3 November 2005, Volume 7, Number 32
KOSOVO NEGOTIATIONS: WITH OR WITHOUT BELGRADE?
A program of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) with Omer Karabeg on Kosovo's decentralization, with guests Dusan Batakovic, adviser to Serbian President Boris Tadic, and Ramush Tahiri, adviser to the president of the Assembly of Kosova, Nexhat Daci.
RFE/RL: Mr. Batakovic, could the results of negotiations held without Belgrade be acceptable for the authorities in Serbia?
Batakovic: That is simply unthinkable. No one in the international community can be serious about even trying to impose a solution. We are not in the 19th century, and these are not colonial times when state borders could be changed with the stroke of a pen. We nonetheless recognize our regional responsibilities and are open for dialogue....
RFE/RL: Mr. Tahiri, would Pristina accept Belgrade's participation in the status talks if the international community insisted on it?
Tahiri: What could we talk about? No one has a mandate to negotiate [with Serbia in view of the atrocities that Serbian forces committed in Kosova].... The only possible framework would be that of two equal sets of governmental institutions.... But this would complicate the picture for Kosovo's Serbs, for whom Belgrade cares nothing.
Batakovic: Their only place is with the delegation of the state they live in. That state is named Serbia, and they consider themselves citizens of Serbia. In 1998, I proposed cantonization as a solution that would preserve the multiethnic character of Kosovo...and ensure equality for the Albanians.... Two communities live in Kosovo and speak different languages. They belong to different cultures and have different identities, which they have the right to protect. The Albanians should grant to the Serbs what they want for themselves.
RFE/RL: Mr. Batakovic said that independence for Kosovo would provoke instability in the region, perhaps a war between the Serbs and Albanians.
Tahiri: I doubt it. The Serbs could not wage such a war again, even though Serbia is still not democratic and makes the same mistakes it made in Croatia [in 1990-91]. It still seeks to control the Serbs of Kosova, even though it can no longer do as it pleases in the region....
RFE/RL: Mr. Batakovic, would independence for Kosovo trigger a war?
Batakovic: It would provoke tectonic disturbances in this part of the Balkans. One cannot allow such a dangerous precedent enabling some 1,700,000 to fulfill their national interests while some 8,000,000 would remain permanently frustrated. Furthermore, Kosovo's independence would mean another precedent -- a partition of Serbia.... The policy of punishing Serbia and indulging every single separatist aspiration at the expense of Serbia would set off new conflicts....
RFE/RL: Belgrade and Pristina are poles apart when the future of Kosovo is concerned. Is a historic compromise between the Serbs and Albanians possible?
Tahiri: I think it is and has always been possible. We were not at war with each other here; we used to live together. But as to Mr. Batakovic's observation regarding the frustration of the Serbs, what about the feelings of the 4 million Albanians if some 2 million of their compatriots remained within Serbia?
RFE/RL: Mr. Batakovic, is a historic compromise between Serbs and Albanians possible?
Batakovic: It is not only possible, it is desirable, but it can only be reached through direct negotiations. There are many forms of autonomy that would give the Kosovo Albanians [much of] what they wish and would mean that in places where they are a majority they would enjoy something more than autonomy and less than independence.
Serbia has already demonstrated flexibility by extending a hand to the Albanian side. We are not demanding the restoration of the pre-1999 situation, when Milosevic's regime had all the power. What we want is to reach an agreement and find a formula that would be acceptable for both sides. Failing that, we will enter a new cycle of instability which would threaten the long-term stability of the entire region. That is not only Belgrade's opinion; it is shared throughout the region, with the exception of Albania.