Information Service

November 25 , 2002


Kosovo and Metohija: Far Away From A Promised Land

by Dr. Slobodan Samardzic (Advisor to the Yugoslav President, CCK VP, and director of Political Studies at The Centre for Liberal-Democratic Studies in Belgrade)

After the municipal elections, Kosovo and Metohija remained what it was - a very sick organism, which, as such, became resistant to medication from the outside, i.e., activities of the international administration. With Michael Steiner, it has finally become part of this difficult problem.

The international administration has existed in Kosovo and Metohija for three years now, but its basic goal, creating a peaceful coexistence for ethnic communities, as defined by the UNSCR 1244, is far from being achieved. If we want to get a bit closer to the truth, we can say that, in this respect, the situation has remained the same as it was in June 1999, when the international community directly took over administration of the province. Since that moment, only the relation between the majority and the minority has changed, by detaching Kosovo and Metohija from the state-legal competencies of the FRY and Serbia, the Albanians in Kosovo became the majority and Serbs (and other minorities) in a bigger numeric scale than before March 1999. About two-thirds of the Serbian population (220-230,000) fled to central Serbia, Vojvodina and Montenegro and have not returned yet. If the international administration enabled a large number of Albanian refugees (around 800,000) to return to their homes after the war and three months of refuge, then it is hard to justify the fact that the return of a three times smaller number of Serb IDPs, who have been living in their refuges for more than three years, is not enabled.

The Situation After Three and a Half Years

During this period, the stage of a multiethnic Kosovo was related to the ethno-democratic status quo in the province. For Albanians, this is a fait accompli, a permanent political situation, which, from their perspective, could only get better by the continued process of Serbs leaving the province until their desired goal is reached and only couple of million Serbs remain, just enough to justify an idyllic international picture of a multiethnic Kosovo. For the international community, this is a verbally unacceptable situation, because UNSCR 1244 binds them to ensure return for all IDPs, meaning Serbs, as well. Being incapable, even unwilling to do this, the international community, embodied in its highest officials, has been producing for more than two years now a simulacrum of a multiethnic Kosovo. In their programs of institutionalization, decentralization and returns, representatives of numerous UNMIK departments are doing everything possible to portray the situation as relatively normal and to project peaceful and gradual changes from this temporary position. One could get a picture from their reports that Kosovo and Metohija is an area of relatively peaceful transition, where the conflict of two ethnic communities is transferred to political institutions and being resolved there in a more or less successful manner. These reports create an impression that extremists are only dwelling in northern Mitrovica, not letting the influences of a beneficial multiethnicity get to this Serb enclave, as well.

In spite of this picture that has been continuously sent to the world public, the reality in Kosovo is absolutely different. As a comparable unit, it is advisable to take the situation during Milosevic's regime. It was characterized by a large and massive violation of human rights, of the Kosovo Albanians in particular, punished by NATO with a three-month bombing of the entire country, and immediately after this by the establishing of the UN military and civil administration in the province. During the repressive regime, in the twelve-year period, Albanians at least had freedom of movement, but also sufficient political space to organize an almost complete parallel life, taking into account here the elections for their parallel political institutions. Today, Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija do not have elementary physical security or freedom of movement, except in a clearly defined space where they live compactly, so their movement is limited, depending on the space of their homogeneity - from four municipalities where they are a majority, through villages and parts of settlements, to houses and surrounding buildings (and two skyscrapers in Pristina). Their position is comparable only with the position of Albanians during the bombing when a large number of Albanians were forced to leave the province. But since the arrival of the international forces, at work are field politics of a permanent Albanian comeback, this time in the presence of international administration representatives. Faced with such behavior of the majority population but unable to confront it, top representatives of this administration commenced propaganda on the gradual but sure success, instead of a difficult and risky job, of defending the elementary human rights of the Serb population.

We will show how such UNMIK conduct practically looks like with a very characteristic and convincing example. At issue is its return policy. This is the most important test of international presence in Kosovo, not only because of the strict decree in UNSCR 1244, but for far deeper moral and humanitarian reasons.

