DANAS - Belgrade independent daily

Dusan Batakovic, a member of the delegation of the Serb National Council
of Kosovo and Metohija at the conference in Sofia

Prof. Batakovic

by Jelena Tasic

Danas, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, December 27 1999

Kosovo Serb Sofia Declaration

Lack of political will to protect Serbs is one of the most shameful
consequences of everything that has been happening in the last ten years. While the arrival of the international forces to Bosnia brought the end of violence, in Kosovo the most violent wave of ethnic cleansing started with the arrival of international troops and that is a paradox. At a meeting held in Sofia on December 10, 11 and 12, a delegation of Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija, together with representatives of the US Institute for Peace adopted a Declaration about its further political activities. Historian Dusan Batakovic participated at the Sofia conference as an advisor of the Serb side. He explains in an interview with Danas:

The meeting in Sofia was supposed to be analogous to the one held by Albanians in the United States, when they adopted their declaration about Kosovo with their demands for the American and international administration. In contains many elements unacceptable to the Serbs, including the demand for self-determination and the definition of Kosovo as a single national unit. Because of that the Declaration from Sofia attempts to inform the international community about the current situation in the province. The international authorities are expected to take full control of the province instead of ignoring the fact that KLA rules Kosovo in the way which borders with the worst lawlessness from the Ottoman era. On the other hand, the survival of Serbs in Kosovo has been brought into question.

We Shall Talk Only to Moderate Albanians What are the concrete demands from the Sofia Declaration? Security above all. The question of security is closely related to the question of rule and self-rule, and there are also humanitarian issues as well as the refugee problem. Our attitude is that while the problem of the security and the return of refugees to a safe environment is not resolved, it makes no sense to conduct a census, and even less to
organize any kind of an election. Every decision imposed on Serbs will
represent a de facto legalization of ethnic cleansing. We emphasized that Kosovo should remain a part of FR Yugoslavia, which should not only be a technical but also an actual fact, visible in the field. We demanded that those parts of the province where Serbs are in majority be given self-rule in a fully decentralized political system. There is no sense in replacing the evil centralization of Milosevic's kind with the same type of centralized rule, led this time by Hashim Thaqi or another one of Albanian extremists.

We said that we are not against ethnic Albanians, but against Albanian
nationalism. We condemned every type of ethnically based violence. Of
course, in our demands and visions of the future of Kosovo we left space
for possible future talks with Albanians.

Is that related to the most recent initiative of Kosovo Serbs to hold
talks with Ibrahim Rugova?

We expressed readiness to talk with moderate Albanian representatives,
since we are convinced that we should not and must not talk to extremist
nationalists and terrorists. Thaqi has so far on numerous occasions done
the opposite of what he had promised. We do not see any sense in talking
to him although everyone is suggesting that he has become an unavoidable
partner, since his men are in power in Kosovo. Because of that we ask
why UNMiK and KFOR are not in power, since that is supposed to be their
mandate. We clearly told the Americans that we cannot be hostages of
their policy which, out of fear of loosing 10 American soldiers in a clash with Albanians, does not dare impose order in Kosovo, and is prepared to sacrifice lives of 100,000 Serbs for that. In Kosovo I've seen scenes of violence that are worse than anything seen in horror movies. What is today happening to the Kosovo Gypsies is worse than anything from the Third Reich.

But the worst of all is the total avoidance of the representatives of the international authorities. All of them have seen that the situation in the field has nothing to do with the media propaganda from the last few years for which both Milosevic and Kosovo Albanians share credits.

What are the ultimate goals of your proposals?

With this declaration we wanted to assist the International Community to
establish order in Kosovo based on the principles it has declared in the past. Its politicians daily invoke these principles when talking about Kosovo. By pointing out that the problem of security cannot be resolved unless it is related to the problem of government, we claim that Serbs need local self-government. Moreover, not self-government defined in the Anglo-Saxon manner, including anything and nothing. We demand clearly defined judicial, police, and administrative self-rule, in order to preserve our language, heritage, sacred sites and avoid living in ghettos similar to the Warsaw ghetto in WWII. On the other hand, Serbs in Kosovo are now organized in a more efficient manner. They have established the Serb National Council which includes representatives of all enclaves and is presided by his excellence bishop Artemije, who has been leading consistent policy for several years now and has condemned any ethnically motivated violence.

