Artemije gives lecture at Western Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
(January 29, 2004)
Bishop Artemije of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija, who is presently on a working visit to the U.S. with his associates, gave a lecture on Thursday, January 29 at the Western Policy Center in Washington, D.C. on the topic of Multiethnic Kosovo - Diplomatic Dream or Balkan Reality. The lecture was jointly organized by the Western Policy Center and the Serbian Unity Congress in the U.S. in order to inform the U.S. public regarding the present situation in Kosovo and Metohija and possible solutions for the crisis in the future.
The Speech by Bishop Artemije with the follow-up discussion
text on the WPC Web site:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is the eighth year I have visited the United States with the goal of seeking peace for the non-peaceful Balkan region. Today, I am here again with the same mission. During the many meetings I have had with political leaders and leading, influential institutions in the U.S. in the past, I have always conveyed the truth by speaking only in the language of facts. This is what I am prepared to do on this occasion, as well.
In my talk on Kosovo and Metohija, almost five years after the end of war in June 1999, using the language of facts, I will present the status of daily life for the Serb people in this Serbian province. This will be the best way to show the success or failure of the international peace mission in Kosovo and Metohija.
I will try to present an optimal solution to overcoming the present difficulties, a solution that would be acceptable to and beneficial for all parties involved: for the Serbs, Kosovo Albanians, and the international community.
Therefore, ladies and gentlemen,
Please allow me to read to you a passage by Amnesty International that very accurately describes the human rights situation in Kosovo, the U.N.-administered southern province of Serbia, which remains one of the hotspots in the Balkans almost five years after the end of the armed conflict in 1999.
"After the end of the war in Kosovo, despite the efforts of the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the U.N. Civilian Police (UNMIK Police) to provide security and protection, members of minority communities continue to both suffer and fear assaults by the majority community on their lives and property. Their fear is reinforced by continuing impunity for both those who perpetrated violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law during the period of armed conflict, and those responsible for the abuses which have continued since the end of the war.
climate of fear, insecurity, and mistrust, exacerbated by continued
impunity, has resulted in the effective denial of the right of minorities
to enjoy freedom of movement in Kosovo. Additionally, those who
are able to gain some measure of freedom of movement find themselves
subjected to both direct and indirect discrimination when seeking
access to basic civil, political, social, economic, and cultural
rights . . . .
No, I did not make a mistake and read a text written in summer 1999 or 2000. This report, entitled "Prisoners in Our Own Homes," was published by Amnesty International on April 29, 2003, and the situation on the ground since then has not only remained unimproved, but it has essentially deteriorated. The security threat is not only directed against Kosovo Serbs, but also against other non-Albanian minorities in Kosovo, particularly Roma, Slav Muslims, Goranci, and even ethnic Turks.
The Amnesty International report confirms that "more than half the pre-war Slavic Muslim community of 67,000 fled in 1999. Now about 3% of the population, they are mainly concentrated in and around Prizren town." This fact proves that ethnic Albanian crimes in Kosovo are not so much a consequence of war and the desire for revenge as they are a tool of ethnic Albanian nationalists to create an ethnically pure Albanian territory.
A multi-ethnic future
It would be unfair to say that there have been no improvements at all in Kosovo since the war. But it is also disturbing that these improvements, including primarily the return of war-time refugees, reconstruction of war-damaged facilities, and the building of institutions, have almost exclusively impacted the Kosovo Albanian community. Kosovo Serbs have had almost no concrete benefit from these "improvements," nor are they of any use to them in resolving their burning issues concerning a normal and free life.
While it is true that many hospitals have been restored, Serbs cannot seek treatment in them. Numerous roads have been paved, but Serbs lack the freedom to travel on them. Tens of thousands of houses have been renovated, but only about one hundred of them are owned by Serbs. After the war, all mosques were repaired and many new ones were built, while over one hundred Serbian churches still lie in ruins and not one has been reconstructed. There are many new supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants, but what use are they to Serbs when only Albanians and foreigners can safely enter them? In short, based on his first-hand experience, the average Serb feels that UNMIK has come to help only one community while Serbs appear fated to live as second-class citizens on the margins of society.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 is the only legal document that defines Kosovo's unclear status within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Many of its provisions have not been implemented because the new Kosovo institutions stubbornly reject any dialogue with the Belgrade government and fail to provide basic freedoms and rights to the non-Albanian communities. As long as many Kosovo Albanian politicians and political parties continue to support their fellow Albanian separatists in southern Serbia and Macedonia, tolerate or even incite ethnic violence in Kosovo, and persistently insist on secession as the only possible solution, one can hardly expect the normalization of relations with Belgrade and Skopje.
Kosovo cannot exist in the future as an isolated island, entirely dependent on Western taxpayers, but neither can it attain sustainable economic development and industrial production without regional integration and cooperation. Although many Kosovo Serbs are aware that direct administrative rule by Belgrade is not an appropriate model at present or in the future, they, nevertheless, strongly oppose the independence of Kosovo. They know from their experience that, in such an Albanian-dominated state, there would be no place for non-Albanian communities. In Albania, for example, national minorities (Serbs, Greeks) do not have any rights.
