October 20, 2002
of Raska and Prizren:
"I understand Belgrade's position in allowing us to decide for ourselves and thus freeing itself of responsibility. They, too, are aware that Serbs in Kosmet cannot survive alone nor do they want to resolve the issue of the status of Kosovo and Metohija on their own. Sooner or later, this will have to be done by our country with the participation of both Serbs and Albanians from Kosmet. In any case, this is a part of our country and we expect not only their help but also their protection and their willingness to accept responsibility for what happens to us."
Translation: S. Lazovic, KDN
EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL IN KOSOVO?
18 October 2002
By Valentin Kunin,
Moscow has sharply condemned mass riots in the Kosovo city of Pec which were provoked on the basis of national intolerance by supporters of the leading political parties of Kosovo Albanians. The incident occurred next to the city bank building where serveral hundred Albanians attacked a bus with 50 elderly Serbs who came to claim their pensions. The Albanians showered the bus with stones and Molotov cocktails. Stones and flaming bottles also flew at members of the UN police, who with difficulty managed to protect the elderly Serbs and break up the raging mob.
The incident involving the Albanian extremists was decisively condemned by the UN, whose representative in Kosovo, Michael Steiner, described it as a “shameful, repugnant and provocative protest”. According to Steiner, “serious damage to the image of Kosovo in the eyes of the world community” is everything the extremists gained as a result of the incident.
In general, however, it is the opinion of both Steiner and the command of the peacekeeping troops in Kosovo (KFOR) and the leadership of the UN civil mission in the province, events in the city of Pec were only a random individual incidents on a background of “democratic transformations” which are unfolding in Kosovo and “obvious progress” realized during the three years that NATO peacekeepers have been in the province. In connection with this we are reminded of the well-known statement of the high commissioner for foreign policy and security of the European Union, Javier Solana, who once said that “everything is going wonderfully in Kosovo”.
If we do not peek behind the curtain of events in Kosovo, we might be justified in concluding that formal bases for statements of this sort do exist. It is true that there is hardly any shooting going on anymore in Kosovo. Under the auspices of OSCE and the UN civil mission, municipal, presidential and parliamentary elections have been held here. That is, all essential government structures have been created in Kosovo. The fact that these government structures were created on a foundation of Albanian nationalism is something European officials care little about and speak about even less. They do not talk about it because if they did they would have to remember quite a few fairly uncomfortable facts. If nothing else, they would recall that thousands of Serb homes and about 70 Orthodox churches and medieval monasteries, many of them from European and world culural heritage lists, still lie in ruins.
All this is the result of the naked terror by terrorists of the so-called KLA who entered Kosovo in the summer of 1999 under the shield of the NATO peacekeeping contingent. Units of this openly terrorist organization, formed with money from the Albanian drug mafia with the practical indulgence of the KLA, over the course of many months in organized fashion beat up and killed Serbs, destroyed and set on fire their homes.
And as a result of this ethnic cleansing without precedent, over 200,000 Serbs, Gypsies, Macedonians were forced to flee from Kosovo. Serving as one of the illustrations of this tragedy, consider the fact that before the NATO “peacekeeping operation” in Kosovo, 45,000 Serbs lived in the provincial capital, Pristina. Today there are only a handful of them left and even they are not safe.
The rest of the Kosovo Serbs live in ghettoes of a sort from which they leave only with an escort of UN police. There are few people who dare to live in this way. In any case, in three years fewer than 3,000 people have returned to their ancient homes.
In this situation, we have every basis to assess statements about some kind of“democratic transformations” in Kosovo and the realization of basic provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 as nothing but demagoguery pure and simple.
As is well-known, this resolution clearly states that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia and Yugoslavia. However, the same Hashim Thaci who is a former terrorist and head of the KLA and now is the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo which he created and which won second place in the parliamentary elections has never hidden nor hides today that his primary goal was and remains the proclamation of the independence of Kosovo and the secession of the province from Yugoslavia. This goal is also proclaimed by the man elected as Kosovo president, so-called “moderate nationalist” Ibrahim Rugova.
Kosovo government head Bajram Rexhepi also speaks openly regarding the separatist plans of the Kosovo Albanians. In one of his interviews he openly declared that he “sees Kosovo as a part of the process of regional and Euro-Atlantic integration at all levels”.
It is interesting that even the head of the UN civil mission, Michael Steiner, has practically shown solidarity with such statements. In any case, this highly placed official states that he does not see anything strange in the desire of the Kosovo Albanians to join the European Union, i.e., he does not exclude the possibility of Kosovo seceding from Yugoslavia, since only a sovereign state can aspire to association with the European Union.