There is a shared conviction to stay in Kosovo and fight to the end. That demonstrates that the logic that armies pass but as long as the people stay nothing is lost has rekindled among our people. I am impressed by the fact that the Serb participants of the meeting in Sofia mostly have three children, some of them even four. We have forgotten that Kosovo Serbs are the only Serbs whose birth rate exceeds their death rate. They were the only source of our vitality.

Spontaneous Cantonization has been Implemented in the Field Are there any indications that the International Community will accept Serb demands?
No, apart from verbal assurances. On behalf of Kosovo Serbs I offered a revised version of the cantonization proposal in August 1999 and that proposal was rejected. Now, everyone is aware that a spontaneous cantonization has been implemented in the field. Serbs from Prizren have
moved to Strpce, which together with Brezovica makes up a large canton.
Those Serbs from Pristina who did not escape to Serbia moved to Gracanica, Laplje Selo, Caglavica. Serbs from Gnjilane are moving to Vitina and Kamenica... to regions with Serb majority. North from Mitrovica, there is a Serb canton. Now, it only remains to codify the existing situation and help Serbs to survive. What deeply disappoints and worries me is that after the rejection of the cantonization proposal there have been no other proposals. I do not claim that my proposal is the best, only because it is mine, but that it is necessary because it is the minimum of the minimum.

If you reject a plan that between life and death chooses life and fail to offer anything to replace it - what does that mean? The lack of political will to protect Serbs is one of the most ignominious consequences of everything that has been happening in the last ten years. Now we are at the very end of the spiral of ethnic fragmentation and hatred. While in Bosnia violence ended after the arrival of the International Forces, in Kosovo the worst wave of ethnic cleansing started with the arrival of the International Forces. That is a paradox.

Would the negotiating position of Kosovo Serbs be "stronger" if they enjoyed support of a state?

That is an essential condition. Because of that we stated that every solution of the status of Kosovo while Milosevic is in power would be against the Serb interest. Alpha and omega of every "calming of the situation" in this region is the change of the regime in Serbia. While Milosevic is in power, everything done in Kosovo can be justified as done in order to reduce his influence in the province, whereby it automatically gains legitimacy in the international circles. Since we cannot get anything from Milosevic we are talking with those who are de facto in power in the province. That is the sad destiny of Kosovo Serbs. Our people must learn one thing: the fact that someone is the president
of a state does not mean that he is prepared to defend its interests. Quite frequently in history, rulers of various states did everything in their power to destroy and weaken those states, which is also the case in our country.

There is a habit in our country to believe that the state is something above politics, as it were some sort of a perpetual mover that rejuvenates itself, while politics is something bad and base. We must learn that a state is based on stable institutions which can be built only by a democratic political regime.

What is the role of the Serbian opposition in all of that?

In the Serb National Council there are representatives of the Democratic
Party of Serbia, the Serb Renewal Movement, the Democratic Party and
supporters of other smaller opposition parties. Kosovo Serbs want as close as possible links with Serbia proper, but they do not want to have close links with the Milosevic regime. If we make a clear distinction than perhaps we would be able to find some acceptable means of coexistence, acceptable for the rest of the world as well. The biggest problem in Kosovo is the problem of ethnic minorities, but it is first necessary to clarify the confusion regarding the terminology in that v area. Four wars were waged in the Balkans because of the terms minority and majority. If you are a minority that means that you live in somebody else's state which is not yours in the ethnic sense. In the American society minority groups are not ethnic groups but the term has a
completely different meaning. On the other hand, in this region the term
minority does not signify a numerical qualifier but a descriptor for a status within a society. Because of that we insisted on the term ethnic community so that no one ends up a minority in Kosovo.

