Friday, April 28, 2006

Men in long beards scare me

Jesmina Tesanovic has a take on the law on religion rushed through the Serb parliament last week. I have been looking hard for a take on the law by any Serb, but nowadays it's hard to find one who has a stand on it. Helsinki Commission of US Congress criticized the law and asked Tadic not to sign it. I wonder if they care more about religious freedoms or freedom of American Christian groups to proselytize - members seemed mostly from the Heartland, and Republican? !

On the other hand, Serb church is seeking to defend its status gained since the fall of communism, and not only in Serbia as problems in Montenegro and Macedonia show. Russian Orthodox church has also found itself at an uneasy position as foreign-based religous groups "steal" its base away. It's open markets, religion included. Orthodox just isn't sexy anymore.

But anyways, this is my revenge of the week: words "Serbian" and "Jihad" next to each other. Easter is not a religious feast anymore. This is Serbian Jihad...

US presidents attend Yale and Harvard. Kosova's Sejdiu spent a semester in residence at Arizona State University.

I would love to know if ASU will put this fact in their factoids list to boost applicant pool and fundraising. Although I doubt it matters; after all, it took them until yesterday to come up with a news piece about the fella' that's become president of the little country.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

BETA reports that Ceku has asked OSCE's permission to appoint a Serb from the Croatian parliament as his international advisor. Milorad Pupovac, according to the government spokesman, would be dealing with problems of the return of the displaced, in which he has been very successful in Croatia.

K-daily Express reports today that Minister Petkovic will be replaced with Oliver Ivanovic. If this really happens, it would lay the ground for other Serb parties to join Prishtina institutions.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Google Maps has good aerial photos of Durres and Tirana, Albania. Let me know if you find other cities from the area covered.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I can see the light

If there is one thing EU's Stability Pact has stressed development-wise in SE Europe, it has to be the the common energy market along with the insfrastructure to support it. I'm not sure why Europe decided to work on the development of energy projects first, but I don't doubt my readers' creativity on this topic.

First, YakimaGulag comes up with this story, which talks about a US$286.6 million investment being prepared by the World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank, German KFW Bank Group, and government of Bosnia. It's the largest investment ever in Bosnia.

ECIKS reported earlier that "World Bank and the EAR representatives [have] said that the plan on building a new power plant in Kosovo with a production capacity up to 2000 MW/h, will be completed during this month." According to the same representatives, Kosovo should not get a loan for building the new power plant, but suggested to finance it through private investments. About $1 billion will be needed to build it in order to replace or add to the Kosova's two old dinosaurs. Kosova's potential for energy proudction has often been cited by international finacial institutions as the backbone of its economic future, but I doubt the ground will be broken yet until the final status is decided.

Albania, however, comes from behind and tops it with a $1.9 billion project that will include a power plant and a regasification terminal in Fier, in the south of the country. It will most likely get approved in June and by 2009, when it is finished, it will provide 1,200 MW/h of electricity for the country plus some for export, and another 8 billion m3 of deliquified natural gas for export through an underwater pipeline to Italy. The project will provide 3,500 jobs during construction and 300 during operation. Albania happens to be one of the countries with the highest water supply per person in Europe but its communist-era hydrocentrals have not been able to meet its energy needs.

Friday, April 21, 2006

This music video got the attention of Ed from the Balkan Baby blog for its kitschiness. What I find interesting is the whole genre of patriotic rap that has developed most certianly in Kosova, but also in Albania of all places.

Music by Etno Engjujt (Ethno-angels) feat. Lyrical Son & Dj. Blunt.

Advice: Video is more enjoyable if you feel Albanian during the next few minutes.

80's deja vu

After an extraordinary cold and long winter, with not much electricity if you were living in Kosova, cherry trees are at full bloom and this is turning to be another interesting Spring in the Balkans. It comes with accusations of ethnic cleansing and other such common talk.

The notorious Kosovo Coordination Centre (feeling British for a moment there, eh?) accused Istok/Istog/Burim municipality of planning to stop the return of 30 Serb families to the municipality. But,

Istok Municipal President Fadilj Ferati denied the claims made by the Kosovo Coordination Centre that the local government was not allowing a group of returnees to return to their homes in the region. (B92)

Such an attempt to stop them of course never happened. And the 30 families said they would not give in to threats and come anyways. Today they should be in Kosova rebuilding their homes with the help of a German NGO.

