July 24, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 24-07-03b


The text is available in MS Word format (87 Kb) at: http://www.kosovo.net/covic_guidelines.doc 

Joint Coordinating Center of Serbia-Montenegro and
the Republic of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija


Dr. Nеbојsа Cоvic,
Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and
President of the Joint Coordinating Center of Serbia-Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija
July 22, 2003

The Kosmet [Kosovo and Metohija][1] crisis, like all controversial issues of Serbs, Albanians and other peoples in the region, represents the basis of the BALKAN CRISIS. Instead of constantly dwelling on the past we must turn toward the future in the hope that one day the Balkan peoples will establish ties and become integrated. It is essential to achieve good and stable relations among the countries in the region.

It is necessary for us to jointly arrive at European and world standards, and free ourselves of the misconception that the Balkan peoples of Europe are second-class peoples and that they are in constant need of tutors.

The "standards before status" approach presupposes a liberal democracy, individual rights and freedoms, the rule of law, religious pluralism, market competitiveness... Europe is offering us membership in exchange for conquering the past, and it does not want a game for a political entity surrounded by those whose leaders do not accept that conquering one's own past is liberating its future freedom. Freedom from the past and turning toward the future does not mean the independence of Kosovo and Metohija if we want a sustainably stable region. The countries in this region need to build a network of mutual ties in all domains. This approach will reduce the importance and frustrations regarding borders and thus contribute to the concept of multiethnicity.

A positive foundation for the constitutional and legal status of Kosmet within Serbia in UN Security Council Resolution 1244, whose implementation must be analogous to similar processes in the implementation of the Dayton Agreement [Dayton-Paris Peace Accords] in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the Erdut Agreement in Croatia in order to avoid the trap of "double standards." It is not good that some international decision makers are interpreting certain documents however they see fit, and this approach does not contribute to resolving problems. This is the same logic used by those who hastily and frequently force the topic of "the final status of Kosovo," using the following approaches:

''Without the final status of Kosovo there can be no advance in reforms";

''Without the final status of Kosovo nationalism and xenophobia are being fanned in Belgrade";

''Without the final status of Kosovo Belgrade will have problems with respect to its own priorities: reconstruction, the economy, and gradual integration into the international community"; and

''Serbia cannot become a fully democratic country until the status of its southern province is resolved."

in the attempt to realize some partial geopolitical interest, contrary to the process of consistent implementation of UNSC Res. 1244. Occasionally the topic of "final status" is artfully substituted with talk about "standards" more concerned with prejudicing status that with standards themselves. The criteria of enclaves and ghettoes must yield before global and European standards of normal life. Lack of success in respecting the "standards before status" approach would be lack of success in the implementation of UNSC Res. 1244, and therefore a failure on the part of the international community. It is manifestly clear that without the return of internally displaced persons and refugees there can be no multiethnic life and therefore no progress in Kosmet.

Not only is the number of returnees insignificant but the number of desperate people who will not, dare not and cannot return to the territory of Kosovo and Metohija has grown immensely. If the international community continues to content itself with political rhetoric about rights and the necessity of Serb returns to Kosmet without the same kind of energetic measures undertaken in Bosnia to force the conflicting sides to enable returns to displaced people and refugees, if territories where they once lived are not provided for the Serbs with appropriate social and political institutions, if something does not change radically by the end of the year in the position of the international community and UNMIK in Kosovo and Metohija, then only a few desperate people will return to Kosmet. To date their number does not exceed two percent of the displaced population.

In many areas in Kosmet the situation is more difficult for the Serbs and other non-Albanians than it was at the end of the twentieth century despite the efforts of the international community and the proclaimed declarations of Albanian leaders. We must understand that something is very wrong in Kosmet and that a prolific future demands political initiative. If the domestic and international public, as well as the majority of Kosmet Albanians do not begin to understand the necessity of holding Albanian leaders to their word, political responsibility will remain a completely foreign concept, and the great majority of displaced persons will not return to their homes.

