August 28, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 28-08-03

STATEMENT BY DR. COVIC AT THE SERBIAN PARLIAMENT SESSION

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

 


Statement by Dr Nebojsa Covic
Vice-President of the Government of the Republic of Serbia
and President of the Coordination Center of Serbia and Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohia
at the session of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia
Belgrade, 27 August 2003.



Esteemed Ms Chairperson, esteemed national deputies,

Let us call things by their proper name: the situation in Kosovo and Metohia is bad. Now it is clear to many around the world that in Kosovo and Metohia one humanitarian disaster has been replaced by another, that this kind of caring for one people, meant a tragedy for the other. The self-proclaimed Kosovo Liberating Army, among them well-known crimes who have expelled 250.000 Serbs and other non-Albanians, have changed uniforms and insignia, have integrated into the institutions of the new Kosovo order, although everything within it remained unchanged: the policy of separatism, violent acts, endemic hatred for Serbs.
The policy advocated by the democratic government of Serbia, the historical reconciliation of Serbs and Albanians, is still considered in certain Albanian circles a dangerous idea!
The Hague Tribunal has not yet indicted the KLA leaders for many doubtless crimes, for genocide, for ethnic cleansing of the Province and for expelling Serbs and Roma.
Under Kouchner's, Haekkerup′s, and especially Steiner's administration, KFOR and UNMIK seldom entered into conflicts with the policy of the militant Albanians. This should be understood to mean more than just inertia and less than programmed acting. Fear has silenced numerous international officials, who became hostages of Albanian separatism and terrorism. For reasons of their personal security they attempt not to turn the rage of Albanian executors against themselves, and that is why Serbs and Roma are not returning to their homes in Kosovo and Metohia. That is why the existential danger persists for the remaining Serbs and Roma in Kosovo and Metohia and why their uncertainty is growing.
This is the situation that today the National Assembly is to express its opinion on. On the ways out. On the Serbian state and national response to the situation in Kosovo and Metohia.

I have no intention to justify the text of the Declaration on Kosovo and Metohia, into which some of my own ideas and considerations have been built, just as ideas and considerations of many others. I believe that the Declaration is a good document, and justifying good documents means expressing doubts on their persuasiveness. I intend to explain the political context and the time in which the Parliament of the state of Serbia is adopting the Declaration on Kosovo and Metohia.

I

Our discussion today must not be poisoned by «historicism», nor any other ideological or party legacies which have historically spoiled the efforts of earlier generations of Serbian politicians. I will therefore just briefly present my view of relations prevailing in the multiethnic Serbia before the 5th October 2000.

Why do I do this? To describe the wasteland in national and state policy left behind the defeated regime; to state the steps that we are taking to prevent national and state interests.

Religious and national antagonisms during the rule of Slobodan Milošević were so great and of such kind, that only utmost political caution and utmost balance on behalf of statesmen could have counted on small victories which might in the sum-total yield an acceptable result. Milošević, regretfully, opted for the argument of force instead of for the force of arguments. In Kosovo and Metohia, where Albanians are the majority population, he was dealing with deeply rooted and primitive Albanian extremism and separatism, which changed its old Stalinist-style nature and transformed into a fight for territories masked by slogans of a fight for national, civilian and political rights. Instead of looking for allies in balanced and moderate Albanians, he decided to abolish the autonomy of the province and thereby turned the whole Albanian community against himself and against Serbia. By this imprudent act, he gave credit to all those who created the stereotypes of Albanian deprivation of rights in Kosovo and Metohia and told the international community that he is not interested in its complaints.
The Albanians, of course, became self-organized. They were driven out of institutions, they created their own para-state which was financed to a great extent by dirty money, through trafficking of drugs, weapons, cigarettes and human beings. Big money, of course, created big lobbies, joined by some western politicians, some businessmen, some media, and some intellectuals of influence. The Albanian separatist movement, exploiting the tactical mistakes of Serbian politics, managed in the international public and among the international community to mask its principal national objectives - the creation of Greater Albania, by alleged fight for human rights.