This position is more than strance considering the fact that the chief task of Michael Steiner is to ensure the realization of Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosovo.
(Translated from Serbian by S. Lazovic, Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Martyrs - Srdjevdan, October 20, 2002)
COMMENT: ARE KOSOVO SERBS
REALLY MAKING PROGRESS, MR HASELOCK?
For the sake of clarity I inserted my short comments to Mr. Haselock statements between his paragraphs (bold red text). Mr. Haselocks's text with my comments therefore cannot be reproduced under the IWPR name because it has not been published in this form. To our readers who do not receive their messages in HTML form, I suggest to read the the attached text in MS Word format.
Fr. Sava Janjic
Kosovo Serbs Making Progress
By Simon Haselock in Pristina (BCR No 374, 17-Oct-02)
Fr. Sava: Conditions for Kosovo Serbs may be called less bad in some aspects but are far from essential improvement. Kosovo Serbs, generally speaking, still live in desperate conditions.
Last week's mob violence against elderly Serbs in Pec/Peje was, in the words of Special Representative Michael Steiner, "deplorable, disgraceful and disgusting".
The attack on group, who had come simply to collect their pensions, damaged Kosovo's image in the eyes of the world and threatens the hard work on returns, multi- ethnicity and integration done by UNMIK, KFOR, representatives of minority communities and many Albanians.
Some have claimed the attack demonstrates nothing has improved for Kosovo Serbs, but the incident was in fact an aberration.
Fr. Sava: This attack is regrettably not the only recent attack on Serbs and 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, armed 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 wounded and several KFOR vehicles were damaged. In fact, the incident in Pec was not an aberration but a symptom of inadequate security not only for Kosovo Serbs but for internationals as well.
In the past several months, we have achieved substantial progress in virtually every area - a trend not always reflected in comments from the Kosovo Serb leadership. In an article for IWPR, for instance, Father Sava of Decani Monastery recently wrote,
"Rendered lethargic by bureaucracy and by fear of conflicts with Albanian extremists, it [UNMIK] has hypocritically ignored the problems of the Serb community, insisting its mission be declared a success before the basic tenets of a democratic and free society are established."
No one in UNMIK or the international community can ever be satisfied with the progress we've made. Of course, we all wish for more rapid improvement.
Father Sava goes on to write, "Three years after the end of the war and the arrival of the UNMIK mission and KFOR, the Kosovo Albanians have not managed to present a vision of a democratic society to be enjoyed by all citizens regardless of their ethnicity."
This is beginning to change. While we have not yet realised our vision of a pluralist society, some senior Kosovo Albanian leaders have taken real steps along that road. As recently as September 28, Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi told Vecernje Novosti that he backs the return of all displaced persons or IDPs of their own free will - a process UNMIK supports.
Fr. Sava: No one can deny the progress UNMIK has made in some fields, which deserves sincere commendation. The problem from the Kosovo Serb point of view, however, is that these positive changes have hardly affected the everyday life of Kosovo Serbs, who still live an isolated life in their enclaves without basic human rights and freedoms, particularly in Albanian inhabited areas. The best evidence of the prevailing Kosovo Albanian view of society can be seen in Kosovo’s cities which remain almost completely without a Serb population three years after the war simply because Serbs do not feel safe there, nor can they hold jobs and have a normal family life in hostile surroundings. The general trend is that Serbs may only return to rural areas where they remain protected by KFOR but not in to the cities where less and less Serbs remain. The recent rhetorics of K/Albanian politicians is generally not followed by actions because their local leaders continue to hold a discriminatory and hostile position towards the Serbs.
Still, it is true that Kosovo's Albanian majority has to go further in promoting an inclusive vision of the region. Continuing problems for local Serbs result not from a lack of concern or action on UNMIK's part, but mainly from the need for time to heal wounds, especially in those areas that witnessed the most violence in 1999.
Fr. Sava: Time may help the Kosovo Albanians and UNMIK but the Kosovo Serbs are well aware that the passage of time is not working to their advantage. The more time that passes without essential improvements in their living conditions, the less Kosovo Serbs feel encouraged to continue to live in Kosovo under the present state of affairs, let alone to return there.
Relations between Albanians and Serbs in eastern Kosovo are much improved since the war. But for areas such as the Pec/Peje region, it is only recently that the pursuit of multi-ethnicity and integration has become possible.
