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NO 101-102

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Helsinki Charter No. 101-102

November - December 2006



By Miroslav Filipovic

Some aspects of the solution to the Kosovo status might undermine the peace in the Valley. Serbs nostalgically recall the time when, not long ago, a Serbian tank was parked in the Kosovo Street in Bujanovac. Your eyes see what your soul longs for. Every now and then, people start discussing the rebellion in Kosovo and the ensuing massive, unofficial draft in keeping with noble Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic's curse,

Once conflicts in South Serbia ended in 2001, the Presevo Valley turned less and less significant and less and less attractive to the media and politicians. Serbia became a decent state with decent politicians promising to become even more decent. So, under the influence of their mentors, belligerent Albanians were forced to at least temporarily give up the dream of Dardania as an inalienable part of an independent state of Kosovo. carefully hidden and strongly suppressed in the Albanian society started budding forth. Former Belgrade students in Presevo and Veliki Trnovac started turning their eyes to the North and Belgrade, expecting the state to do what a state is expected to do. They were even ready to send their children to study in Belgrade, like they did, to seek their opportunity over there or return to the South once they graduate. In those days and months Serbia seemed to be a country that finally found its fairy godmother who begun turning it into something nice.

But odds were against the unfortunate Serbia. For, envious of any human success, the bad fairy soon turned up, stronger, more skillful and prone to lying than the good one. And after a brief but fierce struggle, she swallowed up the good fairy along with hope, faith and millions of other things. She cast a spell over Serbia. And like in the Sleeping Beauty tale, only thorns, envy and evil have been growing in Serbia ever since. Nice things that occasionally emerge as reminders of the Golden Age just flash for a second like fireflies and disappear before citizens even catch sight of them.

However, like in the entire Serbia, there is no major tension in the South. The Presevo Valley is peaceful regardless of its problems. Serbs' general problem is the unsolvable situation caused by less and less Serbs in the Valley. Presevo is almost ethnically clean, while Serbs in Bujanovac make up less than 25 percent of total population and the tendency of further decrease is dramatic.

The Albanians in the Presevo Valley are paralyzed with fear of their future in Serbia. For, after 2000 it was the first time that they found themselves on their own and isolated from their ethic majority. In today's Serbia the Albanians amount to less than 1 percent of total population, out of which one-half of them lives in the Presevo Valley. So, the number of Albanians is "totally uninteresting." This is why they hysterically try to get unified with Kosovo Albanians - which is impossible now. Kosovo authorities have forbidden the Albanians from the Presevo Valley to demand unification or even hint such wish. The situation will remain as it is until the Kosovo status is finally solved. What I expect then is the escalation of Presevo and Bujanovac Albanians' demands for the Valley's unification with Kosovo or for some special relations such as open borders, etc. But that will happen only when Kosovo gets stabilized as a sovereign state. Until then, the Presevo Valley should not hamper the process of Kosovo's independence, which it certainly does not.

In my view, the pressure for South Serbia's unification with Kosovo will grow in the long run, while the quality of the Serbian state will condition the success of that process. Be that as it may be, the Presevo Valley will be generating problems and certain destabilizing processes in Serbia and the region for long. And if Serbia continues acting like a bad state she could easily lose those two municipalities in the first local war to come.

Some analysts tend toward comparing Kosovo and the Albanians from the Presevo Valley on the one hand, and Serbia and Kosovo Serbs on the other. Some parallels can be drawn, of course. Both states, so to speak, try to use their citizens for political purposes. But, as it seems, the Kosovo authorities are winning yet another battle over their Belgrade "colleagues." While Belgrade nationalists stick to the insane policy of talking Kosovo Serbs into ignoring Kosovo and Kosovo authorities, Prishtina nationalists have ordered their compatriots in South Serbia to partake in the January elections and thus manifest their respect for the state they live in. The message they will be sending to the world is more than clear-cut.

