Nin (Belgrade) 19 November 1998

Interview with Belgrade academic Dusan Batakovic by Svetlana Djurdjevic- Lukic
(The text of the Cantonization Proposal is included)


I propose a model for cantonization under which predominantly Serb and predominantly Albanian cantons would be created in the agrarian areas of the province, while in the cities there would be a mixed administration with two-chamber assemblies and a reciprocal veto right in the upper chamber.

For more than a decade, Dusan Batakovic, an assistant professor at the Philosophy Faculty in Belgrade, has concerned himself with the Kosovo question. He is a representative of the liberal-democratic current, but also of the national current. He earned his doctorate at the Sorbonne, and besides a number of books in Serbian he has also published two books in English and two in French.

He begins our interview with resignation, declaring that "bearing in mind everything that is happening in the areas inhabited by the Serb nation, I cannot help but conclude that it seems that over the past two centuries we have been nowhere and have done nothing. It is now time for a reexamination of our position, a reconstruction of our national identity, for drawing gloomy conclusions about how our national and state policy has gone astray. The Serbs in the 20th century have fallen into two traps: first, that of the state, through the Yugoslav ideal, and second, that of a criminal ideology, which is based on an egalitarian vision of Yugoslav unity."


[Djurdjevic-Lukic] In recent years you have participated in meetings with Albanian intellectuals and foreign experts organized by certain international foundations. What models for solving the Kosovo problem have been discussed?

[Batakovic] This involved simulated negotiations, sounding each other out and determining the willingness to compromise, as in similar interethnic disputes (Slovak-Hungarian, Hungarian-Romanian). There was no question that the sympathies of Western experts are with the Kosovo Albanians, which is justified by the global interests of the leading powers in the international community, owing to the fear of new centers of crisis in the Balkans. My conclusion was that the Serb arguments will not strike a responsive chord as long as the main partner in the negotiations is the current government in Serbia and Yugoslavia.

On several occasions, Milan St. Protic and I have insisted at these meetings on the democratization of Serbia as the first precondition for a resolution of the Kosovo question, while the only thing important to our negotiators associated with the current government has been a condemnation of terrorism, or rather a certain tactical concession which camouflages the absence of strategic vision.

Not without a certain amount of cynicism, one of the German mediators has declared that with its current policy Serbia will be reduced to borders resembling those of Luxembourg. Only then, according to this same interpretation, will Serbia be able to become a happy member of the European Union. "Small is beautiful." That only reinforced my conviction, regardless of the identification of the Realpolitik interests of specific European powers, that the regime in this country must be changed so as to avoid a change in its borders.

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] Given this experience, what is your assessment of the Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement and the 11 points from the Serbian Government announcement?

[Batakovic] Only this sort of undemocratic and autistic government could agree to such a degree of acquiescence, verging on capitulation, in order to buy time to hold on to power by making territorial concessions. The aim of the strategy of offering up fierce resistance, followed by excessive concessions that have been hitherto inexplicable to foreign negotiators, is to hold on to authoritative power, not to protect the state and national interests. Max Weber said that in politics it is necessary to possess two qualities in order to succeed: conscience and responsibility. In our country the exact opposite is happening.

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] You compare the Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement to capitulation. If that is the case, then why is there no discernible opposition to it, except from the circles surrounding Bishop Artemije and Momo Trajkovic?

[Batakovic] There is no opposition because of the stultifying media propaganda, accompanied by the thwarting of the independent media, especially of the press. That is intended to create a sort of collective amnesia, where amid the glut of other issues Kosovo slips into the background, and over time it becomes normal to think of it as the territory of another state.

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] Still, there is a conspicuous lack of reaction on the part of the segment of the Serb public which until recently threatened to arrest Rugova and drive the Albanians across the Prokletije Mountains, and which glorified the Kosovo myth.

[Batakovic] The Kosovo myth is not as widespread among the Serb nation as Western analysts believe. It is primarily verbal in nature, without a deeper political and spiritual content, and that is why it is so easily manipulated.

If only the Serb nation were in fact devoted to the Kosovo myth, because it contains Biblical elements about the equality of people, the right to freedom, the rejection of slavery, a universal yearning for justice....

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] Do you think that the clash between two national ideals in the struggle for the same territory would be different if the democratic opposition were in power in Serbia?

