by Fr. Sava (Janjic)
The recent attack by several hundred violent Kosovo Albanians against elderly Serbs in the western Kosovo city of Pec has done enormous damage to already poor relations between Kosovo's communities. For many Kosovo Serbs this is yet another indicator that peaceful coexistence between the communities is hardly possible as long as Kosovo lives under the shadow of ethnic Albanian extremists fighting for the creation of an ethnically cleansed Albanian province. Such Kosovo would be even less attractive for potential Western investors because no one is ready to invest money in a society dominated by ethnic violence and insecurity. Probably the worst damage has been to the efforts of international community which haplessly tries to create conditions for normal life of all citizens. Until recently, UNMIK officials jeeringly dismissed desperate Serb reports on violations of human rights and ethnic Albanian violence as exaggerated and misleading. Every foreign official who visited Kosovo in recent months was proudly informed that the level of violence had substantially decreased and that Kosovo institutions were showing maturity in conducting everyday business. Unfortunately, the brutal attack of the Albanian mob in Pec demonstrated quite the opposite. Kosovo is not only insecure for Kosovo Serbs but also for international peacekeepers, who were recently showered with stones and Molotov cocktails while trying to protect elderly Serb civilians in the streets of Pec. One soldier sustained serious burns while at least seven international policemen suffered injuries. This attack is regrettably not the only recent attack on international policemen and soldiers. On August 15, Albanian demonstrators attacked police and peacekeepers in Decani. The riots ended with more than 40 people injured. Only a few days later, on August 29, Kosovo Albanians opened fire on a group of Serb farmers and the Italian soldiers protecting them in Gorazdevac, 10 km east of Pec. For almost four hours the peacekeepers were exposed to Albanian machine gun fire during which one soldier was injured and several KFOR vehicles were destroyed. Despite a thorough investigation, the perpetrators of this attack were not brought to justice. As usual, the Albanian extremists made sure there were no witnesses who would dare testify in court against the powerful clans.
Two opposite realities in Kosovo
In the meantime dozens of new attacks occurred on Serb community which is feeling increasingly insecure before the growing tide of Kosovo Albanian extremism. Every time the UNMIK officials proclaimed "urbi et orbi" that the situation in Kosovo was improving, the very next day their claim would be disproved by a new incident. Why is there such discrepancy between bleak reality and official UNMIK reports and assessments? One of the most important reasons are the efforts of UNMIK officials to cover up their failures in Kosovo by depicting the situation in a rosy light before the world media while doing little or nothing to actually improve conditions in which Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanian communities live. A second reason is the bureaucracy to which UNMIK, like any other organization, is not immune. Local officials bent on justifying their salaries often send stylized, unrealistic reports to their superiors who do the same before their respective governments. By the time they reach Brussels or New York, these reports have lost the remotest resemblance to reality. The logic on which these reports and assessments are based is frequently quite grotesque. For instance, a city is considered to be safe for Serbs if no attacks on the Serb community have occurred there in the last several months. One such city is Pec, despite the fact that the reason for the "stable situation" there is that all Serbs were expelled from Pec by Albanians three years ago with an exception of 24 sisters of the Pec Patriarchate who live in complete isolation under KFOR protection. Because Pec is considered to be a relatively safe city for Serbs, 45 helpless, elderly Serbs were brought there recently to get their pensions, just like in normal times. The result of this experiment “in vivo” is well known. Following the same logic it is possible to say that Djakovica is completely safe for Chinese people, for example. No one can really say that this is not true because not one Chinese person has ever been attacked in this town, perhaps because they have never lived there at all.
