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South Slavic: May 9, 2002

9 May 2002, Volume 4, Number 15


Part II.

A recent program of RFE/RL Radio Most (Bridge) by Omer Karabeg of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service with Milan Paunovic, professor of international public law at the Faculty of Law in Belgrade, and Enver Hasani, professor of international law and international relations at the Faculty of Law in Prishtina.

Paunovic: Mr. Hasani, you regard the recent set of principles proposed by Javier Solana on relations between Serbia and Montenegro as a project for a Greater Serbia. Are you saying that the European Union supports the project of a Greater Serbia?

Hasani: Yes, in case of Kosovo and Montenegro, that is absolutely true.

Paunovic: I think that such a thing never entered anybody's head in the European Union.

Hasani: The European Union did not set down in black and white a clear program in which Serbian national interests are defended -- as you might have preferred. But the principles applied...actually benefit the Serbian national project on this side of the Drina River, which was not the case with [the 1995 settlements for] Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The project of Greater Serbia was defeated forever [in Croatia and Bosnia]. It remains to be seen what will happen in the case of Kosovo and Montenegro, but the chances are that it might succeed to a certain extent.

However, it would be difficult to imagine [complete] Serbian sovereignty over Montenegro or Kosovo in the post-Cold War world.

RFE/RL: Mr. Paunovic, what does the agreement mean for any referendum on the status of Kosovo?

Paunovic: I think it was taken off the agenda for the next three years, although the issue was not directly mentioned.... The issue will be resolved according to Resolution 1244 of the Security Council, which says that the status of Kosovo will be resolved, among other things, in accordance with the [1999] Rambouillet agreement.

A referendum was mentioned in that document. That is a political issue par excellence and I do not know how it will be resolved, but one thing is sure: there will be no referendum for the next three years, and this is what the European Union wanted to stress with this agreement. This is why they included the provision saying that Serbia will become the subject of Resolution 1244 if Montenegro leaves the joint state.

RFE/RL: Mr. Hasani, do you think there will be no referendum for the next three years?

Hasani: There will definitely be no referendum for the next three years. Furthermore, this agreement has frozen the possibility that any sensitive political issue could be put to a vote.

However, a referendum was just one of the possibilities for resolving the status of Kosovo both in the Rambouillet agreement and in Resolution 1244.

I am certain that the Western countries, the liberal democracies, which are the framers of today's international law, will never force Kosovo, the Kosovars, or anybody else to accept a status that is not in accordance with the will of the majority....

RFE/RL: Do you think that a referendum must necessarily take place some day?

Hasani: I do, but the modalities and the [wording of the] question...are another issue.

RFE/RL: Mr. Paunovic, what do you think?

Paunovic: I cannot form an opinion about that now. It is not in the European Union's interest that referendums on independence be organized right now because that could lead to further territorial fragmentation.

Additional referendums might take place in the Republika Srpska or in many other regions, which could create total chaos in the Balkans. The European Union is trying to avoid such chaos.

RFE/RL: However, Mr. Paunovic, some people think that there is no realistic prospect of keeping Kosovo within Serbia in the long run.

Paunovic: Kosovo has the status of an international territory within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as defined by Resolution 1244. The international community is preserving the present situation, which could last as long as several decades. We cannot say how it will end.

Hasani: I would like to turn to the comparison between Kosovo and the Republika Srpska made by Mr. Paunovic. He feels that the Republika Srpska would have the right to organize a referendum on independence if such referendums were allowed in Kosovo and Montenegro. This is why he thinks the European Union does not want referendums in Kosovo and Montenegro.

The EU is supposedly afraid of the so-called "domino effect," which might spread to other regions such as Ireland and the Basque country. However, one cannot compare Kosovo, which has existed for ages, with the Republika Srpska, a parastate [recently] created on the basis of ethnic cleansing.

The issue of Kosovo was and remains a political problem. Unfortunately, a part of that problem is a war that had all the characteristics of genocide.

RFE/RL: Mr. Hasani, do you think that granting Kosovo independence would not give the right to the Republika Srpska to demand the same thing for itself?

Hasani: Absolutely so. The Republika Srpska is a criminal entity.

Paunovic: The Republika Srpska cannot be any sort of a criminal entity because it was created in accordance with the Dayton accords, which is an international agreement guaranteed by the big powers and signed by all parties involved in the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Hasani: First, let me say that the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina was not a civil war, as Milosevic claimed for 10 years. It was aggression against one people and one state. I am talking about a criminal policy accepted by the international community because of realpolitik, because they could not do anything else.

Paunovic: Do you really think that the international community carried out a criminal policy while creating Bosnia-Herzegovina?

Hasani: There is a EU statement -- back then, in 1991, it was the European Community -- which says that the results of aggression on the territory of former Yugoslavia will not be recognized. However, that was eventually done with the Dayton agreement.

Paunovic: But [the Republika Srpska] was created by the Dayton agreement.

RFE/RL: In conclusion, what do you see as the future status of Kosovo?

Paunovic: I see Kosovo within the state of Serbia and Montenegro as a special region with substantial autonomy in accordance with the standards defined by the international community -- and not as an independent state.

Hasani: My wish and the wish of all Kosovars is that Kosovo become an independent and sovereign state within the borders set down in the 1974 constitution.

I think that it will be a long time before the final status of Kosovo is defined. However, I am convinced that in this generation, which directly felt the tragedy of the past 10 years, there is nobody who could accept what Mr. Paunovic and many other Serbs want: Kosovo as a part of Serbia.

That would provoke another war and more violence in the region. It might not be as extensive as the last conflict, since Serbia is no longer able to do what it could do during Milosevic's rule.

However, [placing Kosovo in Serbia] would certainly provoke a crisis, which would destabilize the region. I think that the international community will eventually understand that.

Everybody should go their own way, meaning that Kosovo should be independent, just like Serbia and Montenegro. They might meet somewhere in Brussels or New York.