Albanian political leaders must demonstrate the readiness to risk their lives by speaking the truth and thus toppling the idols of their destructive nationalism. This is the only way we can avoid "having the future turn its back on us because we failed to conquer our past."

Issues relating to the prosperity of the citizens and peoples of the Balkans cannot be resolved solely by insisting on historical and national categories but also on cooperation and integration, equality and multiethnicity. The principles of national self-determination are the principles of a war-time, not a peace-time organization of European states, and therefore, of Balkan states, too. All those who insist only on these principles in Kosmet are losers from the start - Serbs guided by the principle of historic origin and Albanians with the principle of national self-determination.

In conditions of distinct multiethnicity the principle of national self-determination is not a democratic but a discriminatory and war principles. It cannot be implemented for several reasons. If the right to national self-determination is made possible for the Albanians as a universal, positive international principle, then it must be implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well. If it is used an exclusive principle only for the Albanians, it would represent discrimination toward all other Balkan peoples. The demand that an ethnically pure state be formed in the Balkans does not differ, in essence, from the demand that a state be formed exclusively of ideological or religious like-minded persons.

The Albanians are completely homogenous in their demand for the independence of Kosovo and Metohija. Albanians in Kosmet are sabotaging cooperation with UNMIK in accordance with UNSC Res. 1244. It is now manifestly clear that they are insincere. The status of human rights, security, and freedom of movement for the Serbian national community and other non-Albanian communities is exceptionally low.

The former regime used Kosovo and Metohija to draw attention away from everyday problems and its own failed policies. Among political organizations in Serbia there is no homogenous position regarding the sovereignty of Serbia in Kosmet. The fate of Kosovo and Metohija is viewed with an incredible indifference, among individuals in the ruling coalition and even in the approach to the principle regarding the sovereignty of Serbia in Kosmet.

We must find the right balance between our goal and strategy toward Kosovo and Metohija and the political and other dependence of Serbia on international decision makers among whom some or openly or covertly sympathizers and supporters of Albanian separatist goals.

There are attempts to consciously and purposely undermine UNSC Res. 1244 with regard to the sovereignty of Serbia-Montenegro in Kosovo and Metohija through the following:

  • speeding up the solution of the final status of Kosovo and Metohija;

  • evident violations of UNSC Res. 1244 by international decision makers with the constant interpretation of same that everything is being done according to the Resolution. The problem is who interprets and arbitrates with regard to the Resolution and its implementation?

  • tempting political and material offers being made toward Serbia with the goal of convincing her to give up her southern province in exchange for easier and faster ascension to the EU and NATO.

It is impermissible for a serious and responsible government to find ourselves in the situation of A EUROPEAN STATE GIVING UP A SIGNIFICANT PART OF ITS TERRITORY in order to satisfy international expectations and pressures.

Expectations exist among some international subjects that within Serbia a consciousness will crystallize regarding acceptance and shaping of a political and legal framework that would ease and enable a decision on separating Kosovo and Metohija from Kosovo. The creation of a loose union between Serbia and Montenegro serves to support such a thesis.

There is a danger that the separation of Kosmet from Serbia will be carried out by a skillful political maneuver used to circumvent the formal violation of the principle of further unchangeability of borders and thus satisfy the demand of the Kosmet Albanians for independence from Serbia.

Kosovo and Metohija are rapidly being furnished with the necessary state attributes. Parallel to this, attempts exist to prepare Serbia, its public and Government, to give up on its legitimate and internationally recognized right to Kosmet. This would be disguised by the supposed joining of the state of Kosovo to the present sate union of Serbia and Montenegro. It is assumed that Serbia will be unable to immediately concur with the independence of Kosovo and Metohija; however, this could be carried out through appropriate compensation in the form of quick ascension to Euro-Atlantic organizations and large investments. The plan is to carry this out in two phases to avoid destabilization of Daytonian Bosnia and Herzegovina and faltering Macedonia[2], as well as some other European countries. Momentous preparations are already in the works for the implementation of this strategy through the activities of various U.S. and European NGOs, analytical centers and lobbyist groups openly advocating the independence of Kosovo and Metohija, that is, the self-determination of Albanians in that province. Unacceptable are approaches to blackmail Serbia advocated by certain lobbyists who propose the following very dangerous theses:

 "Discussion regarding practical matters should take place parallel to the process of decision-making regarding the final status of the province, with appropriate compensation for Serbia."

