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INFO   :::  Reports - PAGE 4 > Albanians in Kosovo


Albanians in Kosovo

July 2001


Kosovar Albanians on the Albanian National Issue

The three leading political parties in Kosovo have an identical stand on the Albanian national issue. Currently it is the most "problematic" open national issue in Southern Balkans. Albanians inhabit a compact territory embracing eastern parts of Montenegro, Southern Serbia, Kosovo and Western Macedonia. After the SFRY disintegration, they found themselves divided, against their will, in the two states, the FRY and Macedonia. However some prominent figures in Kosovo think that the Albanian issue has become a sticking point even before the SFRY disintegration. Current developments in Kosovo, Southern Serbia and Macedonia are only reflections of policy of subjugation of Albanians throughout the Twentieth Century, and in the former SFRY notably after the 1981 events. Such Miloševic regime strategy along with use of brute force hindered any political settlement of the Albanian national issue. Armed conflicts first in Kosovo, and then in the territory of Serbia, and recently in Macedonia resulted from long-standing frustrations and impossibility of Albanians to politically resolve key problems of their national community.

Political parties in Kosovo mostly espouse the thesis that the Albanian national issue cannot be resolved globally. General framework of solution thereof is a regional co-operation, but only after the FRY disintegration. The first step in that direction would be definition of the status of Kosovo as an internationally recognised independent entity. Independent Kosovo would satisfy demands of the majority of Albanian population in the region, and consequently downscale the support rendered by some extreme Kosovo groups to armed Albanians in Southern Serbia and Macedonia. After that Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia would, in line with the generally recognised European and world standards, constitutionally and legally define the status of the Albanian national community in their territories. The last step in overall and final settlement of the Albanian national issue would be integration of democratic states of Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia into Europe without borders whereby "the artificial" barriers dividing the Albanian national community in the region would be finally eliminated.


Albanian-Serb relations in Kosovo

Even after establishment of the international protectorate over Kosovo, Serbs and Albanians continued to live in parallel realities. That fact prevented acceptance of a unique reality which would have been accepted by Albanians, Serbs, ethnic minorities and representatives of the international community in Kosovo. During Miloševic regime Kosovo Serbs were sent message from Belgrade about the return of the army and police to the province. Strategy of most political representatives of Kosovo Serbs , who were then considered the opposition, was to discredit the international community's mission in Kosovo and portray it as a failure by refusing to co-operate with its representatives. Unfortunately this policy was to a large extent counter-productive, and mostly affected the remaining members of the Serb community in Kosovo. Because of such policy Kosovo Serbs insisted on looking for solution in Serbia and on establishing closer ties between Serbia and Kosovo. They avoided integration into the existing structures and co-operation with Albanians and the international community as key factors in Kosovo. Some leaders of Kosovo Serbs think that Serb-Albanian cohabitation is impossible, and that only a multi-ethnic Kosovo in which Serbs and Albanians live next to each other is feasible. Insistence of Albanians and the international community on integration of Serbs into the Kosovo society, Kosovo Serbs see as insistence on their integration into the Albanian state. Within the context of the Albanian strategy "less Serbs in Kosovo, better chances to make an Albanian state in Kosovo" delayed return of the Serb refugees is assessed as a logical prerequisite for realisation of independent, Albanian Kosovo.

On the other hand the Albanian community so far stiffly resisted assumption of responsibility, if not political than of the moral one, for the current predicament of Serbs and other minorities in Kosovo. It is certain that the lack of adequate institutions relieves of any responsibility leaders of Kosovar Albanians for the current status of minorities in Kosovo. On the other hand the fact that Albanians, once the persecuted minority have now become the majority aqlmost indifferent towards problems of other minorities in Kosovo, most surely does not denote their readiness, barring the vocal one, to embark upon building a multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo. Political parties of Kosovar Albanians justify such stance on the Serbian community by fear of the entire Albanian population of closer links between Kosovo and Serbia and the FRY. Albanians see Kosovar Serbs as instruments of the Belgrade authorities for prevention of independence of Kosovo. Hence possible return of a large part of Serb refugees, much-insisted upon by the republican, federal authorities and Kosovar Serb leaders, is perceived as a threat. As regards Kosovar Serbs, victims of violence, the Albanian political parties think that there are no elements indicating an orchestrated campaign, whereby they don't exclude provocations against the international community and Albanians, as such provocative acts would favour political centres outside Kosovo.