An independent Kosovo would set a dangerous precedent that would destabilize not only the Balkans and its fragile peace, but also other countries with similar problems. Instead, Kosovo Albanian leaders should understand that an ethnic group does not have to be independent in its own nation-state to have control over its own fate.
The importance of Kosovo for the U.S. and the EU
Kosovo issue is not just a local problem of the Balkans. It has
much wider ramifications. At the moment, Kosovo is not a top priority
At the moment, the U.N.-administered province is one of the hotbeds of organized crime, prostitution, white slavery, and drug smuggling. In addition, the Albanian mafia is increasingly spreading its influence and activities throughout Europe and is stealing the monopoly of other mafias. Kosovo, widely seen by Albanian nationalists as the beacon of Albanian "territorial and ethnic unification," could very easily become a cancer of Europe.
Let us think about three possible scenarios and what consequences they might have for U.S. and European political interests in the region:
The independence of Kosovo
first two scenarios would almost surely lead to conflict and continued
suffering for all ethnic groups within the civilian population.
For the international community, that would mean a serious
* to allow the creation of an ethnically clean Albanian state in which there will be no long-term possibilities for a normal life for non-Albanians (Scenario 1)
* or to see a new conflict unfold with Serbia, where most people, according to the latest elections, strongly oppose the secession of Kosovo (Scenario 2).
Both concepts are anachronistic and would lead to instability. It is important to say that Scenario 2 would be possible only if Kosovo Albanians, either unilaterally or with international support, proclaim Kosovo's independence despite the will of Serbia and the majority of its citizens, i.e., despite the provision of Resolution 1244 that requests a negotiated settlement.
The most viable and acceptable scenario seems to be the third scenario, which would entail substantial autonomy for Kosovo within Serbia and the union of Serbia and Montenegro, with a special focus on improving human rights, the economy, and other standards that are essential for the integration of the entire region into EU structures. This scenario does not mean a return to the pre-1999 situation (Scenario 2), but it is also opposed to the independence of Kosovo, which would be tailored according to the will of the current Kosovo Albanian leaders (Scenario 1).
That is why it is necessary to intensify activities in order to bring the political processes in Kosovo as soon as possible within the framework of Resolution 1244, which defines the mandate and priorities of the U.N. mission. However, this does not mean a continuation of the present UNMIK policy of the uncontrolled transfer of all authority to local provisional (Albanian-dominated) Kosovo institutions. It means the building of truly multi-ethnic institutions that would, at the same time, guarantee the sovereignty of Serbia and Montenegro and enable all kosovo.netmunities to realize their most vital interests, in accordance with the highest standards of European autonomous regions.
First of all, it would be necessary to define concrete mechanisms to defend the rights of the Serb community in Kosovo, not only individual rights but collective rights as well. This would presuppose the building of institutions of self-administration in areas where Serbs and other ethnic communities using the Serb language live (Bosniaks, Croats, Goranci, some Roma) and where the most significant Orthodox monuments of spirituality and culture are located.
The Serb community cannot afford to remain the silent observer who passively watches as others tie the noose to be slipped around its neck. Therefore, the basic condition for further participation by Serb representatives in Kosovo institutions is a concrete revision of the existing Constitutional Framework, which needs to be realigned with the principles of Resolution 1244. In practical terms, this means decentralization of the province, which would not be a territorial division but a solution that, on the other hand, would effectively prevent ethnic Albanian secession.
These self-governing institutions in Serb-speaking areas should have special relations with the Belgrade government agencies, especially in the domains of education, health, and the protection of cultural, historical, and religious monuments. At the same time, the Albanian-speaking community would enjoy a greater degree of self-rule and could have only those ties with Serbia and with Serbia and Montenegro that would be mutually agreed upon through free dialogue.
Local Kosovo institutions on a Kosovo-wide level would be multi-ethnic, and they would coordinate activities between two autonomous entities. They would primarily work on resolving the local problems concerning the common interest of all of Kosovo's inhabitants and would not act as para-state structures. Of course, as an autonomous province, Kosovo would be able to have representation in institutions in both Serbia and in Serbia and Montenegro. The increased presence of minority representatives in the Serbian parliament would only further facilitate the strengthening of multi-ethnicity in the country, which, despite the recent wars, still remains the most multi-ethnic state in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, as well as in the wider region.
but not least, such a settlement of Kosovo's status would not set
a negative precedent for other ethnic communities throughout Europe
that might try to exercise their right of self-determination to
the detriment of the sovereignty of their states. The firm position
to be promoted would be that the only way out of the Balkan quagmire
is not through further atomization of the Balkans and the creation
ladies and gentlemen, I will take this opportunity to appeal to
you to think about the problems and solutions that I have mentioned
and support those options that can bring stability, prosperity,
and a better future to the suffering peoples of the Balkans. Our
joint message to all those who think that the map of Europe can
be re-tailored along ethnic lines for the benefit of only one ethnic
community should be:
The following is a summary of the discussion during the Question and Answer session:
Q: What has UNMIK done to curb the use of Kosovo as a base for criminal enterprises seeking entry into western Europe and as a center of asymmetrical threats?
