Information Service

October 29, 2002

Empty polling station in the Serbian part of Mitrovica

EDITORIAL by Fr. Sava (Janjic)

Kosovo's third post-war elections under the gloomy shaddow of prevailing violence, ethnic distrust and economic stagnation

Gracanica, October 29, 2002

A record low number of voters from all communities participated in the recently held local elections in Kosovo. The total number of those who went to the polls was barely 54 percent of eligible voters. Despite appeals by moderate Serb leaders, the voter response was especially poor among the Serb community. Taking this into consideration, can these elections be considered truly successful? It is difficult to say, although it is apparent that the average citizen in Kosovo has substantially less confidence in public institutions than in the two previous elections in November 2001 and 2000. Despite UNMIK attempts to prove that democracy in Kosovo is advancing rapidly, the indicators in the field tell a different story.

Even before the elections Serb voters showed little interest in voting because their participation in public institutions through appointed municipal representatives or parliamentary delegates has not brought significant improvements in their living conditions. What is more, many Serbs see these institutions as a smoke screen for political forces with radical, anti-Serb programs which are using the institutions as a new form of repression. It is becoming increasingly clear that without more active confrontation with extremist Kosovo Albanian forces these institutions will have no more significance than a theatrical backdrop behind which drug clans and former militants continue to shape the ever more ethnically pure Albanian Province. The crime in Suva Reka in which members of a rival Albanian political party assassinated the mayor and two associates may be the first sign that the real power after the elections will still remain in the hands of those who carry weapons.

The recent independent report on the economic and security position of the Serb population in the Province (link**) documents the desperate situation in the Serb community which is exposed to harsh discrimination in every respect. The majority of Serb communities are completely isolated both politically and economically and their prospects for long-term survival under the existing conditions are increasingly uncertain. The theory that Serbs can expect to improve their position by voting in great numbers in the elections is completely unrealistic in circumstances where there are no effective defense mechanisms for the non-majority population from the vast majority which remains hostile towards the Serbs. This is why Serbs participated in the elections in significant numbers only in municipalities where they represent the majority and where they can realistically expect to improve their living conditions. The poor turnout in municipalities in which the Serbs are not in majority is a direct consequence of a rigid position of UNMIK not to negotiate decentralization prior to the elections. Also, many Serbs see the Albanian dominated institutions as instruments of secession of the Province from the rest of Yugoslavia, which they strongly oppose.

Another reason for Serb lack of confidence in public institutions is the behavior of leading Albanian political leaders. After the recent attack on Serb pensioners in Pec where 50 elderly people could easily have perished if not for effective KFOR action, Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova and premier Rexhepi not only found it unnecessary to visit Pec and send a message to their own people that democracy cannot be built through violence against the elderly but also failed to visit the Serbs who had been attacked. Mr. Rugova only issued a bland political statement in which he condemned the attack on KFOR forces, not even mentioning the attack on the elderly Serbs. Previous incidents in Gorazdevac and in Klokot last summer were handled in similar fashion. The Kosovo president apparently feels that the Serbs are not his citizens. At the same time, the Kosovo president and other Albanian political leaders cannot seem to stop talking about an independent state of Kosovo. A wide gap between great ambitions and obvious political incompetence for demonstrating responsible leadership is a general characteristic of the Albanian political scene in the Province. Some Albanian political analysts interpret this behavior primarily as fear that any condemnation of violence against the Serbs will result in a poorer image among their own electorate. This reality best demonstrates that extremism in Kosovo is not just the problem of a negligibly small group of people but has penetrated deep into the popular masses. This was evident during the Pec incident where at least 600 people participated in a public lynching or chose to passively observe violence directed against elderly Serbs. If Kosovo Albanian political leaders fail to demonstrate responsible leadership it is very difficult to believe that the majority of people will change their views. A special role in the fanning of anti-Serb hysteria is played by the local media as well as by the educational system over which UNMIK has absolutely no control; this is explained in terms of respect for freedom of the press.

