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May 29, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 191
A Personal View

The Albanian Issue

by Mahmut Bakalli

The starting point of the stand that questions of the freedom and position of the Albanian people in the previous Yugoslavia had to be solved justly and with principle should be its right to the right to self-determination, recognition and support for their engagement for a peaceful political solution to disputed questions initiated with the fall of former Yugoslavia and a plebiscite by the Albanian people on an independent and neutral republic of Kosovo, for a completely equal position of the Albanian people with the Macedonian people in Macedonia, for political and territorial autonomy of Albanians in Montenegro and in three municipalities in southern Serbia: Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja.

An autonomous Kosovo, under the 1974 Yugoslav constitution, was a constitutive part of the Yugoslav federation and although it was part of "the republic of Serbia" it shared in responsibility with the federation. In the process of the breakup of the former Yugoslav federation, Kosovo should have, equally with the other units in the federation, decide on its organization. The Albanian people who make up 90% of the population of Kosovo opted for independence in the form of the republic of Kosovo. That right, tendency and expression of the political will of the Albanian people of Kosovo, was rejected forcibly by Serbia; it abolished autonomy by force and now, since 1989, it rules Kosovo with military and police power, placing the Albanian people in a position of apartheid.

The Albanian people in parts of former Yugoslav are not a national minority and cannot be treated in that way. Therefore the discussion of the position and question of Albanians in former Yugoslavia cannot be limited to protecting national minority rights and only in the framework of protecting human rights and liberties, but the status of the Albanian people has to solved and guaranteed on the principles of a free people, equal to all other nations that made up the former Yugoslav federation.

The Albanian people in the previous Yugoslavia cannot be a national minority under any criteria since they are spread over a compact territory in their own ethnic space as one of the oldest Balkan nations that lived there, unlike a nomadic people who came there and settled in enclaves. Add to that that the Albanian people were unjustly divided in half after the Balkan wars and were the third largest nation in former Yugoslavia.

The proclaimed republic of Kosovo has no pretensions of becoming a new Albanian state in the Balkans but a state of citizens and all equal nations who live in it in which national and human rights are protected as well as all civilizational, spiritual, religious and historic values of all people in Kosovo.

The condition for Kosovo Albanians (and they make p 90% of the population) win and enjoy those rights is that Kosovo become independent as a republic.

If the two million Albanians stay under Serbian rule, or in any form of autonomy under Serbian rule, i.e. if they remain a national minority in Macedonia, they cannot secure national and human liberties and the dignity of Albanians.

All those open questions of the position of the Albanian people in former Yugoslavia can be solved and should be solved peacefully, through political negotiations and a dialogue between the Albanian and Serbian sides, as well as the Macedonian and Montenegrin sides with the mediation of authoritative international factors. The condition for those negotiations among equals is a stop to Serbian repression over the Albanian people, withdrawal of military and police forces from Kosovo as well as international overseeing or any form of international protectorate until results are achieved in negotiations.

The Albanian people in Kosovo and all of the previous Yugoslavia have seen that without their own national sovereignty they can't achieve any basic national rights and liberties nor the basic human rights. Because of that the Albanian people are firmly in favor of freedom and self-determination and rightly expect understanding and support from democratic forces in the former Yugoslav peoples, Europe and the world as well as international institutions.

The author is a former political official. This article is a speech by Bakali in Skoplje in mid-May at the Conference of the International Federation for Human Rights)

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