Friday, December 31, 2004

Kosovo's future still a major stumbling block between Belgrade and Pristina - AFP

The status of the UN-administered Kosovo province has remained a major stumbling block between Belgrade and Pristina, as international officials plan to launch talks over its future in 2005.

Kosovo is technically part of Serbia but has been a UN protectorate since NATO intervened to end the 1998-99 war between Serbian forces and separatist guerrillas from the province's ethnic Albanian majority seeking independence, which Belgrade considers unacceptable.

The talks on Kosovo's final status are expected to start next year under UN auspices, but the international community has been insisting that Belgrade and Pristina first have dialogue on practical issues.

The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia held their first face-to-face talks since the war in Vienna in October 2003, agreeing to launch an ongoing dialogue on matters of mutual concern such as energy, communications and the return of refugees.

But the process was badly undermined after violent anti-Serb riots erupted in the province in March, leaving 19 dead and some 900 injured.

"It seems that the two sides have not moved an inch forward, same as it was during the war, but fortunately, there are no arms involved nowadays," a western diplomat warned.

The talks have reached a critical stalemate after the appointment of former guerrilla leader Ramush Haradinaj as Kosovo's prime minister after October 23 parliamentary elections.

Haradinaj, 35, was a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) separatist guerrilla movement during the war against Serbian forces, and has recently been questioned by UN war crimes investigators.

Belgrade officials have sternly rejected any talks with Haradinaj, who himself had pledged that he was "aware of the benefit of the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade on technical matters, but also of the benefit of political contacts."

And Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova has warned that "any talks with Belgrade are extremely difficult... as they do not accept what has happened after 1999, that Kosovo is de facto a free and independent state."

"Everything would be much easier if there would be a direct recognition of Kosovo's independence by the United States and the European Union," Rugova told Radio Free Europe.

Belgrade and the ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo and the Serbian government however insist that the territory, the historic seat of Serb culture and religion, is an inalienable part of the former Yugoslav republic.

"Any decision to proclaim Kosovo independent would be absolutely illegal and criminal," warned Serbia-Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic.

Belgrade has accused the Kosovo leadership and the international community of failing to provide any security for the Serb minority in the province, allowing violence that has forced more than 200,000 ethnic Serbs to flee since the UN arrived in the province.

Only some 80,000 to 100,000 ethnic Serbs remain in Kosovo, mostly in enclaves protected by NATO peacekeepers.

Under a plan floated by Belgrade earlier this year, Serb enclaves in Kosovo would be allowed to effectively govern themselves rather than remain under the control of mainly ethnic Albanian central institutions.

But chief international official in the province, UN administrator Soren Jessen-Petersen, has warned that "the fuse is very short" in Kosovo.

The year 2005 would be "potentially tense, because as we get closer to the status talks the stakes are getting much, much higher and in what is a fragile society we can expect that there will be provocations," Jessen-Petersen said in a BBC Hardtalk interview earlier this month.

Jessen-Petersen however suggested that there was still a possibility for compromise between Belgrade and Pristina.

Kosovo Albanians "know that if they make sufficient improvement by mid-2005" on implementing a set of basic democratic standards, then status talks will begin."

"They better than anybody else fully understand another outburst of violence means that they can wave goodbye to immediate status talks," he added.

But he warned that neither side "has the right to decide final status."

"The final decision would lie with the United Nations Security Council," insisted Jessen-Petersen.

U.N. administrator urges unity in troubled Kosovo

Kosovo's top U.N. official urged communities Friday to unite as they move toward solving the final status of this disputed province.

In his New Year's message, the province's Danish chief administrator, Soren Jessen-Petersen said that in 2005 "we must bring people together and foster the kind of harmony that Kosovo needs and that its people want."

Kosovo, formally a province of Serbia-Montenegro, has been administered by a United Nations mission since mid-1999 when a NATO air war brought to an end a crackdown by Serb forces on ethnic Albanians seeking independence.

Its status remains unresolved with Serbs wanting the province to remain part of Serbia and its ethnic Albanian majority insisting on full independence. The two communities are bitterly divided, with the Serb minority often a target of revenge attacks.

Jessen-Petersen, who holds the ultimate authority in Kosovo, appealed for an end to "the isolation in which too many in Kosovo live."

"There must be no places where people feel forced to live behind barricades and surrounded by barbed wire," he said alluding to the Serb minority. "2005 is the year we can solve this problem, if we believe, if we work together, and if all sides show goodwill."

The United Nations has conditioned talks on the final status with progress on a set of standards such as rule of law and protection of minorities and the return of some 200,000 Serbs and others who fled the province. A review date has been set for mid-2005.

"Next year, I expect that together we will make rapid progress because the time is short," Jessen-Petersen said.

He said that the outlined path creates "a society where everyone has a personal and a common perspective of security, prosperity and freedom."

"Let us resolve to believe in this future -- and to do all we can to make it a reality," he said.

We'll go to war over Kosovo, says Serb Radical leader

BELGRADE -- Friday – The deputy leader of Vojislav Seselj’s Radical Party of Serbia said today that Serbia will go to war over Kosovo.
Asked whether he expected negotiations on the province’s final status to begin in 2005, Tomislav Nikolic said that he thinks that Serbia will go to war to defend Kosovo.
Nikolic said that he believes the beginning of the year will be extremely difficult and the country will be put to great tests, because of which a broad consensus of all who live in Serbia is needed.
Radical leader Seselj is in prison in The Hague awaiting trial on war crime charges.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Serbia Prosecutor:Albanians Buried Near Belgrade Executed

Serbia's war crimes prosecutor confirmed on Thursday that ethnic Albanians from Kosovo whose bodies were found in a mass grave near Belgrade, had been executed.