The United Nations has done a lot, but not enough. Since the arrival of the international KFOR peacekeeping force in 1999, Serbs in Kosovo have survived in enclaves that resemble ghettos and camps. As a result, only one-third of the pre-war Serb population currently resides in the province.
Kosovo Serbs do not lead normal lives. Nearly five years after the military intervention, Serbs live without respect for their human rights. As soon as they leave the enclaves, they become targets of extremist ethnic Albanian violence. There is no freedom of movement for Serbs without the escorts that are provided by KFOR or UNMIK. Without these escorts, they would fear for their lives.
The right of Serbs to work has been infringed upon. With the arrival of the international community and the return of internally displaced Albanians, Serbs lost jobs. They cannot work in the agricultural sector because their presence in open fields puts them at risk of being targets of attacks by Albanian extremists.
Their health care requirements are not adequately addressed, such as proper hospitalization. Serbian children do not go to school since the schools are in the hands of Albanians. The schooling of these children takes place in the basements of friends' houses or in other makeshift accommodations.
1999, more than 120 churches in Kosovo have been destroyed and remain
unreconstructed. The tendency toward the destruction of Serb monuments
persists today. The fact that these churches have not been rebuilt
reflects the double standard the international community has brought
to bear in Kosovo. It is proof that U.N. Security Council Resolution
1244 is being fulfilled only in domains concerning Albanians.
Albanians who have committed a large number of atrocities against
Serbs have not been prosecuted under the mandate of the United Nations.
We expect the United Nations to adhere to the provisions of Resolution 1244. Only then will a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural society be re-established in Kosovo.
Q: How would Kosovo be impacted by a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the province to accommodate Washington's international troop redeployment needs?
A new tragedy would unfold if the U.S. were to withdraw its troops from Kosovo. Albanians would attempt to complete the ethnic cleansing of Serbs. Serbia would likely be forced to protect the territory, population, and cultural heritage of Kosovo. There would be a new conflict and new suffering.
Q: Since Albanians have the upper hand in Kosovo, what chance is there that they would agree to compromise?
depends on the will of the international community, which has the
ability to foster peace and equality between ethnic groups. Serbia
was bombed for 78 days so that Albanians could return to their homes.
Q: Have discussions among the different religious groups in Kosovo been taking place?
Yes, beginning four years ago, we had several conferences and conversations with people of different faiths, such as Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Muslims. We talked about the problems on the ground and issued joint resolutions. These resolutions remain on paper since nothing has changed on the ground. Over the last two years, there has been no inter-religious dialogue in Kosovo. I will stay in the United States as long as I am able in order to engage representatives of various religious faiths. You can only solve problems through respect and dialogue. Both sides must come together with a desire to resolve problems if reconciliation is to be achieved.
Q: What figures exist for the number of unresolved homicides in Kosovo?
The Coordination Center for Kosovo and Metohija, a joint institution formed by the Serbian government and the federal government of Serbia and Montenegro, has released the following figures:
From June 10, 1999, until August 9, 2003, 6,535 total attacks were carried out by Albanian extremists. Of these, 1,201 were murders, 1,328 resulted in wounds, and 1,146 were abductions. The remaining incidents were break-ins or thefts. When we discuss violence, we are talking about crimes committed against all people, including Romas, Slav Muslims, and Goranci.
With regard to the necessity for dialogue between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, some Albanians are inclined toward dialogue and are ready to fight for a multi-ethnic society in the province. However, because of acts of terror against them by Serbs and pressure exerted on them by former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), moderate Albanians cannot express themselves openly.
Q: How important is it to conduct a review in 2005 of the Standards for Kosovo put forward by the U.N. in December 2003 to see how they are being implemented by the Albanians?
The Serbs are not happy with these standards put forth by the Security Council. Serbs did not participate in the formulation of the standards, and the comments of Serbs concerning the current status of the standards have not been taken into account. In addition, the standards are general and do not address concrete problems. The way they were formulated contradicted language in Resolution 1244. Through these standards, Kosovo is going to eliminate its ties with Serbia and with Serbia and Montenegro.
Most important is the fact that there is no mention in the standards of the mechanisms that will be used to implement them. It is, therefore, easy to manipulate the standards for one's own benefit. Kosovo's president, Ibrahim Rugova, is saying that most of the standards have been fulfilled, and, on that basis, he demands the independence of Kosovo.
Q: The return of Serbs to Kosovo is a high priority, but how is it possible to ensure the safety of those returning?
The international community has taken on the responsibility of providing security for all residents of Kosovo. We expect it to carry out that responsibility. Serbs have no freedom of movement in Kosovo because thousands of people who have committed atrocities in the province do have freedom of movement. Until they are arrested and the international community deals with them, Serbs will not be able to move around Kosovo freely and there will be no security for those returning.