POLITICAL GRANDSTANDING INSTEAD OF CONSTRUCTIVE DIALOGUE
Neither Ibrahim Rugova nor any other Kosovo Albanian leader, especially the former UCK militants-cum-politicians who refused to participate in the dialogue, seem to have any clear idea or intention to sincerely work on improving the living conditions for all their non-Albanian citizens. Their interest, in fact, remains solely focused on creating an ethnic Albanian state where there will be no place for any other ethnic groups and religions, and which will be tailored only for the ethnic Albanians.
The Vienna meeting between the delegation of the Serbian Government and the ethnic Albanian leaders of Serbia's southern province of Kosovo was more than a disappointment. UNMIK's chief Harri Holkery brought only an ethnic Albanian delegation excluding a Serb and ethnic Turk representatives in the last moment, reportedly on the request of Rugova himself. This exactly gave an opportunity to Ibrahim Rugova to make impression that all residents of the Province share his extreme and uncompromising views and that Kosovo belongs solely to ethnic Albanians. In fact, composition of the "ethnically clean Kosovo delegation" in Vienna was exactly reflecting the present situation in the Province in which Serbs and other smaller communities were brutally cleansed by Albanian extremists and their representatives in UN sponosred institutions reduced to insignificant political factor.
The beginning of the official dialogue was expected to have been focused on practical issues: transportation and communications, energy, missing persons, and the return of Serb refugees to Kosovo. Most of all, both delegations were expected to demonstrate responsible and constructive positions, which will finally get things moving in a positive direction after a four year-long standstill.
According to the position of the international community and the Belgrade Government, it is not yet time to address Kosovo's final status before standards have been achieved. Kosovo Province is not free for all its residents; ethnic discrimination and crimes still keep the majority of the remaining Serbs in isolated ghettoes, and the Province has become the Mecca of the Albanian mafia, drug dealers and pimps. The fate of thousands of missing Serbs and Albanians remains unknown, and 250,000 Serbs who fled from the terror of Kosovo Albanian extremists (the KLA or UCK) after the war still are not allowed to return to their destroyed homes. Serbian private property is being systematically usurped, and more than 100 Serbian Orthodox Churches have been reduced to ashes by Albanian Moslem extremists seeking to destroy all traces of the centuries-old Christian tradition in Kosovo and rewrite the history of the region. In short, the problems in Kosovo are huge and it was high time to sit at the negotiating table and engage in responsible dialogue to bring hope in a better future to the Province's desperate inhabitants.
The Belgrade delegation came to Vienna with a concrete set of proposals to improve the lives of all residents of the Province and create a much better atmosphere for making decisions on the final status when that time arrives. With almost no capability of influencing developments in its Province, Belgrade is hardly in a position to improve the situation there. The ball is in the court of UNMIK and ethnic Albanian leaders, who still apparently cannot restrain extremism and ethnic violence despite a NATO military presence. However, the speech of the leading Kosovo Albanian representative Ibrahim Rugova showed that the Albanian delegation had come to Vienna with completely different goals. Instead of displaying a modicum of readiness to constructively address the improvement of living conditions for Kosovo's non-Albanian citizens, Mr. Rugova used the floor for yet another session of political grandstanding. His grotesque speech was obviously directed to his electorate instead of his collocutors. Even the leading U.S. representative at the opening session, Larry Rossin, in his comment for "Voice of America", expressed his own disappointment with the Albanian leaders, criticizing "their unconstructive stances, political postures, and positions full of prejudices and indignity".
Most Kosovo Albanians expected a new Dayton or Rambouillet conference where the United States and European countries would simply impose Kosovo independence and force Serbia to relinquish a part of its territory, leaving its people and historical and cultural monuments to the mercy of Kosovo Albanians. However, times have changed. The Belgrade Government is no longer headed by Milosevic but by his political opponents, who are struggling to bring Serbia into European Union and NATO. The ethnic Albanians insisted on U.S. mediation and facilitation of the talks with Belgrade. However, the U.S. Ambassador in Belgrade, one of the U.S. representatives in the Vienna talks, stated clearly for "Radio Free Europe" that this was not going to happen. He explained that the U.S. will facilitate the process, but would leave it to UNMIK to lead it. In fact, the will of the international community is that Belgrade and Pristina finally engage in open dialogue and reach a negotiated solution themselves, which is exactly what Kosovo Albanian leaders have always tried to avoid.