K-Serb leader Rada Trajkovic on the other hand revealed her knowledge of a plan that according to her UNHCR is preparing for the displacement of 40,000 Serb refugees that will result in case of an "unsatisfactory outcome" of the talks.
Serb representatives of UNHCR in Belgrade know nothing about the plan and have denied it, Kosovo international ones will do the same shortly.

This is not the first time that talk like this comes from the Serb politicians. This is a shrewd indirect threat by them to bargain for a "fairer" solution by using the logic the more unbearable it gets, the more they'll be able to bargain for seperate monoethnic structures. The strategists make the key assumption that the West cares what happens to 40,000 Serbs, which of course it doesn't, and the local autonomy being prepared for them will cover any remote guilt of impartiality in the West.

However, this kind of talk by politicians also does much more lasting damage to the weak confidence that Serbs have of coming back. Check for the same line being repeated to the media by common Serbs.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Mahmut Bakalli died last week. Of Kosova’s three major communist leaders, he is the second to have died recently. The first one, Fadil Hoxha, died in 2001 and was given military honors for his partisan background. The last one, Azem Vllasi, was fired in 1988 in the footsteps of the Yugoslav upheaval and currently works as a lawyer.

What strikes me is how different Kosova has been in its relationship with its former communist leadership compared to probably all former communist countries in Europe. From moderate Slovenia, to Croatia, to Albania and northward and eastward, former communists overnight changed their robes into extreme nationalists (and hell-bent on convincing others that they were always so) or remained low key the first few years after the emergence of democracy and then staged a comeback as reformed socialists or even market evangelists.

In Kosova none of this happened. Although President Rugova was a card-carrying communist, that was the absolute minimum for anybody holding a public post at the time. With his ballist father a victim of communists, one would imagine that his sympathies lay elsewhere. He also surrounded himself by the academic elite, a group of people that was distanced somewhat from the day to day communist politics, and where the resistance and inspiration for a republic within Yugoslavia and then independence took shape.

When Bakalli and Vllasi were pushed out of politics by Belgrade (the first was held under house arrest for two years), Albanians were not happy about it and demanded their return because rightfully they knew that a communist Albanian was better than what was being cooked in Belgrade. Yet the two never attempted a comeback. Nor did they have any support to justify such a comeback. This is unique among Eastern European countries.

Because of Kosova’s subordination to Serbia and its communists, to be a communist Albanian in Kosova was very close to being a tool of Serbia, a sellout. Communist leaders like Bakalli had to maneuver a delicate balance between satisfying Serbia and not angering the local population. Nominally the police at this time was still led by a majority Albanian, so the jailings were not taken easily and are still remembered by those that were at the receiving end.

Not that communist ideals did not appeal to Albanians. Kosova managed to have the highest percentage of party members for its share of population. Tito, or Marshall as he was affectionately called, was held in high regard, and the violent policies in Kosova were deemed to be the work behind Tito’s back of Serbs like then-Defense Minister Aleksandar Rankovic. “Ah, if only Tito could come and see the truth down here, because he’s being lied by Serbs around him” would go the rationalization for the terror in the first 20 years after WWII. At this time Albanians like Fadil Hoxha were at the head of whatever nominal autonomy that existed.

The roots of Kosova’s distance with its communist past might go back to this time when its leaders were mere tools of Serb leadership in Belgrade. But after the war something unexpected happened. TMK buried Fadil Hoxha with military honors. Although Bakalli never became a public figure again, shying away from the media or maybe the media staying away from him, Ramush Haradinaj asked him to help build the newly created party, AAK. On another aspect, the old elite that ensued WWII and the new elite that ensued the NATO war intermarried. It is almost as the two seek legitimacy from each other.

A notice announcing the death of UNMIK. This is one of the many creative forms of protest by the Selfdetermination! Movement. It is inspired by notices that blanket a town's lamp posts and other similar structures in case of a persons death.

"God's mercy be upon his soul!"

