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South Slavic: December 14, 2000

14 December 2000, Volume 2, Number 44

Time For Compromise In Kosovo? PART II

Omer Karabeg: In today's Radio Most (Bridge) we are going to discuss whether the opposition victory in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the victory in Kosovo of the moderate Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) have established conditions for a true dialogue about the future of Kosovo. Our guests are Ylber Hysa from Pristina, director of the Civic Initiative of Kosova, and Archdeacon Sava Janjic, spokesman of the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija. Both Mr. Janjic and Mr. Hysa are members of the Interim Administrative Council of Kosovo. Part I appeared on 7 December.

Sava Janjic: The fact is that we are allowed to go to the polling places--for instance in Gracanica, next to the monastery. However, I was talking about the freedom to live, not about the possibility to go to a polling place secured by strong KFOR units, where we are escorted in armoured vehicles. This is why there is no basic human freedom, like the freedom of movement, the right to work, and the right to a secure life. The Serbs do not believe that with such a degree of discrimination they could protect their interests.

As far as the federal elections are concerned, the Serbs did take part under extremely abnormal conditions and they voted mostly for Mr. Milosevic because they voted for the state. They are deeply convinced that only the state could protect their interests and improve their situation, and in that moment, Milosevic was the one who represented the state. Voting for Milosevic, the Serbs from Kosovo actually voted for the state that is now represented by Mr. Kostunica.

However, we as a people must accept that the reality has changed in Kosovo. The present reality is not something that should remain the way it is now, first of all because the present reality means that one repression has been replaced by another. I cannot accept the fact that I have to have an armed escort when I come to Pristina. We need a society without repression, with democratic relations, and where all the problems would be resolved in a dialogue. These are the facts that all the citizens of Kosovo must accept. As far as the December elections are concerned, it is possible that the Serbs will participate at least formally, in order to confirm their stand that Kosovo is a part of Serbia, and through Serbia a part of Yugoslavia. All the Serbs believe in that. Once again they will vote for the state they believe could improve their position, which, unfortunately, the international community failed to improve in last year and a half.

Therefore, the best way to break this impasse is to start to improve living conditions in Kosovo and Metohija. The presence of the representative of the Serb National Council in the Interim Administrative Council of Kosovo under such difficult circumstances goes to show our readiness to help to bring about an improvement of the present situation. We are willing--if certain conditions are met--to take part in local authorities. Therefore, we are for co-operation, but we want the minimal conditions to be met for our participation in political life as free citizens on an equal footing with others.

Ylber Hysa: What Mr. Janjic is talking about is a hideous fact and a difficult post-war reality. I do understand Mr. Janjic. I can understand him since I was living under a form of apartheid for ten years. I was forced to hide during the war, I was hunted, and I had to escape from Kosovo together with almost a million of my fellow citizens. I am, therefore, well aware of the bitterness of our reality.

However, we have to change that reality. And, we will not be able to do so by refusing to participate in political life and with secret hopes that the Yugoslav Army will eventually come to solve the problem. The Army will not come and this is why it is so important to understand that we are the only ones who can change the present situation.

Sava Janjic: I must say that we made an important gesture of good will when we agreed to participate in local authorities even without elections, as nominated members, in a situation when our representatives can safely arrive at meetings of local councils only in KFOR's armored vehicles. We expect that the newly elected local authorities--in which the representatives of the Democratic League of Kosovo are dominant--will make it possible for the atmosphere to start to change.

Furthermore, we expect the representatives of other political parties to do the same. I think that both sides should take necessary steps for the building of confidence. If that happens, if conditions are created for a secure life for the Serbs in Kosovo, then there will be no reason whatsoever for the Serbs not to take part in the province's general election, since that sort of election is foreseen by the Resolution 1244.

I know that Mr. Hysa has experienced difficult moments, but, many Serbs, Romanies, and [Muslims] are experiencing such difficulties now. However, I do not believe in solutions reached by any sort of army. At this moment, we should try to win a war "fought" through readiness for a dialogue and compromise.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Hysa, can Kosovo's general elections take place before all the Serbs who want to return are allowed to come back to Kosovo?

Ylber Hysa: I think that the issue of Kosovo's general elections should not be linked to that. One could put things the other way around. If the elections are not held and if effective institutions are not established in Kosovo, then who will be responsible for the return of the Serbs? If we want to create a democratic society, then we have to start to create democratic institutions, which cannot be made with blackmail, haggling, and obstruction. Institutions of a democratic society can only be made by voting. There is no other way.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Janjic, do you consider the return of the Serbs to Kosovo a prior condition for general elections?

Sava Janjic: By all means, the Serbs who were forced to leave Kosovo under all sorts of pressures--whether they were expelled or they left for fear of retaliation--must be allowed to return to their homes and their property must be protected. There is no such possibility now because of very strong obstruction by some Albanian political groups, who were making the return of the Serbs dependent on many things--release of the Albanian prisoners, healing of wounds, or something else.

However, the Albanians must understand that, just as they were allowed to return, the same right must be granted to the Serbs, Romanies, [Muslims], Croats and all those who left Kosovo after the war. It is absolutely unacceptable for the Serbs to take part in the elections now that two thirds of the Kosovar Serbs are living outside Kosovo.

