by Dr. Neboja Covic
Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and
President of the Coordination Center of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
And the Republic of Serbia
for Kosovo and Metohia
in MS Word format
York - April 24, 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen:
There is a province on our planet where the old truth that violence
always goes hand in hand with fear is being dramatically confirmed.
That province is Kosovo and Metohia.
There is a bus line in Kosovo and Metohia that has no timetable. For
the passengers' security sake, the departure date and time are unknown.
So are arrival date and time.
Deputies of the Serbian Coalition Povratak come to the Assembly of Kosovo
and Metohia in armored vehicles, with a heavy international security
detail. The actual choice of when they arrive or how long they stay
in Pristina depends in the end not on them but on the whim of KFOR.
Officials of Serbia and Yugoslavia, the state that Kosovo and Metohia
is part of, have to provide information on their travel to the Province
three days in advance because it takes three days to carry out preparations,
checks, and complex security measures. Sometimes, KFOR and UNMIK unilaterally
decide it is not convenient.
Kosovo and Metohia is, therefore, the only part of former Socialist
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia where people cannot move freely and where
insecurity and fear of violence and death have been persistently and
It would be unfair to say that the current conditions are worse than
those of the past. I want to emphasize right away that I genuinely and
deeply respect the efforts and the results that UNMIK and KFOR have
achieved under very difficult circumstances. Once again, I would like
to take advantage of this opportunity to extend my full support to Mr.
Michael Steiner and other international mediators and protectors. I
want to assure you, once again, that Serbia and Yugoslavia will do everything
possible to help the interethnic reconciliation process in Kosovo and
We have proven our genuine intentions by normalizing relations with
all our neighbors and by cooperating with the Hague Tribunal.
We have proven our genuine intentions by having considerably improved
the political environment and interethnic relations in Southern Serbia,
both in multi-ethnic Serbo-Albanian communities and in the settlements
with an Albanian majority. Of the total number of 12,500 displaced individuals,
almost ten thousand Albanian refugees have already returned to this
part of the country.
We have proven our genuine intentions by the encouragement, support,
and a strong campaign for the registration and participation of the
Serbs in the elections on November 17, 2001, by exhumations of all mass
grave sites in Serbia proper, by opening a DNA laboratory center in
Belgrade in cooperation with the ICMP, and by the expeditious transfer
of ethnic Albanian prisoners from Serbia proper detention facilities
to Kosovo and Metohia. Although we have reached and signed a precise
agreement on the transfer of Serbian detainees, there has not been a
single Serbian detainee transferred from prisons in Kosovo and Metohia
to prisons in Serbia proper yet.
I cannot but note a few other disturbing facts.
The circulation of money made by prostitution and the trafficking in
drugs, arms, and human beings has not been stopped.
There have been no steps, even symbolic ones, to facilitate the return
of a quarter of a million internally displaced persons and refugees
to Kosovo and Metohia. Furthermore, the Donors' Conference designed
to address this problem has been postponed as well.
Before the elections in Kosovo and Metohia, at the time when the Common
Document was signed, the international community seemed to have energetically
and enthusiastically advocated the plan for an expeditious return of
the internally displaced and expellees. This enthusiasm has regrettably
evaporated and disappeared shortly after the elections, and the new
Kosovo Government has not even earmarked a single euro or a single dollar
for the return of refugees.
Little has been done for the preservation and protection of property.
Return of internally displaced individuals and refugees cannot be limited
to the territory of North Mitrovica or a few enclaves only. It is essential
to have returns in cities as well and to return the property that certain
groups of ethnic Albanians have already made enormous profit from to
its legal Serbian and other non-Albanian owners.
Furthermore, unforgivably little has been done to clarify the fate of
1,300 kidnapped and missing individuals.
UNMIK has an historic responsibility and duty to deal with these and
other issues. It is UNMIK's duty to persistently keep preparing ethnic
Albanians for a dialogue. However, UNMIK must work with the Serbs, as
well, and, regrettably, that has not been the case. There is democratic
Belgrade, there are democratically elected self-government institutions
in Pristina, but there is no dialogue!
