12 May 2005, Volume 7, Number 13
KOSOVO: INDEPENDENCE OR THE BROADEST AUTONOMY?
A program of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Omer Karabeg.
Will it be possible for Belgrade and Pristina to reach a compromise on a political solution for Kosovo? Our guests are: in Pristina, Lutfi Haziri, the president of Municipal Assemblies of Kosovo, and in Belgrade, Dusan Prorokovic, the chairman of the Serbian parliament's Committee for Kosovo and Metohija.
Prorokovic: I would like to ask Mr. Haziri whether he thinks the basic human rights of Kosovo's Serbs are threatened today.
Haziri: Those rights are threatened as much as the rights of other minorities are threatened. It is true that more must be done to improve their lot. However, the situation of the minorities in Kosovo today cannot possibly be compared with that of Kosovo's Albanians 10 years ago.
Prorokovic: Are the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija supposed to rise up in arms in order in order to protect their human rights? We must ensure the protection of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija because they are being killed on a daily basis, their movement is restricted to a radius of 2 kilometers, and they are prevented from leaving their villages to harvest their fields.
However, I must say that Mr. Haziri's attitude is different from that of the majority of Albanian politicians. I have repeatedly told a variety of Serbian television stations that Mr. Haziri did a very important thing on 17 March  when, as mayor of Gnjilane, he protected the Serbian population there. He prevented the kind of major pogrom that actually did take place in other parts of Kosovo.
Unfortunately, I am very sorry to say that there are too few politicians like Mr. Haziri in Kosovo and Metohija. It seems to me that a part of the Albanian political elite has permanently chosen to continue pressuring Serbs to leave Kosovo. During the last six years there were almost 1,000 ethnically motivated terrorist attacks, from broken windows to cases of arson, and many different forms of maltreatment and harassment, including brutal murders....
It seems to me that Kosovo is becoming increasingly monoethnic. If we compare the number of Serbs living [there] before the arrival of the [NATO-led peacekeepers known as] KFOR in July 1999 with today's figures, we will be shocked by the result. The most disturbing thing is the fact that some of the terrorist attacks were premeditated...with a clear message [for the Serbs to clear out].
If Serbs are threatened, if they have no basic conditions for normal life, and if some Albanian political parties encourage this way of treating Serbs, then we cannot possibly talk about [the international community's] standards, Kosovo's independence, or European integration, since murders, expulsions, and crimes do not belong to European civilization.
Haziri: Belgrade perceives Kosovo's elite and Kosovo's Albanians as terrorists threatening the Serbian community in Kosovo. That is not true. It is true that incidents did take place and that there have been problems since the end of the war, but the situation is improving and getting better and better every day.
Instead of talking about the return of the Serbs who left Kosovo before, during, and after the war, we have been discussing things that took place two, three, or four years ago. Today Kosovo has its institutions, police force, and judicial system. All those who violate other people's rights will be prosecuted. Problems must be solved through those institutions. Talks with Belgrade about the rights of the Serbs and their return to Kosovo should start immediately, as well as about pension funds and other issues. It is high time for the dialogue to start, since times are hard and people want a better life, a better education for their children, economic development, and prosperity.
RFE/RL: Mr. Haziri, is a direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina about the status of Kosovo possible? Kosovo's President [Ibrahim] Rugova has rejected, for the second time, Serbian President [Boris] Tadic's invitation to start direct talks.
Haziri: You know what Pristina's attitude is. We are not negotiating about the status of Kosovo. The independence of Kosovo is reality. We are ready to start negotiations with Belgrade about technical issues, but the status of Kosovo is not negotiable.
Prorokovic: For me the return of the Serbs is not a technical but a political issue. Almost 300,000 refugees and displaced persons from Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and especially from Kosovo and Metohija are currently living in Serbia. We must find a way to speed up their return. However, the fact that almost 1,000 incidents took place during the last six years -- whose perpetrators have not been found and investigations have not been completed -- discourages those who would like to return to Kosovo....
Who do you think would like to return to Kosovo and Metohija when people there have not had electricity for six months? That is a political issue and something President Rugova and President Tadic should discuss. If Pristina keeps refusing every suggestion Belgrade makes, then Belgrade might start behaving in the same way.
[We should not wait until a solution is imposed on us from abroad].... Negotiations should start as soon as possible, because we care about every human life in Kosovo, both Serbian and Albanian.
Haziri: Absolutely, human life is more valuable than anything else in the world. However, I would like to say that most of those involved in these murders and incidents have already been arrested. Among them were some Serbs who killed other Serbs [even though at first many thought that] those murders were ethnically motivated.
Negotiations are necessary; talks and dialogue will bring a solution. We should start as soon as possible, since that would be best for all of us. When we first started talking about missing persons, it brought results almost immediately. I think that the most important thing now is that the representatives of Kosovo's Serbs take their posts in Kosovo's government and parliament. Let me remind you of Mr. Slavisa Petkovic, Kosovo's [ethnic Serb] minister for returns. Belgrade should talk to him about the return of the Serbs and other political issues.