Friday, April 14, 2006

Serb diplomacy lands another win this week after Moldova (yup, that one) agreed to support Serbia on the settlement of the Kosova conflict (Link). Earlier this week it was the head of the European Parliament (I think) who said that he would not support Kosova's independence...if it was up to him. Thanks God some countries/people are too insignificicant to matter. Great job guys, you've earned your bonuses this week.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Will the first head roll?

Out of a budget of 11.1 million euros, the Ministry of Returns spent 343 thousand on cars and out of those 176 thousand on a BMW for Minister Petkovic. Another 2 million euros are unaccounted for. The rest of the money was mishandled.

When Çeku came in, the hope was that he would do a total cleanup of the government. But he is a newcomer to the AAK party and has not enough authority to overrule the party structures that put corrupt cronies in the government in the first place. Çeku accepted the position offered to him by the ruling coalition on the condition that he will be able to do a thorough evaluation of the work of each ministry and clean up any ministry not meeting the standards after 100 days. Let's see how the political machine will grind on this obstacle.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Martti Ahtisaari is the latest diplomat to call Belgrade to reconsider the order it gave K-Serbs to severe the ties with Prishtina. "When we pressure Pristina to move forward, we also need the co-operation of the minority community.” Another source quotes him saying "It's a very old and worn slogan that you need two to tango. It's miserable to dance the tango all alone." Olli Rehn from the European Commission expressed the same.


The EU Foreign and Security Policies Chief and the UN’s Special Envoy for the Kosovo status discussions agreed that new Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku has made a significant effort to try and convince Kosovo Serbs to participate in regional institutions.(B92)
My question to Serbs would be: would you rather prefer a "war criminal" like Çeku that works for your return or a loser like the previous PM (what's his name?) who was no good for either Albanians or Serbs?

Prishtia daily Express has an article on the "most corrupted" institutions in Kosova: KEK (electricity), PTK (telecommunications), and KTA (privatisation). European "experts" either oversaw the investments that were done and abused in the three or participated directly in the abuse.

25 minority members join the Kosovo Protection Corps. Balkan Update has the short news.

In the Vienna front, there are already cracks on the Serb side. They have proposed that the final status should be discussed in parallel with the current talks despite the earlier agreement that the technical issues should be taken out of the way first. The idea for the current formula is that if one side decides to withdraw from the talks (probably Serbs if the decision for independnece is really taken), some good deeds will exist with which Ahtisaari, the benevolent diplomat, can go to the Security Council and justify himself. In lieu of this kind of positioning, Serbs might decide to withdraw from all talks in order to prevent the bigger outcome from being realized, but doing so will also sacrifice any benefits that they are likely to recieve from the talks. Will Serbs play it all or nothing once again? Rambuillet deja vu?

I love the diplomatic games being played right now. Western diplomats are slowly but surly revealing the bad news to Belgrade. They are playing on Serbia's string like a mandolinier would do. One would have to dumb not to get it. And with the intensity rising, it's hard to pretend not getting it either. US Amabassador to Belgrade is the latest that had to withdraw the latest statement of someone pitching independence, Nicholas Burns. Although I find it strange that somebody working unders Burns has to say that his boss was mistaken, that the the status has not been decided.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sesame Street 'to help in Kosovo'

US children's TV show Sesame Street is to be used to promote ethnic diversity in Kosovo. BBC

I'm pround to have been a humble contributor towards the realization of this project.

I didn't expect this from the Greek president but it's welcomed nonetheless.

Papoulias Criticizes International Community for Kosovo

11 April 2006 | 19:17 | FOCUS News Agency

Athens. Greek President Karolos Papoulias accused international community today of not keeping its promise to allocate funding to Kosovo, Serbian agency TANJUG reports.
According to Papoulias very little has been done to improve living conditions in the region.
“The better life the international community promised after 1999 bombings was lost in the bureaucratic labyrinth connected to sending economic and humanitarian aid,” the President said in Thessaloniki.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Reporting Kosovo

An Albanian NGO has done a study comparison of four major Kosovar and four Serb newspapers. On the Albanian side there is progress but not where they would want them to be. They also think that this as good as it's going to get. I found interesting the role that the press connected to the opposition parties are playing. Also, I was surprised that Thaqi's Epoka e Re is doing a much better job in reporting and bringing out the Serb perspective than Rugova's Bota Sot. The complete report can be found in English, Albanian, and Serbian at the bottom of this link . Their conclusions are below.