Vladimir Vukcevic told B92 radio and television station that the autopsies performed on the bodies found in the grave in Batajnica have shown that the victims were shot to death and not killed in the fighting during Kosovo's 1998-99 war.

"Those people were massively executed," Vukcevic was quoted as saying. "The autopsies showed that they were not victims of fighting."

Hundreds of slain ethnic Albanians, including women and children, were buried in mass graves in central Serbia during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, in a bid by former president Slobodan Milosevic to cover up evidence of war crimes.

The pro-Western Serbian authorities who ousted Milosevic in 2000 revealed a year later that at least three such mass graves existed in central Serbia, including the one located within a police compound in Batajnica, just outside Belgrade.

So far, hundreds of bodies have been unearthed from the graves and returned to their families in Kosovo. Vukcevic, who runs Serbia's special war crimes prosecutor's office, has launched an investigation into the case.

He told B92 that the investigative work in Batajnica was almost wrapped up and that the results will soon be made public. He did not reveal any other details, or say when the work on other two known mass graves will be finished.

Last week a prominent human rights group demanded that the parliament investigate how many mass graves exist in Serbia and whether bodies of slain ethnic Albanians were also burned in the republic's factories or buried in mines.

Thursday, B92 aired what it said was a testimony by an unidentified witness from southern Serbia who said he saw former state security and police officials go daily into a local factory in May 1999, during the Kosovo war. The witness said he heard "it had something to do with ethnic Albanian victims."

About 10,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, are believed to have been killed in Kosovo during the 1998-99 war which erupted when ethnic Albanian rebels took up arms to fight for independence from Serbia.

The brutality of the Serb response to the rebellion prompted the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to bomb Serbia for 78 days in 1999 to Milosevic to pull out his troops from Kosovo and relinquish control to the U.N. and NATO. [ 30-12-04 1719GMT ]

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Young and wanted - The Economist on Kosova's PrimeMinister Haradinaj

Kosovo's prime minister

Young and wanted

Dec 29th 2004 |
A prime minister who is accused of involvement in war crimes
Hard-nosed Haradinaj

RAMUSH HARADINAJ is, at just 36, Europe's youngest prime minister. He may also be its most controversial. That is hard to credit, as he sits calmly in his spacious office in Kosovo's capital, Pristina. His neatly pressed blue shirt, red silk tie and buffed brogues are in stark contrast to the mud-spattered camouflage he wore six years ago, when he was a senior commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army, which fought a vicious war against the troops of Yugoslavia's (and Serbia's) former president, Slobodan Milosevic.

It is Mr Haradinaj's time in the KLA in 1998-99 that causes disquiet. Vociferous Serbs, including Serbia's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, claim that Mr Haradinaj was implicated in war crimes in Kosovo. The Serbs have issued warrants for his arrest, and have called on Kosovo's UN bosses to annul his appointment. Investigators from the war-crimes tribunal in The Hague have questioned Mr Haradinaj in Pristina. But the prime minister dismisses all charges as Serb fabrications.

In fact, the charismatic Mr Haradinaj, who hails from the Decane region of western Kosovo, could prove to be just the right man for the job. The KLA was disbanded after NATO and the UN intervened in the province in June 1999, chasing out Mr Milosevic's tanks and gunmen. Kosovo then became a UN protectorate, but it is still technically part of Serbia and Montenegro, the loose union that replaced Yugoslavia in 2003.

Mr Haradinaj duly swapped his camouflage for a business suit, forming his own political party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), in April 2000. In October's elections the AAK took nine seats, enabling it to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrat Party, or LDK, the party of Kosovo's president, Ibrahim Rugova. Mr Haradinaj became prime minister in early December. Kosovo's UN bosses termed his appointment “democracy at work”. The secretary-general of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said only that it was “a complicated situation”.

Mr Haradinaj is clever and tough enough to have survived both war against the Serbs and the infighting endemic to Kosovo's violent politics. That may help him to rein in his more hotheaded supporters, and so stave off any danger of a repeat of last March's anti-Serb violence, in which 19 people died and nearly a thousand were injured. He is also astute enough to pay heed to western interests.

The downside is that Mr Haradinaj's appointment has incensed the government in Belgrade, diminishing any chances of dialogue. And he risks being indicted by The Hague tribunal; the chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, has former KLA leaders in her sights as she prepares to issue final indictments (the agreed deadline for which falls this weekend). Were Mr Haradinaj sent to The Hague, there might be violence by disgruntled ethnic Albanians, especially in his home region.

Talks on the final status of Kosovo are due to begin in 2005, if the province's 1.8m ethnic Albanians and 100,000 Serbs can show progress towards internationally required standards of governance. The UN's secretary-general, Kofi Annan, has said that the economy (unemployment stands at 55%) and security are the two main problems. Kosovo's ethnic Albanians want independence; Serbia is against. The province's UN proconsul, a no-nonsense Dane named Soren Jessen-Petersen, insists that this matter is for the UN and western governments to decide. One official says that Kosovo knows exactly what it has to do before final-status talks can begin; he insists that the talks will not happen if it fails. So it remains essential that Kosovo's people measure up—and that the hotheads keep their cool even if their war-hero-turned-prime-minister is arrested.