"No agreement between Belgrade and the Albanian leaders in Kosovo should be implemented until the independence of the province is proclaimed."

"The Serbian pain resulting from the loss of Kosovo can be compensated by practical gains in the economic and social spheres."

"If Serbia wants certain issues to be resolved, she must accept the independence of Kosovo."

"Finally, the resolution of the status of Kosovo should be the precondition for the ascension of Serbia to the EU. 'Status before integration' would be an appropriate motto for the region."

No one from the international community will oppose independence as the solution for Kosovo and Metohija if Serbia agrees to it. Serbia's acquiescence to the amputation of Kosmet would end the international community's (U.S. and EU's) problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia because there would be no further question of the rewarding of separatism but an agreed upon separation of Kosmet from Serbia. This represents a great danger for Serbia if state organizations accept it indifferently.

The entire strategy consists of the following: The Serb public and official government need to be convinced that it is in Serbia's own best interest to get rid of the burden of Kosovo and Metohija as soon as possible in order to join Euro-Atlantic organizations more easily and quickly.

The basic position of the Serbian state and its organizations should be based on the following guidelines and principles:

(i) Serbia must not give up Kosovo and Metohija at any price and no politician in Serbia has a right to take this approach. Everything that is done with Kosmet from now on without the acquiescence of Serbia would be illegal and represent extortion.

(ii) Firm and clear insistence on UNSC Res. 1244[3]. State sovereignty has priority over the separatist aspirations of a minority ethnic community living in it. Not one international document acknowledges the right to secession of minority ethnic communities. The break up of the territorial integrity of Serbia must not be permitted.

(iii) The Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Helsinki guarantees the inviolability of external border of member countries, except in the case of their concurrence; these principles were confirmed at an international conference in The Hague, and the adoption of the findings of the Badinter Arbitration Commission[4].

By voting to accept the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) as a member, the UN General Assembly ratified the position of the Badinter Commission with respect to the sovereignty of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija, as the province is located within her AVNOJ[5] borders.

Full respect for the London Agreement of 1913, the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919 and the Paris Peace Agreement of 1947 where the sovereignty of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija is confirmed.

At the same time, it is well to keep in mind situations where the international community can interpret these documents to suit itself when the need arises. Hence these documents do not give absolute protection and support if there is no consensus regarding these issues in Belgrade.

(iv) The new constitution of Serbia, in addition to the part on the inviolability of her territory, should include a special provision prohibiting the renouncement of Kosmet, and this provision should be confirmed and emphasized for the benefit of all international decision makers, particularly the UN (Security Council and General Assembly), the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

(v) A clear and categorical position that the ascension of Serbia-Montenegro to the Council of Europe, the European Union, the World Trade Organization or Partnership for Peace/NATO is only possible within the AVNOJ borders of Serbia-Montenegro.

(vi) Constantly insist before international decision makers that our country is not asking for anything more than what other former Yugoslav republics and Eastern European countries already have: namely, guaranteed territorial integrity and external borders, equal treatment and intact national and state dignity.

(vii) That legal protection be sought from the permanent International Court of Justice in The Hague with respect to the privatization of Serbian state-owned property in Kosovo and Metohija.

(viii) Our program for the final status of Kosovo and Metohija is based on the sovereignty of Serbia in Kosmet and this is non-negotiable; everything else can be a topic of negotiation and agreement. Sovereignty and democracy are not opposing values and represent a sufficient broad and flexible framework within which the final status of Kosovo and Metohija can be found recognizing the legitimate interests of both sides.