In three of the four Kosovo Albanian newspapers can be seen a reflection of the harsh criticism that the Kosovo Albanian media experienced in the aftermath of the March 2004 riots, when the Albanian-language media were accused of fanning the flames of ethnic intolerance with aggressive, loaded and inflammatory reporting, and with failing to distinguish in a professional manner between news, rumour and comment.

As a result, they have adopted new patterns, enforcing more neutral and less passionate headlines on Serb-related stories. Bota Sot has partly sidestepped the issue simply by not reporting often on returns, or on Serbian views on final status. When it did so, it was often more sensationalist than the others and more prone to blurring the dividing line between news and comment.

The differences between the four newspapers reflect different political agendas and the needs of different readerships, with Bota Sot offering a more straightforward diet of nationalism to a less sophisticated audience, and some of the others attempting to offer a more “civic” orientated agenda to a different audience and to readers who see themselves as more aware of the dynamics of the European integration process. These newspapers clearly feel their readers do not need or desire crude interpretations or comments to accompany Serbian statements on Kosovo.

The more moderate Kosovo newspapers chose other methods to convey their opinions on Kosovo’s future, juxtaposing the statements of Serb politicians beside those of Kosovo Albanian politicians or experts, for example, thus leaving it up to the readers to compare and contrast. By highlighting the positive aspect of Serb returns – the rebuilding of houses, schools and churches, among others – they subtly promoted Kosovo’s independence by stressing what they saw as its growing normalization

Turning to the Serbian newspapers, the difference in the way they reported on the final status of Kosovo reflects the fact that whereas the issue of Kosovo’s independence unites ethnic Albanians of all political allegiances, it divides Serbs. While the great majority of Serbs opposes independence, a significant minority does not so much support the idea as accept it as inevitable. Moreover, even the anti-independence majority is divided over the nature of the autonomy they are prepared to offer and over whether they wish to keep all or just part of Kosovo in Serbia. This cleavage in society explains the clear difference in the way that the final status argument was reported in Danas, and the way in which it was covered in the other three Serbian newspapers.

This difference in Serbian society over Kosovo informed the approaches takes by the four newspapers to the Eide report, violent incident and refugee returns, with only Danas attempting seriously to include Albanian perspectives or Albanian sources in the debate.

Overall, the Serbian and Albanians media are, with small but significant exceptions, mirror images of one another, routinely disenfranchising the other side by the simple expedient of not reporting seriously their versions of any story. In short, this study reinforces a perception that the media in Kosovo and Serbia continue to tell their respective readerships mainly what they want to hear, which is that “our” side are victims and “their” side are perpetrators of racism, violent persecution and mindless acts of cruelty. Where the two national groups are portrayed in a cooperative light, as in some sections of the Kosovo newspapers, it is often merely with a view to supporting Kosovo’s claim to be a normal society and thus deserving of international recognition.

Whether any criticisms of the media in Serbia and Kosovo for its one-sidedness can be expected to have any effect is questionable. The intrusion of market forces into what was until relatively recently almost a branch of government has made the media more competitive than before, more susceptible to small changes in readership and more averse to taking risks with a fragile, fickle reading public. A trend towards tabloidisation and to lower pagination has left even less editorial space than there was for in-depth, balanced reporting on sensitive subjects.

Given these hard economic facts, it is probably unrealistic now to expect the media to lead a debate, in any progressive sense, on vexed national issues such as the future of Kosovo. With the exception of a small group of newspapers targeting a small cosmopolitan audience, the media will most likely continue to echo and follow what editors feel are established prejudices. In other words, when attitudes change in society, the media are likely to follow and reflect them, not the other way around.

Experts from the Committee for the Western Balkans, a body charged by the EU
Council of Ministers with analyzing the region's development, recently visited
Kosovo for the first time. After returning to Brussels they concluded that
international standards were virtually not being applied in the province at all,
that the economic and social situation in the province was very poor, and that
substantial EU financial aid had been put to poor use.

