Dushan Janjic
Serbia and Monte Negro

The Present Status of Kosovo Cannot Last Longer Than 2005


However, it is clear that the present improvisations cannot last for ever because they burden, slow down and even make it impossible for the Kosovo Albanians, as well as for Serbia and the Serbs, to achieve the reforms and the democratization processes. So, the question cannot be postponed to an indefinite time, but it must be solved with caution and responsibility taking into consideration the numerous and very complex factors in the region.

In his report to the Security Council in New York in which he bade farewell to his mission as UN Secretary General special envoy, Michael Steiner emphasized that during the year and a half he had stayed in Kosovo the multiethnic government had been formed. “In the northern part of Mitrovica we brought in the UNMIK administration. We drove back the prisoners of war. We turned upside down the negative trend as regards the return of the refugees. And both sides stated that they were ready for direct dialogue. At the same time, we also created a framework for further progress, on the basis of which there are the eight UNMIK norms…. The Serbian MP’s in Kosovo participate in the Parliament. The provisional institutions, as a matter of fact, are still tending to go beyond the limits of their authorities. The Parliament does not fully respect the minority rights… we have also created a new multiethnic judiciary as well as a multiethnic police. UNMIK police cooperate with their colleagues in Belgrade, Skopje, and Tirana. …. The EURO guarantees the stability of the hard currency. This is a great success that enabled us to build a stable banking system. Kosovo has a balanced budget based on a functioning tax system. Over 7,000 expelled people have returned to Kosovo so far, 1,000 of whom as of March this year….” However, neither the Serbs nor the Albanians are happy with Steiner’s contribution.

The remarkably bad results of his mission were also due to Steiner himself who made quite a sharp and offhand start because of which the UNMIK bureaucracy and the different interests of the foreign forces were not able to follow. In essence, Steiner tried too hard with the method of “divide and conquer” to balance Albanians-Serbs relations and the alienated Albanian options. In doing so, Steiner lost the initiative in the summer of 2002 and started repeating that he was there to implement Resolution 1244, which is of importance for the Serbs with regard to the return and the security, and for the Albanians with regard to the normal functioning of the society. Since the beginning of the offensive of the former Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in January and February 2003 toward resolving the status of Kosovo, not only Belgrade and Pristina but also the international community were faced with a great temptation. Steiner himself had since added to this theme before he became clearly aware at the Thessaloniki Summit that the EU had an opinion totally different to his own. Namely, Brussels confirmed in Thessaloniki its willingness to discuss everything else but Kosovo’s status.

During May 2003 various signals arrived from Washington. This augmented the caution and hastiness among the politicians in Belgrade and Pristina. Daniel Server, the director of the Balkan Initiative at the Washington Institute for Peace, commented: “While the attitude of the Administration is to postpone the decision on the final status of Kosovo, it is not a secret that the Pentagon, which wants to drag out its troops from Kosovo, is interested in merely, but not abruptly, speeding up this process. Some other segments of the Administration share the same opinion. Moreover, there are some unshakeable advocates for Kosovo’s independence in the Congress Department dealing with Kosovo, but there are also some congressmen who have great affinity for the Serbs.” Judging by these facts, the United States will not undertake any steps without consulting and receiving the approval of the European partners. The reason is because Washington tends to harmonize its approach with the Europeans, but even more because of its growing interests for Belgrade following the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic. Besides, U.S. public opinion and politics are influenced by the discriminatory attitude of the Albanians against the Serbian minority in Kosovo. A large part of the influential U.S. public, like “Amnesty International”, believes that aside from the serious failures of the UNMIK and KFOR, great attention should be attached to the incapability of bringing to justice the executors of ethnically motivated crimes, the prior responsibility for which is with the Kosovo people, particularly the Albanian majority, which have to put an end to the extremists in their ranks.