(ix) Insistence on the broadest autonomy for Kosovo and Metohija, with international guarantees and supervision, as a framework within which the Albanian national community can be offered a high level of independence with respect to its mother state of Serbia. By so doing Kosovo and Metohija are provided with all the advantages of faster progress in a broader community, with the goal of integration into Balkan and Euro-Atlantic organizations.

(x) It is essential to make it easier for the Albanian community to understand that an independent Kosovo and Metohija is unrealistic and dangerous as a factor of permanent instability in the region. All citizens of Kosmet and the region must face the European reality that does not permit the forcible change of borders. The province of Kosovo and Metohija may become an entity with more than autonomy but less than statehood within the framework of Serbia. Within the framework of such an entity the Serbian community would receive territorial and cultural autonomy. After the ascension of the state union to the EU, which is expected in the near future, the psychological crowding upon the suggested final status of Kosmet would be less apparent. All citizens would become members of a broad Balkan and European family where national and state borders no longer have the significance they had in the past.

(xi) It is essential that Serbia firmly and consistently, without regard for changes in the government organization, uphold its position on its sovereignty in Kosmet. No government in Serbia has the right to renounce the land deeds in the province of Kosovo and Metohija or to transfer them to others in whole or in part. Renouncing Kosmet would mean giving up the national and state rights of Serbia, and toying with the fate of her southern province.

(xii) Serbia must act very responsibly and decisively to prevent certain international decision makers in supporting the independence of Kosovo and Metohija. The position of all relevant subjects of Serbia must be clear: If the international community, or one of its parts, proclaims the independence of Kosmet without the acquiescence of Serbia, this will mean forcible extortion of the a part of Serbian territory outside the norms of international law and the risk that this forcible precedent may be turned against the international community.

(xiii) Serbia has no alternative to Euro-Atlantic integration; however, the haste for Serbia-Montenegro's ascension to Euro-Atlantic organizations must be carried out at the right speed and with a sense of balance. It must occur that the impression is made that Serbia and the state union do not care about Kosmet, and that they might consider some solution less than the sovereignty of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija.

(xiv) It is impermissible for any representative of the official government to issue official or unofficial statements where it is possible to discern doubt with respect to the maintenance of the present borders of Serbia, or to allow the possibility of exchanging Kosovo and Metohija, or even abandoning the entire province if it is left without a Serbian population.

(xv) Kosovo and Metohija must not be viewed as an obstacle or a burden to be rid of in order to achieve the ascension of the state union to the EU and NATO as soon as possible. No active politician on the Serbian scene today has the right to this approach, regardless of whether he is part of the government or the opposition.

(xvi) It is necessary to protect the cultural and historic identity of the Serbian people preserved in Orthodox Christian monasteries, churches, and cemeteries.[6] Long-term measures are essential to protect our cultural and historic treasures located in Kosmet through the following:

  • Selection and categorization of cultural and religious monuments

  • Establishment of protective zones around the most important cultural monuments (patrimonial sites)

  • Implementation of a model of preservation for cultural and historic monuments

(xvii) Insistence on the beginning of dialog between Belgrade and Pristina in the presence of all relevant international decision makers; upon the arrival of the new Special Representative of the UN Secretary General [head of UNMIK] this will include respecting the mechanism of the high task group defined in the joint document signed between Belgrade and Pristina (November 5, 2001). [7] In addition to UNSC Res. 1244, the Kumanovo Military-Technical Agreement[8] and the Constitutional Framework[9], there is also an Agreement on Cooperation between Yugoslavia and UNMIK that is internationally recognized to which we must adhere.

(xviii) Insistence that the Hague tribunal continue issuing indictments against war criminals who unquestionably committed genocidal crimes in Kosmet, including those among the ranks of the Albanians. Serbia must energetically, through all international forums and the Hague tribunal, demand the trial of Albanian war criminals because she has also begun to try her own Serbian war criminals. If the Hague tribunal does not undertake more significant action with respect to these issues, it will be a sign that permanent terrorism and extremist by Albanian extremist groups is free to continue unpunished in Kosmet.

