Blic Magazine, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Issue 35, July 28, 2000

Interview with Bishop Artemije

BISHOP ARTEMIJE is convinced that the Serbs cannot return to Kosovo by force and that the future of the southern province directly depends on the speed of
democratization of central Serbia

By Dragan Novakovic

Bishop Artemije and Fr. Sava
Bishop Artemije and Fr. Sava discussing

"The story of the return of the Serbian army and police and Kosovo is a typical
manipulation of the regime which has been talking about this for a year already and
thus giving false hope to Serb refugees. The story of Mr. Pavkovic's return on a
white tank and of the Serb refugees return alongside him has absolutely no basis in
reality and I am afraid that if that is what we are waiting for we will never
return," says the bishop of Raska and Prizren, Artemije (Radosavljevic) during an
interview for "Blic News".

What, in your opinion, will be the future of Kosovo?

According to Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council, Kosovo is a territorial
part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and of Serbia; however, the future
status of Kosovo is still not being discussed and that problem is not being
resolved. In my opinion, this depends exclusively on the development of events in
central Serbia, in Belgrade. If a change of the regime and democratization occur in
Serbia, then it is possible that Kosovo will actually remain an integral part of
Serbia and FRY but if this does not occur in the foreseeable future, Kosovo may turn
toward Europe instead by way of Albania. This would mean the final loss of Kosovo.

Was this also discussed during the recent visit of the Serbian National Council
(SNV) to New York and Washington?

The delegation of the SNV of Kosovo and Metohija visited New York in order to attend
the session of the UN Security Council at which Resolution 1244 and results achieved
in the field were discussed. The visit was organized at the right time and in the
right place because we were successful in showing the other side of the coin called
Kosovo, in contrast with the picture which Mr. Kouchner presented during his report.
Before the session, our delegation contacted with the ambassadors of the member
countries of the Security Council to whom we presented the factual situation,
especially regarding the new wave of violence and regarding the systematic and
organized terrorism against the Serb population and non-Albanian residents of
Kosovo. After this our delegation was unprecedentedly allowed to be present at the
UN Security Council. As a result we were able to hear not only the unfortunate
report of Bernard Kouchner but also the presentations of the members of the Security
Council and consequently we were witnesses to the fact that all presenters placed
special emphasis on what they learned from us immediately before the session. Only
the ambassador of Malaysia and Richard Holbrooke did not mention the subject.

Richard Holbrooke, we heard, was not happy with the presence of the SNV delegation at the Security Council session. Is this true?

Mr. Holbrooke during his presentation expressed dissatisfaction and disagreement
with the presence of our delegation because of the fact, he said, that the "other
side" was not present as well. He even publicly called secretary general Kofi Annan
to account regarding this. Immediately following [Mr. Holbrooke's] speech, Mr. Annan
rose from his seat, approached our delegation, greeted each of us and bid us
welcome. After this Holbrooke left the conference room. Whether this was done
demonstratively or not, I am unable to say but those are the facts.

What was your status during the length of your stay in New York?

We were received as guests. Also present were two representatives of Montenegro who
came independently of us, as well as the representative of FRY, Ambassador Vladislav
Jovanovic. He approached us and greeted us before the session but we did not see
each other afterwards.

Do you consider that visit to have been successful?

The simple fact that we were present at the session and able to establish
communications with the members of the Security Council is a great success. If we
had not been there, the problem of the Serbs in Kosovo would not even have been
mentioned and in this way it was, nevertheless, placed at the center of attention of
the general public.

What was your visit to the State Department like?

The American administration showed great interest for the problems of the Serb
community in Kosovo. In the State Department we met with State Secretary Madeleine
Albright and her associates Strobe Talbott, Christopher Hill and Jim O'Bryan, the
new special envoy for the Balkans. During those talks we adhered to the text which
we had also taken to the Security Council with our seven requests and expectations.
This is what needs to be done for the situation to change for the better, for the
Serb community to have some chance of survival, and for the creation of an
environment suitable for the return of Serb refugees and other non-Albanian
residents of Kosovo. I think that our visit was highly significant and that it
fostered new hopes and new perspectives for the resolution of the Kosovo problem.

Did the Americans make any promises or provide guarantees to you?

In the State Department we analyzed all the requests which we submitted and our
collocutors expressed readiness to improve the security of the Serbs in Kosovo, to
work on creating local self-government in the Serb enclaves, to have more Serbs
represented in the Kosovo police where they live, to create separate antiterrorist
units which would assist KFOR and UNMIK in security tasks... Much has been promised
to us and already this is being worked on at full speed. Representatives of the
American administration arrived in Pristina days ago and I hope that we will soon
work further on the details.

Did you discuss the future status of Kosovo while in the US?

No. We do not engage in talks regarding the status issue because in order to resolve
this problem the state of Serbia and FRY must be involved as well as the
international community.

Information has arrived from the US that Holbrooke proposed that, following the departure of Slobodan Milosevic from power, a conference on Kosovo be held, a sort of mini-Dayton...

