Information Service

October 23, 2002



Michael Steiner adopts key Serb demands after all, opening the road to decentralization of Kosovo and Metohija

Gracanica, October 23, 2002, 11:40 hours

The Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija headed by Bishop Artemije expressed support in last night’s statement for the decision to participate in municipal elections in Kosovo and Metohija in accordance with the recommendation of the state leadership. It is necessary to emphasize that this decision was not made due to an improvement in security conditions. On the contrary, the position of the Serb people in this region remains exceptionally difficult and we do not see any essential improvements. Nevertheless, the new development which was of decisive significance in making the decision to participate in elections was Mr. Steiner’s statement of two days ago in which he publicly expressed support for the idea of centralization, the creation of new municipal units and elections within a timeframe of six months for new municipal councils, which are some of our most critical conditions.

Even though Mr. Steiner’s statement does not represent a complete response to the demands of the Serb community for decentralization of Kosovo and Metohija, nevertheless, it comprises the key elements that demonstrate willingness to begin with this process in accordance with European standards on local self-government. Mr. Steiner’s statement is backed by the U.N. Security Council, which has the responsibility of guaranteeing the promise of the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General in Kosovo and Metohija.

Therefore, participation in elections by the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija would be, first and foremost, a vote for the process of decentralization and the creation of new municipal units for the purpose of creating Serb self-government at the local, regional and provincial levels. Consequently, it would be beneficial for as many Kosovo-Metohija Serbs as possible to participate in the elections, especially in areas where Serbs do not have institutional representation and majority, in order to create conditions for the building of new municipal structures in these areas. This is the best way for us to prevent marginalization by the majority as described by Mr. Steiner in the third point of his plan for Kosovska Mitrovica.

Let us vote where we already have institutional possibilities but let us also vote where we do not have them in order to get to institutions which will enable our survival and a ife of dignity. Let us vote now so that in six months we can vote again for our own municipalities!

Dr. Rada Trajkovic
Head of the Return (Povratak) Coalition Caucus
In the Kosovo and Metohija Parliament



Kostunica, Covic call on Kosovo Serbs to take part in local elections

October 22, 2002

Belgrade, Oct. 22, 2002 - Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Coordinating Centre for Kosovo-Metohija Head Nebojsa Covic met Kosovo Serb representatives in Belgrade late Monday to discuss the forthcoming provincial election.

Participants in the meeting discussed UNMIK Head Michael Steiner's statement on the steps he intends to take in the decentarlisation of Kosovo after the local provincial elections, and assessed that his statement clears the way for a certain, but insubstantial progress towards receiving guarantees for local self-government, read a statement issued by President Kostunica's office.

They also agreed that the remaining Serbs in Kosovo and the ones who were forced to leave the province should take part in the October 26 local elections, particularly in locations offering adequate security and institutional conditions. Serb participation in the local authorities in Kosovo depends on creating an appropriate concept of decentralisation, to be drawn up immediately after the elections.

The participants in the meeting reached the tough decision to call on the local Serb population to go to the polls hoping that the international community will make additional efforts of securing conditions for a massive return of displaced persons and recognition of human rights in Kosovo-Metohija, read the statement.


POLITIKA (Belgrade Daily)
Michael Steiner Calls For Talks

October 21, 2002

Pristina, – On Monday, UNMIK Chief, Michael Steiner, called on all the leaders of political parties and coalitions from Kosovo and Metohija, which are participating in the upcoming local elections, to attend the meeting on November 1st in Gnjilane with the agenda of decentralization. At the press conference in Pristina, Steiner said that the meeting, he would present his concept of decentralization, which makes the executive authority closer to the people, according to the seven-step plan and the constitutional frame from May 15th, 2001.

Steiner’s concept of decentralization includes several elements: local units will be able to be created for larger non-majority communities, and those municipal units would be able to have a local council, administrative organs, and budget.

The second element involves the concept of decentralization whereby municipal units could consist of one or more villages, settlements, or urban quarters.