Until this day, on the basis of strong evidence, 126 IDPs have returned to Kosovo and Metohija (Osojane). Although, lately, UNMIK head and his people have been talking about some 2,000 returnees, but their names and the places to which they returned are hidden. The explanation is interesting: conspiracy is necessary so the alleged fact would not provoke Albanians. Otherwise, this UNMIK smart tactic is directly opposed to one of his principles of the return - that people should return to regions, houses and apartments from which they had been expelled. Idealistically viewed, it would be best for all Serbs to return to the once ethnically mixed settlements (teleology of a multi-ethnic Kosovo), but without Albanians noticing this. Since even UNMIK's people know this is impossible, they stated two more principles in their plan: return is individual (!) and local Albanians, former and future neighbors and co-citizens of returnees, must have their say in this.

The reason for Steiner's enormous interest in Serbs turning out for the local elections, called for and held on October 26th, hides in these three principles (return to the former place of residence, on individual basis, with the consent of the local Albanians). The problem of the returns, originally purely humanitarian, became the object of multiple punctual policies of the local communities in the virtually multiethnic Kosovo. In place of the outmoded counter-collective approach, we have, as the UNMIK Chief likes to say, a moderate individual-liberal approach, which takes into account the preferences of individuals instead of abstract collectivities.

UNMIK needed three full years to arrive at these saving liberal principles. The plan is not only liberal but also optimal. Returnees (and they are Serbs by some historical case) should individually register; autochthons (and they are Albanians by the same case) should individually accept them, while it is up to UNMIK to offer logistics. These are the principles. But what does the concrete plan look like?

It hasn't existed until a month ago. It has been created only after people from the CCK insisted that UNMIK make a stand on the plan made by the Center almost a year ago. Upon the plan from the CCK, Serbs should return to 24 groups of settlements, essentially in the areas of their former existence, but also in new settlements concentrated on areas today homogeneously inhabited by Serbs. The reason is simple - security and freedom of movement, which UNMIK has not been able to guarantee for years now. This plan, initially silenced, than avoided, ended up being presented as originating from UNMIK and should represent the first operative phase of these famous principles.

In short, the plan looks like this for the first predictable phase: Serbs should return by themselves to two locations (Novaka and Zupa), together with Albanians to one (Podgorica), together with Albanians and Bosniaks to one (Gornje Selo) and together with Albanians and Romany to one location (Orahovac). Albanians are returning by themselves to two locations (Donja Vitina and Leposavic), together with Gorans and Ashkalia in another two locations (Dragas and Mala Dobraja) and together with Roma in one (Gnjilane). Bosniaks return by themselves to three locations in the Pec municipality. Roma are returning with Egyptians to one location, also in the Pec municipality.

For now, there is no quantity return plan, and how could it exist when, in the liberal sense, a man is one quality and never a quantity, a number, or a part of a collective entity. From Steiner's individualistic point of view, at issue are 220-230 thousand individual Serbs, and not merely Serbs who should decide as individuals and concretely opt for return. Since priority is given to quality and not quantity, the multiethnic quality of return is important. The concrete plan encompasses members of all national communities, regardless of the fact that Serbs, by percentage and by absolute numbers, are definitely the most present among the forced IDPs. If we are to project UNMIK's return plan by duration and starting from the number of potential returnees, exposing to Steiner's remark on the non-liberal view of the problem, all Albanians would return to their homes within several months, all other non-Albanians within several years, and all Serbs within several decades.

Of course, nobody here is crazy, least of all the makers of this plan. Serbs from Kosovo are already calling it "the plan of non-return," which reflects well UNMIK's intention: to work but not to get it done. Some serious approach to this issue would confront them with Albanian politicians and the Albanian population, and this is what they fear the most. Behind the seemingly clear title "UN mission in Kosovo and Metohija" stand numerous individual mandates and personal plans - from the most ordinary soldier and policeman, through numerous administrative clerks, to international community officials. For each of them, the mandate is time-limited and, along with this, according to the rank, well-paid, and nobody wishes, without some serious need (therefore, when he or she is personally threatened), to expose him-herself to death by tackling with numerous members of a militarized, archaic and criminalized society as is the Albanian one in Kosovo. Among UNMIK and KFOR personnel the following rule has long been valid - do you job with as little as mess as possible and run away.