In case the present situation prolongs, Kosovo will continue to sink deeper into ethnic division and violence which will best serve the interests of the advocates of the division of the Province. The international mission needs to take a long and hard look at whether its policy of relative tolerance for ethnic violence and the aggressive albanization of Kosovo can truly be the path to viable multiethnicity and democracy. UNMIK should also pursue the decentralization of the province (link ***) and thus provide conditions for the normal life and long term sustainable livelihood of the Serb and other non-majority communities which do not feel safe and free enough to participate in Albanian dominated institutions. Above all, UN Security Council Resolution 1244 has to be finally implemented in all its aspects and not only partially as it has been so far.

In opposite case, with a reputation as a Province scarred by violence, ethnic distrust and economic stagnation Kosovo has increasingly less chances of joining in European integration processes. It would therefore be far more desirable for residents of this Province to think about what kind of society they want and whether they are even capable of building a society in which the freedom of dignity of citizens will not depend on their ethnicity or political convictions than to fantasize about retailoring the political maps of Yugoslavia and the Balkans.

Fr. Sava (Janjic)
Serbian Orthodox Church

***The Unsustainable Minority Livelihood, Aug 2002
** Decentralization of Kosovo and Metohija, Strengthening of self-government of local, national and regional communities

BOTA SOT (Kosovo Albanian daily)

October 29, 2002

News of world press are indicative that the terrorist act in Suharekë was carried out by political rivals of Dr Rugova. National newspaper Bota Sot has continuously alarmed the public that criminal groups are operating under the umbrella of some political groups. Statement of UNMiK spokesperson (Haselock) before elections was that everything was fine and security has been provided for all. It seems that this security was focused only on Serbs by leaving free hands to criminals who kill the best sons and daughters of Albanian nation, the fighters for Kosovo’s independence. How cannot criminal acts take place in Kosovo when criminal groups continue to operate in Kosovo in front of UNMiK.



October 28, 2002

Dusan Janjic, chairman of the Forum for Ethnic Relations, claims that SRSG Michael Steiner is trying to avoid decentralisation in order to hold on to as much power as possible in Kosovo. Steiner said that preliminary results of local elections do not leave ground to successfully hold the announced meeting for decentralisation on 1 November. Janjic added, "it’s Steiner’s habit to make such statements." "That there is no basis for talks on decentralisation is his personal perception of democracy," said Janjic adding that Steiner’s mandate is not setting limitations but implementation of resolution 1244 of the UNSC together with all Kosovo citizens, so Serbs as well. "He cannot put any kind of special conditions for Serbs when we see that Albanian participation was not so big either," said Janjic. He explained that decentralisation of power is part of building institutions and it is a fact that UNMIK from Kouchner until today did nothing about this and has not created autonomous institutions at local levels. Janjic also expressed his belief that there would be decentralisation of power in Kosovo, and that Steiner could only decide whether they want to be active participants in this process or if he wants the UN Security Council to do so instead. "His statement on decentralisation is an effort to strengthen his position, which is not so powerful either at the Security Council nor in Kosovo," he added.

Associated Press
Political Killing Sours Kosovo Mood

Sun Oct 27, 2:01 PM ET
By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press Writer

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) - Kosovo's post-election mood was soured by a political killing Sunday, adding to gloom left by low turnouts and Serb boycotts of the polls and underscoring the problems of a province scarred by violence, ethnic distrust and economic stagnation.

Uke Bytyci, mayor of Suva Reka and a senior official of the province's major party, the Democratic League of Kosovo, was shot and killed by supporters of another ethnic Albanian party, who also killed two others, apparently his bodyguards, officials said.

Michael Steiner, Kosovo's U.N. administrator, condemned the "appalling act of calculated murder."

Ethnically motivated killings have diminished since the United Nations (news - web

sites) and NATO (news - web sites) took control of the Yugoslav province three years ago. But inter-Albanian political bloodshed and other violent crime persists, defying international efforts to establish a system free of Balkan violence.

Full official results of Saturday's municipal elections were not expected until later in the week, but Bytyci's party appeared to have won overall, according to independent polling organizations.

The Kosovo Action for Civic Initiatives said that party got the most support in 16 of 30 town hall races, followed by the Democratic Party of Kosovo, which led in seven municipalities and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, which took one town. Information was unavailable from two municipalities, while the four remaining races were won by Serb parties in enclaves dominated by the Serb minority.