The third element states that municipal units could be established on the ground of elected officials demands for municipal parliament, or petition from the local population in the areas with a significant participation of communities in the local elections.

The fourth element states that municipal units could have the right to establish the elementary and secondary education, primary health care, urban planning in the villages and cities, and the development of services and objects according to the municipality policy. They would be in charge of issues of local importance, allotment of public places for markets and stores, and in charge of other cultural and sports activities inside the municipality.

The fifth element in Steiner’s concept of decentralization states that municipal units would have a budget in accordance with the responsibilities and the size of the unit. “My position is that in the municipalities with a significant participation of non-majority communities in the elections, they would have more rights for executive posts in themunicipality’s authority.”


Prizren Administrator Attacked By Albanians

October 22, 2002

In Prizren, southern Kosmet, six Albanians beat up the deputy UNMIK administrator, Julian Bilbao, causing numerous injuries.
According to news agencies, special units of the UNMIK police intervened, and one policeman was slightly injured. All the perpetrators were arrested and criminal proceedings are to be instigated against them.


Another Ethnic Albanian Arrested Because Of Attack In Pec

Pec, 22 Oct - UNMIK police said it has arrested another ethnic Albanian, who is responsible for the attack two weeks ago in Pec when a group of some 600 ethnic Albanians attacked about 50 elderly Serbs from Osojane as well as UN police and KFOR protecting them.
This is the second ethnic Albanian arrested because of the incident.


PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, Oct 22 (AFP) - The first indictment in the war crimes case of three former Kosovo rebels is to be issued by the end of the year, chief UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said Tuesday.

Del Ponte did not release names or specifics concerning the cases against former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members who fought Yugoslav troops during the 1998-99 war.
"I will be ready with the first indictment before the end of the year and the other two next (year)," Del Ponte told reporters in Kosovo's capital, Pristina.
All three investigations were to have been completed this year but Del Ponte said two had been delayed due to witnesses' concerns about appearing in court.
"I had some difficulties about witnesses who were afraid to confirm what they had said previously and in particular to appear in court as witnesses," she said.
Del Ponte is visiting the region as part of ongoing war crimes investigations relating to the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

"We hope to finish our investigations by 2004 and that is why we are pressing all around in the Balkans," she said.
So far there have been no UN indictments against ethnic Albanians involved in alleged atrocities against ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, fuelling allegations of bias against the UN tribunal from the Serbian government.

During a one-day visit to Pristina, Del Ponte met UN administrator Michael Steiner and the commander of NATO-led forces in Kosovo (KFOR), Fabi Mini.
She is to travel to Sarajevo later Tuesday and will be in Zagreb on Wednesday.
Yugoslav forces under then-president Slobodan Milosevic launched a brutal crackdown on ethnic Albanian rebels in the southern province of Kosovo in 1998.
The war ended after a NATO bombing campaign forced the Yugoslav army to withdraw in 1999, and the mainly ethnic Albanian province has been under UN and NATO control ever since.


Associated Press (AP)
Kosovo Serbs decide to participate partially in municipal elections

Tue Oct 22, 3:58 PM ET By GARENTINA KRAJA,

Associated Press Writer

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia - Kosovo's Serb leaders said Tuesday that their ethnic community would participate - but only partially - in upcoming municipal elections that international officials hope will bridge divisions in this ethnically tense province.

The decision followed an overnight meeting in Belgrade between Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica (news - web sites) and leaders of Kosovo's Serb community. The talks were held to determine whether the Serb minority in ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo should vote in the elections on Saturday.

The province's ethnic Serbs had previously said they would not vote in protest of what they said was insufficient security and a lack progress in returning ethnic Serb refugees to Kosovo.

Thousands of Serbs fled the province after the 1999 war to escape revenge-seeking ethnic Albanians. They have repeatedly demanded more autonomy for the areas where they live.

Early Tuesday, the Kosovo Serbs announced they would take part in the poll after all, but only in the municipalities where they form a majority. They cited security concernsfor their decision.