What could the then head of the state of Serbia and Yugoslavia expect after that? Just a continued stylization of Serbs, as oppressors of Albanian civil and national rights, as intruders on European serenity, meaning a back-feed effect of a nation which has no respect for other nations and which does not uphold European or international standards.
Milošević, Ladies and Gentlemen, provided the excuse for separatists and extremists and this, it seems to me, is his worst result and the worst service to Serbian state interests. There was nobody any longer in the western world ready to hear of the permanent Albanian terror against Serbs and, for instance, of the demographic explosion, in which he and his followers wanted to see only a result of collective planned expansion of Albanians.
Many institutions of the western world, which meka decisions on international affairs and relations, many influential individuals, began to overlook the ethnic hatred in the political efforts of militant Albanians, began to be silent of their crimes, and to exacerbate and dramatize evil deeds by individuals of Serb nationality. Just make a little linguistic analysis, look at the names used in recent years in the West to denote Albanian terrorists. They are rebels, they are «armed groups of ethnic Albanians», but never, and in no way, terrorists. This cliché persists even today, so those who shoot at Serb army or police may not be denoted as terrorists but as "forest thieves".

Numerous times I have said to my Western collocutors that terrorism means spreading fear by violent means, and I asked them: Gentlemen, what do you call spreading fear by violent means? Does the ethnic background of the victim decide whether a crime is named terrorism? Why the euphemisms? They responded that the Serb position is weak and that this fact says it all. This response leads us to the next consideration and the answer to the question: What did the new democratic government in Serbia had to do after 5th October, and what is it doing now?

II

The new government first asked itself what its realistic chances are to participate in resolving the problems in Kosovo and Metohia. The answer was: little, almost none.

Nobody in the world, not even super powers, can resolve problems without constantly bearing in mind the prevailing international public opinion, the attitude in the surroundings, its own geo-strategic objectives, financial potentials and flows. We should have, therefore, first enlarged our potentials in order to be able to deal with prejudices against Serbs. We should have freed ourselves of old misconceptions and shortcomings, the first on the list being our myth-mania and the need to exaggerate our own power, the need to put ourselves into the center of global politics, and to lose old alleys from that world.
In other words, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have not only been untrue to others, but often and much also to ourselves.

The end to this period of slowdown and national humiliation had to be marked with a powerful statement, repeated by many officials of the new government, that renouncing war means in no way means renouncing the protection of historical rights of the state of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohia.

The new policy of the state of Serbia consisted of searching for paths between force and submission to force, or finding one′s way in the complex world of fierce controversies.
In the «invisible book-keeping» of the international diplomacy we were marked as persons of spite, people who do not understand that favors in international relations are always granted by counting on counter-favors. It was an imperative to change this stereotype of spiteful Serbs and we have therefore tried, without fear of the international community, in formulating our demands and in offering concessions, to be clear and positive, not to promise what we can not fulfill, not to go beyond the limits of our strength, to present ourselves to international institutions as a dedicated and reliable, cooperative partner and an alley in building regional stability. This new policy resulted in resolving the crisis in southern central Serbia, in the Pčinj district, so we had hoped that this, once tested and proven model, will be applied also to the situation in Kosovo and Metohia. Regretfully, in the Southern province, where the protectorate of the international community had been established, nothing, or very little, depended on us. However, irrespective of this, the very difficult task began by establishing the Coordination Center for Kosovo and Metohia, the state body charged not only with taking care of the destiny of the Serb community remaining in the province and pushed into enclaves, taking care of Serb and non-Albanian refugees and displaced persons from Kosovo and Metohia, but also with being the permanent, goodwill assistance to the civilian mission of the United Nations and to KFOR forces.

III

The Coordination Center for Kosovo and Metohia was established at the joint session of the governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia, on 2nd August 2001. Its responsibilities are specified in the Program for Implementation of the Resolution of the United Nations Security Council No 1244, ratified by the Government of Serbia on 2nd October the same year.