Still, most Serbs stayed away. Statistics from the monitoring group indicated participation at just above 20 percent, with most who did vote supporting hard-liners skeptical of Serb-Albanian coexistence.

The poor Serb showing - based on figures that included expatriates - represented a blow to U.N. efforts to integrate Serbs into the political scene and overcome ethnic divisions threatening further violence.

Ethnic Albanians seek independence for Kosovo, while Serbs insist it remain part of Yugoslavia.

Some 200,000 Serbs have fled Kosovo out of fear of revenge by ethnic Albanian extremists, and an estimated 90,000 Serbs remain living in enclaves protected by the NATO troops that arrived in 1999 after U.S.-led bombing ended a near century of Serbian dominance by forcing out the troops of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (news - web sites).

The governments of Yugoslavia, and of Serbia, the dominant Yugoslav republic, on Friday and Saturday urged Kosovo's Serbs to vote, as did moderate Kosovo Serb leaders. But the last-minute appeals did little to ease Serb concerns about continued threats to their safety and delays in U.N.-sponsored refugee returns.

To independence-minded ethnic Albanians - 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people who now run town halls with little Serb input - Saturday's elections were a means to increase their political strength at the local level.

Even ethnic Albanians, however, appeared disenchanted with a democracy that has left the economy struggling. The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe on Sunday put overall turnout at just under 55 percent, based on preliminary figures - substantially less than in two previous elections since 1999.


Bishop Artemije and representatives of Kosovo-Metohija Serbs receive humanitarian aid from Russia and thank the Russian people for their love and concern

Gracanica, October 28, 2002

A welcoming ceremony was held today at 12:00 noon at Slatina Airport in Pristina upon the arrival of humanitarian aid sent from Moscow for the Serb people of Kosovo and Metohija. A week ago, on October 16, 2002, Muscovites took part in a farewell ceremony on Tverski Square for a convoy of 250 tons of humanitarian aid collected by several humanitarian and patriotic organizations in cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church in the Russian capital. Travelling through Bulgaria and Macedonia, the convoy finally arrived in Kosovo and Metohija today and was met by representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church and Serb political organizations in Kosovo and Metohija. Representing the Serbian Orthodox Church in Slatina were Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren, and Abbot Teodosije (Sibalic) and the monks of Visoki Decani Monastery. The Joint Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija was represented by Mr. Svetomir Stefanovic and other Kosovo-Metohija Serb political organizations were represented by the head of the Return (Povratak) Coalition caucus, Dr. Rada Trajkovic; Kosovo district president Dragan Velic; and deputies of the Kosovo-Metohija parliament: Gojko Savic, Sokol Djordjevic and Randjel Nojkic. The humanitarian aid was formally turned over to the Serb representatives by Konstantin Zatulin. The ceremony was also attended by General Gromov; representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archimandrite Marko and Hieromonk Guriy Valamski; as well as the highest representatives of the Russian military contingent in Kosovo and Metohija.

The Russian guests were greeted in traditional Serb fashion by the children of Gracanica wearing traditional costumes who offered them bread and salt. Bishop Artemije, speaking on behalf of the Serbian Orthodox Church and religious believers in Kosovo and Metohija, thanked the city of Moscow and "mother Russia" as well as all donors "not only for the aid so necessary to us but for the sense that we are not alone and that Great Russia is thinking of us . . . On the one hand we feel joy because of the great brotherly love of the Russian people while on the other we feel sorrow due to the recent tragic events in Moscow," emphasized Bishop Artemije during his homily.

The humanitarian aid is comprised of over 250 tons of various humanitarian articles: refrigerators, stoves, electrical generates, clothing and food which will be distributed to the most at-risk Serb families in Kosovo and Metohija. After the ceremony at Slatina Airport, one truck of humanitarian aid, Abbot Teodosije and the guests from Moscow were accompanied by a military escort to the Serb enclave in Velika Hoca, where a heartfelt welcome was extended to the Russian brothers with traditional songs and recitations by the children. The guests were also served with "new" wine from the renowned cellars of Velika Hoca, and the cultural and artistic program continued until the evening.

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