Wow! What e revelation! Doesn’t EU financial aid go to actually pay experts from EU countries to come up with ideas on development? All EU aid comes with strings attached and by the time the government gets the money, things are already decided. Not to protect the government, they are to blame for many things over which it has authority, but its hands are tied behind the back.

Veton Surroi, Kosova’s negotiating group member will soon propose “a constitutional law for minority communities, in order their rights to be ranked into constitutional and not into political categories.” Last week he also suggested linking the concessions made to Serbs in Kosova with the rights of Albanians in southern Serbia. This is win-win situation to me.

The mortal remains of 11 Serbs “kidnapped in Gnjilane, the village of Dvorane near Suva Reka, Caglavica near Pristina, Prizren, Orahovac and the village of Mlecane near Klina” in ’98 and ‘99 are given to their relatives in Serbia.

KEK is considering selling the consumer debt it is owed to an international company. If that happens, hone your bounty hunting skills and start making money.

By UNMIK’s 2005/5 executive decision, 800 hectares of land around the Decani monastery were given temporary extratrritoriality. From those, 200 ha are social property and another 600 ha are property of Albanians, in the municipality with the highest unemployment in Kosova. Father Sava Janjic from the Decani monastery has denied the accusations from Albanians that the church is seeking extraterritoriality, rather “institutional protection.” Two things here: since he didn't ask for that kind of protection, why hasn't Fr. Sava done anything to let Albanians that surround his oasis work their lands, considering that good relations are essential for all neighbors concerned. And TMK and police have offered institutional protection before, but it was turned down.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Jovanovic: Serbia should accept Kosovo's independence

Ceda Jovanovic, ex-vice of the killed prime minister Zoran Djindijic, proposes a constitutional contract between Serbia and Kosovo, which would recognize the latter’s sovereignty, while the Serb minority in Kosova would have the veto for any change in the constitution. "Serbs of Kosovo must also have a voice in education, justice, and police and a guaranteed number of representatives in the parliament. Until the fulfillment of these requests, Kosovo should have a conditional independence" he told Belgrade daily Danas. He says the current government leaders in Belgrade are in the trap of “Greater Serbia” nationalism and accuses them that through “fake patriotism” they are hindering the development of Serbia. Jovanovic calls Vienna negotiations “a political farce,” representing a dialogue between the deaf. (RFE-Danas)

Full original article in Serbian from the Belgrade daily Danas is here.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

EU is facing the moment of truth as it’s trying to decide the role it will play in Kosova once UN ends its mission later this year. Kosova government have been calling for a replacement for a long time as there is deep belief that UN workers have been a crowd of corrupt and inept bureaucrats that took its time to consult New York on every matter and withered Kosova’s potential for development.

But the EU is not keen to take over. The concern seems to be the money, but EU character is also at play. To me it seems that EU shies away from any political responsibility in Kosova preferring to leave the always failing UN at the top as someone to blame. But UN in Kosova is EU in essence. Most of the funding and people come from the EU, including the very important economy pillar of UNMIK. It is top management from the EU countries that oversees such failures as KEK (the electric company), PTK (telecom), and the news-making airport. So, while with EU you hope for more direct responsibility, continuation of weak performance is not far off either. Bosnia can attest to that.

To answer Javier Solana’s and Olli Rehn’s main concern in the article, Kosova does not need policemen that would patrol the streets. No more bureaucrats either. Our own police service is doing that with the pride that only policemen anywhere in the world possess. What Kosova needs is expertise in areas such as investigators and trainers, to empower KPS and other services to stand on their feet. Most importantly, it needs people that will make the tough decisions, even if that means angering Belgrade.

Balkan Update blog has a wonderful article from Balkan Insight on how minorities in Montenegro are flexing their muscle on the independence debate. Independence of Montenegro will increase minority decision-making power within the country and hopefully put the tiny country in a faster track towards the EU. More minority rights will then come more naturally.

On a side note: the article is part of Balkan Insight, a network of reporters supported by BIRN that does some wonderful reporting in English on most Balkan countries. They are way better than any Western media that sends a reporter over for a short stay, if at all, and then parrots the deep roots of the conflict in history. From

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network was created from the Balkans programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.

The original IWPR Balkan team was mandated to localise the project and make it sustainable, in the light of changing realities in the region. The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network is now a wholly independent regional partner of IWPR.