(xix) It is essential to carry out the operationalization of standards in such a way that it is exactly known who is responsible for what, by when it must be implemented and by when a certain level of standards is to be achieved. It is necessary to establish a mechanism for following progress in the attainment of a certain level of standards. It is unacceptable to allow the SRSG himself to assess whether a result has been achieved or not. For that very reason, the Contact Group, together with Belgrade and UNMIK, should follow progress toward achievement of standards on a monthly basis, and submit a quarterly report regarding same to the UN Security Council and Secretary-General.

(xx) There can be no discussion regarding the status of Kosmet until all provisions of UNSC Res. 1244 are implemented, and full respect for the Military-Technical Agreement, the Constitutional Framework and the Agreement on Cooperation between Yugoslavia and UNMIK are ensured.

We cannot discuss the final status of Kosovo and Metohija until appropriate standards of multiethnic life are achieved, and this is to a great extent dependent on the conscience of the citizens and politicians leading them. What is important to us is constant tracking of the actual situation and progress so that meeting of certain criteria is realized by a date when it will be possible to discuss a date for the beginning of dialog on the status of Kosmet.

It is essential that all subjects understand that it is very dangerous to force any type of solution for the final status of Kosovo and Metohija. No matter how absurd it may sound, time the great protector of us all. Otherwise, we will divide everything and draw new borders only to find ourselves once again drawn into new dangerous and bloody conflicts that bring destruction, not integration and progress.

It is time for the Serbs and the Albanians, as well as the Macedonians and all other peoples in the Balkans, to think a little bit on their possible future fate on the basis of their experience in the recent past. The basic experience is that no annexation of territory, no change of border have resulted in greater economic power or progress but in destruction, devastation, enormous human and material losses, and poverty. The accent of our future should be within the framework of solutions based on the integrative processes of the Western Balkans. After all UNSC Res. 1244 and the international troops are here partially due to future integrations and the control of that process.

 Otherwise there is a danger that the leaders of the majority population in Kosmet will not allow a large number of displaced and expelled persons to return there, to their own land and their own homes. If that is the case, it will turn out that the prerequisite for the new Kosovo was the crime of ethnic cleansing. I am convinced that the international community will not support leaders and residents who reject the norms of the civilization that waged war for them.


(The text was presented by Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Nebojsa Covic at the press conference in Belgrade, July 22, 2003)

Translation: S. Lazovic

[1] The official name of the southern Serbia's Province is used throughout the text. Kosovo and Metohija (pronounced as Kossovo and Metóchya) is often abbreviated as KOSMET.

[2] Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)

[4] Badinter Commission, a group of European jurists set up in 1991 by the European Union to arbitrate disputes and establish criteria for recognition of independence for the former Yugoslav republics. The Arbitration Commission became known as the Badinter Commission after the name of the French lawyer (Robert Badinter) appointed as its president. Badinter commission's report [at the time of the collapse of former Yugoslavia] says that Serbia should remain within its [legal] boundaries, i.e. including Kosovo and Vojvodina autonomous provinces.

[5] AVNOJ: Antifasisticko Vijece Narodnog Oslobodjenja Jugoslavije (Anti-fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia), the government body of Tito's partisans that in 1943 declared formation of the new Yugoslavia and in 1945 determined borders of the republics within that are now, with exception of Montenegro, considered international borders. According to this mapping Kosovo and Metohija Province was an integral part of Republic of Serbia, and not a separate Republic. Although the Province, according to the 1974 Constitution was allowed to have direct representatives in the Federal Parliament too, Kosovo nevertheless remained a province of Serbia and never became a separate Republic.

[6] See UNSC Resolution 1244, Annex 2, 6

[7] So called "Haekkerup-Covic Agreement", signed on November 5, 2001

[9] Constitutional Framework, May 15, 2001: http://www.unmikonline.org/constframework.htm

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