June 11, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 11-06-03


Ruins of the Serb Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral in Djakovica blown up by Kosovo Albanian extremists
symbolize disorderly situation in the UN administered Serbian Province four years after the conflict


CHAOS AND DISORDER
KOSOVO AND METOHIJA FOUR YEARS LATER

 June 11, 2003

 

F

our years after the deployment of the UN Mission and KFOR troops in Kosovo and Metohija one can hardly claim that the war torn southern Province of Serbia is on the right track to become a democratic and multiethnic society. Quite on the contrary, UNMIK’s policy of constant compromises towards ethnic Albanians and their political goals has made life for Serbs and non-Albanian communities extremely difficult and without true perspectives for the future. UNMIK’s constant ignoring of the UN SC Resolution 1244 and legitimate claims of the Serbian people on one hand and creating temporary “multiethnic” institutions without any link to Serbia-Montenegro on the other, have turned Kosovo and Metohija into a virtually independent ethnic Albanian state prior to any negotiations at all. In fact, it appears that the goal of some international circles and Kosovo Albanian leaders is to pursue a policy of fait accomplish and practically leave independence as the only remaining option to which Serbia is expected to agree under certain concessions on the other side.

The willingness of Kosovo Serbs to participate in building of multiethnic institutions within the lines stipulated by the UNSCR 1244 has only been exploited in order to give false legitimacy to the institutions which in reality remain under complete control of Kosovo Albanians and have become tools of institutional repression.
If such policy of UNMIK is continued in future and if there is no constructive revision of the Constitutional framework, which would return the process of institutionalization within the limits of the UNSCR 1244, Kosovo may not only become an independent state but also a state in which all traces of the Serbian people and its culture will be completely eradicated. Four years of the internationally granted peace with a terrifying record of crimes and destruction of cultural heritage present only a shadow of what the Province might look once Kosovo Albanians are given full and unrestrained power. The last but not least, this “state” may become a main destabilizing factor for the entire SE Europe, which will seriously obstruct the process of European integration and democratization of the Balkans. As a focal point for future ethnic Albanian integrations independent Kosovo may act as a dangerous precedent for redrawing political maps of Europe according to the ethnic lines.

CHANGES FOR THE BETTER FOR ONLY ONE COMMUNITY

Frankly speaking, in Kosovo and Metohija much has changed for the better in the last four years but only for the Albanian community. Under UNMIK’s rule, however, changes are only slightly or not at all reflected in Serb areas where less than 100,000 remaining Serbs are hard pressed to see any essential improvements since the end of the war. While it is true that many hospitals have been restored, Serbs cannot seek treatment in them; numerous roads have been paved but Serbs lack the freedom to travel on them; tens of thousands of houses have been renovated but only about one hundred of them are owned by Serbs. After the war, all mosques were repaired and many new ones built while over one hundred Serbian churches still lie in ruins and not one has been reconstructed; there are many new supermarkets, gas stations and restaurants but what use are they to Serbs when only Albanians and foreigners can safely enter them. In short, based on his first-hand experience, the average Serb feels that UNMIK has come to help only one community while Serbs appear fated to live as second-class citizens on the margins of society.

