Prof. Dusan T. Batakovic

Prof. Dusan T. Batakovic

KOSOVO: OBSTACLES AND EXPECTATIONS
(SUMMARY)

A lecture delivered at the Institute of Balkan Studies
Thessaloniki, on 12 November 2001

During the two and a half years of international administration in Kosovo (Kosovo-Metohija), the overall situation concerning basic stability, the return of displaced persons, securing of freedom of movement and building inter-ethnic tolerance, has been constantly deteriorating. Despite joint efforts by UNMIK and KFOR, the systematic persecution of non-Albanian population by Albanian extremists, a kind of reversed ethnic cleansing has continued to be a main obstacle to any visible progress in building a tolerant multi-ethnic society under the rule of law in compliance with 1244 UN Security Council Resolution of 10 June 1999. During the first three months of international administration around 250,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians (Romas, Muslim Slavs) were expelled and displaced from Kosovo, while, according to UNHCR data, 11,115 Serbs left Kosovo in 2000, and more than 900 in 2001. As to the remaining Serbs, approximately 70,000 are still living in virtual segregation within the KFOR-protected enclaves in Kosovo, deprived of basic security, freedom of movement, and civil rights. Within the first six months of joint UNMIK and KFOR administration more than 70 Serbian Orthodox churches have been destroyed or burnt to the ground, while within the last two years the actual number of destroyed and desecrated churches - at least half of them important Byzantine-type medieval monuments - has amounted to 107. The general impression was that, after the complete withdrawal of Yugoslav and Serbian forces, there was an orchestrated attempt by Albanian extremists to evict not only all non-Albanian population but also all traces of their cultural and historical heritage, as a precondition for obtaining independence for Kosovo

The rule of law is therefore far from being satisfactorily enforced. According to the data provided by the Hague Tribunal in June 1999 there were 932 Serbs and other non-Albanians kidnapped and 547 killed. The actual number of missing non-Albanians is as high as 1,300 Serbs. Nevertheless, none of the perpetrators of these crimes have been arrested of sentenced. From June 1999 until December 2000, all the judges and prosecutors were ethnic Albanians, while seven appointed Serb judges, threatened by Albanian extremists left their posts and fled to inner Serbia. The appointment of international judges proved to be insufficient due to constant pressure by extremist and the predominant Albanian environment. Thousands of houses and land properties owned by non-Albanians are still under usurpation by local Albanians. The UN administration has proved unable to restrain the Kosovo Albanian violence. The prevalent atmosphere of legal disorder and ethnically-based revenge against non-Albanians, has caused the withdrawal of Kosovo Serb representatives from Kosovo Transitional Council already since September 1999, while the Serbian community as a whole has boycotted the municipal elections held in October 2000. The dramatic security situation in Kosovo, concerning the status of Serb and other non-Albanian population has not substantially changed after the rule of a democratic government was established in Belgrade on 5 October 2000.

Within the regional context, Kosovo continued to be a main instigator of political crisis. The spill-over effect of the KLA insurgency in the Presevo area (Ground Safety Zone in southern Serbia) and FYROM, was possible only after Kosovo was used as a logistics military and political base for Albanian guerrillas. The successful containment of Albanian extremism in southern Serbia was coupled with confidence-building measures, including a mixed police force and substantial economic support. The containment operation that has been performed jointly by the Yugoslav and Serbian police forces in co-ordination with KFOR headquarters and the full support of the international community proved to be a turning point of in the quest for regional stability. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, building a new kind of partnership with KFOR, re-emerged as an important factor of regional stability, while the Yugoslav involvement in the Kosovo crises has become a key factor to any progress towards the full implementation of 1244 UN Security Council Resolution. Beyond that, the success in the Presevo crisis highlighted a plausible model for solving, at least within the next several years, the Kosovo question.

The Yugoslav government has, since October 2000, called for a full implementation of UNSCR 1244, demanding that the Legal or Constitutional Framework should be based on that document. In parallel, there were numerous attempts by the Yugoslav government to engage into political dialogue with moderate political leaders of the Kosovo Albanians, but all offers were declined by the Albanian side. The federal authorities and the government of the Republic of Serbia have released 1,684 Albanian prisoners from Serbian jails, while the process of releasing the remaining 190 Albanian prisoners is under way. However, Kosovo Albanians have not found or released any of 1,300 missing Serbs. Within the plan proposed by UNMIK, only 80 out of approximately 250,000 displaced Serbs have been able to return to Kosovo, under the auspices of KFOR (village of Osojane).

Although there was no progress in a political dialogue with the Kosovo Albanian leadership, the Yugoslav government, through its Coordination Centre for Kosovo and Metohija, headed by the Deputy Prime-Minister of Serbia Nebojsa Covic, has established a closer co-operation with UNMIK. International representatives have become aware that there could be no solution for the Kosovo crisis without involving the FR of Yugoslavia, as a missing link in the process of the full implementation of 1244 UNSC Resolution. Despite serious complaints of the Yugoslav government (regarding the protection of Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians) to the Constitutional Framework for Interim Self-Government in Kosovo, approved by the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative Hans Haekkerup, the Yugoslav authorities have encouraged Kosovo Serbs (including internally displaced person in Serbia and Montenegro) to register for the general elections in Kosovo scheduled for 17 November 2001. Roughly 170,000 Serbs (probably 80 percent of the eligible Kosovo Serb population) have agreed to be registered. After a special agreement on institutionalized cooperation was signed between FRY and UNMIK in Belgrade in early November 2001, Yugoslav authorities, in order to promote reconciliation and foster further cooperation with UNMIK have called the Kosovo Serbs to participate in the coming general elections.

The Yugoslav government, through the Coordination Centre for Kosovo and Metohija, has drafted a plan that would in several phases, contribute to the short-term stability of Kosovo. The plan relaying on the consistent implementation of 1244 UNSC Resolution envisages a joint participation of international community, Yugoslav and Serbian authorities, Kosovo Albanian and Serb leaderships. The plan consisted of three phases: Phase One, until the elections in November 2001 was to enhance urgent confidence-building measures; Phase Two (between December 2001 and late March 2002) would engage all parties in the resolution of the problems, while Phase Three (after March 2002) would provide for joint efforts to solve the targeted problems.

The Yugoslav authorities are fully committed to work both with the international community and UNMIK in Kosovo on building the regional stability, by fully implementing the 1244 UNSC Resolution which envisaged a "substantial autonomy" and a "meaningful self-government" within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav government is also committed to all joint efforts by the international community to fight all kinds of terrorism and extremism in the Balkans. Our common goal is to improve basic security for all residents of Kosovo, provide for the return of all refugees and displaced persons to Kosovo irrespective of their religious and national affiliation, promote inter-ethnic reconciliation, enforce the rule of law (including the adoption of key legislation to combat organized crime, illegal weapon possession and terrorism) and re-build a multi-ethnic society. All these goals, as it has become obvious during the last two years, are not achievable without the full participation of the democratic government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

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Texts and Analyses by Prof. Dusan T. Batakovic
Prof. Batakovic is a distinguished Serb historian who has payed special interest in the issue of Kosovo and Metohija. Since beginning of this year (2001) Prof. Batakovic has been an ambassador of FRY in Athens (Greece).