Members of the State Security took part in the destruction of evidence of the war crimes in Kosovo - Humanitarian Law Center

Nataša Kandić, the executive director of the Humanitarian Law Center

The cover-up of the war crimes committed in Kosovo in 1998 and during the NATO bombardments was, above all, a police activity carried out by the most trustworthy men of the late of the head of Ministry of Interior Affairs of Serbia, Vlajko Stojiljković, of the former President of the Government of Serbia, Nikola Šainović, of the one time head of the Public Security, Vlastimir Đorđević, and the former head of the State Security, Rade Marković. In the south of Serbia, the trustworthy person was Dragomir Tomić, a high official of the Government and the Parliament of Serbia at the time of Slobodan Milošević, the owner of Simpo Company today, whose understanding and support were essential for the organization and transport of the corpses from Kosovo to the area of Vranje and Surdulica. In the implementation of this "patriotic duty", from Kosovo via Bujanovac, members of the Special Operations Unit [Red Berets], local heads and chiefs of the State Security, and the director of the Mačkatica factory, its owner today, took part. In Surdulica, everybody knows that, in the said factory, during NATO bombardment, corpses from Kosovo were incinerated. However, nobody dares speak about it in public because all those who took part in it are still in power. In order to prevent the eyewitnesses from speaking in public, the local chiefs of the State Security had forced them to sign statements about the "peace of mind" wherein they had allegedly declared that "they feel no psychological pressure to speak about what had happened" in Mačkatica in May 1999. While the eyewitnesses are in fear for the lives of their children and for their own lives, the union of those who had issued orders for, and those who had taken part in, the cover-up of the crimes, is still, without hindrance, engaged in its basic activity - the plunder of Serbia and its citizens, the activity they had been engaged in even prior to the incineration of the corpses. In every other country they would have been under the scrutiny of the organs of investigation and of the courts, except for Serbia, where the criminal activities of the groups and individuals inside institutions are known as patriotism and the fight for the Serbian people. Despite the fact that Serbia had not distanced itself from the policy and the criminal practice of the former regime, it has no other option but to submit to the basic principles of responsibility of a state which indicates opening of a parliamentary debate on the mass graves in Serbia, initiation of investigations concerning the alleged incineration of the bodies of the Kosovo Albanians and the punishment of the members of the police and all others who took part in it.

According to the data received by the Humanitarian Law Center from a number of independent sources, the incineration of the bodies in the Mačkatica factory occurred twice, on May 16 and 24, 1999, after midnight, with the security provided by the Red Berets who, at the time, had a base in the village of Bele Vode, near Vranje. According to those data, Milorad Luković Legija, the then commander of the Red Berets, had personally accompanied a load of corpses and was present at the incineration. The bodies were incinerated in the "field furnaces" Nos. 4 and 5. Judging by the comments in the State Security in Surdulica, immediately after the incineration, there had been children among the victims.

The receipt and the organization of the incineration of the corpses were carried out by Stošić Zoran, the then head of the State Security for the Pčinja District, today inspector general of the Ministry of Interior Affairs of Serbia for Vranje, Leskovac, Niš and Prokuplje, Bratislav Milenković, the chief of the Security and Information Agency [SIA] for Vladičin Han, Surdulica and Bosiljgrad, Dragan Stanković, the head of the Office of Interior Affairs in Surdulica since 1993, Miroslav Antić, the head of SIA in Vranje, Dragan Lakićević, who used to be the director if the Mačkatica factory and who is, today, the owner of the said factory, and his deputy, Aca Đorđević.

At the time the TAM 110 military vehicles with the corpses were arriving, Bratislav Milenković and Dragan Stanković removed the regular security of the factory and posted the police security, under the control of Dragan N. Stanković, Dragoslav Đikić, an employee of the State Security in Surdulica, and Tomislav Veličković, the commanding officer of the Office of Interior Affairs in Surdulica.

In connection with the events in Mačkatica, a number of eyewitnesses forced to sign the "peace of mind" statements and individuals who had learned about what had been happening, contacted the members of the police they had trust in, hoping that an energetic action aimed at an elucidation of the event would ensue. Instead, they were, at the local level, warned not to do that again.

According to the information received by the Humanitarian Law Center, the decision on the use of the Mačkatica factory to incinerate the bodies was prompted by the discovery of the refrigerator truck with corpses near Kladovo, in April 1999. Then the people charged with the "restoration" of the terrain revoked the order to bury the bodies transported from Kosovo via Bujanovac in some inaccessible locations and introduced a new technique of destroying the evidence by incineration.

In connection with the criminal activities of the chiefs of police and the heads of the State Security in Surdulica and Vranje, in September 2004, a group of unsigned citizens submitted a complaint to the Inspector General of the Ministry of Interior Affairs of Serbia, Vladimir Božović, to the director of SIA of Serbia, Rade Bulatović, to the Minister of Interior Affairs, Dragan Jočić, and the President of the Government of Serbia, Vojislav Koštunica, with the evidence on the abuse of authority. Until this day, nobody has commented on this evidence which, with the information about racketeering, embezzlement, fictitious payments, illegally acquired property and other types of criminal activities including the incineration of the State Security documentation, elucidates the role of the "patriots" and the fighters for the Serbian people at the time of NATO bombardment and following the removal of the regime of Slobodan Milošević.

Serb prosecutor admits 800 ethnic Albanians massacred during Kosovo war - AFP

Some 800 ethnic Albanians exhumed from a mass grave near Belgrade following the 1998-99 war in Kosovo were the victims of mass executions, Serbia's war crimes prosecutor said Wednesday, in the first such admission from a Serb official.

"In (the Belgrade suburb of) Batajnica were found the remains of people who had been victims of mass executions in Kosovo," prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic was quoted as saying by Beta news agency.

Vukcevic's statement confirmed long-held claims by Serbian and international non-governmental organizations as well as Kosovo Albanian officials that ethnic Albanians were the victims of massively executed during the conflict.

The remains of some 800 ethnic Albanians were exhumed in 2001 from a mass grave at the Serbian secret police training camp in Batajnica, near Belgrade.