During the two years of existence we have been dedicated in our strife to the return of refugees and displaced persons, to resolving the destiny of the kidnapped. Due to well known circumstances, due to the growing fear among Serbs and lack of readiness by UNMIK and KFOR to decisively protect them, we have managed to provide the return to the province for only four hundred eighty-four refugees, to Grabac, Biča, Osojane, Belo Polje, Mušnikovo, Novaci and Sredska. For the returnees we have provided assistance in building houses and infrastructure, in providing livestock, agricultural machinery, fresh food supplies, equipping schools, infirmaries, medical centers and universities, and other existential needs.
A lot has been done in the field of protecting the Serbian cultural heritage. Nine monasteries, fourteen churches and three parochial residences have been rehabilitated, restored and reconstructed, and assistance has been provided for building of six new churches. Right now, several sacral monuments, three monasteries, four churches and six secular monuments of culture are being restored.

209 bodily remains of missing persons buried in mass graves in Kosovo and Metohia have been exhumed, and 57 have been identified and handed over to their families.

By employing labour from Serb settlements, we tried to rehabilitate buildings damaged in the earthquake that struck the Kosovosko Pomoravlje district on 24 April 2002. We have constructed 184 new buildings, of total area of 11.150 square meters, we have financed the reconstruction of 850 houses, some school buildings, health centers and parochial residence buildings, we have constructed fourteen kilometers of roads.

We have furnished 185 houses with new furniture.

Through the legal expertise of our teams we have assisted detainees who – mostly before majority Albanian court councils, without valid procedures were sentenced to high terms in prison – and we have managed for twenty-one person to get release verdicts. Our expert assistance was available also to those against whom charges were made, and we provided bail money.

We took care of humanitarian relief. We have provided and distributed 286 tons of seed wheat, 1.906 tons of artificial fertilizer, 460 tons of seed corn, 270 tons of seed potatoes and 3.000 fruit seedlings. Finally, we have dispatched 139.000 humanitarian relief packages with food and hygienic supplies - 62.325 tons of flour, two tons of edible oil, 4.002 cubic meters of wood for heating.

The important and successful part of the activities of the Coordination Center, in my opinion, is our participation in international conferences. As President of the Coordination Center, I have spoken at 24 such gatherings. Five times I have participated in the work of the UN Security Council, and for two sessions I submitted my statements.

Our representatives were also present at the meetings of the High Ranking Working Group.
We have signed thirteen agreements and protocols, the most important being the Common Document – Agreement on the Cooperation between Yugoslavia and UNMIK, of 5 November 2001.

Finally, I shall say this: 23 sessions of the Coordination Center have been held, with comprehensive consideration of the situation in Kosovo and Metohia and our obligations to our people.

I have mentioned these facts so that you could know how we defended the national and state interests of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohia, and how we attempted to improve the living conditions of Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohia. Far from any kind of utopia or masochism, our policy had to be moderate and pragmatic, by allowable means, strictly within international and generally accepted rules of UNSC Resolution 1244. In public confrontations, statements and interviews to the media, in pronouncing our attitudes at political and other gatherings, our approach was free of warlike rhetoric, in peaceful terms we explained what actually happened in Kosovo and Metohia and what our interests are.

IV

And what did happen there?