Supported by a regional hub based in Sarajevo, BIRN has members in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, Romania and Bulgaria.

Balkan Insight is BIRN's main publication featuring cross-regional reporting of the key issues related to the regions development and progress in achieving European political, social and economic standards.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The worse it gets the better

Preparing the ground for the upcoming talks, Serb government has issued an ultimatum to Serbs in Kosova to allegedly “stop receiving salaries from one of the governments”. Faced between choosing the governments, Serbs are likely to choose Belgrade since among other things Belgrade pays better than Prishtina.

B92 reported that "Kosovo Coordination Centre demanded that the Serbian workers working in local self-government, health and educational institutions in Kosovo break their contracts with UNMIK concerning the money received from the Kosovo budget."
According to KCC, this is a matter of merely playing fair and fixing "legal disagreements, for example, that someone has two employers at the same time." One has to wonder why it took KCC so long to figure it out that feeding from two mothers is unfair. Or maybe unfairness is not an issue at all.

During the first meeting in Vienna, Lutfi Haziri, Kosova minister for local governance, brought up the subject of 17,000 Serbs receiving some type of salary from Kosova government, which he probably argued implies some sort of acceptance by Serbs of the Prishtina authority. But in Vienna or another conference that follows it the main argument from both sides will be that the sides cannot trust each other and that they need the maximum assurances to protect themselves from the other. For Albanians, this translates into independence from Serbia, including a UN seat that will guarantee its safety in the case of another future invasion by Serbia, which Serbia has not explicitly denied. For Serbs, not trusting Prishtina translates into local governance along with “horizontal integration and connection” with Serbia, which, they argue is the only way for the survival of Serbs in Kosova. As Kristian, a commentator on noted, “the main goal of the Serbs is to get the most concessions from the [W]est. By stalling they have more ammunition to get more guarantees from the [W]est. Its simple hold out and you shall receive more.” Serbs also threaten that if they are not granted their wish, they will pack and go, but that will be the subject for another post.

In a way, Serb policy towards Kosova is similar to that of the late President Rugova's policy towards Serbia: total withdrawal into a form of self-imposed isolation away from state institutions. Taking part in Belgrade institutions would have meant tacit approval for an authority which Albanians until 1999 considered rightfully illegitimate and terrorizing in Kosova. Serbs, with some exceptions, have taken the same stance towards the Prishtina government since then. But similarities end there.

One would be inclined to think that if non-cooperation and path of "resistance" towards central authority worked for Albanians, it might as well work for Serbs. Yet the ridiculous time it has taken for the issue to come to a resolution since 1999 has cost Serbs heavily. Most young Serbs have moved to Serbia in pursuit of higher education, more plentiful jobs, and a better urban life, all of which are limited for the ghettoized Serbs in Kosova. The old that remain behind probably have a negative population growth.

Kosova Serb leader, who were mostly members of the Socialist Party and shock troops of Milosevic's policy in Kosova until the last day, were the first to leave at the end of NATO campaign. In their view, Kosova either had to be Albanian or Serb. They played it to the last card and when the results were clear in June 1999, were the first to pack and leave. Being at the forefront of a corrupt neo-colonial apparatus, and maybe because they realized that the game was being played to the last card, they had already bought second and third houses in Belgrade and Montenegrin Riviera. Chances are that Albanians will ask for the heads of each of these people through courts or otherwise if they ever attempt to come back and put themselves into leadership positions. They were the public face of Serbia in Kosova ruling majorities of up to 97% Albanian through their whim and holding important economic and security positions. Sending these same people to talks with Albanians will be considered the outmost offense and lead to nowhere on the reconciliation front.

So here we are with the Kosova Serbs in a state of outmost confusion and without any leadership that would be worth mentioning. They are at the hands of Belgrade politics, which has repeatedly valued territory over population. Belgrade encourages them to hold out for the day when Serbia will return, and they in turn vote overwhelmingly for Seselj’s ultranationalists. It encourages them to hold on to the all or nothing idea, which in the eyes of Albanians makes them clearly the reason and the spearhead of any potential future threat from Serbia. It stops them from asking forgiveness for the role they played in the 90’s and especially during the war, which would pave the way for reconciliation. It stops them from joining the Kosovo Police Service and the Kosovo Protection Corps, the very same bodies that could very well do something to protect them.