I can see logical explanations to this tragic impasse in the fact that
the extremism has been put on the margins in all parts of former Yugoslavia
except in Kosovo. The idea of greater Serbia has been discarded and
suppressed. The idea of greater Croatia has been discarded and suppressed.
Yet, the idea of another great, ethnically clean country in the region
has been neither discarded nor suppressed. This anti-European and anti-civilization
project has been preserved and strengthened in the presence of the international
Extremism in Kosovo and Metohia is an extremely powerful force, and
sometimes extremists themselves are in power. If this had not been the
case, we would have had bilingualism, interethnic tolerance, unbiased
police, and independent judiciary.
Some may say that you cannot improve the conditions that have deteriorated
for a long time in a day or in a year. I do agree, but I cannot be restful
if I analyze Kosovo and Metohia of today. Sometimes, even what seems
to appear as a good thing is not genuinely good.
As it has been reported, there were fewer murders and fewer attacks
on Serbs and other non-Albanians registered in the last year than in
the year before. Unlike some of my esteemed interlocutors, I emphasize
that this result is only a consequence of the fact that the Serbs and
other non-Albanians have been forced to live in enclaves or ghettos,
and that they have learned to stay away from the harm.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the process of finding solution to the security
issue in Kosovo and Metohia, we cannot make assessments and evaluations
based on the number of security incidents. Instead, we should base our
assessments on the progress made in regard to the level of the actual
full freedom of movement.
The reduced number of attacks against the lives and the property of
the Serbs, Turks, Romas, Goranis, and other non-Albanians, have not
resulted in the return of the internally displaced individuals and expellees.
This is a direct result of the fact that UNMIK and KFOR have put restraints
on the freedom of movement and return of refugees in order to prevent
I am deeply concerned about the situation in Mitrovica that is a consequence
of existential concerns of the Serbs and a result of profound interethnic
In an effort to improve the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina further,
we offered the Head of UNMIK, Mr. Steiner, a draft agreement on the
principles for solving the crisis in the northern part of this Kosovo
and Metohia town. After you have read the draft, you will see that we
base our policy and strategy on sustainable compromises and on respect
of the interests of all parties to the conflict.
Ladies and Gentlemen, solutions that come out of improvisation and pressure
have proved disastrous in the Balkans. Let us not repeat previous mistakes.
The UNSC Resolution 1244 has not been written for ethnic Albanians only,
to protect only them, and to improve only their position in Kosovo and
Metohia. It has been written for the Serbs, too, and for all other ethnic
communities as well.
They say that there is no collective responsibility in democratic world.
A few Serbs are being brought to justice before international and domestic
courts for crimes and injustice committed against Albanians. We have
seen no signs yet that Albanians will be brought to justice as well,
for murders committed against those who do not belong to their religion
or to their ethnic group, for usurpation of their neighbors' property,
for destruction of Serbian cultural heritage, for ethnic cleansing of
Kosovo and Metohia.
Albanian extremism is in a hurry now to draw Kosovo and Metohia in its
ethnic map as an island, isolated from the region, and populated by
ethnic Albanians only. Ethnic Albanian leaders, who had an alibi and
an excuse for their secessionist intentions in the rule of Slobodan
Milosevic, have been refusing a dialogue with the new, democratic authorities
in Belgrade as well, as if they missed the old regime. You will not
find a single sign in the Serbian language outside Serbian enclaves
in Kosovo and Metohia and I am asking whether this is what a result
of a proclaimed and expected Europeanizing looks like.
I would like to assure you that this situation does not boost up democratic
forces in Serbia and Montenegro. On the contrary; individuals from the
old regime now finger-point the situation in Kosovo and Metohia and
say: That is your reward for all the tolerance and concessions you have
Ladies and Gentlemen, as I have stated what we, the Serbs, do not want,
it would only be fair to say what we do want and hope for.
We want to see an end to media stereotypes on the Serbs as a threat
to European and world peace. We acknowledge that the former regime made
tremendous mistakes and we have been trying hard to explain how difficult
it is to carry this burden that we inherited from the past.
We want to see the international community's clear position that new
Kosovo and Metohia must not be built on results of ethnic cleansing
and widely spread criminal activities in the society.