There had been some signals, more from European politicians and diplomats than from Washington, that the resolution of Kosovo’s status and of the Balkans in general should be conceded to the EU and that the United States is going to do this by the end of 2003. This means that the UN Security Council will only be in the position of verifying the decisions made inside the EU. The war in Iraq and the tensions between the EU and the United States have greatly shaken this conviction. From the U.S. point of view, the UN Security Council is presently a better place for these discussions than ceding the initiative to the EU. It is clear that the priorities of the UN Security Council are Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and the threatening crisis in Korea. The Balkans is not among its priorities. This suits the U.S. Administration, which is not willing to interfere directly in this issue before the upcoming presidential elections. Due to all this, Washington also points out that most of the problems should be solved in the Belgrade-Pristina negotiations. On the other hand, as of June local politicians have actively started to respond with numerous initiatives and polemics. So, an appeal was launched from Kosovo for the return of the displaced from Kosovo. In an open letter signed by the most outstanding leaders of the Albanian and of other non-Serbian communities it is stressed that, “it is time for you to come back home. We consider your return welcome…It is really the time to put the past behind us and to go forward. You are a part of our country’s legacy… Together we can build a new and better Kosovo that we can all be proud of.” The representatives of the international community and the departing Steiner assessed this appeal as a giant step towards the construction of a multiethnic Kosovo. According to Bajram Rexhepi, Kosovo’s prime minister, the return of the displaced is a step that guarantees prosperity to Kosovo. However this appeal was commented on differently by the Serbs. Nebojsha Chovic, the head of the Coordinating Center for Kosovo, gave a positive comment. Momchilo Trajkovic, the leader of the Serbian resistance movement from Kosovo, was more moderate, while the leaders of the Kosovo Serbs, Milosh Ivanovic, Rade Trajkovic and Marko Jakshic, made totally negative evaluations. Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia assessed the appeal for the return of the Serbs, without a guarantee on their security, as the “peak of cynicism and a cheap political trick.”

Judging by the frequent articles, statements and commentaries in the mass media of Serbia and Kosovo in Serbian and Albanian, as well as by foreign analysts and monitors, Nebojsha Chovic’s Basic directions for the resolution of the Kosovo and Metohija crisis stirred special interest.

More than half of the 20 theses in the Basic directions are dedicated to the affirmation of Serbia’s right to sovereignty over the territory of Kosovo. So, thesis number one says that Serbia must not at any cost renounce Kosovo. Furthermore, by insisting on UN Security Council Resolution 1244, the standpoint that the sovereignty of the state has an advantage over the separatist will of the minority ethnic community is strengthened. The third thesis calls on the Helsinki principles and on the viewpoints of the Badinterre commission. According to this text, these were ratified when the UN General Assembly voted for SRY’s admission to the United Nations. The new Constitution of Serbia, aside from regulations about the inalienability of its territory, is also expected to contain a special regulation about banning any renouncement of Kosovo. The text calls upon the boundaries of the Anti Fascist Council of the National Liberation of Yugoslavia, and thesis number nine offers the broadest autonomy for Kosovo under international guarantees and surveillance in the framework of which the Albanian community is offered a high level of independence with regard to Serbia. According to thesis number ten, Kosovo could become an entity higher than autonomous and lower than a state in the frameworks of Serbia. Within such an entity, the Serbian community would acquire cultural and territorial autonomy, and so on. One of the first responses came from Pristina. An UNMIK representative informed that Chovic’s paper anticipated the resolution of the status issue. Jakub Krasniqi, the vice prime minister, responded on behalf of the Kosovo Government by avoiding a direct discussion on the offered theses and presented ten preconditions before starting any talks. The preconditions implied the renouncement of the Serbian political leaders from the ideology of nationalism and the withdrawal of the charges pressed by the Serbian judicial bodies against Albanian political leaders as is Thaci.

These kinds of standpoints and preconditions, for resolving what is to be resolved in discussions and negotiations, make senseless the very institution of discussions and negotiations.