This was not mentioned. This involves the status issue and is a matter for Serbia
and FRY.

During your stay in the US, the Serbian regime increased its attacks on representatives of the Serbs in Kosovo. What is the essence of this conflict?

We are not in conflict with anyone, that is up to those who are doing the attacking
and who are actually also responsible for everything that has happened and that is
happening today in Kosovo. I simply have to wish to comment on those attacks, nor do
I follow them, nor to I assign any significance to them. I am trying to perform my
duty in accordance with my conscience and my sentiment and out of concern for the
little that remains of our people in Kosovo, as well as to work on the return of
those who were expelled from Kosovo.

Recently the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church expressed its support for you. Is this correct?

In Kosovo but also among our public in general the opinion prevailed that what I am
doing is my personal business and that I supported perhaps in my efforts by His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch Kyr Pavle... However, at this year's session of the Synod, the development
of events demonstrated that this was not the case because a committee of the Synod
for Kosovo and Metohija was formed which is headed by His Holiness Patriarch Pavle.
In this manner, what I am doing in Kosovo and for Kosovo has received the support of
the entire Serbian Orthodox Church and of all the archpriests, and by this also of
that part of the Serbian nation who are believers.

Is there hope for the return of Serbs to Kosovo?

There is always hope. The Serbs cannot and must not ever renounce Kosovo because it
is the cradle of Serbian spirituality, Serbian culture, the Serbian state, the
location of our most precious holy sites and artifacts. If there are no Serbs in
Kosovo, then our entire cultural and spiritual heritage is brought into question.
But everything does not depend on us but on a myriad of events and on the security
situation in Kosovo as well, because you cannot have some one return if you cannot
even guarantee if he will be alive in a day or two. This compromises the very idea
of Serb returns.

How do you comment on the worsening of relations between the Kosovo Serbs and members of the international forces?

In Kosovo the propaganda from Belgrade is very strong. The regime controls seven or
eight radio stations, television stations, newspapers and in every way possible they
attack us and stir up trouble and crate divisions among the Serbs in Kosovo. We have
the impression that the worse it is for the Serbs in Kosovo, the better it is for
the regime in Belgrade. All these conflicts with the international community in
Kosovska Mitrovica, Stimlje, Gracanica will not lead to anything good. We expected
that conflicts would occur between Albanian extremists and KFOR soldiers but this
has not occurred. It is illusory and extremely unrealistic to expect that Serbs can
achieve anything more in Kosovo through the use of force. We can only subsist with
the help of diplomacy and wisdom. Every use of force leads only to further
extinction of Serbs in Kosovo. And I am afraid that that is the policy of the regime
in Belgrade.

* * * * *


 Requests in the Security Council

The delegation of the SNV of Kosovo and Metohija, in order to protect the Serb
community, asked the Security Council of the UN for the following: autonomy of
Kosovo within the framework of the borders of Serbia and FRY with strict
implementation of Resolution 1244, self-government for the regions and enclaves with a Serb majority, protection of holy sites and artifacts of the Serbian Orthodox Church and realization of denominational and cultural equality, judicial autonomy in self-governing regions with judges and jurists from local communities, the inclusion of a greater number of Serbs in the security system of Kosovo, the formation of special antiterrorist units which would, in collaboration with KFOR, fight terrorism in the province and establishment of clear deadlines as well as establishment of a special committee consisting of Serb experts and UNMIK experts in order to discuss the modalities of self-government.

* * * * *


During your visit to the US, the information was leaked that you received a concession in the form of a guarantee that all Serbs expelled from World War II onward as well as their legal heirs would be eligible to participate in the process of registering the population of Kosovo? Is this true?

Registration and elections are out of the question until the expelled Serbs have
returned to Kosmet. Today there is no one there to register. Only a third of Serbs
who lived in Kosmet up to March of last year remain, while two-thirds are scattered
throughout Serbia and Montenegro. It is clear that this position on our part will
not prevent the international community from conducting registration and elections
but they will have to do so without us.

* * * * *


"I would like to remind your readers that on the celebration of Vidovdan (St. Vitus
Day, June 28) 11 years ago more than one million people gathered at Gazimestan while
at the celebration of Vidovdan last year, barely 20 people gathered around their
Patriarch at Gazimestan under the protection of approximately one hundred members of
KFOR. This year His Holiness Patriarch Pavle will also be at Gazimestan; how many
Serbs will be able to attend is questionable. In any case, I would like to say that
Vidovdan is the milestone of every Serb, that without Vidovdan, without the Kosovo
gospel, which is the commitment to the Kingdom of Heaven, to eternal ideals, to the
honorable Cross and golden liberty, that without these ideals there will be no
Serbia and there will be no Serbs. Therefore, no matter where we live and what we
do, we must keep before us these values and Kosovo ideals for which our ancestors
lived and for which they were prepared to die," said Bishop Artemije.

Translated by S. Lazovic (July 1, 2000)