I don’t expect K-Serbs to become exemplary citizens of Kosova. But they certainly can do things that would improve their status.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Why Independence for Kosovo?

Seven years after the conclusion of the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, 2006 is bound to be another decisive year for Kosovo. Unfortunately, the issue is still unresolved but the understanding among almost all sides is that this problem will be resolved by October. Because Albanians have been coerced to join Serbia; because Serbia has carried out the ethnic cleansing of the territory in such a way as to change its Albanian character; and because the area desperately needs stability that can allow for its economic development; year 2006 must unequivocally lead to an independent Kosovo.

For Albanians a Kosovo under Serb authority can clearly be traced back to the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. This aggression by the newly militarized and euphoric Serb state was outrageous and showed no concern for the people living in the territories affected. For an illustration of the Serb mentality at this time, at one point its policymakers determined that Serbia also needed access to the sea and proceeded to temporarily occupy the central Albanian port of Durrës. Serbia returned to Kosovo a victor at the end of the First World War and established its long term authority with the help of French allies returning home from the Eastern World War I front of Thessalonica.

Albanians were not recognized even as a minority at this time, with their education denied and some 200,000 hectares of arable land taken by force and given to 60,000 Serb colonists as an inducement to settle (Kullashi). Vasa Cubrilovc, an architect of Serb state policy at this time, on his memorandum, “Expulsion of Albanians”, lays the method that Serbia should use in Kosovo: "the only method and only means is the brutal force of an organized governmental power, and we have always been above them [i.e. Albanians] in this" (Anzulovic, 93). With “always” Cubrilovic had in mind the successful and therefore well forgotten ethnic cleaning of 1878 of Albanian villages from the Nis region of southern Serbia.

The only time when the status of Kosovo was decided on some sort of crude self determination was at the end of World War II. Kosovo's communists "decided to join" their Serb brothers towards the end of that war. That decision was seen as controversial for four reasons. At the time when the fate of Kosovo was being decided, Albanian partisans were strategically sent to "liberate" Vojvodina in the north of Serbia, and another group of 4,300 was ordered to march to Tivat, Montenegro where it was cut down by machinegun fire; the people of Kosovo were never allowed to express their opinion and Kosovar communists had no support that would have made them representative of the people; there were false promises that Albania would join the
Yugoslav federation and thus Kosovo would be able to join its motherland as a full-scale republic; and insurrections and war state in Kosovo continued well into 1946, which attests to the unpopularity of the decision (DioGuardi).

Kosovo's legal status was advanced further with the Yugoslav constitution of 1974 which stated that "Federal Yugoslavia consists of six republics and two autonomous regions" (Kullashi). While this constitution didn't go far enough to break the formal links between Serbia and Kosovo, like that of other republics, "political administration of Kosovo consisted of structured wielding autonomous legislative, executive, and judicial powers" (Kullashi). In 1989 this structure was abrogated when the Parliament of Kosovo, encircled by tanks and in a Kosovo under state of war, "choose" to surrender its authority to Serbia, which then proceeded to fire all public service employees that declined to sign formal allegiances to the state of Serbia (Campbell, 193).

The burning of whole villages such as in 1999 was not an isolated event. Drenica, a region of Kosovo that has stood up to all invasions, has been burned by Serb military at least three times in the 20th century. In these circumstances, the fear is genuine that any provision such as the one done after WWII that had the people of Kosovo and Serbia in one "brotherly-unified" state turns sour with the darkest fears coming finally to life. After having NATO bomb whole of Serbia, a country that shows extensive pride in its military history/myth, Albanians cannot afford not to have the sovereignty that would legally protect them from another invasion from Serbia that could this time prove decisive.