[Batakovic] Western diplomats have often tried to convince me that with the establishment of democracy in Serbia nationalism would melt away like a sugar cube in a cup of hot coffee. That element is indispensable, a basic necessity in this region, but it would actually be only the first step in finding a compromise solution.

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] For several years now, the idea of a partition of Kosovo has existed in certain circles, and lately that has also been publicly floated.

[Batakovic] Those who advocate a partition are mainly political dilettantes who are unfamiliar with international relations and especially with the current political situation. The partition of one piece of territory would be a dangerous precedent that could later be applied to other potentially disputed territories, leading to the further fragmentation of Serbia. Partition is also unacceptable to the international community because that would be an even more dangerous regional precedent (for Cyprus, for example). Right now, movement is in the direction of transforming Kosovo into a federal entity, with somewhat lesser federal authorities, such as those enjoyed, for example, by territories in Canada and certain other countries. In any event, this involves special status under an international protectorate. Such an outcome is unfavorable to Serbia in the short term and in the long term.

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] Do you see any solution?

[Batakovic] I propose a model for cantonization under which predominantly Serb and predominantly Albanian cantons would be created in the agrarian areas of the province, while in the cities there would be a mixed administration with two-chamber assemblies and a reciprocal veto right in the upper chamber. The cantons would have single-chamber assemblies together with a Serb or Albanian police and judiciary. The borders of the cantons would be drawn so as to bring together localities with an ethnic majority, and in this way it would be possible to create, say, five Serb and just as many Albanian cantons.

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] Concretely speaking, what would the Serb cantons include?

[Batakovic] In the north, Leposavic and Ibarski Kolasin, the second canton from Kosovo Polje to Gnjilane, the third one from Kosovska Kamenica and Novo Brdo to Gnjilane. The fourth one would include the Sirjinicka District (Strpce), to which would be added, if they express that wish, areas inhabited by Serbian-speaking Muslims (the Sredacka District, Opolje, and Gora), while the fifth would comprise a number of Serb villages between Pec, Istok, and Klina. Depending on their proximity, the properties of Serb monasteries as they existed before 1941 would be added to each canton. In this way, the Serbs would have 30 to 50 percent of the territory of the province under their own administration. The number of Albanian cantons would depend on the wishes of the Albanian populace, and they could be somewhat less dependent on the central authorities in Belgrade. The international community would agree to finance projects in the cities that would allow for economic development and the preservation of the multiethnic composition of the population.

I have drawn up this plan with due consideration for the demands of Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija, who have been excluded from the negotiation process, even though they are threatened by the danger of becoming second-class residents.

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] Could one object that this is a complicated system that leads to a sort of ghettoization?

[Batakovic] This sort of cantonization exists in other countries, including Switzerland. An important element is the length of the transitional period, which I have borrowed from my Greek colleagues Tanos Veremis and Evangelos Kofos. They believe that the transitional period should be at least 15 to 20 years, so that any revision of the cantonization model is decided on by the next generation of Serbs and Albanians, unburdened by the present-day conflicts. If you compare this plan with the one that we are reading about in the newspapers, it is clear that in this way the interests of Serbia, under very unfavorable international and domestic circumstances, are adequately protected, and that moreover the Albanian minority enjoys a broad spectrum of essential rights.

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] The question is whether the Albanians would accept such a plan, given the situation on the ground and the fact that they make up 90 percent of the province's population.

[Batakovic] It is not true that they make up 90 percent. The Albanians comprise 81 percent, the Serbs 11 percent, and Turks, Goranci, Roma, and others make up 8 percent. The Albanians are insisting on an ethnic concept, which they are attempting to cover up through the invention of a "Kosovo nation," thereby refusing to negotiate directly with either the Serbs or other ethnic groups. The preservation of a multiethnic Kosovo is important for Serbia because there is no Kosovo without Serbs nor a Serbia with Kosovo, as Bishop Artemije has rightly pointed out. That is also important to the international community because the creation of an ethnically pure Kosovo would jeopardize the survival of Macedonia, which would provoke a chain reaction of conflicts throughout the Balkans.

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] Do you think that the Serb historical argument takesPrecedence over the natural right of the populace which is so ethnically preponderant in Kosovo, and which is tending toward becoming a majority in all of Serbia as well?