Nevertheless, the greatest failure of UNMIK is that in three years it has not managed to stop the negative development of creating an ethnically pure and divided society where citizens are divided into the privileged and those who lack basic human rights. This system is being perpetrated largely due to the fact that UNMIK is simply not ready to implement the basic provisions of Resolution 1244. The overwhelming majority of Kosovo Serbs still lack civil freedoms and rights, as well as free access to public institutions in urban centers: hospitals, schools and cultural institutions. The cities and towns of Kosovo and Metohija, except in the north of the Province, have been left almost entirely without their Serb population. In Pristina today there are only about 250 Serbs remaining; an equal number are in Gnjilane; in Orahovac, there are about 450; in Prizren, 65; in Djakovica, 5; in Pec there are none, with the exception of some 20 elderly nuns in the Pec Patriarchate. Towns such as Urosevac, Srbica, Glogovac and Klina have already become ethnically pure Albanian settlements. All assessments suggest that these small Serb communities in urban centers will quickly be extinguished unless the provisions of Resolution 1244 are implemented. In particularly difficult situation are Serbs living in “multiethnic” areas such as Obilic and Vitina. In these areas systematic pressures, attacks and murders have left the remaining Serbs without true perspective of normal life. Everywhere around the Province Kosovo institutions and settlements are decorated with flags of the Republic of Albania and posters of Adem Jashari; monuments to new heroes from “the war of national liberation” are springing up everywhere, along with kitschy statues of new  Kalashnikov armed “Albanian heroes”. At the same time, Serb cemeteries are being transformed into public garbage dumps and the ruins of destroyed churches are overgrown with weeds. Everywhere signs in the Serb language have been obliterated, and towns are being given new fangled names which have never existed before in history. History itself is being falsified with the goal of creating a new artificial identity in order to destroy centuries of history and cultural development. Once known as the cradle of Orthodox Christianity, medieval churches and frescoes Kosovo resembles now more to Afghanistan.

UNMIK AND ITS VIRTUAL REALITY

From UNMIK’s comfortable and well-protected headquarters one cannot see the Serb ghetto in Pristina’s “YU Program” building nor the forgotten Serb villages near Obilic where every day brings uncertainty and Serb children live in daily fear. From their virtual reality well-paid international bureaucrats do not see the hospitals, schools, movie theaters and restaurants which have been inaccessible to Serbs for the past four years despite the presence of UN and NATO forces. Nevertheless, the number of crimes is decreasing, proudly claim UNMIK officials. This claim is not incorrect but the statistics do not explain that this positive trend is largely consequence of isolation of the Serb community in their protected enclaves. According to the distorted logic of some UNMIK officials the cities in which there are no Serbs are the safest and the most stable places in Kosovo. For example the city if Pec was seen as such a place too. That is why a half a year ago, international caretakers hurried to take a group of 50 elderly Serb pensioners from the neighboring Serb enclave to that city to claim their pensions. Of course, they barely managed to get them out alive under a hail of Molotov cocktails and stones from the local Albanians. “But how can this be?” surprised UNMIK officials asked themselves. “According to our assessments Pec is a safe city for Serbs; not a single Serb has been killed there in the past two years.” What they neglected to take into account is that there are no more Serbs remaining in Pec since the war. According to the same logic, the city is equally safe for Eskimos and Chinese. Statistics and real life differ considerably.

For many internationals in Pristina situation seems to be quite regular and they fail to notice that some courageous young Serbs, usually interpreters who work for UNMIIK or OSCE, appear in public places exclusively using English and ID cards with international names to avoid risks. This has become so normal that certain international offices regularly organize cultural events and presentations with translation only in Albanian since it is assumed that even if any Serbs would dare attend such events they would naturally speak only English. The remaining Serb native residents of Pristina who cannot buy normally bread in Albanian shops and are not good in English do not have much choice but to stay in their homes. Such is the life in the city in which to be and stay a Serb is an adventure.