Hostages of ethnic Albanian extremism
Caught between Kosovo Albanian violence and UNMIK bureaucracy, the Serb community is finding it more and more difficult to survive with each passing day. Sometimes Serbs cannot say what bothers them more, the Albanian bullets and stones or the hypocrisy of some international bureaucrats who invest greater efforts in embellishing the sad situation that in making substantive improvements in living conditions for non-Albanians. One of the main problems which is seriously hampering the efforts of UNMIK and NATO in Kosovo is the fear of conflict with the ethnic Albanians. This is the sword of Damocles hanging over the entire Kosovo mission from day one. If they decided to deal more resolutely with the KLA militants who survived the postwar period as war heroes, UN and NATO might land themselves in a debacle similar to Somalia. If, on the other hand, they continue tolerating Albanian extremism, minimizing its impact on the overall situation, Kosovo will ultimately develop into the main drug and terrorist base and become a cancer for the European Union in near future. Perhaps the worst mistakes were made in the beginning of the Mission when, under the strong influence of the Clinton Administration and its “hawks”, NATO and its European allies accepted the KLA as bona fide “freedom fighters” who would help them to overthrow Milosevic. After the war the "freedom fighters" had to be quickly pacified and they were turned overnight into so called Kosovo Protection Corps, officially a civilian emergency organization but in reality nothing but the KLA in disguise. The Corps received ample funds and training; despite this, instead of becoming peaceful citizens almost all of its commanders have been suspended by UNMIK or have already been arrested for instigating Albanian insurrection in Western Macedonia or killing Serbs and Albanian dissidents after the war. Almost the entire former KLA elite is now on the famous Black List issued by U.S. President G.W. Bush, Jr. The war-time allies of the West also took advantage of the goodwill of their sponsors to become successful “businessmen”, exchanging their KLA fatigues for elegant Armani suits. They quickly divided Kosovo's drug, oil and prostitution markets among the most powerful clans, killing dozens of their former comrades who wanted “a piece of the pie” in the process. The result of this tragic mistake was disastrous. The UN Mission and KFOR are now the hostages of their former allies who are deciding in which direction Kosovo will go. After the most recent arrests of leading KLA warlords, the extremists are increasingly turning against their former sponsors, skillfully manipulating the sentiment of the ordinary people using myths and legends of the past. Those Kosovo Albanian leaders who are considered to be moderate must produce even more nationalist rhetorics in order to compete with their KLA opponents who already earned their laurels by killing Serbs. Ordinary Serbs can hardly find any difference between the two groups because both seem to agree that without Serbs it would be that much easier to divide up their interests.
What is the way out?
What is the way out from this deadlock? The only way is an overall change in international policy on Kosovo along with full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The international community must be as resolute as it was when it decided to confront Milosevic. Any unrealistic support for Kosovo's independence will further increase the appetites of the Kosovo Albanians who are growing more impatient each day as their wartime image as victims slowly fades due to ethnic violence and criminal activity. Kosovo society and its institutions cannot be built only for one community while the rest of population remains in despair. Independence with such a level of violence and criminal activity would be the most tragic venture yet of the international community.
Three years after the war, does Kosovo and Metohija have any credibility as a stable society? What are the economic prospects of a Province dominated by drug lords and armed clans which fail to see any common interest beyond the territory they control? Without normal relations with Belgrade and Skopje, Kosovo can hardly rely on impoverished Tirana or remain indefinitely on the payroll of the West. But how can relations with the rest of Serbia and Macedonia be improved if persecution of Serbs and Orthodox Christianity continues on a daily basis? These are the questions about which Kosovo Albanian politicians obviously think little. In fact, many of them see independence and political power they would eagerly grab as a front for their illegal transactions and enormous profits from drugs and prostitution. This will not be the first or the last example in the war-torn Balkans of politicians using their political power to further their selfish personal interests. Last but not least, what will be the justification of the international community before history if Kosovo one day becomes an ethnically cleansed, completely Albanian state? We must not forget that NATO bombed Serbia and Kosovo on the pretext of preserving multiethnicity and preventing Milosevic from creating an ethnically clean region. It would be quite embarrassing to allow the Kosovo Albanians to finish under a UN and NATO protectorate what not even Milosevic managed to do.
All these questions are completely legitimate because their answers will determine whether Kosovo will move towards European integration or Middle East chaos. One thing, nevertheless, remains quite certain: Kosovo cannot exist in a hostile surrounding which Albanian extremism is creating on the daily basis by attacking minority communities and testing the patience of the West. Therefore, those who must make a choice about the future are primarily the Kosovo Albanians themselves: they must either finally wake up from their postwar euphoria and begin reasonable cooperation with the regional centers in the process of integration or they will allow their extremists to create a pariah state which will be excluded and forgotten by the world like Albania during the rule of Enver Hoxha.
Fr. Sava (Janjic)