In Kosovo and Metohia, there was a clash of two rights: the Albanian ethnic right and the Serb historical right. I have been maintaining for quite a while that peace will come to this province only with the reconciliation of these two rights. This means that every policy of maximized demands must be defeated, irrespective of whose it is, Serb or Albanian.
The proponents of Albanian maximized demands have already sketched the map of their future state and in their blind, anachronical fights for territories they already see the south central Serbia and almost all of Macedonia as parts of ethnically cleansed Kosovo. Just until yesterday, it practically seemed as if all the pieces were in place for making this plan materialize: Richard Hallbrook shook hands with terrorists and encouraged them to create their own army. The leaders of this army became protégées of NATO and favorites of many Western politicians who had the opportunity, by helping Muslims in Kosovo, to prove that they are not sworn enemies to Islam. Before the eyes of Milošević, and before the eyes of his wrongly applied military and police force which has withdrawn, Serbia temporarily lost sovereignty over Kosovo and Metohia. Albanian politicians from the Kosovo Protection Corps, which is just another name for KLA, and those from the Albanian National Army, which is yet another name for KLA, believe that this was once and for all. They defend their conclusion by cruel violence, sure that the hallo-effect of Serbs as evil-doers, created by the chosen media at the time of the armed conflict in Kosovo and Metohia will persist. Many have built their careers on this coarse, black-and-white division to good and bad guys, to victims and perpetrators. Even today, they strongly cling to such divisions, despite the fact that those who had once been victims, although they ceased to be so a long time ago, have taken the road of violence and crime. They strive to maintain their careers and influence by maintaining this virtual image of the past suffering of one nation in Kosovo and Metohia, and by providing a «logical» explanation that crimes against Serbs and non-Albanians happen as retaliation caused by their attacks and provocations. Even the recent abominable murder of Serb children in Goraždevac, which shocked the world, was not spared such attempts to now place these new victims and these new perpetrators in the same plane and demonstrate that in Kosovo and Metohia everybody is attacking everybody, and that a division between victims and perpetrators no longer exists.

ANA is now making efforts to destabilize southern Serbia, to impose itself as an actor of making and resolving the Balkan crisis, of preventing the accession of Serbia and Montenegro to NATO, and to entangle in this fight as many countries of south-east Europe as possible, in order to make the world, in an attempt to achieve a final stabilization of the Balkans, to opt for its maximizing ambitions.

It is sure that there are politically reasonable and balanced Albanians, and it might be that there are those who do not approve of using force. But they are intimidated, I believe, or indecisive in their belief; anyway, there is an impression that all in Kosovo and Metohia are united, and that the leaders of the Albanian National Army, surrounded by "dogs of war", murderers from Mujahedin and other formations, speak the mind of the whole nation.
Such unity is not present even in traces in Serbia, in Belgrade.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in Belgrade you will get many different answers to the question what to do with Kosovo and Metohia and in respect to Kosovo and Metohia.

The most fastidious attitude is this: Kosovo is a stone tied around Serbia's neck, and it should get rid of this stone as soon as possible. Serbia, allegedly, can not enter the European Union with lost sovereignty over one part of its territory and therefore, for reasons of progress, for reasons of the future, it should decide for a painful amputation of the province.

I will illustrate one more example of political extreme. To resolve inter-ethnic issues, to calm down secession rebellions and uprisings – say the proponents of using force – it takes fierceness and toughness. Allegedly, those who make decisions on everything, including decisions on changing or not changing borders, are tyrants and they know only of force! They will not respect us if we continue to fight for our interests by mild and inefficient appeals, resolutions and declarations.

Others persuade us that what remains in Kosovo and Metohia is just a little of fictitious and symbolic sovereignty, therefore we should immediately accept for Kosovo and Metohia to become the third republic within the already loose union presently called Serbia and Montenegro.

Others yet provide proof that Albanians do not need ANA, that producing fear among Serbs and non-Albanians in the province is unnecessary. Albanians will defeat us by an unprecedented high birth rate, we will be defeated by the «white plague», and in a decade or two, whether we want it or not, we will have to share our state with them. We should therefore, they argue, immediately opt for the division of Kosovo and Metohia.
There are also those who propose that we should fight for a Serbian autonomy within Albanian autonomy.

The next send us a message that it would be most opportune to accept a broad independence of Kosovo and Metohia, and whatever is the name of the province in the future, get in it – under international treaties – exterritorial status for monasteries (like the monastic state of Sveta Gora on mount Athos) and the right to self-governing political communities such as exist in Europe, where Serbs live and where they were political majority.

I have no intention of listing all proposed approaches, as the preceding ones are sufficient to draw a conclusion: in discussing Kosovo and Metohia, Serbs move from concern to indifference, from emotions to dry rationality, from superficial to analytical approaches.
Esteemed national deputies, we do not have this possibility – without awaiting the sentence that history will pronounce – to be just emotional or just rational. We, in fact, have to be accountable both to our predecessors and to our descendants.

