13 February 2003, Volume 5, Number 4
COULD WE LIVE TOGETHER AGAIN? -- AN RFE/RL CALL-IN PROGRAM.
A recent program of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Rade Radovanovic.
RFE/RL: We have asked our listeners to comment on three questions. The first is what they think of the recent call by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou for a Balkan federation. The second deals with the proposed new state of Serbia and Montenegro. The third possibility is to comment on anything the listeners have heard in any one of our previous phone-in programs.
Ali Vracani: I am from Kosova. I was born in Kosovska Kamenica and have been living in Denmark for four years. A couple of years ago, [veteran Kosovar rights activist] Adem Demaci proposed something similar to this idea of a Balkan federation.
However, our mentality makes this idea a nonstarter. We already had that sort of federation in what was Yugoslavia and proved incapable of living together. If we go further back in history, we see how many problems we have had living together, how each and every [ethnic group] has wanted to go its own way. We were always promised that things would be better [if we lived together], but the better times never came.
RFE/RL: Is it true that Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo have always hated each other?
Vracani: It is hard when people cannot trust each other, when I cannot trust you and you cannot trust me. Such a marriage cannot last long....
One side tries to dominate the others and underestimates them....
RFE/RL: Is this a characteristic of all people from Kosovo -- whether they are Serbs, Albanians, [Muslims], Montenegrins, etc. -- or is this true primarily of one of those nations?
Vracani: I think it is a characteristic of the Serbs. They underestimate us Albanians and all the others, too.
Just look at their commonwealth with Montenegro. For me, as an Albanian, a Montenegrin is just as good as a Croat. Montenegrins have always been scapegoats because the Serbs want to dominate [their relationship with Montenegro]. Now, once again, they want a joint state and will not allow Montenegrin independence....
RFE/RL: But a third element is at work here.... The government in Belgrade, which is the government of Zoran Djindjic, would have been willing to cut a deal and put an end to the joint state. But [the EU] and [its foreign and security policy chief] Javier Solana put forward a list of suggestions, which are really demands.
Vracani: ....Both of them have a common interest, probably involving Kosova. What will happen there in three or four years? Solana and the EU have their own plan, but I do not know what it is.
RFE/RL: Let's take this assumption. The EU opposes the dissolution of Serbia and Montenegro because that could trigger the process of the separation of Kosovo. That process might provoke the separation of a part of the Albanian population in Macedonia.
In that case, [Belgrade might demand the Republika Srpska]. Finally, that could cause new tensions and even wars in the Balkans. Bearing that in mind, don't you find the EU's call for no separation rational...?
Vracani: They will have to accept whatever happens in due time. If the Albanians remain firm in their demands and pursue them in a way that is acceptable to the EU, the inevitable will simply happen....
RFE/RL: Are you talking about Albanian demands for Kosovo's independence?
Vracani: I am not talking only about the Albanians, just because I am one. My grandfather, his father, and my father all accepted Yugoslavia the way it was. Whether they wanted it or not, that is another story, but they accepted it.
So did I, together with the [communist slogan of] brotherhood and unity, but then [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic came. What good had Yugoslavia brought my father and me? I had to escape here to another country, together with my children, and live among foreign people where I did not know anybody. I did not speak the language, I had no job, I had to start from scratch.
Should I now make the same mistake and agree that my son will have to stay in that commonwealth, whatever they decide to call it? I do not want to be blamed for that.
RFE/RL: If I understand correctly, these are your reasons for an independent Kosovo. Can other nations live in such a state, whatever the name?
Vracani: Yes, of course.
RFE/RL: Why can they not live there now?
Vracani: Because both the Albanians and the Serbs are pursuing the wrong policies there, especially the Serbs [who favor confrontation rather than cooperation]....
Of course, I cannot accept troublemaking when the Albanians are at fault, either. There is one thing we have to understand, [namely the need to get on as people do] here in Denmark or in America. How come the two of us are talking right now? I can talk to anybody; I do not care who he is.
RFE/RL: I consider Belgrade absolutely responsible for what happened in Kosovo during the last 11-12 years, until the international forces were deployed there [in 1999]. Whom do you consider responsible for what is going on there now, when somebody is killed there every single week?
Vracani: It is hard to say, but all sides are somewhat responsible.
RFE/RL: Belgrade cannot be responsible for the murders that are taking place now.
Vracani: No, but Belgrade is quite involved in destabilizing the situation in Kosova.
RFE/RL: Do you think that Belgrade is involved?
Vracani: It can be both Belgrade and the other side. Some Albanians kill people, too. Those [who do] are [often] emotional people who have lost their entire families....
[There must be mutual respect, but nobody can force someone to like someone else. It is pointless to try to force the Albanians to stay in Serbia when they do not want that....] But...we are all heading towards Europe, and eventually we will all be there.
RFE/RL: Do you think that people from Kosovo would feel better if they had an independent state, even though nothing else changed?
Vracani: ....The situation would start improving if only [former Yugoslav President Vojislav] Kostunica or Djindjic would say to the [Kosovar Serb parliamentary] Povratak coalition that they have to attend the sessions of Kosova's parliament [which they are boycotting] and resolve all their problems there, that they will receive no more support from Belgrade....