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May 23, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 139
Kosovo Mosaic

The Green Fields Of Kosovo

by Perica Vucinic

Following ad hoc assessments that the clash between ethnic Albanians and the Yugoslav authorities in Kosovo started the crisis in Socialist Yugoslavia, and that it will have to end in Kosovo, there are increasing political forecasts, the ``it is Kosovo's turn'' now. That the resolving of the Kosovo issue is next, was indicated by British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hogg's visit to Belgrade and Pristina on May 56. Speculations following Hogg's comment that ethnic Albanians must be given broad autonomy within the framework of Serbia have been exhausted. Hogg's visit served to launch stories that Serb and ethnic Albanian negotiating teams had been set up. This however was denied by the fact that Federal Yugoslav vice PM Zeljko Simic and Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) leader Vojislav Kostunica who is at loggerheads with the authorities, were supposed to be on the same team.

This information was announced by Radio Cologne and the Albanian language Pristina weekly ``Koha,'' and was carried by Belgrade newspapers, but from the point of view of a classic newspaper hoax. Their motive is political and carries the message that it is time to start negotiating.

After Hogg's visit, Kosovo is returning to its normal life, i.e. a parallel life with the unrecognized, (only recognized by Albania) self-proclaimed Kosovo Republic on the one side and the Republic of Serbia on the other. Both sides are doing their best to enforce their rights and if possible, avoid obligations. Serbia has enforced a police apparatus, and left the ethnic Albanians to organize their education, culture and sports, social and administrative institutions, tax organs. Serbia collects its taxes. Even though they ignore the Serbian administration whenever they can, ethnic Albanians do not refrain from seeking health protection and hospital care. When it comes to the defence of the country, a tacit agreement has been reache--dethnic Albanians do not serve military service. They don't consider the Yugoslav Army their army, and the Yugoslav Army is suspicious of their loyalty. And this is how two national communities live a parallel life. They meet when business interests bring them together, and don't consider it unusual to conduct business in a restaurant owned by a Serb or ethnic Albanian. The difference between a Serb businessman and an ethnic Albanian one, lies in the fact that the ethnic Albanian pays taxes to two states. As a rule he is a tradesman or producer, and is welloff, while the Serb businessman is most often a mediator between ethnic Albanians and the state and pockets a commission, i.e. bribe.

In other fields, however, the two sides seem irreconcilable.

The postponing of the political conflict, even dialogue, serves to feed illusions and maintain tension.

``It is a status quo of fear, a situation without war or peace, and will last as long as it suits both sides,'' said Shkelzen Maliqi, a former politician and former president of the Social Democratic Party. Maliqi is involved in journalism today. He reiterates the thesis that an eventual war in Kosovo is being exhausted in Bosnia and that Bosnian Serbs, ``in fighting for their ethnic rights, are fighting for the ethnic rights of Albanians. Because, if they win enough territorial compensation in Bosnia, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic might agree to the formula of broad autonomy--territorial, political, culturaland that would practically lead to the independence of Kosovo.'' The joint platform of all the important parties in the as yet unconstituted parliament of the ``Kosovo Republic'' is an independent Kosovo. However, the general stand right now seems to be that this is unrealistic. This stand is voiced by members of the leading ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK), which won 76% votes at the ethnic Albanian May 24, 1991 elections.

On the other hand, the mentioning of the broad autonomy enjoyed under the Socialist Yugoslavia 1974 Constitution is considered heretical. The DLK leadership tried to reformulate Hogg's on Kosovo's broad autonomy within the framework of Serbia. DLK vice-president Fehmi Agani, and Rugova's closest associate said in his interview to VREME, that Hogg had corrected his stand on the spot.

The Serbian side is also uncomfortable when talking about the 1974 Constitution,

a meeting point and point of departure with regard to Serb and ethnic Albanian interests of twenty years ago. President of the Kosovo Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) committee Vojislav Zivkovic talked about Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia. ``Kosovo does not exist as an open question, but as a problem on how to persuade ethnic Albanians to agree to negotiations. When Europe says, as Great Britain did, that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia, I am sure that the majority of ethnic Albanians will come to realize this,'' said Zivkovic.

The problem with politicians on both sides, is that if they are in the organs of authority, then their competencies are very limited and political discussions are reduced to reiterating familiar national strategies contained in national slogans. The stands held by former politicians are authentic but without much political influence.

