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Yugoslavia: Normal Life Is Continuing In Kosovo, Says Writer

Paris, 17 September 1999 (RFE/RL) -- RFE/RL correspondent Alexandra Poolos interviewed Albanian writer Ismail Kadare at his home in Paris. The following transcript is the first section of the interview, in which Kadare discussed Kosovo and the future of the Balkans.

Q: As we approach the millennium, what are your hopes for the Balkans? A: Now I wish that a normalcy has returned to the people's lives. When you can say that life is normal. The Balkans have been on the periphery of Europe for too long. What they need now basically is European influence and control. I would not be opposed to that because this in itself would bring normalcy. In fact, they could have used this 15 years ago to remove this hurt, this sickness that is within them.

Q: Some would say that the Balkans have been considered the back woods of Europe. A: Europe is finally understanding that they have pushed aside the Balkans and that they can't anymore because if there is hurt there, Europe itself will hurt from problems in the Balkans. The Balkans are in Europe's backyard. If you have problem in your backyard there is going to be problems in the house as well.

Q: What can we learn from Kosovo? A: There are many things. The first thing you have to not to be afraid of crime. You have to do what you can to face it and help. You can not hesitate for too long when victims of crime are calling out and crying for help. Beyond the laws of humanity and democracy and the world government, there is a higher, supreme law that governments us all as human beings. All the bureaucracy concerned with asking do we have permission or do we not have permission -- I do no find this just. We cannot hesitate -- like with what is happening now in East Timor -- to decide do we help or do we not. You can't do that.

Q: What do think of the current retribution attacks against Serbs and other minorities in Kosovo? A: I have been saying that you cannot encourage people for revenge in Kosovo. You must not do that. People who support revenge become weak themselves. I also believe that the response that the Albanians had was exaggerated. There is plenty of difference in the way the two sides have presented the situation.

Q: Do you see the possibility of a multiethnic Kosovo? Was there ever a multiethnic Kosovo? A: Yes, there once was a multiethnic Kosovo. But once that was finished -- that's it. During the imperial times of the Balkans, it was multiethnic with many kinds of people. There was always an equilibrium between the people. But, I insist you cannot really decipher who belongs there. You can't categorize who is being victimized and who is doing it. Of course this is the cancer, this is the disease. But it's a process, a sickness, that has happened throughout the world. You can say it has happened in Europe. It spreads in a sense. For example anti-Semitism didn't exist in the Balkans like the rest of Europe. This type of sickness moves across the world.

Q: Three months after the cease-fire, what do think of the progress? A: There is a little progress. I'm not very pesimistic. For instance, in the past three or four days you haven't heard of one bombing or one murder -- that's a big success. Bernard Kouchner just said that not that long ago there was a bombing in Moscow. And then when you consider that Kosovo is just beginning [the lack of recent violence] is a good thing.

Q: Who will be the new leaders in Kosovo? Hasim Thaci? A: It's him who's going to represent the liberty of Kosovo.

Q: Do you have faith in Thaci? A: They say a lot about him. There has still been a lot of exaggeration because the Serb propaganda is still very aggressive.

Q: So you're saying that the Kosovo Liberation Army can transform itself into a political party that can rebuild Kosovo? A: They can have a very positive role. When they were here [in Paris] that represented a good position. But it is not a force that you can call homogeneous.

Q: What about leaders like Rugova? For ten years he supported a pacifist approach in Kosovo. A: Yes, too pacifist. The pacifist approach could have endured for 1,000 years. And even still Kosovo would be enslaved.

Q: But will Kosovo become another Sarajevo? A: You can't compare Kosovo to Sarajevo, because it's not the same. In Sarajevo, you've got three different ethnicities. In Kosovo, you've got only the two: Albanian and Serbia. It's different. In Bosnia, you've got the three who are pretty much in the same number. It's too complicated to try and compare.

Q: Is there room for Serbs in Kosovo today? A: Of course. The Serbs must remain in Kosovo. We must accept that now they are in the minority, but of course they should have the same rights.

Q: Can Kosovo remain a part of Yugoslavia? A: In theory yes, but I can't believe the Albanians would ever accept being part of the Serb nation. Still it's a horrible mistake on the part of Europe to take away a part of a country. Imagine Kosovo has only been here since the start of the country. There was no reason to detach Kosovo and give it to another country.

Q: Do you support the notion of a greater Albania? A: Neither Albania nor Kosovo thinks of joining. It is not in their mind right now. Leave it to the future. What's most pressing and urgent is to return to a normal life. If you give it time in the future, when things are stronger and Kosovo has had a chance to rebuild itself, then this might be a solution. It might be a possibility.

Q: Albania has been a forgotten country. Has the conflict in Kosovo drawn attention to the problems in Albania? A: Yes, because now the world is more aware that Albania is a principle part of the Balkans. Before they treated them as a very small people and that's not true at all. The Albanians are as big in numbers as the Serbs, the Bulgarians and the Greeks.

Q: Serbs say that they are the first people of Kosovo. Do you think this is true? A: No this is not true. Of course, the Serbs came much later. They were always the minority in Kosovo. This is just the propaganda of the Serbs.

Q: What are your hopes for the Kosovar people as they begin to rebuild Kosovo? A: My hope -- for example you saw the kids were going back to school in Kosovo. Before the children weren't in school. So I'm happy that now you start to see this. When you have school, university, theater, cinema. That is life, that is life. Normal life continuing.