"Following the exhumation and autopsy it has become clear that those people were not killed by bomb explosions, but their wounds showed that they had been executed," Vukcevic said.

The prosecutor said his office "will this year make public what happened there."

Out of about 900 Kosovo Albanians whose remains have been exhumed from Batajnica and two other mass graves in Serbia since the war, only about 350 have been identified and repatriated to their families.

Of 3,192 people still listed as missing from the war, 2,460 are from Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, 529 are Serbs and 203 are from other ethnic backgrounds.

Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since a NATO bombing campaign forced Serbian forces to withdraw from the southern province in 1999.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Go-ahead for Balkan oil pipeline

Pipeline Route
Originally uploaded by kosovareport.

How and when will the intl. envoys on Kosovo status be nominated - Kosova Daily Zeri

It seems that the appointment of key international negotiators for Kosovo will be one of the key issues for Brussels and Washington over the first two or three months of the next year, Zëri writes.

Many uncertainties continue to accompany the announcement that in mid 2005, after a comprehensive assessment of priority standards, international process for resolution of Kosovo status could be initiated, notes Zëri. The paper adds that as the name of the announcement suggests, there will be an international process and not an International Conference, even though the latter would constitute the final act of the process in question.

If in the period between 1998-99 the Contact Group fully led the international efforts to attain peace and a provisional agreement, at present, coordination between UNMIK, UN SC and CG with a first-hand role of UN SG Kofi Annan, is imposed. In fact, Annan cannot have the same role in any other international crisis similar to the one he has in Kosovo.

Based on well-informed diplomatic sources Zëri claims in a front-page editorial that the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, intends to be directly involved in the process of resolving of Kosovo’s final status as of next spring, when he is expected to appoint his envoy (or envoys) to lead the process. This would mean that the SRSG cannot have the new post or be Annan’s representative for the status matters.

If there is respect of the way in which the international administration is organized in Kosovo, it could be assumed that a diplomat or a politician from an EU country would be appointed as a chief-international negotiator with an aide delegated by Washington, Zëri points out.

Negotiations on Kosovo status are therefore expected to be quite complex and bearing in mind the experience of the times of war, an equal footing between US and EU negotiators might be imposed. The leading role of Washington is considered, both in Prishtina and in Belgrade, as unavoidable if one wants to see a successful end to the process of status resolution.

Kosovars assume that Washington would be a key factor assisting them, while Serb politicians hope to gain concessions from the Kosovar side precisely because of the Washington’s closeness to Albanians. However, it is not very clear as to how the second Bush’s administration will proceed with Kosovo and the Balkans in general after the two main policy-makers for this region, Colin Powell and Mark Grossman, have resigned from their posts with State Department.

According to the sources within American diplomacy, the paper claims that it is possible that President Bush will appoint a special envoy for the Balkans (if not only for Kosovo) who would be below the diplomatic rank Grossman had.

However, as things stand now, it is difficult to expect that this US envoy would have the same level of responsibilities as the EU envoy.

If, on the other hand, both envoys are to be appointed by Annan, then the complex nature of the status process could imply partnership between EU and USA chief-negotiators, writes Zëri. The paper goes on to note that while in mid-January EU will start thinking about status and about having its representative in negotiations, this issue could be addressed in USA later on, to give the second Bush administration more time to nominate its representatives.

Albanian ex-premier backs EU entry for independent Kosovo

During a one-day visit to Kosova [Kosovo] LSI [Socialist for Integration Movement] Chairman Ilir Meta had a meeting with Kosova Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. Meta and Haradinaj exchanged views on the political situation in Kosova and Albania.

LSI Chairman Meta expressed his confidence that the Kosova government would make clear progress in fulfilling the standards and Kosova's integration into Europe. After the meeting, Meta and Haradinaj gave a joint news conference. Addressing the conference, Kosova Prime Minister Haradinaj said the meeting was in the framework of continuous cooperation over recent years and that the goal of this cooperation is to deepen and strengthen relations between Kosova and Albania, and further take the integration of the two countries into Europe.

Meta said the LSI strongly supports the transformation and reform process in Kosova so that this country could become a member of the EU. He said: "Strengthening the capacities for self-governance and fulfilling the standards for multi-ethnic cohabitation will accelerate the process towards Kosova's European independence." Meta expressed his wish that Kosova and its institutions would have a good year in terms of attaining these objectives.

During his visit to Kosova LSI Chairman Meta also had a special meeting with PDK [Democratic Party of Kosovo] Chairman Hashim Thaci. Meta and Thaci exchanged views on the latest political developments in Kosova and Albania. Meta emphasized the special importance of the opposition for the consolidation of the institutions and the normal functioning of democracy. He wished the PDK success in attaining its political objectives for building a European Kosova.

Delaying agreements feeds "Albanian nationalism", Macedonian commentary

Text of commentary by Emin Azemi: "What is Albanian nationalism?", published by Macedonian Albanian-language newspaper Fakti on 27 December

The pan-Albanian movement is seen by many observers as a serious danger to the stability in the Balkans. A century of border changes has resulted in Albanians being dispersed among between Kosova [Kosovo], Montenegro, Macedonia, Greece and Serbia. The NLA [National Liberation Army - UCK in Albanian] in Macedonia and other groups have undertaken violent campaigns for the rights of ethnic Albanians. How far do their ambitions go?

This is how the International Crisis Group [ICG] presented open issues at the beginning of this year.

The ICG study suggested the pan-Albanian movement is more complex and more layered than crude characterisations about a Greater Albania or Greater Kosova. It is worth stressing that the NLA in Macedonia and the UCK [Kosovo Liberation Army] in Kosova increased their support when they abandoned pan-Albanian goals and focused on more rights for their people.