RETURNS ONLY ON PAPER – SERBS FORCED TO GIVE UP RETURNS

The second greatest failure of the UNMIK mission is the lack of returns by the Serb population. Only several hundreds Serbs have been returned to their homes, most of them elderly people whose names were first listed and carefully filtered by local Albanian staff and KLA veterans. UNMIK’s inflated figures of thousands of Serb returnees are inaccurate and refer to returnees of other at-risk communities, primarily Roma. Frequently even those who come to visit their relatives from Serbia are registered as returnees while those who leave Kosovo and Metohija in the meanwhile are not. Despite all efforts and programs, the returnee villages of Osojane and Bica near Istok continue to live under siege, surrounded by KFOR protective forces. Are 30,000 KFOR troops and several thousand UNMIK policemen really unable to ensure the return of expelled persons to their homes? Obviously they are not since this would not meet with the approval of Albanian extremists, and UNMIK and KFOR have no intention of getting involved in a conflict with them and endangering the safety of their own personnel. This is a witches’ brew where UNMIK is increasingly becoming the passive sponsor of an ethnically cleansed society in the eyes of the Serbs; the very kind of society (according to the official interpretation) the international community sought to prevent by dropping tons of bombs on Serbia in 1999 and killing thousands of innocent men, women and children. Since judge and prosecutor in Kosovo and Metohija are one and the same, the blame for these problems apparently falls again on Serbs such as Bishop Artemije, who, it appears, stubbornly refuses to acknowledge what a good life his people are living. Perhaps we should blame the last remaining Serb grannies in Djakovica. According to a "lucid" interpretation of an arrogant international bureaucrat, they are “provoking the Albanian population by their isolation, consequently justifying their refusal to accept them”? Thus five old ladies are provoking 100,000 Albanians who on the other hand refuse to allow them to buy bread in the store, let alone to live the last years of their lives in peace.

Several returnee projects in the Pec region which were pompously announced by UNMIK last year have been practically abandoned simply because UNMIK “does not want to create new enclaves”. In fact this is just an excuse to avoid responsibility for the protection of returnees and deployment of additional troops which can only provide minimum of security for the returnees. Officially, displaced Serbs are kindly invited to return individually. In reality even groups of Serbs are not safe from Albanian extremist attacks which makes this invitation nothing but a bitter irony . When displaced Serbs complain and say that under such conditions their return is impossible UNMIK officials interpret their words as a lack of willingness to return at all. Planned reduction of troops in many parts of Kosovo and Metohija, in which Serbs used to live before, practically brings hopes of return to zero, because in the existing security situation their return is absolutely not possible. For example, in Decani municipality UNMIK has announced closing of the local office, transfer of competencies to the local municipal administration (which, by the way, consists of ethnic Albanians only) while KFOR plans to curb number of troops to a minimum which will probably only be able to provide certain level of security for the monastery of Decani. In such situation 1000 displaced Serbs from this town practically have no hope for return and are thus forced to sell their property. With such policy UNMIK and KFOR are indirectly pressing displaced Serbs to give up their return. On the other hand some Western governments (like USA) donate money for integration of refugees in central Serbia which may also additionally discourage returns. The logic seems to be clear - the less willingness of Serbs to return - the easier it will be for KFOR to reduce troops and UNMIK to accomplish its exit strategy and pull out; the less Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija - the less problems for the international community and Kosovo Albanians.

During the past years, Kosovo Serbs were exposed to hundreds of various extremist attacks, and thousands of provocations and threats. Houses were blown up, land mines exploded, people were killed and wounded. Ethnically motivated crimes still continue. The recent massacre of a Serb family in Obilic and murder of a Serb teacher near Vitina are not exceptions but indicators of the prevailing atmosphere of ethnic terror. Not one member of the former KLA has been brought to justice for any of the crimes committed against Serbs during the war. A few have been arrested but only for crimes against their own Albanian compatriots. Despite all this, UNMIK insists that Serbs “accept this new reality and become integrated” in a society where there is no room for them. There is so much irony and injustice in this claim by which UNMIK’s helplessly tries to hide its own responsibility for failure.

ORTHODOX CHURCH UNDER PERSECUTION

The destruction of Orthodox Christian churches and Serbian cultural monuments also continues and their restoration is still not possible because they might be destroyed again. Indeed, Kosovo and Metohija is a unique post war area in which four years after the conflicth restoration of the Christian holy sites is impossible due to the prevailing intolerance of the Albanian Moslem majority. While at the same time dozens of new mosques have been built, many of them with ample funding from Arabian states, Orthodox Christianity remains under persecution: nuns are stoned and verbally abused, priests cannot normally visit their flock, parish churches are stoned, theological school in Prizren, which worked even in the times of Ottoman Empire, is closed without any hope of reopening, cemeteries are being systematically desecrated, crosses are broken and holy icons burnt. Half a year ago one Orthodox church, was blown up and another seriously damaged. The perpetrators of these attacks have never been found, just like in other attacks in which 110 churches were blown up, burned or damaged. Medieval churches which survived 5 centuries of Ottoman rule perished under the internationally granted peace, in the presence of thousands of peacekeepers. Now the Church struggles to preserve the ruins of these churches because local Albanian municipal councils would gladly see these ruins removed and replaced by their own monuments to the “war heroes”.

