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Balkan Report: February 17, 1999

17 February 1999, Volume 3, Number 7

Squaring the Circle. The Rambouillet talks have entered their second week. The parties seem no closer to a solution than they have been at any time since President Slobodan Milosevic took away the province's autonomy a decade ago.

Diplomatic pressure and, above all, the threat of NATO military action may eventually have the desired effect and lead to an agreement with some chance of succeeding. But the basic problem remains that the two sides' positions are irreconcilable. The Serbs invoke romantic nationalist and religious claims to a province that few of them ever visit as tourists. In the last analysis, their claim is based on the presence of superior force. The ethnic Albanians, for their part, demand that the principles of self-determination and majority rule--which the post-1945 international community has generally respected everywhere from Bangladesh to Zimbabwe--be applied to Kosova.

For the Kosovars, that means independence, which is totally unacceptable to the Serbs. The slogan "Kosova- a [Yugoslav] Republic" was the Kosovar watchword at the beginning of the 1980s. But it became passe after Milosevic took away the province's autonomy a decade ago, and certainly after the Serbian forces launched their crackdown at the start of 1998.

Several observers in Serbia and Montenegro have suggested in recent months that Milosevic has resigned himself to the loss of Kosova and will seek "compensation," either by annexing the Republika Srpska or by launching yet another crackdown, this time against the Montenegrin leadership.

Regardless of what happens, it seems certain that the Serbs and Montenegrins of Kosova will emerge the big losers. The events of the past year suggest that the UCK does not necessarily distinguish between local Serbian civilians and Milosevic's security forces. Belgrade, moreover, appears to have interest in the local Serbs only for propaganda value and has ignored their leaders in putting together the delegation for Rambouillet.

No Room in the Chateau for Artemije. Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren met reporters in the wind and snow outside the Rambouillet castle on February 10 after conference officials told him that there was no place inside the chateau for him to meet with journalists. The spiritual leader of Kosova's Serbs argued that the Belgrade delegation to the talks does not represent him or his followers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). "They represent only two parties: Milosevic's Socialists and his wife's neo-communists � If we had confidence in them, we would not be here. The only possible solution � is for Serbia to become democratic. And that cannot happen while Milosevic is in charge � We want a solution that will prevent a Serbian exodus from the province," Reuters quoted him as saying. Momcilo Trajkovic, the political leader of the Kosovar Serbs, accompanied the bishop.

A 'Balkan Solution'? British former Bosnian peace envoy Lord David Owen recently said in Norway that "it's time to drop our reservations about redrawing international borders and to have a Balkan solution for a Balkan problem." Specifically, he argued that the international community "should go to [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic and say: every square mile of Kosovo you are ready to give up and turn over to the Kosovar Albanians, we will give you in return the same amount of square miles around Pale, which you can then annex to Serbia."

This did not go down well in Sarajevo, as RFE/RL's South Slavic service reported this week. In that city, the view is that Bosnia is an internationally recognized, unitary state that no longer has any legal ties to Serbia, Kosova, or any other part of the former Yugoslavia. For the same reason, Bosnian authorities have opposed plans ascribed to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to give Croatia's Prevlaka peninsula to Belgrade "in exchange" for Bosnian Serb territory near Dubrovnik.

But Jiri Dienstbier--the former Czechoslovak foreign minister and now UN special rapporteur--warned on February 12 that the nationalists throughout Bosnia are watching Rambouillet closely: "If Kosovo gets independence, it will be in my view the direct road to the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina, because nobody would be able to prevent it," he said. "And as long as the Kosovo crisis is not solved, I'm told in Sarajevo that the politicians of the three groups are very careful not to be too engaged in building the common state because they don't want to lose their chances with their own national communities if [Bosnia] breaks up."

The irony is that there is another link between the Bosnian conflict and Kosova crisis: it was precisely the Serbs' war and the Dayton settlement in Bosnia that sent the message to many Kosovars that the way to get the attention of the great powers and your own internationally sanctioned mini-state is through violence.

The 'Greater Albanian' Bogeyman. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic said in Paris on February 11 that "in Rambouillet, [the Serbian delegation is] fighting for the concept of a multiethnic, democratic [Kosova]. The Albanian delegation represents the concept of an ethnically pure, ethnically clean Albanian ... [province that will become] part of greater Albania tomorrow. That's a concept very close to the Nazi concept." Draskovic is a long-standing nationalist opposition leader who recently joined the government of Milosevic.

In Warsaw that same day, Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said that there is no "greater Albanian" political program that aims at uniting all Balkan territories where Albanians form a large part of the population. He added that the concept of a greater Albania "comes from Serb propaganda and is not our political idea."

Observers note that many Albanian nationalists have espoused a greater Albanian political program since the mid-nineteenth century. A greater Albanian state existed briefly under Italian occupation during World War II. But establishing a greater Albania is not a primary goal of any mainstream party in Kosova, Macedonia, or Albania.

Since the fall of communism, however, many Albanians in Albania, on the one hand, and ethnic Albanians in the former Yugoslavia, on the other, have visited each other's country. They have often come to recognize that nearly a century of living in two very different states has left marked impressions on their respective political cultures and outlooks. Albanians often regard Kosovars as arrogant show-offs and braggarts, while many Kosovars view Albanians as hicks and bumpkins.

As to the Albanians of Macedonia, the bloodshed of Kosova and the poverty and instability of Albania may well make the Macedonian state look very good to many of them. That may well be part of the reason why Arben Xhaferi's Democratic Party of the Albanians joined Ljubco Georgievski's and Vasil Tupurkovski's free-market and reform-minded government.

Quotations of the Week. "You cannot have a political process on one side and at the same time massacres and terror on the other � If these negotiations continue without a cease-fire, they cannot lead to a peace agreement � The Serbian regime has not respected any international agreements it signed in the past. Unfortunately, the international community has not adequately punished the Serb behavior in the past." -- Albin Kurti, the spokesman for Adem Demaci, who is the UCK's political representative.

"If the Serbs are responsible for the fact that the talks fail then it will be Serbian targets that are hit atian Radio-Television's (HRT) � Our diplomacy is backed by the use of force and that decision, to use force, has been made if the talks don't progress." -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, February 10.

"Some hope for a failure of the conference. I am not thinking of the Europeans. Some oppose a favorable outcome in order to impose their own solution." -- Draskovic in Paris on February 12

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said in Moscow that "we consider threats to launch military strikes against Yugoslavia unacceptable," Reuters reported.

"If the agreement is so good and accepted by the majority of people in Kosovo, why would we need foreign troops except for chasing terrorists? And we don't need them for that." -- Serbian President Milan Milutinovic in Paris on February 15.

OSCE Report on Croatia: "Overall, Croatian Radio-Television's compliance with its own legal obligation to inform the public truthfully, objectively, and promptly ... is seriously in doubt."