[Batakovic] Albanian nationalism in Kosovo is of the diaspora type. With such a form of nationalism, the birth rate falls when an interethnic dispute is resolved and a relatively permanent compromise is found. For example, in Albania the birth rate is half of what it was in the previous decade, because people are focusing on their quality of life instead of on ethnic or ideological mobilization.

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] What are the Serbs focusing on? Quality of life?

[Batakovic] Most Serbs are not focusing on quality of life, but rather on separate personal interests, without a sense of solidarity and an understanding of the concept of the general welfare. Yugoslavism and communism are to blame for that. The problem of the Serbs is a dual one. First of all, there is the problem of a dual identity, supranational (Yugoslav) and national, and then there is the lack of a moral basis. And in every civilization morality is religious in origin. The Albanians do not have a dual identity; their basic faith is the faith in Albanism.

[Djurdjevic-Lukic] What is your interpretation of the fact that ideological limitations have not applied as strongly to Albanians or Croats?

[Batakovic] Among the Serbs there is an excessive sense of their own significance and the habit of engaging in discussion with the big guys on equal footing. This type of self-awareness, which has hypertrophied over time, has remained devoid of democratic and liberal content, unlike in the 19th century. The democratic culture of the Serb nation stopped being fostered after the coup of 6 January 1929, whereupon one of the essential elements of our national identity slowly began to disappear. Our elite, with honorable exceptions, has been a total disappointment: first of all because it has predominantly come forth from the communist understanding of the nation, state, and society, and also because its liberal wing was not adequately rooted in the positive political traditions of 19th and early 20th century liberalism and democracy, which means that there has been an absence of true communication with the people.

Unlike with the Serbs, in whose history discontinuity constitutes the only continuity, among ethnic Albanians in Kosovo one can clearly recognize the strategy from which they have not wavered since 1878. Under various circumstances, the KPJ [Communist Party of Yugoslavia] and then the SKJ [League of Communists of Yugoslavia] attempted from 1945 on to turn Kosovo and Metohija over to Albania as an enticement for it joining first a Balkan federation, and later some sort of "satellite system."

The seemingly radical break with this policy after 1987, amid new, radically changed international relations, only gave further legitimation to the national pretensions of the Kosovo Albanians. With the disappearance of a bipolar world, human rights and the protection of minorities became the decisive factors in the internationalization of internal issues in countries without long democratic traditions. Indeed, the forcibly imposed collective amnesia, the absence of political culture, and the disassociation of the intelligentsia from the people have led to a situation where the Serbs in Kosovo choose as their candidate to resolve the Serb national question an apparatchik from the communist nomenclature who over the last four decades has done everything he can to make his own people obedient but corrupted slaves of an ideology.


Dusan T. Batakovic



(The map of Kosovo and Metohija Cantons) - pdf file (118Kb)
Predlog kantonizacije (integral text in Serbian) - pdf file 446Kb
The solution of the Kosovo-Metohija question in a way that would be consistent with the functioning of Serbia as a state, even as the question is internationalized, requires a new approach. The cessation of military conflicts will enable political negotiations and the identification of a mutually acceptable solution which will harmonize both the interests of the state and the interests of the various ethnic communities in Kosovo-Metohija. In light of the fact that international guarantees completely protect the interests of the Albanian minority in Kosovo and Metohija, what is needed now are additional guarantees for the protection of the Serbian population. Likewise, it is extremely important that in Serbian province of Kosovo-Metohija, just as in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in other Balkan countries, a multiethnic and multireligious society is fully preserved. That is particularly consistent with the OSCE's Declaration Regarding the Protection of Minorities.
The model of cantonization is an obvious answer with which, on the one hand, the existing ethnic proportions of the province as well as its multiethnic composition will be preserved, but with distinct rights for cantons with a Serbian majority. The cantons would consist mainly of rural areas, without large cities. In the cities there would be a special, mixed regime of administration. Cantons with a Serbian majority do not necessarily have to, but may, be territorially linked as well. In any case, they could -- if they themselves decide so -- be more closely linked with Serbia. The territories that would be under Albanian administration, which would also be divided into cantons, could, in accordance with a decision by the Albanian ethnic population, receive a somewhat broader autonomous status within Serbia. That solution resembles the multi-layered autonomy that exists in Spain today.