V

What should this accountability be demonstrated in? primarily in our dedication that we must not make even one single decision that our descendants, when they are in a position to make decisions, would assess as a hasty and regretfully final solution, a product of actors immature for the historical task. If to our collocutors, Albanians and the international community, we can not by force of arguments impose solutions that would provide protections for the Serb historical rights, it would be the best and most appropriate to keep the Serb issue open until the establishment of such an international constellation in which a just and lasting solution for the issue of Kosovo and Metohia will be possible.
We have not yet come to this decisive discussions on rights, and by putting it off for the future, we must decide on the deadlines. When will we discuss the final status of Kosovo and Metohia?

I see as a good decision the one made with the approval of relevant actors of the international community and the European Union on the so-called final solution for Kosovo and Metohia.

We support the implementation of adopted standards of human and national rights before initiating discussions on the final status of Kosovo and Metohia. If extremism and terrorism today dictate the conditions of negotiations on the future of Kosovo and Metohia, if a terrorist is a negotiator, tomorrow the extremists and terrorists will be making decisions also in other regions of south-east Europe. And elsewhere, too. This will set a precedent, dangerous not only to the interests of the Serb nation, but also to the interests of other nations in the Balkan peninsula.

You might ask me how long we need to wait for democratic and European standards to be in exercised in Kosovo and Metohia? Shall we wait ten more years, if it does not happen in ten years? Will the Albanians wait?

As you know, we are adopting the Declaration on Kosovo and Metohia after the changes of leading officials of the international administration in Priština. A Special Representative of the Secretary General has left, who will be remembered among Serbs as an Albanian supporter. A politician of integrity has replaced him, who we believe will be unprejudiced, not biased in favor of one side or the other, neither Serb not Albanian, but who will make judgments according to justice and according to his responsibilities. It is natural to grant this gentleman, Harri Holkeri, as much time as his service grants him to achieve what his predecessors failed to achieve.

Is it possible in one year to achieve the standards that I am speaking of? Is it possible, after that, in negotiations on the final status, to come to a compromised and sustainable solution? It all depends on the readiness of the international community to apply its own decisions in Kosovo and Metohia. I believe that today there is more such readiness than there was yesterday, but I do not know whether there will be enough of it to undertake a comprehensive investigation regarding the Kosovo protection Corpse, in order to dismantle the stronghold of terrorists, to send the perpetrators to the Hague, to discourage extremists, to enable 250.000 refugees to return to their homes.

Such questions, I admit, even in tireless optimists, stir reasonable chills and due unrest.
There is, however, also something that provides ground for hope and increased certainty that the future need not be as cruel and uncertain as the present is. With such positive sentiment I have read the Memorandum of the Serbian Orthodox Church on Kosovo and Metohia which ends with a strong call for a peaceful and prosperous co-existence of Serbs, Albanians and all other communities who used to live and should live in Kosovo and Metohia:
I quote: ‘'Why would not Kosovo and Metohia, as a holy land of the Balkans, be common land and region (a Slavic word which also means governance) of Serbs and Albanians, Christians and Muslims, two nations, two languages, two religions, two cultures, just as in the case of - mutatis mutandis – the Holy Land is for the Israelis and the Palestinians. America is supporting such living together and co-existence in the Holy Land. Why would it not also support the same idea in this holy land as well, for the sake of God, for the sake of people and nations, for the sake of sacrileges and for the sake of freedom?''

Ladies and gentlemen, if today we adopt the Declaration on Kosovo and Metohia, as it is written, we may make it known to the whole world that the most responsible representatives of the state and of the Church have reached an agreement on principles of fighting for a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional and multi-cultural society. The priorities of such a strife are the care of the destiny of missing persons, providing conditions for a sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons, guaranteed freedom of movement and security, protection and impeccable status of property and, finally, the process of decentralization which we see as a protection of the collective status of the Serb community.
Before us is a long and difficult road. Each step that we make must be well considered and balanced, despite provocations and challenges possible on this road. On this road, we must be decisive, wise and patient. And above all, united.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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