6 October 2005, Volume 7, Number 30
KOSOVO NEGOTIATIONS: WITH OR WITHOUT BELGRADE?
A program of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) with Omer Karabeg
RFE/RL: Today we are going to discuss Kosovo's decentralization with our guests Dusan Batakovic, adviser to Serbian President Boris Tadic, and Ramush Tahiri, adviser to the president of the Assembly of Kosova, Nexhat Daci.
Mr. Batakovic, the government of Kosovo has proposed a decentralization plan, known as "Plan B." It was well received by the International Contact Group that includes the United States, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, France, and Russia. But officials in Belgrade find the plan unacceptable. Why?
Batakovic: Primarily because it is unacceptable to the Kosovo Serbs, who are the most directly affected people. They are the ones who see the plan as an attempt to change the [Serbian] enclaves -- where they are in the majority -- [into new administrative districts], where they will be in the minority.
RFE/RL: What makes you think that the plan is aimed at making the Serbs a minority in some parts of Kosovo?
Batakovic: Because Albanian communities were added to those Serbian enclaves, which have of necessity become compact, interconnected communities. For instance, in the case of Gracanica, this pilot project takes Caglavica away from it and puts in Ajvalija, which is a village with an Albanian majority. This is how the number of Serbs is dramatically reduced [in some districts], with all that means for their opportunities for self-government and survival as a community.
Tahiri: That was not the goal of decentralization; our goal was to create multiethnic districts. In the case of Gracanica, the pilot project includes Gracanica, Ajvalija, Laplje Selo, Preoce, and Susica. Ajvalija, near Gracanica, is the only Albanian village there, while the others are Serbian. Caglavica was left out [of that district] because it is closer to Pristina than to Gracanica.
The decentralization we are planning is for the population [as a whole], regardless of national or religious affiliation. We do not want to make mini-states out of mini-cantons based on ethnic principles, as proposed in a plan by the government of Serbia. That is not our goal. Our goal is not to create some sort of "leopard-skin pattern" in Kosovo or to make a decentralization plan only for the Serbs. If there are certain problems involving the Serbs as citizens of Kosovo, in terms of their ethnic rights, we can solve those problems with laws and other arrangements, but not with ethnic divisions and "enclavization."
Batakovic: I do not think that the decentralization project put forward by Belgrade and Kosovo's Serbs is [only] aimed at decentralization. It is not only legitimate and in accordance with standard European models, but also the only way to make the transition from the horrible situation in which the Serbian community finds itself into a form of peaceful coexistence as a precondition for future integration.
I see no problem in having Kosovo look like a leopard skin, since the proclaimed goal of the international community is to preserve its multicultural character. The decentralization in accordance with European standards that we are proposing is a way to preserve that character.
We must bear in mind that according to Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council, Kosovo is a part of Serbia and Montenegro, a legitimate part of our state territory. I do not understand how one can have talks about a part of our territory without Belgrade, nor can one attempt to make a deal with Kosovo's Serbs against their will. No solution for Kosovo will be legitimate or sustainable if it is made without an agreement with Belgrade.
RFE/RL: Mr. Tahiri, Albanian leaders in Kosovo refuse to accept representatives of Serbia in the talks about the status of Kosovo. Why?
Tahiri: After all, there was a war in Kosovo, and for six years now we have had a postwar situation here. Institutions of power have been created, and a new generation has grown up. More than 300,000 people have come of age during the UNMIK administration in Kosovo. They have had no experience with communism and Serbia.
The will of the people of Kosovo has been expressed several times, and the overwhelming majority voted for the independence of Kosovo. This is why the Kosovo Albanians leaders think that independence cannot be discussed with Serbia, since it is our inalienable right.
Batakovic: There is also the will of the Serbian people living in Kosovo, who have endured persecution during these six postwar years. Two-thirds of the Kosovo Serbs were expelled from their homes and scattered throughout Serbia [since the end of the conflict], and they insist on having Serbia and Belgrade as their legitimate representatives at status talks.
Tahiri: Talking about the number of Kosovo Serbs, there are great inconsistencies in the figures presented by the Serbian side. For instance, my interlocutor claims in his writings that there are some 130,000 Serbs in Kosovo. According to the 1991 census, in which Albanians did not take part, there were 207,000 Serbs in Kosovo. However, according to the Serbian government's program for the return of displaced persons, there is a figure of 286,000 Serbs and Montenegrins, out of whom some 257,000 are in Serbia and 29,000 in Montenegro. It therefore seems that the number of displaced persons far exceeds the overall number of the Serbs living in Kosovo in 1991.