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April 11, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 340
Ljubomir Simovic on Kosovo

Elephant Under the Rug

by Svetlana Lukic and Svetlana Vasovic

Reminded that already in 1986 he had said that "it's immoral to keep silent on the question of Kosovo", author and academic Ljubomir Simovic posed the following question: Why is no one in Serbia, beside politicians, saying a word about Kosovo?

Perhaps because people realized that today it is no loner worth talking about anybody.  The regime has demonstrated some time ago that it does not want and does not know how to listen to anyone.  The opposition has also demonstrated that it does not want to listen to anyone.  After the demonstration in the Fall of 96/97, when so much energy was so fruitlessly wasted, the people no longer have any confidence in the opposition.  Even today I think that it is immoral to keep silent on certain problems, but do not have any illusions that what I am saying will be anything more than mere wind.

You say that today only politicians speak about the problem of Kosovo.  Even until yesterday, they also were silent because they thought that they had nothing to say on that issue.  I only wish to remind you of one speech by the former President of Serbia, and one statement by the former President of Yugoslavia.

The speech I am thinking of was held by the then President of Serbia in Gazimestan, on Vidovdan 1989, on the occasion of the 6 anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo.  That visit by the President to Kosovo was a great occasion for establishing a tone in relations with Albanians, and for those relations to be directed in a more rational direction.  I personally expected that the President of Serbia would use that important date in Serbian history for addressing Albanians.  In order to show that he acknowledges them, to show that he wishes to understand them, to offer them cooperation and dialogue.  Such an address certainly would not have went without an echo, not only in Kosovo, but also in the world.  Perhaps it would reduce tensions, and would help in creating a more acceptable atmosphere in Serb-Albanian relations.  It should not be forgotten that that very moment would have given that address a certain amount of weight.

What did the President of Serbia do instead?  He did what no one else would do.  He flew in by helicopter, held a short, arrogant and threatening speech in which he not only did not address Albanians, but did not mention them with one single word!  As if they don't exist!  And then he returned to his helicopter and flew away!  With such a speech and with such behavior all possibility for any kind of communication was cut off.  Such a speech could only lead to a deepening of the crisis and worsening of relations.  And things inevitable went in that direction, toward deepening of the crisis and worsening of relations.  Soon after it became clear that Serbs would reap the greatest harm from this.
Instead of trying to create conditions for normalizing life together, the President of Serbia was convinced that it is sufficient for him to write a new constitution.  On the basis of that new constitution he changed Albanian administration with Serbian and Montenegrin.  As it had no support in the majority population, that administration relied on the army and the police.  The day that constitution was ratified, March 28, was proclaimed the day of the Serbian state!  It's a holiday without any foundations.  That constitution merely created the illusion that the Serbian state is once again intact throughout its territory.  The actual situation was nothing like what was stated in the constitution.  Albanians never accepted that constitution.  They created their own, separate state organization in Kosovo, completely independent from the Serbian state agencies.  As it didn't know what to do with that parallel state on his territory, the regime behaved like it did not exist.

It is undeniable that this regime inherited the difficult situation in Kosovo from the previous one.  But this new regime did not do anything to improve that difficult and dangerous situation.  Under this regime, that difficult situation only became more difficult.  However, the regime behaved as if everything was normal, as if everything could not be any better!  What is worse, the regime reaped benefits from that irregular state of affairs.  Namely, thanks to abstinence of Albanian voters in elections, the regime was able to get the maximum number of parliamentary seats with the minimal number of Serbian and Montenegrin votes!  In this way, the regime, owing to Albanian abstinence, managed to secure a majority in parliament with a Serbian minority.  In this way Albanians effectively helped Milosevic to stay in power.  However illogical and paradoxical that appears, they were one of his backups.  Of course, they worked for Milosevic because Milosevic's politics worked for them.  They understood at the outset what many Serbs would understand much later, and what some Serbs will never understand: that supporting Milosevic's regime means supporting weakening, isolation and disintegration of Serbia.  The more Serbia is isolated and weakened, it will be that much more difficult to resist the ever greater Albanian demands.  And it will be that much more difficult to defend that which it thinks it has defended: its state integrity.

And now I come back to that statement which I mentioned at the outset, and which was made by the former President of Yugoslavia.  At a moment when the problem of Kosovo is approaching culmination, when the whole world is seeing a vulcano simmering under that lid, the regime is putting forth as candidate for new President of Serbia the former President of Yugoslavia, who already stunned the whole of Serbia with the statement that "the problem of Kosovo does not exist!"  And who kept repeating that statement and kept brushing that elephant under the rug throughout his entire campaign!  At the same time, that statement is completely in keeping with that speech in Gazimestan: just as one president in Kosovo does not see a single Albanian from among so many, so another president does not see a single problem in Kosovo from among so many!
After all that, it should come as little surprise that this country appears as if it is governed from a hospital emergency room!

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