This polemic has also confirmed that both sides are preoccupied with the question of the new and final status of Kosovo. As regards the Albanian side, it has been confirmed that the basic weakness of the Albanian movement, including its representatives – the future negotiators – is the fact that the final goal – Kosovo’s independence - has been defined prematurely. It has been also affirmed that the Albanians have been mobilized and exhausted for too long regarding this goal, for which they have not received the promised reward – a better life in independent Kosovo! On the other hand, the political life in Kosovo is this year focused on the celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Prizren League, which projected unity of the Albanian ethnic territory. This is an additional incitement for expecting independence and for the agitation among the Kosovo Albanians. At the same time, Rugova’s and Thaci’s parties are struggling for power in Pristina and they see no political profit from holding discussions with the Serbs at this moment. Namely, it is extremely risky to talk with the Serbs because one of the strong Albanian prejudices is the conviction that if talks begin with Belgrade, it will be interpreted as giving up independence.

The Basic directions, as well as the discussions related to them, is another additional provocation that was presented in Thessaloniki on 7 February at the Seminar of the Greek Foundation for the Balkans and the Greek-American Trade Chamber by the deputy president of the U.S. Council for International Relations, David Phillips. At the time, he suggested that Belgrade be paid 2.5 million if it accepted Kosovo’s independence. As a matter of fact, the same idea is contained in the study of the U.S. Council for International Relations under the title, “The Balkans 2010,” and it served for many to present themselves as unyielding patriots before the public in Serbia: “there will be no barter for Kosovo”, they keep repeating. The present atmosphere and the Basic directions expand the fear that Milosevic’s spirit is extremely strong among the present authorities. Here belongs the bizarre date that Chovic has actually taken over most of the stances pertaining to former Milosevic’s foreign minister Vladislav Jovanovic, who published his text by the end of June and repeated for the influential daily Politika that there would be no negotiations about sovereignty.

The consequence is that the Serbian political elite is still trying to decide whether to repeat Slobo’s historical NO, or the other possibility is that by repeating these theses the public is getting prepared to say goodbye to its contents. However, it is certain that the Basic directions are not a foundation for successful negotiations, primarily because they emphasize the question of the legal status of Kosovo and exclude one of the present theses – Kosovo’s independence. It is clear that it would be much better if this question is left for the negotiations, but Belgrade should analyze all the consequences of a possible independence of Kosovo or the possible remaining of Kosovo as a Republic in Serbia and Montenegro. However, it is certain that Chovic uses the discussions on the Basic directions with the aim of getting the support of the extremist nationalistic circles, Kostunica’s Party and the Serbian Orthodox Church, just like Prime Minister Djindjic did in his turn. At the same time, Chovic is trying to reinforce his shaken position as the head of the Coordination Center and to push away, from the political scene, his political opponents, primarily the more extremist leaders of the Serbs in Kosovo.

Belgrade will undoubtedly play an essential role in the negotiations on the final status of Kosovo, and it has the right to advocate in these negotiations the standpoint that suits it the most. It seems that only the proposals that would hurt the sovereignty and integrity of some of the neighboring countries like Bosnia and Macedonia will not be accepted. Nevertheless, the open question is whether such a firm stance refers to the territorial integrity of Serbia as well. This is why Belgrade is now close to the idea of a loose division of Kosovo, through the example of the Bosnian entities. Prime Minister Zhivkovic himself, like Djindjic before him, is inclined to the division of the Serbian and the Albanian population in which the Kosovo Serbs would have self-government or would be governed by Belgrade. There is a complete absence of any ambition on the side of Belgrade to govern the Kosovo Albanians. However, the Serbian public is advocating a firm division that would imply exchange of territories so that a part of Kosovo is annexed to Serbia, while the Preshevo valley in southern Serbia would be ceded to Kosovo and a firmly defined border would be established. So, Chovic’s insisting on territorial integrity should be viewed also as an attempt to test the decisiveness of the international factors in relation to this question.

It is not impossible for Chovic, as well as for Belgrade, to go back to the stances from the 4th July 2003 session of the DOS Presidency after testing the public via the Basic directionsand then come to the National Assembly of Serbia with a draft Declaration on Kosovo and Metohija, which would serve as a platform for the discussions with the representatives of the Kosovo Albanians.