In Kosovo that is very important, because otherwise if [the ethnic Albanians are successful] in reducing the number of Serbs below five percent then Serbs will get minority rights, such as the right to have their folk dancing societies and attend school in Serb language once a week, as in Sweden for example. That means that you live in somebody else's state. Also, I have doubts that the Albanian society in Kosovo, which is 90 percent rural, is capable of developing better and efficient democratic institutions that would adequately protect numerically inferior ethnic communities. If the international community has so far in the Balkans in every instance regarding the Serb question applied specific solutions, in violation of accepted international laws and norms, why shouldn't it do the same in Kosovo where for the first time
it is in the position to protect Serbs? Most of Kosovo Serbs haven't participated in any manner in the violence against Albanians.

In this an example, as some claim, of double standards used by the West,
which earlier this year bombed FRY because of the humanitarian
catastrophe of Kosovo Albanians?

The NATO bombardment and the action initiated by the USA in full
cooperation with Europe was a complete fiasco. All of them are now feeling very bad because of that but do not intend to abandon their concept. An American participant of the meeting in Sofia told me, I quote: "The International Community will insist on the multiethnic concept of Kosovo, on common institutions regardless of ethnicity of their members, even if that means that all Serbs leave the province". That is a nonsense, which points at a contradiction in terms. In America all citizens accept a given framework, that all of them are Americans regardless of their ethnic origin and separate identities, while in Kosovo the idea of a single Kosovo identity only suits Kosovo Albanians. That provides them with an acceptable tool for the forced assimilation of non-Albanians and that is why that concept has so skillfully been imposed on the International Community - the people of Kosovo shall make its own decisions. Which people of Kosovo?

The basic problem in the Kosovo crisis is the concept of a single Kosovo
nation that has been erroneously interpreted exactly by the West. They have copied the "melting-pot" principle from the United States or France for example, where the term nationality signifies citizenship, while in this region it signifies ethnicity. On several occasions we explained to Kouchner that there is no Kosovo nation, that Kosovars are ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and that when he says "Kosovar Serbs" that literally means Albanian Serbs. Serbs in Kosovo refer to themselves as Kosovci [pronounced Kosovtsy]. The term "Kosovo nation", although it is skillfully and efficiently used by the Albanians in their propaganda, does not exist. We demand that instead the term peoples of Kosovo be used, since it refers to peoples who belong to different cultures, speak different languages, have different traditions, have opposing interpretations of history and visions of the future. In Kosovo, unlike in Bosnia-Hercegovina, there are no mixed marriages.

The differences are absolute and total. Coexistence in Kosovo always existed under threat of force and one side has always felt discriminated or was truly discriminated in one manner of another. On the other hand the conflict in Kosovo has been structured as a conflict for the full and undivided domination of one side over a certain territory and in that sense the Albanian nationalism has turned out to be successful. That is a diaspora type of nationalism, which legitimizes its claim for a certain territory by establishing an ethnic majority in it over time. In the Balkans many ethnic groups share the proverb: "The mountain belongs to those who own the sheep". The application of that model in Kosovo has given fantastic results.

"Gambler who does not pay his debts"

Dusan Batakovic (1957) works in the History Institute of the Serbian
Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of numerous articles
about the history of Serbs and the Balkans in which he mostly deals with
the history of the southern Serbian province and its contemporary
consequences ("Contemporaries about Kosovo", "The Battle of Kolubara",
"The Decani Question", "Kosovo and Metohija in Serb History", "Kosovo
and Metohija in Serb-Albanian relations"...). He is among the most serious critics of the Tito's era. "As far as Tito is concerned I always quote Churchill who, after their meeting in Bari said: 'He left as a gambler who did not pay his debts'. A lot of what happened after 1980 with Yugoslavia has to do with Tito's debts. Because of the debts he left behind, partly through the political system and partly through enormous financial obligations, devil came to pick up its due. Everything has been destroyed in the senseless wars during the last ten