We recognize that now UNMIK and KFOR have jurisdiction over peace and
stability in the territory of Kosovo and Metohia and we shall take no
steps whatsoever that might result in failure of the idea of a multiethnic
character of the province.
We will be ready to support the idea on creation of entities in Kosovo
and Metohia, based on the model of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but only
if it is assessed that this idea, used as an interim step, will facilitate
the development of local self-government and protection of minorities.
We will oppose it firmly, if there is a generally accepted feeling that
it would become an obstacle to a multiethnic character of the Province
and an introduction to a territorial partition.
We remain strongly in our position, as always, against any partition
of Kosovo and Metohia.
We do not want any of our neighbors to see us as a threat or danger.
We want to be seen as friends ready to help in good faith.
The Security Council Resolution on Kosovo and Metohia provides that
the province shall be given a "substantive autonomy". We do
not see this "substantive autonomy" as a monoethnic community,
divided by a high wall from the countries and the nations of the region.
This monoethnic community, thorn apart from its surroundings, would
be a dangerous precedent. It would increase the insecurity and dissatisfaction
of the people and the nations in the Balkans to a distressing extent.
It would dramatically increase the level of insecurity and jeopardize
results of the ongoing and future regional and European integration.
We see this "substantive autonomy" as a part of a democratic
and stable state of Serbia and Montenegro, which, integrated in the
regional and European organizations and initiatives, will be the key
factor and a pillar to the peace and stability in the Balkans.
Recently, in two international conferences in Belgrade, I talked about
the conditions that need to be met to achieve this peace that we have
talked about and we have dreamed about for so many times. I said:
None of the Balkan conflicts should be viewed separately, but as a part
of the regional processes and problems. Kosovo and Metohia, as the biggest
and most dangerous hot bed, should be addressed from the regional perspective,
because only such approach can claim stability. A reverse approach (addressing
the region from Kosovo perspective) would not tackle the integrity of
the problem and thus would not be fruitful or, even worse, would prove
counterproductive. The status of Kosovo and Metohia cannot be addressed
without continuously taking into account the impact of any resolution
on the preservation of an integral Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on the
peace in Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia.
Solutions to all regional problems should be looked for in compromises,
in self-sustainable stability, and therefore all parties to the conflict
should renounce their maximum objectives.
No party to the conflict should get it all and no party should lose
It is necessary to eliminate the very possibility of a battle for territories,
and to encourage a battle for rights. The rights of people to work and
earn, to develop their language and culture, to live in peace, in their
homes and on their land, on the hearths of their ancestors, and next
to the historic and cultural monuments they are undoubtedly heirs to.
I also called for a creation of a common approach of the countries in
the region that would efficiently take care of the regional peace and
stability. I believe that such an approach would be an interim step
that would make all members ready and eligible to join the European
Lastly, I said that it is necessary to immediately make a plan and define
a precise sequence of steps to be taken in the forthcoming months and
years toward establishment of a permanent and sustainable peace in the
I have made all these proposals and comments as I feel that we must
be very cautious in our efforts to improve the conditions in Kosovo
and Metohia as expeditiously as possible. There are some international
groups and organizations that have been offering their "good services"
without this cautiousness. They behave as if there had been no October
5, 2000, as if there had been no changes in Belgrade at all, as if Milosevic
did not reside in The Hague. In this spirit, some have recently formulated
a proposal to grant a conditional independence to Kosovo and Metohia.
Ladies and gentlemen, the whole world has rendered support to the democratic
changes in Yugoslavia and Serbia, the return of Yugoslavia into all
international institutions, and to the readiness of its new authorities
to search for solutions to problems in former Yugoslavia in peace, through
a dialogue and tolerance, with full respect to the interests of others,
and protection of one's own interests. Granting any kind of independence
to Kosovo, regardless of whether it is conditional or unconditional,
would drastically ignore Serbian and Montenegrin concerns and would
punish the Serbs for all they have done lately to join the family of
The United Nations is responsible and fully capable of initiating a
dialogue without imposing final solutions. It has the power to make
this dialogue successful and worthwhile, and its participants responsible.
Mr. President, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you
for your attention. I would also like to inform you that, as an addition
to my statement, annex 1, 2 and 3 are attached to it.