SERBS WITHOUT ECONOMIC PROSPECT

While enormous financial resources have been invested to meet the needs of the Kosovo Albanians, Serb villages and enclaves continue to live in poverty and misery. People are without jobs; thousands of hectares of Serb-owned land remain uncultivated due to lack of security. Grazing one's livestock in a meadow represents a serious safety risk, let alone contemplating the sale of farm products at the local farmers' market. Daily pressure continues on the remaining Serbs to sell their property, especially in cities and towns where the Albanians have illegally occupied thousands of Serb-owned private houses, apartments and businesses. They often make free use of this usurped property without any compensation to the owners under UNMIK’s very eyes and sometimes with its tacit approval. At the same time, thousands of hectares of state-owned land and forests have been devastated by looting and illegal lumbering.

Every appeal to the court is condemned to fail from the start because the justice system in the Province is a tragicomic parody of law and (dis-)order. Due to a lack of witnesses, who are under enormous fear from Albanian extremists, not one major incident against the Serbs has been positively resolved. At the same time, a dozen of Serbs are wasting away in the interrogative jails of UNMIK, completely against all existing laws, because the courts lack evidence to sentence them as war criminals. Restitution of property is a near impossibility; in the few cases where, by some miracle, a Serb manages to get back his confiscated house, he is immediately forced to sell it because it is not safe for him to return with his family to live in it. UNMIK has an explanation for this, too. Recently the deputy civil administrator for Pristina stated nonchalantly that the Serbs in fact "do not want to return to their homes at all despite UNMIK's invitation to do so". How are they supposed to return to constant danger, uncertainty, injustice and poverty?

PRIVATIZATION LEGITIMIZES INJUSTICES FROM THE PAST

After the Second World War and the establishment of the Communist rule in Yugoslavia large tracts of arable land and forests were confiscated from the Serbian Orthodox Church, primarily  in Kosovo and Metohija. Ever since the Church failed to restitute its property because the Church was viewed as one of the strongest opponents of the Communist rule. After the confiscation in 1946, a part of the Church land was simply distributed to Albanian farmers, many of whom had immigrated to Kosovo and Metohija from Albania during the Nazi rule. The other part was kept as the state owned property or assigned to socially owned companies. Kosovo Albanians who benefited the most from this confiscation now understandably want to avoid restitution of the Church land by all means and press UNMIK to pursue a hasty privatization which will finally bring the former Church property into their private hands before a law on restitution is drafted.

The latest UNMIK's regulation on privatization threatens to allow Kosovo Albanian companies and private owners "legally" privatize the former Church property and thus make the restitution impossible. For the Church which has lost more than 100 holy sites after the beginning of the UN Mission in Kosovo and additional blow and discouragement. Serbian Orthodox Diocese has therefore already asked from the Coordination Center and UNMIK to take into consideration its rightful claims, but so far no assurances have been given that the former Church property will be spared from privatization and restituted to its owner.

INSTITUTIONS A SMOKE-SCREEN FOR FALSE MULTIETHNICITY

However, the greatest misconception in Kosovo and Metohija is that the constitutional framework, supposedly free elections and institution-building will enable the Serbs to improve their position by working through the institutions of the system. For a year representatives of the Serb Return (Povratak) Coalition participated in the work of the Kosovo parliament without achieving a single concrete result. Is Kosovo any closer to being a multiethnic society? Have better conditions been created for the return of expelled persons, the goal from which the Coalition took its name? Is Resolution 1244 being more effectively implemented? The answer to all three questions is NO. Incidents continue to occur and Kosovo does not even remotely resemble a multiethnic society; instead, it has become a classic model of institutionalized apartheid and intolerance. Only a few hundred out of about 200,000 expelled persons have a roof over their head in their isolated enclaves. And as far as Resolution 1244 is concerned, it has never been more trampled on and disregarded. Kosovo Albanians are using institutions which Serbs have joined to prove that Kosovo and Metohija is indeed "multiethnic" and that it should become independent. Occasionally their leaders, accompanied by UNMIK officials, take a stroll through a Serb enclave, snap a few photographs and immediately run to Western capitals to show pictures which supposedly prove their concern for "the Serb minority". In fact, hiding behind this false façade of the UN mission and the new Kosovo institutions is a tragic reality of unbridled violence, organized crime, corruption and bureaucratic chaos. The UNMIK mission has not only tarnished the moral reputation of the international community in the Balkans but is now consciously feigning blindness to the destruction of an entire people and its culture for no other reason but to rationalize its own failure.

In the past four years the Kosovo Albanians have done absolutely nothing with regard to respect for human rights of the Serb community. Although Kosovo legislation contains many provisions guaranteeing, theoretically, the rights of minorities, Kosovo Serbs can hardly make use of them, simply because they live on the margins of law and order, isolated in their poor enclaves and exposed to daily threats by Albanian extremists. So far UNMIK has not even been able to guarantee the free public use of the Serbian language, let alone other rights. Almost all Serbian signs bearing the names of towns put up by the UNMIK administration have been obliterated by black spray paint. Many Serbs rightly deduct that if the Albanians cannot even accept our language, then how can they accept and respect our other rights and ensure our free and dignified life?

IN SEARCH OF EXIT STRATEGY

Despite all difficulties and problems which they endure from the local Albanians, what pains the Kosovo Serbs the most, is the unscrupulous propaganda conducted by UNMIK which rudely falsifies the real situation in Kosovo and Metohija. The goal of this campaign is to rationalize the tremendous failures of this mission, whose purported "successes" are coming under increased fire in New York and Brussels. The current unofficial primarily goal of the mission appears to be to finally implement an effective exit strategy to include transferring all authority to the local authorities, i.e., institutions overwhelmingly dominated by the Albanian majority, prior to the withdrawal of the international community from the Province and the pronouncement of the successful conclusion of the mission. As the logical consequence of this strategy, local Albanians and some international circles are expecting recognition of an independent Kosovo, i.e., a second ethnic Albanian state in the Balkans, which will supposedly guarantee Serbs all rights "according to the highest European standards". Taking into account that areas inhabited by Albanians are the most ethnically clean territories in the Balkans, it is difficult to expect an exception to the rule in an independent Kosovo where ethnic and religious tolerance are out of the question. Such a creation would be in fundamental contradiction with everything which contemporary Europe represents and wishes to achieve today. It is not necessary to comment on the economic sustainability of a society largely based on smuggling and illegal activities. Without friendship with the first neighbors, Serbs and the Macedonians, the Kosovo Albanians can depend only on poverty-stricken Albania, which has enough problems of its own.

It is very important to emphasize that the active presence of Serb deputies in provincial institutions is seen as a key element for a successful exit strategy and the ultimate secession of the Province from the union of Serbia and Montenegro because this would be the strongest argument before the world that the Serbs have a real capability to independently, freely and effectively shape their future through the multiethnic institutions of a future independent state. Of course, these Serb deputies, who commute to parliamentary sessions in armored police vans and who do not dare to step outside the building for a simple coffee break, are themselves beginning to understand what and whom they are in fact serving. This is why further participation in such institutions, under extremely discriminatory and humiliating conditions is not possible any longer. Without essential changes in the institutional system, which must be brought to compliance with the UNSC Resolution 1244, Serb participation in the Parliament will only make additional damage to the position of the Serb people and help Kosovo Albanians create their independent state.