On 18 July 2003, Chovic presented one version of the text of the Declaration in cooperation with Prime Minister Zhivkovic to the Presidency of the Coalition Return chaired by Vojislav Kostunica. The basic regulations of the text Declaration on the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, and the measures of the bodies of the Republic of Serbia in accomplishing state interests through a full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 are as follows: deep concern for the continued violation of human rights and the further deterioration of the situation of the Serbian people as well as of the members of other non-Albanian communities in Kosovo; the one-and-a-half years of the functioning of the interim self-governing institutions clearly demonstrates that they are not in the service of all the citizens and national communities in Kosovo; with his deliberate normative activities, Michael Steiner assumed the right to administer the state and social property under the mask of ‘administration’, to suspend the ownership authorities of the state of Serbia and Montenegro, of the enterprises, corporations and their employees. By doing this, many international standards have been violated, legal privatization has been made impossible, and the members of the Serbian nation in Kosovo have been directly discriminated and bereft of their right to denationalization, restitution, and therefore private ownership; the return of the Serbs to Kosovo has become a mere illusion; the National Assembly expresses full solidarity with the Serbian people in Kosovo, as well as with all the citizens of Kosovo and Metohija whose human rights have been endangered, and it appeals to them to organize themselves in a democratic way as a national community with the aim of protecting their legitimate collective and individual human rights, starting from the local level up to the level of the Province; concluding that the present legal frames in Kosovo have not anticipated efficient institutional mechanisms for the protection of freedom, rights and equality of the national communities, the National Assembly appeals to the Security Council to initiate through UNMIK activities for establishing such mechanisms, including the de-centralization of the authorities in Kosovo.

It is evident that neither the Albanian nor the Serbian side, and not even the international community, have made the most important step in creating a negotiating strategy. In other words, there is not a political consensus on a national level on the question of negotiations, neither in Belgrade not in Pristina. It is possible for Belgrade to achieve this in the Serbian Assembly one minute before the start of the discussions, but we do not see how the Kosovo Albanians can achieve this. So, both sides are increasingly using the Kosovo problem in their mutual party conflicts and struggle for power. The greatest concerns as regards Belgrade are the possible discrepancies between the representatives of Belgrade’s authorities and a part of the representatives of the Kosmet Serbs. Belgrade itself is heavily burdened by the frequent conflicts on its political scene and it is a question how, when Kosovo is at stake, the political elite of Serbia will manage to compete and achieve a beneficial consensus.

However, it is clear that the present improvisations cannot last for ever because they burden, slow down and even make it impossible for the Kosovo Albanians, as well as for Serbia and the Serbs, to achieve the reforms and the democratization processes. So, the question cannot be postponed to an indefinite time, but it must be solved with caution and responsibility taking into consideration the numerous and very complex factors in the region. The journey leading to the resolution of the Kosovo problem will not be short, and therefore it is no wonder that the present debate reflects a large dose of caution with regard to the consequences of the negotiations for Belgrade and Pristina, as well as for the entire region. However, in any case, Pristina and Belgrade must start a dialogue in autumn about the practical common questions under the auspices of the UN and with the support of the United States and the European Union. An EU conference on the possible solutions for Kosovo would be beneficial in this process.

“This is the most difficult task that I have ever been given,” former Finnish Prime Minister Harry Holkerry said about his new appointment as the head of UNMIK, the transitory UN administration in Kosovo. He then stated his priorities including the reconstruction of the administrative bodies and the economy in Kosovo in cooperation with the local authorities, development of the schooling system in Kosovo and reconstruction of the facilities demolished during the war, monitoring the criminal activities and assistance to the refugees for their return to their homes. Furthermore, he will try his best to help the local population reach a compromise. So, Holkerry’s goal is to fully transfer the administration with Kosovo into the hands of the local officials. “My task is to become excessive as soon as possible.”

Nevertheless, the present status cannot last longer than 2005, and therefore it is expected that through discussions and negotiations, and with the help of the international community, mediation and pressure, Pristina will have to deal with the slogan: Final status for security and democracy, and Belgrade should deal with the slogan: Territory for (in exchange of) development!

Translation from Macedonian to English: Zora Bakalinova