The wish of the Kosova Albanian population for independence is supported by the majority of Albanians in the Balkans. However, an independent Kosova is an entirely different matter from Greater Albania. The problem of the international community is to manage the talks on the final status of Kosova without destabilizing its neighbours.

However, most of the Macedonian-language media in Shkup [Skopje] and the majority of Macedonian academicians and intellectuals do not differentiate between Greater Albania and independent Kosova.

Dissatisfaction with the delays in implementing political agreements and promised reforms has not been sufficiently studied by ruling political oligarchies. This dissatisfaction could become a permanent breeding ground for Albanian nationalism. This nationalism can be controlled depending on the degree of implementation of political agreements (Oher [Ohrid], Koncul [Konculj], etc), which have been brokered by the international community, but also by Albanians, who are the ones who should be fighting the evil in their midst rather than others having to do it.

The quality of the offer for decentralization and speedier implementation of the Oher Agreement in Macedonia and independence for Kosova in exchange for assurances by all Albanian entities in the Balkans that "the current borders in Southeastern Europe will remain unchanged" would also help to stabilize the situation.

It is as much up to Albanians as it is up to the governments in Macedonia, Serbia, Kosova and Montenegro to generate positive energy for lasting stability to pave a cleared path for integration of the region in the EU and NATO.

Kosovo's new leader - Response of UN Rep. in Kosova to the NY Times Article

Milosevic allies warn against extradition of 4 - IHT

Monday, December 27, 2004

UNMIK official says Kosovo will move forward regardless of Serb participation

The principal deputy special representative of secretary general to Kosova [Kosovo] (PDSRSG), Lawrence Rossin, said in an interview with KosovaLive that he was optimistic that the Standards will be evaluated positively in mid- 2005, but added that all actors involved should work hard in order to achieve that.

He stressed that processes in Kosova will move forward with or without participation of Kosova Serbs.

Rossin said that the external elements would not be allowed to block Kosova's progress.

Rossin says that Serbia will not have a determining position in the status talks, though it cannot be completely excluded from this process.

[KosovaLive] Mr Rossin if you look back at 2004, what would you consider as success and what as failure?

[Rossin] The 2004 had its negatives and its positives in it. And the negatives were clearly the March events. The March was a big setback for Kosovo and a big setback for the aspirations of the people of Kosovo. The violence did a lot of physical damage, it did a lot of damage to ethnic relations and also it did a lot of damage to Kosovo's image outside. Whenever the journalists and the foreign visitors came here and talked to us even months afterwards, they were talking about the March events as they happened yesterday.

But on the other hand it was a kind of wake up call to the political leadership of Kosovo and I think that they responded in a positive way, a wake up call to the international community as the things in Kosovo maybe were not progressing in the way they are to be progressing. It was a wake up call to UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] and to Kfor [Kosovo Force].

From positive things in 2004, I would like to point there the October elections, which were peaceful, transparent and well-organized. Not only this, but also the coalition forming process, which ended up with a government, a government which is certainly very dynamic in its early days

[KosovaLive] How do you think will be solved the issue of decentralization and of parallel structures?

[Rossin] Decentralization is not designed for ethnic partitions but for better governance. The concept that will be applied is of European standards.

The decentralization can help in addressing of many issues. And I think that one of the problems of the members of community, including Serb community, is using of public services.

On this case we also have the problem of the parallel structures. Decentralization will help in resolving of some of the communities concerns The people speak for dismantling of parallel structures. But it is more important to see why they exist. There is no doubt that the parallel structures have caused problems, but they exist because the Serbs practically have not access in the basic services, health education, and these are facts.

[KosovaLive] But the Serbs have refused to take part in the institutions. How to get them into the institutions?

[Rossin] Non-participation of Serb community representatives in the institutions is a big problem.

We will continue to leave the door of all institutions open for them and it remains to them to get in. There are a number of processes designed to give to all communities the vehicle to advance their interests. There is building a better security in Kosovo. Establishment of the Ministry of Returns and Communities, which obviously is very directly related to the interest of the minority communities; not only to Kosova Serb community, but also to other minorities. All these different processes must continue [to] move forward, with or without participation of Kosova Serbs We will not allow external factors block our progress.

[KosovaLive] There is a problem that is being carried over from one year into another since the establishment of the international administration in Kosova. For more than five years Mitrovica is divided. Can we expect its unification in 2005?

[Rossin] I cannot predict to you that that will be the case; the challenges are very severe and long-standing. It is a difficult situation I know that we will be working very closely with the people in Mitrovica to explore the ways that these two parts of the same city might be brought together. But I cannot predict whether it will be 2005 or 2006.

[KosovaLive] But will for example the decentralization process through the outlined pilot projects have an impact in unification of Mitrovica?

[Rossin] Conceivably yes. But the pilot projects have not been finalized yet. The working group on decentralization is still developing the pilot project ideas. The locations for the pilot project have not been yet selected. It is up to the working groups not to us.

[KosovaLive] Following the violent March events, the Ambassador Kai Eide has drafted a report recommending restructuring of UNMIK. How it is going to be done?

[Rossin] With regard to restructuring of UNMIK itself, this was recommended in the Eide's report, but it was also agreed that the focus at this time: end 2004 and early 2005 should not be on major restructuring in UNMIK, but should be rather on getting of all these other processes going, because they are more important.

During 2005 we do expect to have restructuring in UNMIK. We are still talking internally how we might best do that. It is a big organizational question. But it is also important that if you look at the Eide's report, his concept on restructuring should not just within UNMIK, but also handing over questions to the EU, OSCE, and those organizations have to think on what they are able to take on. Transition needs a lot of work. We have to do that in 2005.