Local elections between promises and blackmail

The last local elections occurred in the shadow of such realistic policy of the international administration in Kosovo and Metohija. Once again the Serbs became the subject of increased international attention because their acceptance has become the key moment of legitimacy for the international presence in the province. Such attention on the Serbs has been directed during the making of the Constitutional framework for provisional self-rule, whose adoption passed without the consent of Serb representatives. When the Constitutional framework should have passed its first test, elections for the Kosovo Assembly, Steiner's predecessor, Hans Haekkerup, was forced to accept one document, the Agreement on Implementing UNSCR 1244, which he signed together with the head of the CCK, carrying additional guarantees for Serbs. Steiner's entire policy towards Serbs was contained in ignoring this document and, thus, in the propaganda on the continuous progress in institutionalizing Kosovo's public life. All until the moment when he realized that Serbs, both those whose return to the province has become more uncertain than before and those who live an existentially uncertain daily life in Kosovo, were massively resolved to boycott the local elections. Since the success of the main Kosovo administrator is not, and for the third time in a row, measured upon the goals of UNSCR 1244, but upon the story (propaganda) on normalization, these elections were unusually important for Steiner only in the context of the rhetoric of normalization. Faced with the overwhelming stand of the Serb population, he presented his decentralization seven-point plan on the eve of the elections (1 October).

The topic of the decentralization of authority is objectively an important topic for Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. In a solid system of local self-rule and adequate regionalization, they could have a basis for their public engagement that would be in accordance with the idea of a multiethnic Kosovo. This is the only way for them to remain in this region and for two-thirds of their expelled fellow nationals to return and start a somewhat normal life. Scattered in ghettos and small enclaves throughout Kosovo, where they have been exposed not only to majoritization of the Albanian majority, but also to terror on an almost daily basis, they can expect nothing but extremely inhumane living conditions and prepare to leave as soon as possible. Way back in June, the CCK offered its project of decentralization to UNMIK, but at that time this project raised no interest with international community representatives. The same way as he essentially refused the project for returns, Steiner suddenly recalled this before the municipal elections in order to motivate otherwise disinterested Serbs to go to the polls. But even at this point, the virtuous international administrator was not thinking about Serbs, but about the international power centers. Before opening talks with Serb representatives and with representatives of the Serbian and Yugoslav authorities, he asked for and received the international factors' support for his seven-point plan. This, however, was no program, but only seven, almost simple, sentences, clearly saying that upon a significant Serb turnout at the elections, he would open talks on decentralization with representatives of Serbs, Albanians and others. At that point, this was quite insufficient for a serious bargain.

Days prior to the elections were marked by an utmost uncertainty regarding Serb participation. As a matter of fact, it was even more obvious that they would not respond in sufficient numbers, due to the conditions. It was no conditioning in any way, as the primary experience based on living in Kosovo and Metohija made impossible believing in even bigger and more solid promises than these offered by the administrator. His ugly maneuvers, such as falsifying the allegedly positive standpoint of the Serbian Patriarch regarding the elections and his seven-point plan, only intensified resistance of the Serb population and distrust of their political representatives. There was nothing left to him but to place one last offer to them. In the form of an Announcement, which is by all means a public act, he created a possibility of constituting the "municipal units" for "larger non-majority communities", consisting of one or more villages, settlements or urban areas within the existing municipalities, as separate units of the local self-government. These units would have their own, elected bodies, authority and budget, and would autonomously decide on a set of issues important for the local population. However, this possibility was linked (in other words, conditioned) to "significant" participation in the elections by the local population (read: Serbs) in these areas. By doing so, their political representatives would put up their candidacies for political talks on working out the proposal, and upon its legalization in the form of law, they would create a possibility for realizing their rights to have separate municipal units within the existing municipalities or by submitting a petition.

This offer arrived too late (only five days before the elections) to attract precisely those who would benefit the most from its possible implementation. Those are the Serbs in the Albanian ethnically dominated municipalities. Being presented this late, it probably did not intend to reach these poor and desperate people. The fact of the matter was that the offer had been directed to the Kosovo Serb and the Belgrade authority representatives, for them to call on the Serb population, those still living in Kosovo and expellees alike, to participate in the elections. A unified position of Serbs was in a way adequate to Steiner's offer itself - Serbs should participate in the elections where elementary security is existing. That is what happened. In the five municipalities where Serbs were the majority (Leposavic, Zubin Potok, Novo Brdo, Zvecan and Strpce), they responded to this and won enough seats in the assemblies to allow them to form the municipal authority there. Where they represented the minority, Serbs participated in the elections pretty modestly. This was essentially enough to express their security index.

