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Kosovo Report: August 18, 1999

18 August 1999, Number 24, Volume 1

ALBANIA'S PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER RESERVED OVER MAJKO VISIT. The visit of Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko to Prishtina and his position vis-a-vis local politicians there continues to be an issue of debate in Tirana. Parliamentary speaker Skender Gjinushi expressed reservations publicly today about Majko's political gestures. In a declaration to the press, Gjinushi said that Majko's visit to Kosovo was "a private visit without political importance." He added that, if he were in the position of Majko, he would not have recognized Ibrahim Rugova as "President", but would have given more support to UCK leader Hashim Thaci.

MAJKO WANTS 'PAN-ALBANIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM.' Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko has urged Education Minister Ethem Ruka to draw up plans to unify education in Albanian language in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia and intensify cooperation between the universities of Tirana and Prishtina, Reuters reported on 17 August. He said that "it is time to talk about [creating] a unified strategy for education in Albanian wherever Albanians live in the Balkans." Majko stressed that "this is...a turning point to make the biggest investment for the future of the Albanian community in the Balkans," adding that first steps should include an exchange of teachers and professors. Majko argued that "Albanians should read the same history because we are part of the same history. Now it is time for us Albanians in the Balkans to make history."

CEKA SEES NO EVIDENCE OF ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT IN ARMS SMUGGLING TO KOSOVO. Neritan Ceka, head of the Parliamentary Commission on Public Order and the Secret Service, turned down recent accusations of opposition leader Sali Berisha, who accused the Albanian secret service chief Fatos Klosi of involvement in arms smuggling to Kosovo. Ceka told RFE/RL on 17 August that his commission has reviewed the accusation, but not found any evidence: "There is no proof of any implication of the secret service throughout the entire period," of the Kosovo war. In 1997 and early 1998, when Ceka was Interior Minister, the police repeatedly blocked considerable deliveries of weapons that were apparently bound for Kosovo, but also for other destinations. Ceka acknowledged that there is illegal arms smuggling in Albania, but added that "there is also arms trafficking to Italy and Greece."

Klosi has been under pressure from Prime Minister Pandeli Majko for several months. Majko repeatedly asked President Rexhep Meidani, to sack Klosi. Meidani refused, however. It remained unclear whether Majko's request was linked to the smuggling allegations. Fatmir Mejdiu of the Republican Party told RFE/RL: "Naturally, considering all the trafficking that was going to Kosovo and considering all the problems that Kosovo had, there may have been many people involved in arms trafficking, including state officials." He added that this is not surprising in a time where most state employees are eager to improve their salaries. He urged Berisha to provide evidence to the judiciary, however.

EU ESTABLISHES CUSTOMS OFFICE IN KOSOVO. EU officials have created a customs unit in Kosovo on 17 August, which will re-establish customs services at several border crossing points. The EU is funding the customs offices at a rate of $3 million. The intention is to re-establish control over the economy of Kosovo and to gather revenues to finance the rebuilding of public services there.

TORTURE CHAMBER DISCOVERED IN PRISHTINA'S GRAND HOTEL. The Prishtina daily "Rilindja" reported on 17 August that the staff of the Grand Hotel has discovered two prison cells and a torture chamber in an underground building belonging to the hotel. The daily added that the employees found women's clothes and lists containing the names of unspecified students. During the recent conflict, journalists reported that Serbian paramilitaries used the building as their command center. Many foreign journalists stayed at the hotel, which also housed the regime's media center. International war crimes investigators have started investigations.

LDK OFFICIAL WELCOMES ABOLISHMENT OF DISCRIMINATORY LEGISLATION. The Secretary-General of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), well-known lawyer Nekibe Kelmendi welcomed the decision of UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner to suspend laws discriminating individuals on an ethnic basis. She told RFE/RL on 17 August that Kouchner's "decision [about the suspension of all discriminatory legislation] is very positive and very targeted, and I hope that both the UN and Mr. Kouchner have understood that these laws were discriminatory, that these laws belonged to a completely different system, and that now in Kosovo we are living in a different system.... I hope that with the support of Mr. Kouchner, his clear policy and the help of judicial experts we will get better laws for Kosovo, as Kouchner has promised, and that these laws will be in force in Kosovo and will be implemented here in all areas of life."

Kelmendi added that "surely the LDK will have its own expert, who will participate in the law-drafting commission. And on the other side, the LDK will help Mr. Kouchner, and also all other international institutions, so that life in Kosovo will return to normal, legality will return, and public order will be established as soon as possible." She also stressed that it is the duty of every citizen to give maximum support by respecting legal norms.

The Deputy Prime Minister of the UCK's provisional government, Mehmet Hajrizi, told RFE/RL that the Rambouillet agreement has de facto led to a suspension of all Serbian and Yugoslav legislation in Kosovo. He said that the Albanian representatives and the international community approved a new constitution in Rambouillet, which thus put an end to all Serbian administrative and legal structures. He added: "Today after all the changes that have happened in Kosovo, it is absurd to take a step back to the time before Rambouillet, and to protect Serbian and Yugoslav legislation in Kosovo. That would put everything into question that has happened since then in Kosovo, and it would be out of the context of finding a lasting solution to the Kosovo crisis. Thus the decision to adopt new laws for Kosovo, laws that are in line with international standards, has been, is and remains one of our central demands. Kouchner must take such a just decision."

Hajrizi stressed: "Of course we will make our contribution to the drafting of new laws and a provisional Constitution of Kosovo, and we will give our approval for the text of such laws. We need a constitution and a penal code that will help regulate life in Kosovo and will enable us to prosecute crimes committed here."