[KosovaLive] The international community has scheduled the 2005 for beginning of status talks. But it was said that the talks would begin only if the Standards are fulfilled.

[Rossin] The Standards have been prioritized, as you know. The focus of prioritized Standards is about building a stable and multiethnic Kosovo, which is primary preoccupation in the immediate term. I am very optimistic that with this kind of effort we will have a positive evaluation of Standards, but have to do our part of the job, the PISG their part.

It is important the people not presume for a second that the outcome is going to be positive, but they should work hard in order that to be achieved.

[KosovaLive] In which form the Belgrade will be involved in the status talks?

[Rossin] I think that it is natural thing to say that obviously the people of Kosova, the institutions of Kosova will have a big role. Serbia has interest recognized by Resolution 1244 in Kosova. I cannot imagine a process that in some way would not allow Serbia to put their voice into that process. But this does not mean that they will have a determining position. But to think that they will be entirely excluded is neither entirely realistic nor even useful, because they are Kosovo's neighbour.

  Serbian premier discussing Kosovo Status Talks

Appearing as a guest in Radio Belgrade's "In Focus" programme, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica confirmed that discussions on the status of Kosovo-Metohija would begin in 2005, but said he was certain the process would be a lengthy one. The issue of the status invariably broaches the issue of the unfulfilled Standards and the terrible violence in the province which cannot be resolved with a single international conference, Kostunica believes.

[Correspondent] Kostunica believes that the government is on the best path of resolving with UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] the problem of power supplies. He nevertheless says that he drew the attention of UNMIK officials to the fact that Serbia was still paying off the province's debt, that property relations have not been resolved, and that not a single ethnically-motivated murder in Kosovo has been solved, even after 17 March. All this implies that we are far from a conference on the status of the province.

[Kostunica] If Standards should come before the status, then an international conference is premature. If we have decided to erase the Standards, if human rights do not mean anything, or if we are making an exception in the case of Kosovo-Metohija, then we can discuss many things with the worst possible consequences for the stability and peace in the region.

[Correspondent] Direct elections for the Serbia and Montenegro [SCG] Assembly are inevitable in the new year, because that is the agreement reached by Belgrade, Podgorica and Brussels, the prime minister said decisively.

[Kostunica] Time is running out for all those who are trying simply to prove that regulations, even the highest regulations such as the constitution, in this case the Constitutional Charter, are passed only to be violated or to be toyed with. I believe this is a situation that represents a serious challenge to the EU.

[Correspondent] There is no need to form a constitutional assembly in order to pass the new Serbian constitution, Kostunica believes.

[Kostunica] I believe that we can get the necessary majority in the Serbian Assembly, a two-thirds majority.

[Correspondent] The government has started cooperating with The Hague [International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia - ICTY] in the most favourable manner. Another two indictees have voluntarily surrendered to The Hague, Kostunica recalled.

[Kostunica] I am dreaming of the day, or hour, when, in a meeting with foreign delegations, the delegations of international organizations, no one brings up The Hague, not even as a thing of the past.

[Correspondent] The next year will bring many challenges, but also the resolution of many issues, the prime minister concluded, saying to citizens that 2005 would be a year of stability and of dealing with corruption.

Kostunica to meet Petersen on January 17

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is to meet Kosovo governor Soeren Jessen-Petersen in Belgrade on January 17.

Announcing the meeting today, Kostunica aide Aleksandar Simic said that the agenda would cover decentralisation in Kosovo and the establishment of proper conditions for Serbs and other minorities in the province.

Albanian media claimed earlier today that Petersen was still waiting for an answer to his request last week for a meeting.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Friday, December 24, 2004

A Poor Choice in Kosovo - New York Times

Foreign Affairs - Back to the Balkans

Back to the Balkans
By Edward P. Joseph
From Foreign Affairs, January/February 2005

Summary: Since Slobodan Milosevic was sent to The Hague two years ago, the former Yugoslavia has dropped off the international radar. But the Balkans are far from secure: corruption runs rampant, economies are flat, and ethnic hatred continues to simmer. Worst of all, Kosovo remains a flashpoint that could re-ignite the region.
Edward P. Joseph spent more than a decade in the Balkans, serving in the U.S. Army, with the UN, and, from 2001 to 2003, as Macedonia Director for the International Crisis Group. Most recently he was a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he wrote this article. He is now on assignment in Iraq, providing democracy assistance to the interim government.


Since the departure on June 28, 2001, of the Balkans' most iconic henchman, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, to a courtroom in The Hague, the region has mostly sunk into obscurity. The attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent war against terrorism have long since overshadowed the graphic atrocities and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s. Throughout the recent U.S. presidential campaign--a contest dominated by foreign policy--the Balkans remained invisible. Today, not only Iraq and Afghanistan but other hotspots in Asia and Africa command far more attention from U.S. and EU policymakers.

To be fair, southeastern Europe is unlikely to return to the level of mayhem seen in the last decade anytime soon. But the region remains fractured and capable of producing turmoil. Of the countries and provinces that experienced serious conflict after Yugoslavia collapsed in 1991--Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro--only Croatia is now truly stable (thanks mainly to the mass expulsion of its minority Serb population, with Belgrade's acquiescence). Elsewhere, ethnic groups in the Balkans continue to eye one another warily. Only recently, with their wars long-since over, have Croatia and Serbia begun a genuine dialogue.

