19 May 2005, Volume 7, Number 14
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 put a question to Mr. Haziri: have the perpetrators of the murder of Serbian children in Gorazdevac in August 2003 been arrested?
Haziri: I would not like this conversation to turn into the questioning of an accused person by a judge. A Serb was behind the incident in Crnica near Gnjilane, and that crime is considered the most serious one in the past two years. The crime was not ethnically motivated. As far as the Gorazdevac tragedy is concerned, the police investigation is still going on.
Prorokovic: The investigation process is slow, which is discouraging for the [Serbs] who want to return [to their homes in Kosovo].
As far as [Kosovo's Minister of Returns Slavisa] Petkovic is concerned, you certainly remember that [former Serbian and Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic had "his own Albanians" in both Kosovo's government and parliament. Everybody knew that they were not legitimate representatives of the Albanians. Those who ran for parliamentary seats on behalf of [Milosevic's] Socialist Party of Serbia or some other parties and won no more than 100 Albanian votes could not possibly be considered legitimate representatives of the Albanians.
If a man like Mr. Petkovic received only 200-300 votes [in the October 2004 elections, which most Serbs boycotted], we cannot consider him a legitimate representative of the Serbs, or a minister with the necessary mandate to solve these problems.
In fact, the Serbs participated in Kosovo's institutions for three years. I think it did them more harm than good. Let me just remind you what they had to endure. They were escorted to legislative sessions in bullet-proof cars, and if they criticized an international representative, they were denied the right to use those vehicles and hence could not attend [subsequent] sessions.
Haziri: The problem is that Kosovo Serbs boycotted the elections under pressure form Belgrade. Prime Minister [Vojislav] Kostunica urged them to do so. As minister for local self-government, I urged the Serbian representatives to participate in the process of decentralization. They have been a part of that process for a year now, although I keep reading in the newspapers that they are not.
RFE/RL:: Mr. Prorokovic, the international community seems to be increasingly leaning toward independence for Kosovo. First the International Crisis Group and then the International Committee for the Balkans have recommended independence.
Prorokovic: I would not call them the international community. I would simply call them two nongovernmental organizations. There are many politicians in those organizations who were once very active in helping split up the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [SFRY]. But the position of the relevant governments -- first of all of the Contact Group and the five permanent members of the Security Council -- is to seek a compromise....
Haziri: I do not agree with Mr. Prorokovic. Let me stress that the International Crisis Group and the International Committee for the Balkans are not just any nongovernmental organizations; their political views carry much weight. One of the members of the International Committee for the Balkans is [Serbia and Montenegro's former Foreign Minister] Goran Svilanovic, against whom criminal charges have since been brought by a political party in Belgrade, which I find tragic. A politician who made a realistic proposal now has political problems as a result [see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2005].
Prorokovic: That is his personal problem; criminal charges are a part of political struggle. He was even disowned by his own party, the one that gave him his parliamentary seat. Of course, one should not be prosecuted because of one's opinion, and that is something I strongly condemn.
As far as Kosovo's status is concerned, let me just remind you of the 1992 Badinter Commission report that constituted the [international legal] basis for the proclamation of the independence of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and finally Bosnia-Herzegovina within the borders defined by the [Yugoslav communists during World War II]. The document clearly says that the borders of former socialist republics of the SFRY are inviolable and internationally recognized. If Kosovo becomes independent, that principle will have been compromised because one state border will have been altered, which in turn might raise the issue of changing other borders and provoke instability in the region. That, I think, is one of the reasons why Kosovo cannot become independent.
Haziri: Kosovo had its status and its borders within former Yugoslavia. We are not demanding changes in the borders, we just want to achieve our own self-rule as a former autonomous region and become independent within those borders.
Prorokovic: I would like to put a question to Mr. Haziri, which no Albanian politician has ever answered for me. Since Albanian politicians have been talking to the Albanian public about an independent Kosovo for 10 years now, who will be held responsible if Kosovo does not gain independence?
Haziri: The Albanian nation has been struggling for its rights and independence for 100 years, not just 10 or five, and this is why your question is quite irrelevant. I might ask you in a similar fashion: who in Belgrade will be held responsible [by Serbian public opinion] if Kosovo does become independent?