe,” Gertz said.
The Kosovo Force (KFOR) is a NATO-led force responsible since 1999 for maintaining security in Kosovo under a United Nations Security Council mandate.
There are now about 18,500 troops in Kosovo, down from almost 40,000 stationed there in 2000.
Subject: German news