Fr. Sava: These statements do not correspond to the reality in which Kosovo Serbs in Eastern Kosovo and the Pec area are living. The recent incidents in Klokot and Vitina, as well as an extremely bad position of Serbs in the Pec area, can hardly be called an improvement. The situation may be called less bad than in the first post-war months but to call it an improvement is not the best way to describe the reality on the ground. Was the pursuit of multi-ethnicity and integration in that area dependent on the majority of the Serb and non-Albanian population first leaving?
The substantial progress in virtually every area of life is not reflected in Father Sava's comment. That progress is slower than we would all like, but it is real, tangible and promising.
Consider policing, justice and security. There are already 397 Serb officers in the Kosovo Police Service, KPS. Another 87 will finish their training in December. They are already patrolling in parts of the Pristina region, in some areas working with Albanian colleagues. By the end of the year Serb KPS should be patrolling in northern Mitrovica.
Fr. Sava: It is true that Kosovo Serb police officers participate in the KPS but the great majority of them can work normally only in Serb inhabited areas. The very fact that only a few UN sponsored Serb police officers dare to freely appear outside the Serb enclaves suggests that even UN personnel do not feel very safe, let alone the ordinary people. Recent abuses by the KPS Albanian officers who verbally humiliated the Serb Orthodox clergy near Pec is one example more that even KPS is not immune to ethnic hostility.
In July, UNMIK and the ministry of justice in Belgrade signed a joint declaration paving the way for the hiring of more Serb jurists. Over half of the people short-listed for 40 new openings for judges are Serbs.
Out of 52 murders in Kosovo over the past year, only one victim was Serb and the killing was not ethnically motivated. A second Serb woman died in a mine explosion at Klokot this week, but it is not yet clear who planted the mine.
Fr. Sava: Serb judges cannot normally work in Albanian areas simply because they cannot bring their families and move freely in either Pristina or Pec. Serb judges have worked normally in northern Kosovo where Serbs live and this is nothing new. It is also true that the murder rate is lower but this is not so much the consequence of improved security as of the isolation in which the Serbs live. Ordinary Serbs know well where they cannot move without the risk of being killed. If Serbs began freely intermingling with Albanians, the murder rate would skyrocket. Statistics can be misleading. More Englishmen are killed in London every month than Serbs in Kosovo. This does not mean that Serbs in Kosovo are safer than Englishmen in London.
In other areas too things have improved since last year. UNMIK is on track to fulfil a commitment to resolve the fate of approximately 4,000 missing people from all communities by the end of the year. Last year's general elections put 22 Serbs in the Kosovo assembly. And a Serbian university should soon be legalized under a pending law.
Fr. Sava: Serb deputies in the Parliament still travel under police escort to Parliament sessions and regularly complain of discrimination and unfair treatment. The leader of the Serbian Parliamentary caucus, Dr. Rada Trajkovic, confirms that Serb deputies are powerless to prevent the passage of discriminatory decisions or to enact any decision which will essentially improve the life of the Serb community. In fact, Serb deputies in the Parliament say that they feel more like window dressing in front of foreigners.
Cars with Yugoslav license plates can now park overnight in Pristina without anything happening to them. Serbian can now be heard on the city's streets. A couple of weeks ago, Steiner walked down Mother Theresa Street in central Pristina with a group of civic-minded Serb women from northern Kosovo. There were no incidents of any kind. In fact, some locals greeted the party in Serbian.
Freedom of movement is also improving. A train with connections to Belgrade runs from northern Kosovo to Skopje. UNMIK has offered Serbs free Kosovo license plates and an agreement with Belgrade is pending on recognition of the former.
Most checkpoints around the Serbian enclaves have been replaced by mobile patrols with no rise in incidents.
Fr. Sava: Mr. Haselock is choosing details which do not necessarily reflect the general situation. One can find many registration plates from Central Serbia in Kosovo but they are mostly from Albanian or Slav Moslem inhabited areas (Vranje, Presevo, Novi Pazar, Rozaje) because people from these regions handle most of the trade between Central Serbia and Kosovo. I remember that I freely walked in the streets of Pristina with Mr. Kouchner in 1999 after the war but also admit that I would never have availed myself of the opportunity to do so without body guards and civilian clad security nearby.
We still have far to go before we can say we have succeeded in transforming Kosovo into a place where all people can live in security and dignity. We have a vision, and not one seen through rose tinted spectacles, as some would argue, but one based on the reality of genuine progress on the ground.
Fr. Sava: I cannot help but agree with Mr. Haselock that we still have a long way to go before we transform Kosovo into a free place for all. Under the present institutional framework which does nothing to support long term conditions for the survival of the Kosovo Serb community and to fetter Kosovo Albanian extremism, it will take a very long time indeed.
Comments by Fr.
Service of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren