ERP KIM Newsletter
Opening session of the Vienna talks between
representatives of the Belgrade Government and
Kosovo Albanian delegation, Vienna Oct 14, 2003
DR. NEBOJSA COVIC AT THE OPENING SESSION OF THE VIENNA TALKS, October 14
Ladies and Gentlemen,
we regard that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue has been launched if the
commitments made at the Thessalonika summit are not met?
Can we delude ourselves claiming that we are talking, that we have started
the talks, if at the side of the one party, Pristina party, utmost has
been done for the talks to fail?
Finally, in case of a dialogue it should be clear to all that it is not a
case of talks between representatives of two states but of representatives
of the Republic of Serbia with representatives of its one part. Our
potential interlocutors, however, keep sending us frowning messages
announcing that they would talk with us as neighbors. What is then the
purpose of the UN Security Council decisions, and of its Resolution 1244?
What is the purpose of the Common Document, notably of the agreement on
cooperation between the Serb-Montenegrin state and the UNMIK signed on 5
Instead of using this Vienna meeting for a dialogue on existential burning
problems, Pristina officials keep on gearing Kosovo and Metohija with the
These introductory notes would have been unnecessary in different
circumstances, had not our meeting lost its expected importance, through a
series of immature decisions of the Pristina authorities.
Representatives of the Kosovo-Metohija Albanians have been blackmailing
international mediators, demanding much or impossible in exchange for
their coming to Vienna. As reported, they demanded two more departments
for their government, the Ministry of foreign relations and Ministry of
power supply. My question is: How can one demand something that does not
belong to him? My question is: Why a Serb representative was eliminated
from the Pristina delegation, why the lady representing Turk community was
eliminated, and why this unique ethnical cleansing was carried out? And
how these gentlemen ruling Kosmet today think to build a multi-ethnic
society in Kosovo and Metohija if they are unable, if they neither can nor
want to appear publicly in a multiethnic format.
As regards us from Belgrade, we have done our utmost for this meeting and
dialogue to take place. We demanded nothing except that a Serb represents
Serbs and speaks in the name of Serbs, and that another non-Albanian
represents other minority communities in Kosovo and Metohija. Is this
much? Is this unreasonable?
Ladies and gentlemen, since long ago Serbia and the common state of Serbia
and Montenegro have been advocating direct talks between Serbs and
Kosovo-Metohija Albanians. Some two years ago, in June 2001, speaking at a
meeting of the General Staff of the Army of Yugoslavia about the objective
possibilities of the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to participate in
the resolving of the Kosovo-Metohija problems, I said that I discern three
stages, or three periods in future settlement of the situation and
relations in Kosmet:
- Period of diplomatic activities of the state of Serbia;
- Period of direct talks between the representatives of two peoples, Serbs
and ethnic Albanians; and
- Period of final agreements in the presence of international officials.
Later on as well, on different occasions, at international conferences, I
have advocated a speedier shift to the second stage, the stage of a
dialogue devoted to morale, existential and other questions relevant for
the people living in Kosovo and Metohija.
I wish I could say now: The second stage has started today and I am happy
to note this fact.
I wish I could ask you now: Are we going to debate only on how to make the
life of people more bearable or we shall talk while continually bearing in
mind the need for a historical reconciliation between Serbs and ethnic
I wish I could suggest that we be brave and ambitious, and task ourselves
with a more important and greater goal.
Unfortunately, my initial optimism has been substantially reduced, my
ambitions deflated, and by belief in the success of our enterprise
There is no need to argue here, considering your good knowledge of the
centuries-long ethnical conflicts in Kosovo and Metohija, that the key for
the Balkans peacefulness stands in this province. And there is no need to
argue here that the dangerous un-European-like policy termed Balkanization
- notably fragmentation, was incepted in Kosovo and Metohija.
Europe has since long ago taken the path of merging its intellectual,
technological, financial and all other potentials, hence the path of
globalization, while Kosmet – if judging by the statements of its most
militant and loudest representatives – takes a retrograde path to the
past, towards dreams about a state in which there would be no room for men
of other ethnicity or religion.