Nowhere is the bitterness greater than in Kosovo, the troubled, UN-administered territory that is still formally part of Serbia but populated overwhelmingly by ethnic Albanians. In the five years since a NATO air campaign forced out Serbian troops and allowed the province's Albanian refugees to return, human-rights workers have documented chronic Albanian abuse of minorities, especially of Serbs dispersed south of the flashpoint town of Mitrovica. Meanwhile, the Serbs holed up in Mitrovica have compiled their own shameful record of persecution and violence. Virtually all Albanians are frustrated by Kosovo's provisional status and demand full independence from Serbia. Alienated local Serbs oppose independence. They boycotted en masse the parliamentary elections held last October and have generally opted out of fledgling, Albanian-dominated institutions.

Within Serbia proper, Kosovo is no longer the hot-button issue it once was. But the topic still generates political turbulence. International pressure on Belgrade to encourage Kosovar Serbs to vote in the October election led to a public split between the newly elected moderate president, Boris Tadic (who backed Serb voting), and the nationalist prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica (who encouraged the boycott). Both leaders have voiced strong opposition to independence for Kosovo, and there is no sign that Belgrade has eased up its support for hard-line Serbs in the province. East of Kosovo, in Serbia's Presevo Valley--where fighting broke out in 1991 between Albanians and Serbs--more trouble is brewing. In July, three Albanian parties demanded autonomy for the valley. And in the far northern region of Vojvodina, tensions mounted during the spring and summer after a spate of attacks on ethnic Hungarians and other minorities. Serbia's police and courts dismissed the incidents as ordinary crimes, not acts calculated to inspire hate. And Serbia's aptly named Radical Party capitalized on the spike in tensions to win victories in local elections held in September and October.

Also in October, yet another election in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the eighth in the country's nine-year existence) returned nationalists to power in most municipalities around the country. The main Serb party lost some ground to moderates, but largely because of corruption, not a desire to bridge ethnic differences. Turnout was dismal, especially among the young and city-dwellers, two demographic groups counted on to move the country forward. At the national level, politics largely reflect the zero-sum thinking and ethnic polarization of the war years. Bosnian Serbs continue to undermine the joint institutions set up by the Dayton accord. Despite much celebration over the formal restoration of prewar property rights, relatively few Bosnians have actually returned to their homes. Fearing discrimination or feeling insecure, most Serbs sell their property as soon as they recover it. The country's capital, Sarajevo--once a symbol of Bosnia's multiethnic vibrancy--remains populated almost entirely by Muslims. Should NATO (or the EU military mission that will soon replace it) pull out of Bosnia anytime soon, renewed bloodshed would likely follow.

To the southeast, Macedonia recently dodged yet another ethnic crisis with the defeat of a controversial referendum. Angry over a proposed redistricting law that had been agreed to in closed talks between the ethnic Albanian and Macedonian parties in government and that transferred local control to Albanians in a number of towns, thousands of ethnic Macedonians forced a plebiscite. Had the referendum passed and the new law (which went into effect in August) been defeated, it would have called into question a key plank of the 2001 Lake Ohrid peace accord--and would have undermined the Albanian minority's commitment to the country's unity. The furor over the referendum was a reminder of how polarized Macedonia remains, a fact exacerbated (as in much of the region) by the stagnant economy. Although Macedonian and Albanian political parties have been able to work together, they have failed to translate their accommodation into a wider dialogue. Previously oppressed Albanians now dominate much of the western reaches of the country, leaving Macedonians there bitter and fearful. Criminal gangs roam with impunity. With their deep links to neighboring Kosovo, most Albanians in Macedonia are deeply impassioned about its status. As some irresponsible politicians threaten to secede over Kosovo, a move that would trigger another war, the Macedonian government gamely insists that its security will be unaffected by a decision on its neighbor's status. But uncertainty over Kosovo's status is weakening public confidence in the stability of Macedonia.


Despite the region's obvious lack of progress, foreign diplomats have remained relentlessly upbeat. Western officials regularly tout Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia as success stories, assuring themselves and the press that economic development and the prospect of EU membership have swept aside the messy national, ethnic, and territorial disputes of the past. Reality, however, keeps intruding. Last March, ethnic riots in Kosovo (sparked by a rumor that Serbs had chased Albanian youths to their deaths) caught international officials by surprise. Some 50,000 Albanians took part in the disturbances, leaving a score dead, hundreds wounded, and a few thousand more Serbs expelled from their homes in Albanian areas. In July, rioting in Macedonia (over the proposed redistricting law) exposed the glaring ethnic divisions in a country whose problems had been prematurely pronounced solved.

The highly regarded international representative in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, brags that the country has moved from the "Dayton era" of reconstruction to a "Brussels era" of integration into the EU and NATO. But it is the "Dayton era" refusal of Serbs to hand over war-crimes suspects that has kept the country out of even NATO's Partnership for Peace. In fact, none of the Balkans' conflict-affected countries has yet become a full NATO member. Similarly, despite legislative efforts, only Croatia has come close to joining the EU.

Bestowing EU candidacy on countries such as Macedonia would trigger badly needed foreign investment, but Brussels has demanded wholesale legal and economic reform as a precondition. Some of the countries have tried to comply, but their measures have yet to correct pernicious structural problems. Excessive state employment, obsolete technology, shadowy ownership, and poor transportation links leave most former Yugoslav economies utterly uncompetitive with Europe. Meddling by the EU has kept Serbia and Montenegro's two divergent economies locked in an inefficient union. Instead of benefiting from access to European markets or trading within the region, Balkan countries suck in high-value EU imports while selling off their few choice assets. Pervasive corruption, high levels of unemployment, and weak courts have left many people disillusioned with and disengaged from politics and public institutions. Most young Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Montenegrins, Macedonians, and Albanians hope to leave the region; so far, only Europe's strict visa regime has prevented more of them from doing so. Those who stay seem as inclined to nationalist bigotry as their parents.