There are no more Serbs in some regions, and their property is open to unhindered destruction. Serbian graveyards are being showered with garbage on a regular basis. Our churches are still surrounded with barbed wire since they can still be destroyed. It is very hard to talk about democratic procedures in a society ruled by organized crime, violence, and the worst discrimination in Europe instead of law and order.

I agree with Mr. Hysa that those institutions must be created, but first we have to see who are the people that will work in these institutions. It would be naive to expect that those who used to be arsonists--according to many--will turn into firefighters to help establishing a wonderful democratic society where everybody will be very happy.

This is why I think that now is the right moment for the newly elected local authorities to show their readiness to enable the Serbs to return. If they do so, it will encourage the international community to organize the general elections as soon as possible. If not and if the same things keep happening, if mortar attacks against some Serbian villages continue--such as for example at Gorazdevac near Pec--I fear that not only will the Serbs be against the general elections in Kosovo, but the international community will become increasingly convinced that democratic structures cannot be established here.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Hysa, do you agree that all the Serbs who want to return to Kosovo should be allowed to come back?

Ylber Hysa: I think that not only the Serbs, but all the inhabitants of Kosovo should be allowed to return. That is a natural right of all people.

However, I think that we should give democracy a chance. If we accepted Mr. Janjic's reasons, then the international community should not talk to Mr. Kostunica at all because he posed for a picture with a Kalashnikov. However, he has been given a chance to do something with Yugoslavia and Serbia. This is why I think that we should be given a chance as well, since we have been through so many things.

Nothing can be achieved with boycotts and constant blockades of democratic processes in Kosovo. The sooner that effective institutions are built, the sooner that issues such as refugee return and many other things can be dealt with. One should not forget that a year and a half after the war, none of those indicted for crimes committed in Kosovo has faced the Hague tribunal.

Omer Karabeg: The idea of a partition of Kosovo into clearly separated Serbian and Albanian enclaves in which they will strictly stick to themselves is once again popular in some circles in Serbia. Advocates of that concept claim that is the only way to ensure the survival of the Serbs in Kosovo. We are practically talking about the model of Kosovska Mitrovica, a town strictly divided into an Albanian and a Serbian part. What do you think about that, Mr. Janjic?

Sava Janjic: I must say that the Serbian National Council and our Church have never supported the idea of a territorial partition. Creation of ethnically pure territories is not characteristic for modern Europe. That is an obsolete concept that has already brought so many tragedies to the Balkans. The situation in Kosovska Mitrovica can be accepted only as a temporary solution before the first confidence-building measures are taken.

I do not see the future of Kosovo with some new Berlin Walls or some isolated enclaves that would be kept alive with some sort of umbilical cords connecting them with central territories. I must also say that the Serbs are convinced that an independent Kosovo would become an ethnically pure Albanian state tending toward uniting with other territories where the Albanians live.

We see our future within regional and European integration. This is where frontiers lose their importance, while the importance of unhindered economic, cultural, and other kinds of communication is growing...

Ylber Hysa: I think that a division would lead us into a new Balkan war. There are so many towns in the Balkans and in the neighborhood, which are divided by a river and linked by multiethnic bridges. I do not understand why Kosovska Mitrovica could not become such a town. If Kosovska Mitrovica remained divided, that would become a dangerous precedent. That will provoke what is usually called the "domino theory," causing new divisions, and then we will have a situation with permanent small wars.

What sort of Kosovo do the Albanians want? Sometimes it seems a little bit strange to me when I see that the Serbs are convinced that they know better than the Albanians what the Albanians want to do with Kosovo. Let us forget these stories. However, I absolutely agree with Mr. Janjic that we do not need new Berlin Walls. Democratic societies are needed in all the states created after the division of former Yugoslavia. That will allow us in the future to talk about regional integration according to the spirit of Europe.

Omer Karabeg: And finally, do you think that--considering the present situation and the high level of distrust between national communities--Kosovo will remain a protectorate of the international community for a long time?

Sava Janjic: The way things are now, I believe that the presence of the international community is very important, because at this moment it is the only guarantor of this fragile peace among the ethnic communities between which, unfortunately, there is no trust whatsoever. It will take time for this way of thinking to change, for economic development to be achieved, and for people to gradually start thinking about everyday problems instead of political ones.

That is a precondition for normal human co-operation and for this present distrust to be overcome, although it might seem insurmountable now. Therefore, the presence of the international community in Kosovo is very important. But in the future, its representatives must become more sensitive to the violations of human rights and to the fate of missing persons. They have to make it possible for the refugees to come back, and to protect their private property as well as the property of religious communities. To put it briefly, they have to enable the creation of a democratic society in which all problems would be resolved in a civilized manner.

Ylber Hysa: I would say that we have a sort of a paradoxical situation here. There is a stronger presence of NATO forces in our region than in all the other post-communist countries that have already met the conditions for joining that military alliance. I think that this reality should be changed. NATO should not [just] keep peace, but become a security umbrella aimed at promoting the Europeanization of the Balkans.