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South Slavic: May 5, 2005


5 May 2005, Volume 7, Number 12

KOSOVO: INDEPENDENCE OR THE BROADEST AUTONOMY?

Part I.

A program of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Omer Karabeg.

Will it be possible for Belgrade and Pristina to reach a compromise on a political solution for Kosovo? Our guests are: in Pristina, Lutfi Haziri, the president of Municipal Assemblies of Kosovo, and in Belgrade, Dusan Prorokovic, the chairman of the Serbian parliament's Committee for Kosovo and Metohija.

RFE/RL: Belgrade and Pristina's stands about the final status of Kosovo are clearly defined. What Pristina wants is independence, while Belgrade proposes the formula of "more than autonomy -- less than independence." Mr. Prorokovic, what does that mean?

Prorokovic: The formula sets a framework for negotiations in which the Serbian side will have to make concessions to the Albanian side, and Albanian side will have to consent to something they do not want as of now. The end product might be compared to the Republika Srpska within Bosnia-Herzegovina. If you ask me what the Republika Srpska really is, it would be hard to give a precise answer in terms of its legal and constitutional status. The Republika Srpska has some characteristics of a confederal unit: it has its own national coat of arms, flag, and anthem. At the same time it is a federal unit since it has its own Interior Ministry [to control its own police]. It also has some elements of simple regional autonomy, because, for example, it does not control the fiscal system. This is why it is called an entity rather than an autonomous, federal, or confederal unit.

Haziri: What the government of Serbia now proposes is what the Kosovars previously had. The "more than autonomy -- less than independence" formula existed under the terms of the 1974 [Yugoslav and Serbian] constitution, which ultimately led to a tragic situation and conflict. We do not accept any solution that would put Kosovo back under Belgrade's control. Since the fall of Yugoslavia, [each former de facto political entity has become a separate country], and that has been the case with Kosovo for the past six years. Belgrade must accept that reality. Independence is the only solution for Kosovo.

RFE/RL: It means that you cannot accept for Kosovo the status the Republika Srpska has in Bosnia-Herzegovina?

Haziri: Absolutely not.

Prorokovic: It was not the 1974 autonomy that led to tragic consequences. Other things caused the tragedy in Kosovo, among them the armed rebellion of the Albanians, the murders, and much else that took place. However, I would rather not discuss that now.

I am afraid that Pristina's attitude is further radicalizing the situation and heightening tensions in the region. Kosovo's independence is not only totally unacceptable for Belgrade, but it could also cause huge instability in the region, particularly in Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. If we are responsible politicians, we must keep the entire region in mind, not just our separate interests.

Haziri: I can assure Mr. Prorokovic and other people in Belgrade that this is not true. The independence of Kosovo is accepted as a reality in the region. I recently visited Skopje. From all the talks I had there with the prime minister, cabinet ministers, and other representatives of the government, it was obvious that Kosovo is no longer seen as a problem there.

However, Kosovo remains Belgrade's historical [obsession]. Mr. Prorokovic, solutions such as association, confederation, and federation that you offer were not acceptable to us even 10 years ago, let alone now. Kosovo's independence will bring stability to the region. Belgrade had best accept political reality so that we can all, as a region, start participating in European integration. You speak of rebellions and conflicts: Kosovo's Albanians fought against the regime [of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic] and for the freedom of their people, just like all the other nations of former Yugoslavia.

Prorokovic: Let me first briefly comment on the thesis that the armed rebellion in Kosovo, led by the [Kosovo Liberation Army] UCK, broke out for the liberation of the Albanian people. It would mean that Serbia was bombed [by NATO] so that the Albanian people in Kosovo could achieve independence. However, during the bombing campaign, Albanian political leaders stated that the Albanians started the rebellion because their human rights were threatened, not because they wanted the independence of Kosovo.

Haziri: Our human rights were threatened. The Albanians had previously fought in self-defense for 10 years by political means. Eventually, after 10 years of political struggle, the Albanians realized that it had gotten them nowhere. In March 1998, [the entire Jashari family of Prekaz] was killed just because they sought their human rights. The whole world then knew that the Albanians were the most endangered people in both Serbia and former Yugoslavia.

Prorokovic: Human rights cannot be defended with crimes. The latest discovery of a mass grave [of Serbs in a cave] in Metohija shows that crimes did take place. The fact that a former prime minister of the government of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, is now in The Hague also proves that crimes were committed.

Haziri: The human rights of the Kosovar Albanians as a community were threatened. That led to the rebellion, the NATO bombing campaign, and to the new reality in Kosovo. I am not saying that there were no problems in Kosovo; it was wartime. However, I find it inappropriate that Mr. Prorokovic talks about mass graves [of Serbs] in Kosovo, when it is well-known that some 12,000 Kosovar Albanians were either killed or are still considered missing. We are still searching for bodies in the River Sava in Serbia [where many corpses of Kosovars were dumped to avoid detection].

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