Cantons: To be Created only in Rural Areas

Cantons with a Serbian majority which encompass mainly rural areas (according to new cantonal borders that will be drawn in the near future, not to the existing municipal borders) would also consist of all Serbian monasteries with their properties. Prior to that, all properties that the monasteries owned before the outbreak of war in 1941 would be returned to the monasteries. Therefore, the areas where Serbs form a majority will not be dependent on local Albanian authorities due to gerrymandering. Serbian-majority cantons would encompass around 30 percent of the territory of Kosovo-Metohija.
The first and largest Serbian-majority canton would encompass the area of Ibarski Kolasin, in the borders of the current municipalities of Leposavic, Zubin Potok, and Zvecan, in which there is a clear Serbian majority population.
The second canton would encompass the area between Kosovo Polje and Lipljan with the Serbian villages in that area (Caglavica, Gracanica, Laplje Selo, etc.) The current borders of the municipalities would be modified, making it possible to group together towns and villages with a majority Serbian population, forming one whole.
The third canton would encompass the area between the current municipalities of Kosovska Kamenica, Kosovska Vitina, and Gnjilane where, as in the second canton, marginal modifications of the current municipal borders are required to form one whole.
The fourth canton would encompass Sirinicka Zupa with its capital in Strpce (which today is a separate municipality); to it would probably also be joined Sredacka Zupa, as well as the areas of Opolje and Gora, which are mostly inhabited by Muslim Slavs whose native language is Serbian.
The fifth canton would consist of the Serbian rural areas from Pec to Istok and Klina, where there are a number of territorially linked Serbian villages. The properties of the monasteries of Decani and the Pec Patriarchy would also be adjoined to this canton, including of course all the property that these monasteries owned until the outbreak of war in 1941. Similarly, the properties of all other Serbian monasteries (Gracanica, Devic, Gorioc, Sv. Arhandjeli, Zociste, Banjska, Draganac, Sokolica, etc.), depending on their territorial proximity, would be adjoined to the other cantons.
The cantons with a Serb majority would have their own local administration with Serbian courts and law enforcement. That is the basic precondition to avoid the mass-exodus of the Serbian population from territories which revert to the administrative, judicial, and police administration of another ethnic group, such as in Baranja and Western Srem (the so-called Eastern Slavonia). As it turned out there, to stop the mass exodus of Serbs it was not sufficient for them to be a minority in those administrative organs, since there is no way to prevent the ethnic majority from outvoting the minority. Only a guaranteed Serbian majority in administrative, judicial, and law enforcement structures in cantons with a Serbian majority will guarantee that they continue to live in those predominantly rural areas.

Each cantonal assembly would consist of one chamber. The same would be true for Albanian majority cantons (whose number shall be determined in the future, in compliance with the wishes of the ethnic Albanian population) in the mostly rural areas. Neither Albanian nor Serbian cantons would be without a certain number of citizens of other ethnic backgrounds; the protection of their interests would be guaranteed by equal treatment of minority groups in each canton. In that sense, the cantons of Switzerland provide a good example.

Large Cities: Mixed Administration

In large urban zones there would be a special regime of mixed administration, distinct from that envisaged for the cantons. Mixed, Serbian-Albanian administration would be established in larger cities (Kosovska Mitrovica, Pristina, Gnjilane, Urosevac, Pec, Prizren, Vucitrn, Orahovac), as well as a special form of Kosovo-Metohija autonomy, with mixed administration and parity of representation in the judiciary and law enforcement. Ethnic majority dominance would thus be prevented in urban centers -- dominance which ethnic Albanian abused between 1968 and 1981 in their effort to force Serbs to flee Kosovo and Metohija.

Cities in these urban zones would, because of that, have bicameral municipal assemblies. The Lower House would represent the will of the people expressed at municipal elections, while the Upper House would be composed of 50 percent Serbs and 50 percent Albanians, where each ethnic group would have the right to veto.