In the very beginning of his speech, Mr. Rugova referred to Kosovo as already an independent state regardless the common agreement that the status issue would not be on the agenda, and that Kosovo is officially a part of Serbia-Montenegro according to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and Serbia's Constitution. Furthermore, Mr. Rugova blatantly stated that "public security was good" despite frequently reoccurring attacks on Serbs, and the failure of UNMIK police investigators to resolve a single one of the major crimes committed against Serbs after the war. Mr. Rugova lavished praise on multiethnic local institutions but neglected to mention that Serb deputies are still commonly brought to official meetings in UNMIK police vehicles and frequently exposed to open ethnic discrimination even by the Kosovo parliamentary speaker - Nedxhad Daci, who accompanied Rugova to Vienna. During the past two years, Serb deputies were unable to bring about almost any improvement for their community because the Albanian majority blocked every constructive proposal. Kosovo Serbs agreed to participate in Provincial institutions hoping that UNMIK would make them a tool for achieving genuine multiethnicity. However, Albanians understood these institutions primarily as a tools for achieving their ethnic state regardless the will of other ethnic communities.
Mr. Rugova also did not mention that Serb residents of Kosovo cannot normally receive medical treatment in Albanian-run hospitals, that there are no Serb students or professors at Pristina University, and that almost every major Kosovo city remains virtually without its Serb population. In all truth, it would be hard to expect Mr. Rugova to address these problems because Kosovo Albanian leaders hardly ever visit Serb enclaves to help them resolve their problems. Mr. Rugova is the prime example of a virtual politician, usually spending his days posing with foreign dignitaries and diplomats in his kitschy lounge. Outside of his luxurious villa is a reality about which he hardly knows - or wants to know - anything.
In Vienna Mr. Rugova did not mention a single word on how to improve security, facilitate the return of refugees, improve the disastrous human rights situation or protect the endangered Serb cultural heritage. Apparently none of these burning issues were worth mentioning at all. In fact, his entire speech was directly intended to falsely present Kosovo as a "success story". Neither he nor any other Kosovo Albanian leader, especially the former UCK militants-cum-politicians who refused to participate in the dialogue, seem to have any clear idea or intention to sincerely work on improving the living conditions for all their citizens. Their interest, in fact, remains solely focused on creating an ethnic Albanian state where there will be no place for any other ethnic groups and religions, and which will be tailored only for the ethnic Albanians.
In short, the positions of the Kosovo Albanian delegates in Vienna clearly proved that they represent only their own ethnic group and not all residents of Kosovo. The institutions which they claimed to legitimately represent proved once again as nothing but a fašade of false or non-existent multiethnicity.
With one group of Kosovo Albanian leaders opposing the dialogue and the other, headed with Rugova, engaging in political grandstanding, Kosovo leaders clearly demonstrated serious lack of fundamental political responsibility and wisdom. The other possible explanation might be that the roles were craftily shared beforehand: While "bad guys" Thaci and Haradinaj with their UCK/AKSH gangs intensify pressure against Serbs and international personnel threatening to start a war if their extreme requests were not fulfilled, Rugova and Daci (as "good guys") come to Vienna with "the only possible solution" - unconditional recognition of Kosvo's independence. What makes both blocks united is their wish to make Kosovo independent Albanian state without implementation of elementary democratic and human rights standards, particularly for the non-Albanian population.
The Belgrade Government and the international community should, therefore, insist that the continuation of the dialogue focuses on practical issues, and make it very clear to Albanian leaders that the Vienna dialogue was not intended for political propaganda and tricks but for constructive negotiations to bring all of Kosovo's residents a peaceful life, security, protection of private property, freedom of worship, and all other standards of a democratic society. Only then it would be possible to address the issue of the final status but not under the pressure of threats and violence but according to the international standards and political maturity of either side. Any other approach would be completely wrong because unilateral secession of Kosovo would inevitably lead to destabilization of the entire region and desintegration of Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia.
Gracanica, October 16, 2003