If Steiner had been ready to accept this exact fact (that percentage of the Serb participation in the elections equals the security index of the Serb population under his administration), he would not have expressed his vengeful reactions immediately after the preliminary results were proclaimed. He
immediately cancelled the meeting with the political representatives on realizing his bait-offer. Like an angry fisherman who failed to catch a trophy and decided to break the fishing rod. However, he did not break it but only threw it aside.

To get out of a bad endless cycle

After the municipal elections, Kosovo and Metohija remained what it was - a very sick organism, which, as such, became resistant to medications coming from the outside, i.e., the international administration's activities. With Michael Steiner, it has finally become part of this difficult problem. Three and half years was not enough to at least start the return of IDPs, to create the elementary security conditions for the minorities, to initiate a real decentralization of authority and to start to decriminalize the society. Its presence only has the purpose of deterring the worst and pretty numerous physical attempts by the extremists to finally cleanse the territory of Serbs and take over their property in one way or the other. Self-blocked in this utopian ambition to create a democratic and multiethnic Kosovo, the international administration is only giving another proof of its bad and endless presence in this region. In such a situation, a line of least resistance and gradual giving in to demands of the majority has become more realistic, as well as factual acceptance of their project of independence. From this realistic point of view, they searched for the problem and miraculously found it on the weaker side, in the resistance of the Serb population, turning, at one point, northern Mitrovica into the biggest problem that the international community had in Kosovo.

Steiner's announcement, dated October 21, regardless to its previous function to serve as bait, was the last chance that UNMIK reluctantly gave itself to, more or less, tackle the real issue. This has nothing to do with decentralizing one system in order to function better. It is about securing relatively free space and elementary living conditions, for a continuously terrorized community - to work, to get education, healthcare, to satisfy its basic social and cultural needs and to have its physical safety. After three and a half years it is quite clear that Kosovo and Metohija should be, not only decentralized, but regionalized as well, if its autochthon Serb population is supposed to survive there at all. The decision upon this, which must be brought by the international community, implies, as a necessary consequence, a form in which it could be realized - institutionalized guarantees for the Serbian community and territorial self-administration in a space as clearly defined as possible. This looks like the only sustainable concept of a multiethnic Kosovo. Everything else is nothing but deluding itself and others, without consequences for itself, but with catastrophic consequences for the other side. According to this, the overall policy of the international community could be important for the Serb community in Kosovo and Metohija, but only if concentrated on the three themes: returns of IDPs, decentralization leading to regionalization, and reconstructing and preserving the Serbian cultural monuments. The big story about democratizing a multiethnic Kosovo could be of planetary importance, but without any practical value for everyone who would be forced to run away from this Promised Land.



Albanians 'taking over London vice'

By Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent

25 November 2002

Albanian gangs are taking over the vice trade in Britain, with about three quarters of all prostitutes working in London saunas and brothels coming from the Balkans and former Soviet Union, a police intelligence report has found.

Albanian organised criminals are also starting to move into heroin dealing, kidnaps and street robbery in London.

The growing threat posed by gangsters from the Balkans will be highlighted at an international conference in London today, hosted by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary.

A year-long assessment by the National Criminal Intelligence Service has concluded that the Albanians pose a growing threat, particularly in the vice industry, although in other areas of crime they are still a fledgling power.

Researchers found that about half of the prostitutes in London were from the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, and that Albanian criminals controlled about three quarters of the women who sold sex in saunas and brothels in the capital. Much of the £12m annual profit made from the Soho sex trade returned to Albania, the intelligence service said.

While the Albanian gangsters are concentrated in London, they have also made inroads into Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and surprisingly Telford in Shropshire and Lancaster.

The Albanian community in Britain is small, about 30,000, but the number of those who are criminals is unknown. The police also have the problem of gangsters from other Balkan countries claiming to be Albanians in the hope of obtaining asylum.

The Albanians have managed to win control of the off-street prostitution in Soho by buying the premises and saunas that are used to sell sex. To pay for the prime-site properties and rents they have used money from Albanian as well as recycling the huge profits from selling sex in Britain.

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