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South Slavic: January 16, 2003

16 January 2003, Volume 5, Number 1

The next issue of "RFE/RL South Slavic Report" will appear on 30 January.


Part I.

A recent program of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Omer Karabeg with Bosko Ristic, one of the co-chairmen of the Constitutional Commission that has worked on the text of the Constitutional Charter for the new state of Serbia and Montenegro, and Ramush Tahiri, political advisor to the speaker of the Kosovar parliament, Nexhat Daci.

RFE/RL: Mr. Ristic, you claim that the provision of the preamble of the Constitutional Charter, saying that Kosovo is a constitutional part of Serbia, is in keeping with the UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Why do you think so?

Bosko Ristic: The preamble fully reflects the real situation and does not prejudge the status of Kosovo. The provision of the preamble mentioning that Kosovo and Metohija are a constitutional part of Serbia is absolutely consistent with Resolution 1244. Both the preamble and the text of the Constitutional Charter were drawn up in consultation with representatives of the EU, the Council of Europe, and the Venice Commission, and none of them had any objection whatsoever.

Ramush Tahiri: People in Kosova think that such a definition in the preamble does prejudge the status of Kosova, because Resolution 1244 does not mention Serbia as a state -- but rather Yugoslavia. The document says that an interim administration is to be introduced, under which the population of Kosova can enjoy considerable autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but Serbia is not mentioned.

RFE/RL: So, you believe that according to the Resolution 1244, Kosovo is a constitutional part of Yugoslavia, not Serbia?

Tahiri: Yes. The resolution says that Kosova is a constitutional part of Yugoslavia, but under interim UN administration. However, the authority of Yugoslavia over Kosova has not really been implemented. Kosova is governed by the interim UN administration and the elected bodies of Kosova.

Ristic: It is true that the status of Kosovo and Metohija has not been defined, but it is also true that according to the text of the resolution, the territory is not separated from Yugoslavia or Serbia. One should not forget that according to the Constitution of Serbia, which has never been suspended, Kosovo and Metohija are still a constitutional part of Serbia.

I cannot agree that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has no authority over Kosovo and Metohija. First of all, according to Resolution 1244 itself, contingents of [Yugoslav] military and [Serbian] police forces are supposed to return to the province. That has not happened because the conditions for that have not been met, and I do recognize that fact.

Finally, the Albanians do not control Kosovo and Metohija since the territory is in fact governed by UNMIK [the UN Mission in Kosovo]. The proof of that is UNMIK's decision to suspend the resolution of Kosovo and Metohija's parliament rejecting the preamble of the Constitutional Charter.

Therefore, the parliament and government of Kosovo and Metohija are merely local organs of government, organs of local self-government, which have no right to make decisions that could affect in any way the status of the territory.

Tahiri: The parliament of Kosova, as the supreme authority, adopted a resolution declaring unacceptable, null, and void the [references to] Kosova in the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro, since that is an attempt to create a legal basis for the annexation of Kosova to Serbia, which would threaten peace and stability in the region.

The parliament of Kosova has demanded that the UN Security Council, European Union, and other international bodies oppose the attempts of Serbia and Montenegro to predetermine the future status of Kosova.

RFE/RL: Mr. Tahiri, you do not consider the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro binding for the parliament of Kosovo?

Tahiri: No, I do not. No decision made in Serbia and Yugoslavia is binding for Kosova because as long as UNMIK is there, Kosova is out of both Serbia and Yugoslavia.

Besides, Kosova has its own organs of government elected from the representatives of all the peoples and political structures. They are the ones who, together with the international administration, govern Kosova.

RFE/RL: Mr. Ristic, do you consider the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro binding for the parliament of Kosovo?

Ristic: The Constitutional Charter is based on the [March 2002] Belgrade agreement, according to which Serbia will be the [legal] successor [to Yugoslavia] as mentioned in Resolution 1244 if Montenegro leaves the commonwealth. That means that if the commonwealth of Serbia and Montenegro breaks up, Kosovo and Metohija will be treated as a part of Serbia from a legal standpoint.

However, determining the final status is left for the future. The most important thing for now is to build democratic institutions in order to protect human rights and make normal life in Kosovo and Metohija possible. This is why I am asking your guest whether all the citizens of Kosovo and Metohija, no matter what their nationality, are allowed freedom of movement, and the rights to live normally, to have their children educated, to earn a living, and to cultivate their land, as they are allowed in other parts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

That is not the case now. This is why in the name of my political group, I am offering you the chance to start a political dialogue about it. I would expect you, too, to use your influence and make your political group accept the invitation and to organize the dialogue in both Kosovo and Metohija, and in Belgrade, or some other town in Serbia.

Tahiri: It is true that freedom of movement does not yet exist in Kosova, or to be more precise, in some parts of Kosova, and that is our biggest problem. Displaced persons are not returning, mainly the Serbs and Montenegrins. There are no more Serbs in some regions....

Conditions have not been met yet for people to speak Serbian freely in public places in Kosova. That is mainly a result of the war; I do not consider it a result of a deep, age-old hatred. I do not believe that such hatred exists among ordinary people.

People live separately in Kosova now, since the Serbs live in their own enclaves. However, just as there is no freedom of movement for the Serbs in the regions populated mainly by the Albanians, there is no freedom of movement for the Albanians living in Serbian enclaves such as, for instance, Shterpce or Gracanica.

That has to be changed. All the inhabitants of Kosova have the right to return to their homes, to enjoy freedom of movement, to be educated in their own language, and to use their language in dealing with the authorities.

However, let me go back to the resolution of the parliament of Kosova rejecting the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro. It is true that the head of UNMIK, Mr. [Michael] Steiner, suspended the resolution. But it still represents the position of the elected bodies of Kosova that responded to an attempt to predetermine the final status of Kosova.

Ristic: If we had intended to predetermine the outcome, we would not have written in the preamble that Kosovo and Metohija are currently under UN administration, which is quite unusual for a constitutional document.

The fact is that according to the Constitution of Serbia, the province of Kosovo and Metohija is legally part of Serbia. By the same token, UNMIK is now governing the territory, trying to stabilize [interethnic] relations, and building mutual confidence and democratic institutions.

Tahiri: But Resolution 1244 does not mention Serbia as a state, only Yugoslavia. As far as the union of Serbia and Montenegro is concerned, that is a temporary solution, since, after a three-year period, the member states are allowed to initiate secession procedures.

According to the Constitutional Charter, international documents now referring to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia -- especially Resolution 1244 -- will regard Serbia as its successor if the union breaks up. However, people in Kosova were never asked about it, and we are talking about some 2.5 million people on whom Serbian rule was imposed in the past. This is why the supreme body of government in Kosova, namely the parliament, decided not to accept the preamble.

Mr. Ristic, you claim that the parliament of Kosova had no right to adopt the resolution, but let me remind you of June 2001 Kosova declaration of the Serbian parliament. That document rejected the constitutional framework for interim self-government in Kosova, which is backed by the international community.