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NO 135-136

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 135-136 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 135-136

January - February 2010

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North Kosovo


By Miroslav Filipovic

Though Serbia strongly criticized Prishtina's and Brussels's plan for putting North Kosovo under Prishtina's control, Belgrade must have sanctioned that plan one way or another as the West must have consented to its criticism, at the top of its lungs, against the abolishment of parallel institutions.

At the time of Zoran Djindjic's premiership, the state considered the Kosovo question settled in the best interest of Serbia and its people, and was taking no action vis-a-vis the issue. Moreover, the word had it that Djindjic made a secret agreement of sorts with the then administrator of Kosovo, Michael Steiner, whereby the two of them should be minding their own business in their respective territories. Djindjic was gunned down in March 2003. There is still not logical explanation why it was that he begun interferring into Kosovo affairs early that year.

At the beginning, Vojislav Kostunica seemed rather confused apropos Kosovo. However, under the influence of some advisors, he went for a tough and aggressive policy, maximally profiting from the international community's inertness, weakness and all other flaws. Kostunica's cabinet based its policy on the Constitution providing Kosovo as a part of Serbia's territory. So it applied the state's territorial arrangement to Kosovo and turned a blind eye to the fact that Serbian authorities had no power whatsoever over the greatest part of Kosovo territory.

Then, in the attempt to cement the solution to the Kosovo problem as it suited it the best, the Republic of Serbia took a number of measures in North Kosovo and in the enclaves with Serb population. All these measures were meant to strengthen Serbia's position, presence and influence in Kosovo. In the field, these measures were implemented by more or less four groups of persons who can be classified as parallel governance or state surogates (1), para-military (2), para-police forces (3) and "guardians of the brigde" and other groupings of criminals, adventurers and renegades (4).

At that time, the cabinet was also seriously considering a military option to become effective in the event of an unfavorable solution of the Kosovo problem. According to this plan, Belgrade was to take a series of violent actions aimed at preventing the implementation of the decision on Kosovo status. Two variants of these actions were in play. One of them was to occupy North Kosovo by deploying several thousands of well-armed volunteers (even as many as five thousand). They would have been given firearmes, mine throwers, trench guns, antiaircraft guns, etc., would have operated in a "friendly environment" and would have stood for strong guerilla forces with reliance on the border with Serbia.

The other, more aggressive variant would have been a kind of rebellion in Kosovo Pomoravlje, also with a long borderline with Serbia. The environment there is not that friendly, but strong Serb troops stationed in South Serbia could have been deployed without having to cross the border with Kosovo.

Serbia and thousands of our youngsters were saved by - sheer fear. Not by wisdom, not by statesmanly consideration or normal common sense, not by grey cells the Creator endowed human beings with, but by elementary fear, sluggishness and belief that good Lord would save Serbia. Though supported and even encouraged to action by a great power, Kostunica did nothing out of fear. Instead of Prishtina, we smashed Belgrade. But that's not the only historical example of fear being a by far better companion than wisdom.

Many things have changed with the end of Kostunica's premiership: not enough but evidently. The most important change is para-military and para-police troops are no longer live on the state budget. However, huge sums of money are still spent on parallel governance. By playing on the international community's irresoluteness and lenience, Serbia has managed to establish an administrative network with actual power in Serb enclaves. It is assumed that Serbia pays at least 50,000 people working for parallel institutions in Kosovo and, moreover, pays them with the money it gets from the international community for some other purpose. Serbia did about the same when it used international assistance for financing the army of Republika Srpska. Besides, a considerable number of those people receive double or even triple salaries. Serbia mostly intervenes through heads of districts. They are fully in charge of state administration and distribution of funds. Heads of districts are governors of sorts in their districts. They are also liaisons between different ministries. They are the soul of Serbia's governance in Kosovo, in the places where such governance operates, I would say.

The international community has tolerated Belgrade's behavior and the existence of Serb parallel institutions for long. Its tolerance has come to an end now. After several incidents when Serbian officials had to be banned from Kosovo, the head of the International Civil Office, Peter Feith, responded with an emphatic statement that Belgrade-supported parallel institutions in North Kosovo had to be disbanded. The commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples confirmed NATO's support to the strategy for dissolution of parallel structures by calling them a security threat. Other officials in Kosovo, too, seem rather resolute to make some progress in the North and place the entire territory of Kosovo under Prishtina's sovereign rule.

KFOR will be reducing its forces in Kosovo but not at the detriment of serious presence of its troops. Though Belgrade gloats over the fact that KFOR remained in Kosovo, proclaims that its victory and in trashy newspapers boasts of having prevented Brussels and Washington from expelling UN from Kosovo, the truth is quite the opposite: ugly and shameful for Serbia and Serbs. KFOR remains in Kosovo only because even insance Serb clero-fascist dare not use military force against "blue helmets" - peace forces in a peace-making mission.

Though Serbia strongly criticized Prishtina's and Brussels's plan for putting North Kosovo under Prishtina's control, Belgrade must have sanctioned that plan one way or another as the West must have consented to its criticism, at the top of its lungs, against the abolishment of parallel institutions. And that's not all. The West's resoluteness and the ease with which Prishtina takes repressive measures against Serbian officials intent to enter Kosovo and feel there at home indicate that Russia kind of agreed that the West ignores Serbia's criticism and demands.

This is good news, indeed. If the incumbent government survives its entire term - and it stands good chances to survive - Serbia might benefit nicely from everything. It would not only take off its shoulders the stone called Kosovo but could profit from the saying about honey catching more flies than vinegar. Russia may easily fall out of love with its and Russian bearish and useless hug may loosen; our movement towards European values and funds could be speedier; and fascism and clerico-nationalism could boil down to some thirty-odd parliamentary seats.Alas, not even that would be an outcome of statesmanly wisdom but a product of irresoluteness, laziness and other traits that make Serbs prone to calling irresolute and lazy people the names that more adequately describe certain parts of female anathomy.

Judging by the Kosovo saga, Serbs will again witness a historical rerun. Belgrade has armed Serbs in "krajinas" (in Croatia and Bosnia) once and set them on warpath, and then withdrew its army and gave Tudjam a greenlight to smash them. "Blitz" and "Storm" operations have left scars that are still visible. Unless Belgrade brings Kosovska Mitrovica tycoons and their Belgrade-seated sponsors to their senses, new colums of tractors may be soon heading towards Kraljevo.

Will common sense prevail north of the Ibar River? Am I an optimist? I wouln't say so. For, at the time of the "Blitz" operation a big, bad tiger lived in Belgrade. Like Cronus, he was swallowing his children but was the tiger respected by friends and foes alike. Nowadays, just a handful of stupid little bears play in his cage. They feel good and have fun, but no one in the world has any respect for them, while their clumsy, bearish games inflict enormous, irreparable damage to Serbs.


NO 135-136

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