However, Kosovo nationalists are not that one-minded as their Belgrade counterparts. This is why some divergent opinions have been emerging in the Valley. But that makes no difference since the Albanians from South Serbia will have their representatives in the Serbian parliament. Of course, some unexpected turns of events are always possible. And some have already taken place. To start with, leaders of the Party for Democratic Action, Riza Halimi, the Movement for Democratic Progress, Jonuz Musliu, the Democratic Party of Albanians, Ragmi Mustafa, and the Democratic Union of the Valley, Skender Destani signed an agreement on joint participation in the republican elections. Almost the entire agreement was drafted in a Prishtina-based office, and then the OSCE gave it a green light. Ten most influential figures of the Albanian political scene in the South were on the coalition list. According to the agreement, if the list wins two parliamentary seats - which is almost to be taken for granted - Halimi will occupy one for four years, while Musliu and Mustafa will a take two-year turn.

As expected, four people on the list came from Halimi's Party for Democratic Action, three from Mustafa' Democratic Party of Albanians, two from Musliu's Movement for Democratic Progress and one from Destani's Democratic Union of the Valley. In the new parliament, the Albanian MPs would be cooperating with the Democratic Party although preferring the stands taken by the Liberal Democratic Party's Coalition.

Then something happened that shouldn't have, something rather strange and somewhat associating the Serbian way of thinking and political action - associating of the fabled Serbian acting out of spite. All of a sudden and with no obvious reason whatsoever, Jonuz Musliu and Ragmi Mustafa broke the agreement. They came public with some blurred and rather stupid explanations that were more telling of them than of the whys of their decision. The word has it that Nedjat Daci, ex-speaker of the Kosovo parliament and the second most influential Kosovo politician after late Ibrahim Rugova, was the one who pulled the strings. Daci and his followers have recently lost local elections in Prishtina. As it seems, the frustrated Daci had no better plan but to order his exponent Ragmi Mustafa to walk out on the "agreement" and refuse to participate in Serbian elections. Jonuz Musliu just joined him. So the Presevo-Bujanovac showed that if he couldn't help he could at least spoil the party.

Peace prevails in the Presevo Valley because peace suits Prishtina. The number of Serbian repressive troops in the region, therefore, by far exceeds the actual security risks. In my view, Serbia expects not that situation would deteriorate with nearing elections. All that could happen are isolated "alerting" incidents or acts of terrorism in the territory of Serbia bordering on Kosovo supposed to attract the international community's attention and probably speed up some processes. Moreover, the terrorists could be from both sides - Albanian and Serbian alike.

Some aspects of the solution to the Kosovo status might undermine the peace in the Valley. Serbs nostalgically recall the time when, not long ago, a Serbian tank was parked in the Kosovo Street in Bujanovac. Your eyes see what your soul longs for. Every now and then, people start discussing the rebellion in Kosovo and the ensuing massive, unofficial draft in keeping with noble Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic's curse,

Speaking of a rebellion, initial guess that it could take place north of Kosovska Mitrovica turned wrong. The strategists of the Serbian fourth (or whatever) rebellion have in the meantime fancied the idea of having it in Kosovsko Pomoravlje. That would be much more convenient, they take, bearing in mind the massive presence of Serbian troops and police units in the region of Bujanovac and Presevo.

A rebellion in the area of Gnjilane would be most welcome for solving, once for all, the problem of the Presevo Valley as the only region in Serbia wherefrom actions against her can be taken. Belgrade nationalists would cheer at a small, war. Several tens of killed Serbs would be a gift from the gods for the Serbian government. And at least one torched church would be a gift of God that would postpone long enough everything a government should do but does not know how or cannot. In a situation as such no one would even dare poke his nose in trivial matters such as bread, job, human rights, freedom, and, finally, the right to life. Let's be realistic. If Belgrade nationalists decide to trigger off a spiral of violence, Kosovo and international police forces - regardless of their big-mouthed statements - will stand no chance to prevent it.


NO 101-102

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