In the multiethnic Kosmet, ideas of destructive nationalism have been held
up for centuries, claiming that the Kosovo-Metohija question is, as a
matter of fact, a territorial question. Must it be the same today? Are we
capable of getting away from this disastrous policy?
For Serbia and Montenegro the Kosovo-Metohija question is, as a matter of
fact, a democracy question, or specifically a question of human rights.
Returns, safety, freedom of movement, personal and property security can
all be subsumed under the protection of human rights. Precisely this is
contained in the formula: “standards before status” from which we must not
We are committed to a fully consistent implementation of the UNSC
resolution 1244, on the whole and to the last letter. To any possible,
actually expected, objections that such approach represents a postponement
of talks on the status, we readily respond that it is not true. If the
UNSC Resolution 1244 would be put into effect promptly, I assure you that
Serbia and Montenegro, and Serbia as its member state, and the
Coordination Center under my lead, will be ready to immediately thereafter
enter talks on the status. We must, however, be realistic: the so-far
developments on the ground, convoys for school children, attacks on
returnees, killings of children and the elderly, desecration of cemeteries
and relics as an unambiguous message of extremists, unfortunately, do not
inspire hope that this change - in which we do believe and which we do
expect - can be reached over a night.
In the meantime we should have talked about the daily life, about
technical issues, about the restoration of the cut-apart economic links,
for the benefit of us all, and for the sake of a more decent life in
Kosmet and in its immediate surrounding. Electric power and transport
infrastructure are not much related with the prevailing emotions among
Serbs and ethnic Albanians. They both face abundant problems because of
the insufficient power supply, and inadequate road and railway
communications. Restoration of the power supply system and roads network
is not only a necessity, but also can provide for new jobs and for better,
let us say, health care, let alone for a better security.
Two other topics that we should have discussed today, the question of
returns and of missing persons, are questions related to human dignity.
They are anachronic, and pertain to the past rather than to this century,
which should be prevailed by enlightened democracy and absolute respect
for the entire scope of human rights. This requests our prompt efforts,
and good care to get rid of the accumulated prejudices and stereotype ways
of thinking. Anyway, there should be no any question whether a displaced
person – regardless if of Serbian, Albanian, Turk, Roma or of any other
ethnicity, has the right to return to his home and to stay and live there.
Those wanting to return must know when, where and how they would return.
And must get firm guarantees that their return would be safe. Much the
same, each misfortunate family, Albanian, Serbian, Roma, Turk or Bosniac,
irrespectively, has the right to get to know what had happened with its
missing ones and to at least mourn in peace, after all these years. I am
positive that we shall all agree with this principal approach.
Ladies and gentlemen, it was our obligation, hence, to shift from the
problems-creating and accumulating period to the problems-resolving
What is necessary for this?
I would say: much more than the good will, and we saw that there is even
no good will with the one party. Before the news on the spoiling of this
meeting started arriving from Pristina, I was saying that it would be very
bad if the dialogue would end with a conclusion that we are incapable of
finding agreements. For the European officials, I thought, this would be
indisputable evidence that we are immature for the European integrations,
that our accession to European Union should be postponed until some better
I regret to have learnt now that no one can release me of these fears.
I meant to convince my interlocutors that a successful dialogue would
enable us to go on with our work, and - in compliance with the
recommendations of the Council of Europe, OSCE, Stability Pact and other
multi-lateral bodies, and above all under the auspices and with the help
of UNMIK - to turn to three major tasks, that are of key importance for
the progress of Kosovo and Metohija, and of the entire region:
democratization, decentralization and de-criminalization.
Now, after all the things that took place in Pristina, I may only add: I
have understood this exclusion of a representative of Kosovo-Metohija
Serbs from the Pristina delegation as a nonacceptance of a multiethnic
Kosovo and Metohija, as a proof of nonagreement that a Serb minister
represents Serbs, as an intention to deprive Serbs of the fundamental
right to discuss about their rights.
If the international community really wants a multiethnic Kosovo and
Metohija, then it must ensure multi-ethnic talks on the building of such
Ladies and Gentlemen, I wanted to share this with you, because we did not
come to Vienna to exchange nice phrases but to talk and seek agreements.
Thank you for your attention.
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