What additionally radicalises Albanian-Serb relations in Kosovo is the problem of Northern Kosovo, that is, of Kosovska Mitrovica. Majority of Albanians think that Serbia is "involved" in that case, and that by creation of parallel institutions it strives to effect the secession of that part of the Kosovo territory. On the other hand Kosovar Serbs think that regionalisation and institutional links with Serbia constitute the only deterrent of further Serb exodus from Kosovo. The position of Kosovar Serbs is the following: if claims to independence of Kosovar Albanians are considered legitimate, then Serbian claims to closer institutional ties between Northern Kosovo and Serbia are to be also considered legitimate.


Kosovo and conflicts in Southern Serbia and Macedonia

Currently much-discussed is both the support to and criticism of the LAPMB and NLA armed formations in Southern Serbia and Macedonia by leaders of Kosovar Albanians. Representatives of the current authorities of the FRY, Serbia and Macedonia treat the armed conflicts in the region almost exclusively as a spill-over of violence from Kosovo, and as part of the Greater Kosovo/Albania project. Adviser to the Yugoslav President, Predrag Simic, maintains: "now the time has come to label the Greater Albania nationalists in Kosovo as the greatest Balkans and inter-regional threat." Such a strategy aims at delegating total responsibility for destabilisation of Southern Balkans on Kosovo and Kosovar Albanians and partly on the international community for its impotence to contain "upsurge of Albanian terrorism." Vice Prime Minister of Serbia and President of the federal and republican Co-ordinating Committee for Southern Serbia Nebojša Covic told NIN of 8 March 2001 that Albanians in Kosovo made up about 60% of members of armed formations in Southern Serbia. He went on to note: "They are those who after losing the local elections in Kosovo, now think that they can solve the entire problem and moreover spread it in the whole region by conflicts and wars.they are probably obsessed by the Greater Albania idea." The current situation is presented in the media as a consequence of Albanian population efforts to seize the historical opportunity for realising the concept "all Albanians in one state." At the meeting of Defence Secretaries of South East Europe Countries held on 5 April 2001 in Skoplje, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski stated: "unstable situation in Kosovo results in export of the Macedonian state" and "if the international community does not solve the Kosovo crisis, if there is no final and resolute blow, the militant extremism shall continue and the Balkans shall face for a long time to come a destabilising factor of Kosovo." It seems that the international community has partly accepted the aforementioned thesis. George Robertson, the NATO Secretary General, during his 3 April visit to Skoplje announced that the Albanian terrorists in Kosovo would be de-commissioned. According to him this would help stabilise situation in Macedonia and spill-over of terrorism shall be prevented by closure of illegal passes between Macedonia and Skoplje. A joint statement of ministers of nine South East Europe countries and high-ranking NATO, OSCE, EU and the US officials, makes it clear that by joint and organised curbing of the Albanian terrorism prerequisites for inclusion of the Balkan countries into the European integration process are created.

Contrary to the aforementioned official stands of the FRY, Macedonia and partly of the international community, Albanian leaders in Kosovo think that the main cause of the crisis in Southern Serbia and in Macedonia is policy of repression and discrimination against the local Albanians. Therefore they think that laying the blame for the current crisis on the Kosovo political leaders and even on the international community is -unfounded. Long-standing frustration due to failed settlement of problems of Albanian communities in Serbia and Macedonia by political means, resulted in their resorting to armed conflicts as the only possible way for kick-starting resolution of status of Albanians. Leading political parties of Kosovar Albanians deem legitimate demands of their fellow-nationals in Southern Serbia and Macedonia. But they also made clear their opposition to the use of force and favouring of the political ways of settlement of that problem. Appeal of the Western leaders to the political parties of Kosovar Albanians to condemn violence in Southern Serbia and Macedonia was successful, for they explicitly distanced themselves from the LAPMB and NLA armed formations.