"Under the circumstances, participation in the election process is a major problem for Serbs who fear for their security and who do not have freedom of movement," said Oliver Ivanovic, a Kosovo Serb leader. "Therefore, elections will be organized only in areas where Serbs have appropriate security and freedom of movement."

The decision was made after several rounds of talks between U.N. officials and Serb officials in Kosovo and Belgrade. The U.N. mission, which hopes to bring about ethnic reconciliation and functioning democratic institutions in Kosovo, wants Serbs to berepresented in local political offices.

Simon Haselock, the chief U.N. spokesman in Kosovo, indicated disappointment atthe decision. "The trouble with selective participation is that it leaves those in smaller communities completely in the lurch," he said. "How can they expect (refugee) returns to municipalities where there are no legitimate elected representatives to welcome hem?"

In a move to encourage Serbs to vote, the head of the U.N. mission to Kosovo, Michael Steiner, on Monday revealed elements of a "decentralization concept" that introduces municipal units as a way for minority communities to run some of their daily affairs.

Those municipal units, according to Steiner's proposal, would manage education, health care, urban and rural planning, and would have decision-making authority over markets, public spaces, cultural activities and sports.

The first municipal elections in 2000 were boycotted by Kosovo's Serb minority, but the community participated last year after international pressure and the drafting of a plan giving them wide participation in the provincial parliament.

About 90,000 ethnic Serbs remain in Kosovo. Most live in isolated enclaves, fearing ethnically motivated attacks by Kosovo Albanians seeking revenge for crimes committed against them during the province's 1998-1999 war. Some 230,000 Serbs fled Kosovo as a result of that conflict.

U.N. officials in the province argue that although the situation for the minorities is still recarious, their security is improving.


War crimes investigations facing difficulties with witnesses in Kosovo

Tue Oct 22, 1:46 PM ET By GARENTINA KRAJA,

Associated Press Writer

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia - The U.N. war crimes tribunal is facing difficulty bringing ethnic Albanian suspects in Kosovo to justice because witnesses fear testifying to the court, the chief U.N. prosecutor said Tuesday.

Carla Del Ponte indicated that investigations into war crimes committed during Kosovo's 1998-1999 war were hampered because some witnesses hesitated to confirm their initial testimonies made against the suspects.

"I have some difficulties (with) witnesses who fear to confirm what they have said previously - and particularly to appear in court as witnesses," she told reporters on a brief visit to the province. She did not elaborate.

Del Ponte was on a routine visit to the region aimed at pressing the governments of several Balkan countries to cooperate with the war crimes court in The Hague (news - web sites), which is trying former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (news - web
sites) on genocide and war crimes charges.

During a previous visit to Kosovo earlier this year, Del Ponte said that investigators in the province were hoping to finish their probes later this year into three cases involving suspects from the Kosovo Liberation Army, a rebel group that fought for the independence of the southern Yugoslav province.

On Tuesday, Del Ponte said she still believed that the court would be able to issue its first indictment against an ethnic Albanian later this year.

"If it will go as I think it must ... we will be ready with the first indictment before the end of the year and another two next (year)," Del Ponte said.

The U.N. war crimes tribunal has been criticized for allegedly showing anti-Serb bias. Most of those indicted for crimes in the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo are Serbs. No ethnic Albanians have yet been indicted for their role during the Kosovo conflict.

Kosovo, legally a part of Yugoslavia, has been administered by the United Nations (news - web sites) and NATO (news - web sites) since June 1999, when an alliance air war halted a crackdown by Serb forces on separatist ethnic Albanians. An estimated 10,000 people were killed in the 1998-1999 war, the majority of them ethnic Albanians.

Later in the day, Del Ponte traveled to the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, where she expressed distress that leaders in Yugoslavia, Croatia and Bosnia have failed to fully cooperate with the tribunal.

"It's been now three years that I have been coming down looking for the arrest of fugitives, to get access to witnesses, to have access to documents, to achieve cooperation," she said.

She complained that the three countries are becoming always less willing to cooperate with the court. "I'm astonished that it's going even worse," she said.

Information Service of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren
Kosovo and Metohija