Serbia has not improved much since the war or the ouster of Milosevic nor has it apologized for the ethnic cleansing and other more permanent crimes committed in Kosovo. Its enlightened prime minister was assassinated in 2001 while entering the government building. The Serb Radical party currently constitutes the largest party in the Serb parliament with some 30% of the seats, and their leader, Vojislav Seselj, is an outspoken paramilitary leader currently in The Hague. Seselj in 1995 proposed among other things infection of Albanians with AIDS (Blueprint). Serbia's current prime-minister was a fervent supporter of expanding the Serb borders to Sarajevo, as he stated in a recently released tape to the international tribunal in The Hague (B92). Ratko Mladic, Serb military commander who is wanted for genocide in Bosnia, was supported by the Serb Army and may still be under its protection. Vuk Draskovic, presently in the weak government coalition serving as foreign minister, led Chetnik paramilitary units in Bosnia and Croatia. Although some six high government officials are at The Hague with charges for war crimes and ethnic cleansing, Serb state and its citizens deny any responsibility for the crimes committed in the 90’s and continue to perceive themselves as victims, an attitude that gave rise to the ethnic hatred in the first place. For Miodrag Popovic, a Serb historian, "it was the intelligentsia who turned the Kosovo myth into the myth of modem Serbian national ideology" (Anzulovic, 80). And it was the members of the Serb Academy of Sciences that in 1986 awakened the status of victimhood of Serbs in Kosovo, an euphoria which Milosevic only rode along. With denazification virtually nonexistent, it will take decades for Serbia to cleanse its elite of those that provided the rationale behind the crimes of the 90’s.

Albanians still suffer directly or indirectly from Serbia. It took well into 2000, several months into the replacement of Milosevic, for all the Albanian prisoners of war (most of them were actually civilians kidnapped from refugee columns) to be released from jails in Serbia. The transfer of 800 bodies hidden in mass graves in Serb military installations and along rivers is still not completed, four years after they were found. Many more are missing while those involved stay unpunished and those that know about the massacres stay quiet.

The population of Kosovo is somewhere around 2,000,000 depending on how
many of the several thousand emigrants that have settled in the Western countries are counted. With 90% of the population Albanian, and at least as many striving for independence, this makes another big argument for Kosovo to go its own way. Its population is young, restless and has vivid memories of massacres and losses of property. Forcing Albanians to live in one state with their former aggressors will be like having the wolf and the lamb stay in the same sheep pen.

Not only Serbia has not shown remorse, but it has also kept Kosovo hostage economically. It has threatened possible investors in Kosovo with trials in case they decided to invest in Kosovo’s companies to which Serbia claims ownership. There are currently over 350,000 students in Kosovo, who in a few years will join the labor market (Kullashi). If this population cannot find jobs and a future in Kosovo, it will destabilize the region and will soon find its way to the doorsteps of West European countries.

A solution for the problem of Kosovo must ultimately satisfy its people. Kosovars must be able to live free of fear of another invasion, to decide their economic destiny, and develop their own culture without intervention from Serbia. In fact, The Kosovo Report, an extensive study done by technocrats from across the globe recommended that the country be granted conditional independence five years ago (Report, 283). While seven years have been lost since the end of the conflict the country is still in limbo. The very fact that it took only four months for 95% of more than 800 thousand Albanian refugees to return to Kosovo is a testament of the love and determination that Kosovar Albanians have for their country (Kullashi). Serbia has had several chances over the last century, and each of those ended in bloodshed. Now it is time for Kosovo and the majority of its people to have a shot at independence. Whereas for Serbia, the biggest compensation for
losing Kosovo is loss of Kosovo itself (Bugajski).

Works Cited

Anzulovic, Branimir. Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide. New York:
New York University Press, 1999.

Campbell, Greg. The Road to Kosovo: A Balkan Diary. Westview Press,
2000 Kosovo Report : Conflict, International Response, Lessons Learned. USA:
Oxford University Press, 2001.

Kullashi, Muhamed & Besnik Pula. "Why Independence for Kosovo? The
Status Issue, Political Challenges and the Path to European Integration ."
<>. 6
Mar. 2006.

DioGuadi, Joseph. “Është radha e breznisë sonë për të bërë gjithçka që
kombi shqiptar të çlirohet njëherë e përgjithmonë!” Albanian-American
Civic League.
6 Jun. 2006.

The Serb Blueprint for Cleansing Kosovo.
5 Mar.

B92: Bosnia and Herzegovina Representative Showed Recording of
Kostunica in Sarajevo.

Bugajski, Janusz. Bugajski speech, "Kosovo's Future and Balkan
Stability 5 Mar. 2006.