Some parties don't deny the support of certain extremist groups in Kosovo to Albanians in Southern Serbia and Macedonia, but at the same time say that absence of adequate institutions and anti-crime mechanisms are responsible for their emergence. Having in mind the Kosovo print media coverage, it is manifest that no-one disclaims that some extreme structure of former KLA , and parts of KZK render some support to armed formations of Albanians in Southern Serbia and Macedonia. Thus Zeri of 5 April 2001 reports on demand of George Robertson that the KZK stays away from conflicts in Southern Serbia and Macedonia. Koha Ditore of 9 March 2001 in the text headlined "Who are active and passive players in Tanuševac?" goes even further by implying that the involvement of Ramush Haradinaj, the AAK leader in Tanuševac developments is very likely.


Greater Kosovo/Albania

Thesis about Albanian ambition to create Greater Kosovo/Albania were launched from Serbia with the goal of preservation Serbia's own aspirations to Montenegro and Kosovo. Current crisis in Southern Serbia and Macedonia, and unfounded thesis about spill-over of conflicts into Montenegro are used as a ploy to persuade the international community that any further disintegration of the Balkans would lead to its destabilisation. In view of an unlikely repeat of Serbian and Macedonian scenarios in Montenegro, in the early March the Serbian print media, in a bid to depict Albanians as key destabilising factor in the Balkans, ran a series of articles on emergence of armed Albanian groups in Montenegro and maps of Greater Kosovo/Albania encompassing eastern parts of Montenegro, Southern Serbia, Kosovo, Western Macedonia and Albania. Professor Dr. Slavenko Terzic, Director of the Historical Institute of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, in his interview to weekly Svedok of 3 April 2001, states that "the Albanian mafia, after a peaceful phase of creation of Greater Albania by ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija in the SFRY period, entered a new stage, backed by the US and NATO, the one of uprising and armed struggle which is now spreading to Vranje basin, Western part of Macedonia and in a foreseeable future possibly to Montenegro and perhaps even Greek Epiryss". The message thus sent, notably to the international community is very obvious - independent Kosovo and independent Montenegro shall only additionally encourage Albanian extremists to openly embark upon implementation of project of Greater Albania/Kosovo. Final outcome of this scenario is a large-scale conflict in the Balkans.

As regards political parties of Albanians in Kosovo, they openly voice their opposition to any further change of borders of Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia. They urge respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia and Macedonia and oppose any territorial autonomy of Albanians in Serbia and federalisation of Macedonia. Their joint stand is that the thesis about Greater Albania/Kosovo was launched by an anti-Albanian lobby in a bid to discredit Albanians and influence the final status of Kosovo. Having in mind how sharply condemned were radical factions of Albanians in Southern Serbia, Macedonia and their possible accomplices in Kosovo by the international community, it is hard to believe that any relevant political factor in Kosovo would today back the idea of creation of a Greater Albania/Kosovo project.


Status of Kosovo

Political leaders of Kosovar Albanians insist on application of identical principles to all former members of the Yugoslav federation, that is republics and provinces. In the same context they don't understand why the international community is against independent Kosovo, as a final definition of status of that area.

Independent Kosovo is a key precondition for stabilisation of the South East Balkans. Resolution of status of Kosovo would finally dispel illusions about successful realisation of Greater Serbia/Greater Albania project. Independent Kosovo would make possible integration of all minorities into the Kosovo society and open the way for essential settlement of status of national minorities, the latter being one of key problems in Kosovo. Creation of state institutions would contribute largely to assumption of responsibility of political parties of Kosovar Albanians, and also of all citizens of Kosovo in their bid to create a democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo.

Kosovar Albanians see themselves as hostages to the current situation in Kosovo. It is very likely that their genuine discontent caused by unwillingness of international community to accept some of real causes of instability in the Balkans and solve them, can lead in a foreseeable future to radicalisation of situation in Kosovo and elsewhere. But process of independence-gaining cannot be stopped, notably in view of the fact that all relevant political factors in Kosovo see secession of Kosovo from Serbia and the FRY as a basic prerequisite for stabilisation of the region.

Thus preservation of status quo, considered by the international community as the only response the current situation, is in fact only prolongation of agony of Kosovo and the Southern Balkans in general. In an "undefined" context, in which Albanians see Kosovar Serbs as a threat to realisation of independent Kosovo and in which Kosovar Serbs, relying on the Belgrade authorities, look for solution of their real problems in Serbia, and not in Kosovo, it is difficult to expect creation of mood of ethnic-tolerance and consequently the one of adequate security.

Belgrade, May 2001.





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