Former vicePM of the Kosovo Government and later SPS deputy Momcilo Trajkovic who led the group for the resolving of Kosovo problems and later left the SPS and founded the Social Democratic Party, says, not without cynicism that ``he doesn't believe that Serbian President Milosevic said that there was `no problem' over giving ethnic Albanians autonomy.'' ``Milosevic has no right to say something like that, so I doubt that he could have said it out loud. That would mean the beginning of the end of his authority which is based in Kosmet,'' said Trajkovic. He believes that the ethnic Albanians' contribution to the resolving of the problems in Kosovo would be their public abandoning of the Kosovo Republic project, while the Serbs would have to realize that ``ethnic Albanians must be given something, because they make up 90% of the population. They will participate in authority one day, and it is necessary to have mechanisms which will prevent the majoritarianism of the Serbs,'' said a Kosovo politician and SPS member, off the record.

At the last elections Trajkovic campaigned with the slogan ``Vote for those who have linked their fate to Kosovo and Metohija,'' and lost. Trajkovic is now the director of the agricultural cooperative ``Ratar'' in the village of Laplje, and seems to be happy. He underscores with pride that 1,100 hectares of the estates have been sown and that ``this is the way to fight for Serb land in Kosovo.''

There are no differences over the final goal in the ethnic Albanian bloc, but there are some over the strategy to be followed. No one challenges Rugova's authority, or the strength and influence of the DLK. There is criticism however, over his monopoly on authority, the fact that he is keeping several important ethnic Albanian intellectuals out of the party, and his political passiveness. The loudest critics are academician Rexhep Qhosa, the ideologue of the ethnic Albanian national question and Adem Demaqi, President of the Human Rights Forum, a political dissident and longtime prisoner, and editor of the magazine ``Forum.'' Demaqi has the reputation of a man ready to make political concessions, a sharp DLK critic, especially of its lack of decisiveness in the defence of ethnic Albanian institutions banned by the authorities: the Institute of Albanian Studies, the Kosovo Academy of Arts and Sciences, and newspapers and journals in the Albanian language. During Hogg's visit Demaqi was in Italy, but gave an interview to TV Tirana. He said that Kosovo relied too much on the foreign factor and that ``it was the task of those involved in politics to search for various roads aimed at resolving problems. It is not enough to say that we have such and such an option, and then start thinking about things... I think that it is time for ethnic Albanians to stop talking amongst themselves. It is very important that ethnic Albanians start talking with Serbia, because, whether we like it or not, Serbia is a factor we must count on, and with which we must reach an agreement,'' said Demaqi.

After being postponed several times, the DLK congress will be held in late May or early June. Spectacular changes in the party are not expected, and therefore none in policy. Information from Tirana that Rugova and his host, Albanian President Sali Berisha, urged the mediation of a third party in the ethnic Albanian-Serbian conflict passed practically unnoticed. This throws a shadow on the legitimacy of Kosovo Republic as a maximalist goal, and promises that apart from a political maximum, which ``at this moment is not feasible'' it has something else to offer.

President of the Helsinki Human Rights Committee Gazmend Pulla proposes a federal republic of Kosovo within Yugoslavia as ``an honorable solution'' which would not threaten the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, and which would allow the Serbs to preserve their political and practical interests. ``It would be unnatural to agree to a lower degree of constitutional organization. Kosovo was a constitutive unit of the federation and the international community cannot agree to the reducing of rights of two million ethnic Albanians, when 500,000 Montenegrins have a republic,'' said Pulla.

The shadow of a possible war is always hovering over Kosovo, but it is fading, partly because it is believed, as Maliqi has said, that the war option exhausted itself first in Croatia and then in Bosnia, and partly because of the general belief that Serbia cannot sustain several fronts, and that its warring ambitions have been exhausted under the surveillance of the international community and because nobody is ready to risk a war which could engulf the Balkans. The division of Kosovo, is being considered superficially as a possible war option. Maliqi believes that in that case, war would flare up as an alibi for the division. ``Serbs and ethnic Albanians would not know how to do it without international mediation.'' Maliqi illustrates the lack of conviction of the war option with Albanian's military weakness and the unpreparedness of the United States to support a militarily weak ally.

Apart from a parallel life, Serbs and ethnic Albanians have shown a common incapacity and inability at sitting down to the negotiating table without international mediation. Of course, the third party would have to take responsibility for eventual concessions, because the political leaders of the two sides are not ready to do so.

However, something is changing in Kosovo. Fields which lay fallow for decades are greener than ever before. Ordinary ethnic Albanians and Serbs who till the land consider it theirs and there are no problems here. Problems arise when the question of ownership enters the political arena.

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