October 14, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 14-10-03

Opening session of the Vienna talks between
representatives of the Belgrade Government and
Kosovo Albanian delegation, Vienna Oct 14, 2003


Mr. Chairman,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Can 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 November 2001?

Instead of using this Vienna meeting for a dialogue on existential burning problems, Pristina officials keep on gearing Kosovo and Metohija with the state attributes.

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 Albanians.

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 diminished.

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 deviate.

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 period.

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 times.

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 society.

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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