Despite everything above, the Serb people still live in the hope that UNMIK will finally abandon the policy of double standards and begin building a truly free and multiethnic society in accordance with Resolution 1244 and international law. In the institutions of such a society, where all citizens regardless of religion and ethnicity will have a right to a dignified and free life, the Serb people will be quite ready to participate with all other citizens and to offer their constructive contribution. However, if UNMIK intends to continue building a new ethnic Albanian state in which Serbs would continue to live as second-class citizens or disappear completely, it is illusory on the part of the international community to expect Serb cooperation and support for such a project.

Fr. Sava Janjic
Serbian Orthodox Church
KOSOVO AND METOHIJA

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FOUR YEARS ON, KOSOVO IS STILL A MESS
Four years after the end of the Serbo-Albanian war in Kosovo, the southern Serbian province is still wracked by violence and ethnic hatred overseen by a United Nations mission which is losing the respect of all sides to the conflict.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS
Tuesday, 10-Jun-2003 7:20AM
Aleksandar Mitic

BELGRADE, June 10 (AFP) - Four years after the end of the Serbo-Albanian war in Kosovo, the southern Serbian province is still wracked by violence and ethnic hatred overseen by a United Nations mission which is losing the respect of all sides to the conflict.

A crackdown on the ethnic-Albanian majority by forces of then-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic was the initial justification for NATO's 1999 intervention. But now it is the Serbs who are living in fear of Albanian extremists.

More than 200,000 Kosovo Serbs have left their homes as a result of extremist violence or fearing bloody reprisals from Albanians. The 80,000 to 120,000 Serbs who remain live in isolated enclaves, sometimes as small as a single apartment block, "protected" by NATO troops.

That security -- a key obligation of the international community if it seriously wants to build a multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo -- proved to be tragically absent last week when an elderly Serb couple and their son were brutally murdered.

The victims were asleep in their home in Obilic, just north of the capital Pristina, when they were hacked to death with axes by unknown attackers, who then set their home on fire. The slaughter came after several days of threats, according to relatives.

No one has claimed responsibility for the homocide, the worst violence in Kosovo in more than a year, but few are in any doubt that it was a hate crime by Albanian extremists bent on driving Serbs out of the province.

When the chief of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Michael Steiner, rushed to the scene to offer his condolences, he was jeered by angry and frightened Serb villagers, many of whom have now fled their homes.

Twenty-three Serb families, all residents of the same street in Obilic, decided to leave the province and join the ranks of refugees in Serbia, Beta news agency reported. They accused NATO, which has 30,000 troops in Kosovo, of ignoring their pleas for extra security.

"The Serbs of Obilic don't want to ask anything more from UNMIK and KFOR (the NATO-led protection force), which have demonstrated over the past four years that they have no intention of protecting the Serbs," said local councillor Mirce Jakovljevic.

"The people are desperate."

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, Belgrade's pointman for Kosovo, has said he does not want to give "false hopes" to the province's Serbs because the authority of the Serbian government was suspended with the UN takeover in 1999.

Always walking a tightrope between the frustrations of the Serbs and the need to maintain good relations with UNMIK, Covic said he hoped the Obilic families would return to their homes because their departure only handed victory to the Albanian "terrorists".

The events in Obilic are just a further blow to the credibility of the UN mission in Kosovo, which has failed to fulfil its promise of securing the return of the refugees or win the support of either of the two opposing ethnic communities.

For their part the Albanians are impatient to declare independence and take control of the province once and for all, but the UN says the time has not yet come to decide Kosovo's "final status" and when it does it will be a decision for the Security Council.

Earlier this year Steiner banned ethnic-Albanian politicians from attending two international conferences because they passed a motion in parliament recognising the Kosovo Liberation Army -- seen as terrorists by Serbs -- as heroes.

"The bureaucrats in Pristina, Belgrade, Brussels, New York, they talk a lot but they do very little," said Zoran Masic, a Serb who fled his home in Pristina after the war.

"I no longer have any illusions, no hope that anything will change."


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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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