May 20, 2003

EXCLUSIVE EDITION OF ERP KIM:

Dr. Rada Trajkovic, SNC KIM Vice-President about the Kosovo final status and the latest resolution of U.S. Sen. J.Biden

"YES" TO REFERENDUM, BUT NOT ONLY IN KOSOVO
The majority systematically violating the rights of minorities has no moral right to determine the fate of a territory and its inhabitants based on its numbers

By Dr. Rada Trajkovic,
Vice-president of the Serb National Council
of Kosovo and Metohija, Gracanica


The most recent proposal of U.S. Senator Joseph Biden according to which Kosovo citizens may decide on the future of the Province by referendum hides serious dangers for non-Albanian communities, particularly the Kosovo Serbs. Despite the fact that Biden claims that certain standards of respect for human rights must be in place before a referendum can take place, such a referendum may easily turn out to be an instrument for continuing the ethnic repression to which Serbs and minorities in Kosovo are exposed daily, instead of tool of democracy. The final outcome of this dangerous experiment would almost certainly be an ethnically cleansed Kosovo Albanian state, in sharp contrast with what the countries of the democratic West are saying they want.

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?

A referendum where Kosovo Albanians would proclaim independence by force of their numbers is not and cannot be a just solution. Although modern European legislation recognizes the right to self-determination, it also recognizes the territorial integrity of sovereign states. The twentieth century was defined, in large part, by the clash of these principles although they are not necessarily contradictory and do not exclude one another.
Kosovo has been temporarily placed under UN administration as a result of the repressive policies of Slobodan Milosevic; however, the old regime is now gone from Belgrade and power is in the hands of those who firmly opposed Milosevic's policies, especially during the war years. Serbia and Montenegro today is without any doubt the most multiethnic state of the Balkans. Consequently, this state, of which Kosovo is an integral part, has every right to disagree with unilateral secession of part of its territory because that would mean forceful alteration of the borders of a sovereign state, a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe. Additional reason for such a position of Belgrade is that this change would be based on the will of only 19% of the total population in the country, who want their ethnic state which would be eventually, in the next phase, connected with other so called "Albanian territories". In fact, the best solution in this case would be to hold a referendum throughout Serbia-Montenegro - including Kosovo - and find out the mandate of its entire population of almost 10 million people. As much as Kosovo is important for Kosovo Albanians it is important for the Serbian people in general, especially because it is a treasury of its history, culture and spirituality.

"Self-determination does not necessarily mean secession. A national group does not have to be independent, in its own nation-state, to have control over its own fate," says Rolf Ekeus, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, adding: "If that were the case, Europe would look a lot different than it does now and there would be protracted, violent conflicts in a misguided and vain attempt to create ethnically pure nation-states."

These words are fully applicable to the Kosovo situation because the goal of Kosovo Albanians is precisely to create a nation-state (actually, a second Albanian nation-state in the Balkans) tailored exclusively according to the interests of the Albanian national community. Four years of post-war developments offer considerable evidence confirming this statement: Serbs and minorities are discriminated against in all spheres of life; they lack basic freedom of movement and consequently cannot seek regular jobs due to security risks. They still do not have normal access to medical, educational and other public institutions, their religious rights are restricted while their churches and cemeteries are still exposed to vandalism and destruction. Perhaps the best indicator of their situation is the fact that Serb deputies in the Kosovo Parliament still travel to sessions in armored police vehicles and cannot leave the Parliament building. The return of nearly 230,000 Serb refugees remains uncertain, as does the question of their property, largely usurped by the Kosovo Albanians. The Province has never been more mono-ethnic in its history. Kosovo cities are almost exclusively Albanian; Serb ghettos in Pristina, Prizren, Orahovac and Gnjilane with groups of 50-200 civilians restricted to the narrow area where they actually live are perhaps the best indicators of the kind of human rights Kosovo Albanians are ready to guarantee to Serbs in an independent state. We must keep in mind that the present situation prevails in the presence of almost 40,000 members of KFOR and UNMIK. Is it really logical to believe that the situation will change for the better when they leave?

Despite all this, Kosovo Albanian leaders, including such "moderates" as Rugova and Adem Demaci, are openly threatening to begin a new war if their demand for an independent Kosovo is not met. At the same time, there are more and more acts of terrorism by the so-called Albanian National Army using the same tactics as KLA before the war. But doesn't this strategy mean using violence to achieve political goals, the international definition of - terrorism? Should international community consequently cave in to threats and pressure, and reward violence and ethnic repression by recognizing an ethnically cleansed state of Kosovo? The answer to this question will be crucial for future developments in many other hot spots in Europe and the world.

The most just solution, therefore, if the Kosovo Albanians insist on a referendum as a "democratic means" of resolving the status of Kosovo, would be to officially demand a referendum of all citizens of Serbia and Montenegro. Belgrade should strongly insist on the inviolability of international borders because their alteration would represent a precedent resulting in many new crisis areas, not only in the Balkans and elsewhere in the world but also an event which would trigger further disintegration of the state territory of Serbia-Montenegro. Threats of terrorist attack and war should be confronted by decisive action to neutralize criminal elements; the issue of the Kosovo's status should be consigned exclusively to the political level of dialogue and negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina. All options should be on the table during this dialogue, including both the independence of Kosovo and its continuation as an autonomous region within the framework of Serbia and the federal union of Serbia-Montenegro. The status of Kosovo cannot be resolved in some far away center of power only to bring Belgrade and Pristina at the end to negotiate the modalities of that solution, most probably direct or so called "conditional" independence. This option, advocated by pro-Albanian circles in the West, is seen as the only way of circumventing the legitimate right of Serbia to protect the integrity of its territory and convincing Belgrade to renounce Kosovo with promises of concessions elsewhere (easier admission to EU, NATO etc). According to this option the solution of the status will be imposed and the negotiations will be only a matter of cosmetics. Kosovo Albanian Leaders are increasingly aware that with such a desperate human rights and security situation on the ground, on the one hand, and the steady improvement of the international position of Serbia on the other, the independence of Kosovo does not seem to be as readily achievable and justifiable a goal as during Milosevic's rule, so they try to avoid direct dialog with Belgrade by all means.

At the same time it is more than evident that independence of Kosovo would seriously destabilize the fragile balance of powers in the Balkans. A new state of ethnic Albanians would soon become a beacon of already revived national Albanian euphoria and it would be completely impossible to prevent conflict escalation in Southern Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia where ethnic Albanian minority live. The creation of an ethnic Albanian state would give a completely wrong signal to ethnic extremists elsewhere because they would start believing that position of ethnic minorities in democratic multiethnic states, such as Serbia-Montenegro, may only be resolved by secession and building a new nation. This process is thoroughly opposite to the European international processes and may become a serious threat not only for the Balkans, but for the entire Continent.

In any case, the Kosovo problem should be resolved through a democratic run off between Belgrade and Pristina. The solutions should not be immediately sought in redrawing of the political map of Europe according to ethnic lines, but in changing ways of thinking and replacing anachronistic mythology by modern democratic consciousness. The side that proves to be the most willing to responsibly adapt to democratic standards, and respect minority rights and security deserves the support of Western democracies. Any other approach would be very damaging for the Balkan stabilization and its ultimate integration into the European Union.


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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