But Tadic stressed that independence is "unacceptable," even while granting that the province is "on the verge of independence" and its Albanian population is in practice beyond Belgrade's control. Tadic argued that "independence...is unacceptable for very specific reasons...[because it would lead to the] fragmentation of the region...[and] the establishment of a new Albanian independent state with its own army and foreign policy, which would in the long run be directed against Serbia. This is absolutely unacceptable to Serbia" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 November and 10 December 2004).
The references to "fragmentation" are typical of many Belgrade politicians, not only regarding Kosova but also Montenegro. It is interesting that he assumes the new state, which President Ibrahim Rugova has said will be committed to peace and Euro-Atlantic integration, will somehow be hostile toward Serbia. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who is Tadic's rival, often speaks about a "domino effect" that independence for Kosova might allegedly have elsewhere in the Balkans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 2005, and "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 16 December 2004, and 13 and 20 January 2005).
Such views about "fragmentation" find a warm reception in some circles abroad, particularly within the EU. Kosovar Albanian and pro-independence Montenegrin leaders reply that Serbia is simply trying to hold on to territories that now seek to exercise the rights of self-determination and majority rule. Those Kosovars and Montenegrins believe that trying to maintain the status quo is the surest recipe for instability and unrest in the future (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 December 2003, 17 December 2004, and 7 and 21 January 2005).
But speaking to RFE/RL in Belgrade, Tadic argued that an independent Kosova would not be economically viable and that "that state could live only from smuggling drugs, people, and weapons." This argument, too, is not new. Since the times of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, official Belgrade and the Serbian lobby abroad have often sought to portray Albanians in general and those of Kosova in particular as criminals and drug dealers.
An RFE/RL listener asked Tadic whether Serbia should form groups of armed volunteers to "defend" the province because "we will not give up Kosovo at any price" and Serbia needs its lignite. The president replied that "there is nothing that is worth more than life or worth doing at any price." The brown coal, however, has the potential to provide some domestic energy sources for Serbia for a rather long time, and this factor "must be taken into account" whenever the Kosova question comes up for discussion, Tadic added.
Tadic argued that an independent Kosova would not be economically viable and that "that state could live only from smuggling drugs, people, and weapons."
He nonetheless criticized his countrymen for their "passivity" and lack of imagination in dealing with the province and its future. He suggested that only the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who led Tadic's Democratic Party prior to his assassination in March 2003, broke any new ground on Kosova policy. Tadic specifically referred to an interview Djindjic gave to a Belgrade daily a few weeks before his death (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 January 2003).
Tadic did not mention, however, that the most striking proposal Djindjic made was to start talks on Kosova's future status, an issue that most Serbian politicians prefer to put off on the assumption that time works to Belgrade's advantage. In fact, Tadic and Kostunica both avoided the status question in recent talks with Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2005).
But the question might not wait. The International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a 40-page report released in Prishtina, Belgrade, and Brussels on 24 January that "either 2005 will see the start of a final status solution that consolidates peace and development, or Kosovo may return to conflict and generate regional instability" (http://www.crisisweb.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=3226).
The study argues that "Kosovo's de jure sovereignty should be recognized by the international community" by mid-2006, adding that "the potential for renewed violence is very real" if the Serbian-dominated north calls in Serbian forces or breaks away. "Reintroduction of violence into the equation has raised the very real possibility the process may be decided by brute force on the ground rather than peaceful negotiation," the report notes, adding that the international community must act to ensure the protection of minority rights by attaching some conditions to Kosova's future status.
The study nonetheless stresses that "while legitimate Serbian concerns should be taken fully into account, particularly about the status of Kosovo's Serb minority, Belgrade should be cautioned from the outset that 'the train is leaving, with or without you,' and encouraged to participate fully in achieving the best possible terms of settlement."