The support of the international community would be of great importance for the implementation of the model of cantonization and mixed administration in large cities. The project of maintaining multiethnic cities would use the cities of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a model, in that it would receive financial credits, with which economic reconstruction and private enterprise would be fostered, as the sound basis for a multiethnic, democratic society. Kosovo-Metohija would remain a province under the jurisdiction of Serbia, and a multiethnic police force would be created as a part of the state police, in order to avoid the possibility that the "Kosovo Liberation Army" will take over police duties and form the basis for the creation of an Albanian military force on an ethnic basis which would certainly exploit the situation of a conflict breaking out in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to fight another war for secession from Serbia and Yugoslavia.

Provincial Administrative Bodies

The Assembly of the Province would consist of representatives from all the cities with mixed administration and all the cantons; it would also be bicameral, where the Upper House, made up based on ethnic parity, would allow mutual veto powers to each ethnic group, in order to avoid outvoting by the majority.

The levels of decision-making would in that case be four-tiered: cantonal, provincial, republic, and federal. The tiered structure would protect human and civil rights of all ethnic groups in Kosovo and Metohija, and would also prevent the change by force of existing borders. The complete ethnic-based split-up of the two conflicting sides would thus be avoided: Serbia would transfer a part of its administrative authority to the Albanian cantons (in the spheres of education, culture, health care, social security, transportation, communications, industry, the protection of cultural monuments, and local judiciary), and authority would remain vested in the state for appellate courts, foreign affairs, customs, police, and the army. Ethnic Albanians would have the right to complete their military training in civilian institutions. Serbian cantons would have the option to vest some of their administrative authority with the central government in Belgrade.

The Authority of Serbia and Guarantees of the International Community

The Parliament of Serbia and the international community would be the guarantors of this Agreement. The cantonal administration of Kosovo and Metohija would be regulated by a special law of the Parliament of Serbia. The Agreement on Cantonization would be in effect for a minimum of 15 to 20 years. The status of the province could be re-evaluated only after that period. At that time, the future generation, which will not be encumbered with the current hostilities and tensions, will be making the decisions, consistent with an atmosphere of broader European integration, democratic institutions, and the efficient protection of human rights.
All regulations of cantonal administration that are proposed by the Assembly of the Province would be approved and voted into law by the Parliament of Serbia. The President of Serbia would have the right to veto in the following spheres: 1) internal and foreign security; 2) in case the Assembly of the Province attempts to assume rights or duties which have not been delegated to it by this Agreement. The President of Serbia would also have the right to act as arbitrator if there is any dispute between the Parliament of Serbia and the Assembly of the Province.

The election of deputies from Kosovo and Metohija for the Parliament of Serbia would be conducted by canton and by city, where each of those territorial units would be separate electoral districts. The principle of affirmative action would be built into the electoral law, so that, for example, there would be at least 10 Serbian deputies from a delegation of 33 deputies from Kosovo-Metohija (a majority of whom would be ethnic Albanians). In European practice, that is an accepted principle of affirmative action.

European experiences indicate that a complex, multi-layered structure of regulating multiethnic provinces or regions is the best way to overcome ethnic tensions caused by contemporary or historical enmities between different national groups or minorities. With the application of those experiences in the southern province of Serbia, there will be conditions for the protection and safeguarding of all ethnic communities there, and at the same time, with the guarantees of the international community, the territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia will be preserved.
Belgrade, September 1998



            2.           IN MULTIETHNIC CITIES*
      Multiethnic Cities
      Total Population
      Serbs + Montenegrins
      Ethnic Albanians
      Romanies (Gypsies)
      5,644 + 143
      1,312 + 190
      928 + 262
      Kosovska Kamenica
      1,679 + 46
      Kosovska Mitrovica
      8,933 + 1,503
      2,037 + 141
      3,847 + 7,039
      16,898 + 4,169
      7,709 + 470
      5,202 + 262
      1,046 + 142
    * Source: Ethnic structure of population of SFR Yugoslavia as of 1981, Volume I, Data by settlements and communes, Federal Statistical Bureau, Belgrade, 1991.
Multiethnic Cities Albanian Population Non-Albanian Population
Kos. Kamenica
Kos. Mitrovica
  * Source: Data for Albanian and Non-Albanian population taken from Table 1. Non-Albanian population includes only members of Serbian, Montenegrin, Muslim Slav and Gypsy groups.

Articles by Prof. Dusan Batakovic

Kosovo-Metohija: The Serbo-Albanian Conflict
Dusan T. Batakovic