April 5-6, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 06-04-03

Weekend Edition

ANCESTRAL HOMES NOT FOR SALE


Vecernje Novine Daily, Belgrade
March 9, 2003



by D. Damjanovic

PRISTINA - In three months it will be the four year anniversary of the expulsion of 220,000 Serbs, Montenegrins and other non-Albanians from their ancestral homes. Their property has been usurped by Albanians. In the same period Serbs and Montenegrins sold about 15,000 houses, apartments and businesses. The number is large but taking into account all that Serbs own in the Province it is not cause for concern. Sales were especially intensive during the first two years, after the expulsion of people from their homes. Without a dinar in their pocket, housed in collective centers, many were forced to sell at drastically reduced prices what had taken decades to acquire. The Albanians took advantage of the situation. Using blackmail and the threat "we'll get it for free in the end", they managed to secure the property of others for next to nothing. "Albanians are still living in 21,000 out of a total of 36,000 houses and apartments owned by Serbs and Montenegrins. Many of them have no intention of either returning or paying for property illegally appropriated. It is a well-known fact that the international community built new houses for all Albanians whose homes were destroyed in the war. Thanks to this generosity, almost every third Albanian family or 39,000 of them, have a new roof over their heads," says Dr. Cveta Vujicic, a member of the Return (Povratak) Coalition.

The illegal occupants of apartments in urban settlements are primarily from rural areas. Among them is a significant number of former members of the KLA. Many of them claim that this is "war booty won in battle against the Serbian army and police". Data from the International Committee for Human Rights cite 2,127 cases where Albanians have usurped three, four or five apartments and houses each.

If the Serbian Government Coordinating Center with the help of the international community speeds up the return of expelled persons, Serbs and Montenegrins really have a place to return. In Sirinicka Zupa, on the slopes of Mt. Sara, there are more than 20,000 Serbs. The situation is similar in nearby Sredacka Zupa, where a significant number of Serb families stayed.

"People in Brezovica are building houses and businesses. Many of those who would like to return but cannot to their destroyed homes are only looking for an are of land [100 square meters] to set up house here. None of us who stayed is even thinking of leaving," says Jovica Buduric, political activist and director of the Narcis Hotel in Brezovica, where business is booming.

In this area Serbs won political power in the last elections, as they also did in Kosovsko Pomoravlje, the Gracanica region and in four municipalities in the north of Kosovo and Metohija.

The Albanians are now caught in the middle. While some propose that they "begin sales negotiations" with Serbs as soon as possible, so that fewer Serbs return, others tell them not to worry because there will be no returns.

In all this confusion there were also some Serbs who profited well. There are those who are taking advantage of the "undefined situation" even today.

"I lived in the YU program building for returnees in Pristina. When I went to Belgrade, I left my apartment to an engineer, a Serb man from Suva Reka. He falsified the ownership documents and rented the apartment to a Russian for two full years for 1,500 euros per month. My wife passed away while in exile and now I am facing a court battle to prove ownership," complains Nebojsa Radosevic, a former sports trainer for Pristina Soccer Club, whose generosity backfired.

In both the nearby university settlement and in the YU program building, where apartments are rented chiefly to foreigners, few of the posh dwellings have been sold.

"We know who sold their house for good money. Those who decide not to do the same have two choices: to continue to collect good rent or to sell them to Serbia and, in addition to "state monetary compensation", we build them new ones in Zvecan," says Ranko Djokic, the secretary general of the rector's office at the University of Kosovska Mitrovica.

Be as it may, the remaining Serbs, some 130,000 of them, do not want to leave Kosovo and Metohija. An equal number want to return to their ancestral homes. Albanians who took advantage of their misfortune will have to explain themselves before the international community, believes Dr. Gojko Savic, member of the Kosovo parliament presidency. He says that the international community will have to establish the true situation in the Province, including the unlawful appropriation of Serb-owned property. Many of the Serbs who were pressured to sell their apartments and houses have filed complaints with UN representatives, requesting either the difference between the sale price and the real value of the property or that their property be returned to them for the same amount of money they got for it.

It's almost spring and with it there is a new determination among the displaced to complete their questionnaires for return. Just last Friday the office in Kraljevo with lists for return had over 5,000 Serbs and Montenegrins wanting to go back, most of them to Metohija.

A Serb civilian convoy leaving Prizren area under KFOR protection, June 1999. More than 200.000 Serbs fled the Province seeking protection from Albanian militant groups which began attacking Serbs  and dissenting Albanians despite NATO deployment. Those Serbs who remained in their enclaves are under great pressure to sell their property and leave Kosovo because security and economic situation in which they live 4 years after the conflict does not offer them much encouragement for better future


SERB ENTITIES NOT SOLD

In Kosovo and Metohija there are 585,000 agricultural tracts, 300,000 of them arable. Most of the land in the two parts of the Province a group of U.S. congressmen have defined in the "partition balance" as Serb "territories" are owned by Serbs.

"There are indications from Washington that a Serb entity would comprise parts of Metohija - Decani, Pec and the Patriarchate, Ibarski Kolasin and the whole of northern Kosovo adjacent to Serbia," says Milivoje Ribac, head of the Pec region. A few days ago, he and a group of compatriots from Kraljevo, met with the UNMIK administration in Pec regarding the return of 5,000 Serbs as early as this spring.

In the Kosovo part of the Province, according to this principle, the Serbs would get Kosovsko Pomoravlje, Sirinicka Zupa and Sredacka Zupa on Mt. Sara, and the valley around Gracanica, where Serbs remain most numerous.

In both parts of Kosovo and Metohija, Serbs have sold a practically insignificant number of arable tracts. They primarily sold "small land tracts" along the main highways.

MORE VALUABLE THAN GOLD

Not long ago Albanians were offering Serbs and Montenegrins in Metohija up to one million German marks per hectare [2.5 acres]. In Gracanica, for example, for one are they are ready to pay more than 15,000 euros. Even though their property has been illegally appropriated, few people from Metohija agreed to this deal. Statistics indicate that most Serbs in rural areas own an average of five to ten hectares of land.

Kosovo urban centers, except the north edge of the Province, are almost completely ethnically clean Albanian at the moment. Despite presence of the UN Mission and KFOR Kosovo has never been more monoethnic in its long history. Paradoxically, the main goal of the NATO intervention in 1999  was to preserve multiethnicity and prevent ethnic cleansing.

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ERP KIM Info-Service is the official Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren and works with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Artemije.
Our Information Service is distributing news on Kosovo related issues. The main focus of the Info-Service is the life of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian community in the Province of Kosovo and Metohija. ERP KIM Info Service works in cooperation with www.serbian-translation.com as well as the Kosovo Daily News (KDN) News List

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