War-crimes trials in The Hague, such as Milosevic's, have served the cause of justice but failed as tools for reconciliation. Serbia still has not come to terms with the magnitude of the crimes committed in its name, and it still chafes at cooperation with the UN tribunal (despite the fact that Belgrade would benefit the most from such cooperation, since many of the remaining fugitives work with organized crime and allies in government to keep a stranglehold on key public institutions). Meanwhile, the two most notorious suspects, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic--the wartime leaders of the Bosnian Serbs--remain at large, probably in Serbia, Republika Srpska, or Montenegro. Even if they are eventually handed over, this will not change the attitude of many Bosnian Muslims. Nine years of international stewardship and persistent division have left Bosnians disoriented and disheartened. A prominent Sarajevan quipped, "We don't live in a country, we live in a project."


By consistently denying the severity of the region's problems, officials have delayed tackling them until crises force their hands. Even after the July riots in Macedonia, diplomats downplayed the severity of the situation. On the eve of the November referendum, with Macedonian resentment rising and the country's peace agreement in jeopardy, a jittery Bush administration finally overcame Greek objections and recognized "The Republic of Macedonia" as the country's name, a long-overdue measure. (The administration avoided the wrath of Greek-American voters, who see the name "Macedonia" as a theft of Greek heritage, by holding off recognition until just after the U.S. elections.) In return for Washington's gesture, Macedonian voters obliged the Americans by staying home and letting the referendum fail for lack of turnout. But the repercussions are still being felt. The prime minister resigned in mid-November, setting off fierce maneuvering between ethnic hard-liners and moderates and increasing anxiety within the ruling Albanian party. Outside government, ordinary Macedonians and Albanians remain as far apart as ever.

Ethnic tensions are even more acute in Kosovo, in part because of the territory's undetermined status. The United States and other members of the Contact Group (formed in April 1994 to coordinate responses to the Yugoslav wars)--France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the EU--must decide whether they will take the initiative to resolve Kosovo's status (left undecided after the conclusion of the 1999 NATO air campaign and the passage of Security Council Resolution 1244) or continue to dodge the issue until crisis dictates the course of events. In December 2003, the Contact Group expressed its commitment to launch, by mid-2005, a process that would determine the province's final status. The March violence, however, has cast a shadow on this commitment. For the moment, the Contact Group has backed off its pledge to broach the status issue, hiding behind the need for a "comprehensive review" of Kosovo's progress in meeting an array of "standards." Even if it decides that Kosovo's institutions have failed to meet the test, postponing final status will not change the situation on the ground. Kosovo will remain deadlocked by Serb fears and intransigence on one hand and Albanian frustrations and impatience on the other.


Washington and its European allies can still help solve the region's problems--if, that is, they recognize what is at stake and develop a joint approach. Unfortunately, transatlantic cooperation in the Balkans, as elsewhere, has suffered over the past three years. Almost as soon at it took office, the Bush administration downgraded the Balkans portfolio at the State Department, causing many Europeans to worry that the United States might pull its troops out of the region. In May 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to reassure his NATO counterparts, promising, "We went into this together, and we will go out together." But after September 11, this pledge of solidarity was subverted by the larger ideological battles that have so aggravated relations. On the eve of the war in Iraq, U.S. diplomats publicly threatened to punish Balkan governments if they failed to join the U.S.-led coalition (only Macedonia fully complied). Shortly thereafter, Washington and Brussels, dueling over the International Criminal Court, forced Balkan states to choose sides in their dispute (and offend one or the other in the process). Most recently, when the EU tried to take over military missions in Macedonia and Bosnia from NATO--assuming the burden that Washington has long hoped it would--negotiations were undermined by the acrimony over Iraq. Detailed "Berlin-plus" arrangements for NATO-EU cooperation were eventually formalized, but without the trust needed to make them work well.

Although the fallout from the wars on terrorism and in Iraq has heightened tensions between Europe and the United States, it has also increased the need for transatlantic cooperation and a firm U.S. role in the Balkans. Southeastern Europe remains one of the very few areas of the world where being American is seen as a plus among Muslim populations: Albanians have viewed the United States as their chief benefactor ever since the days of Woodrow Wilson, and, since 1992, many Bosnians have felt similarly. The Bush administration, however, has tended to see the Muslim presence in the region as a reason for worry. Several factors--the Bosnian documents found in the possession of al Qaeda elements, the continuing presence of some mujahideen in Bosnia, and Saudi funding of radical mosques there--have heightened such fears.

Washington must recognize, however, that neither Kosovars nor Bosnians, with their strong European orientation and pro-American feelings, make good recruits for Islamist terrorists. In his second term, President Bush should broaden his approach. Achieving just, stable settlements for the region's outstanding issues will help insulate the Balkans from Islamist terror.

Should Washington appear to abandon the region's Muslims, the U.S. image in the Balkans and the larger Islamic world would suffer yet another costly setback. The fact is that Albanians and Bosnians will not fully entrust their destiny to any other international broker. The EU failed miserably to deal with the Yugoslav crises throughout the 1990s and often sided against Muslims. Even as it adopts a greater military role, the EU will continue to have difficulty earning their full confidence. The strong French ties to the Serbs remain a source of suspicion. If the West fails to protect the interests of the region's Muslims, however, it is Washington, not Paris, that will be blamed.

Whatever their differences, the United States and Europe share a recent history of cooperation in the Balkans, most recently strong Franco-American coordination in resolving Macedonia's 2001 crisis. The United States and the EU should build on these links to adopt a new guiding principle for resolving the region's remaining ethnic questions--a standard to apply consistently and without favoritism. Kosovo, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are not all amenable to the same solutions to outstanding ethnic problems, but each should be held to a cardinal principle: the fair treatment of minorities.

After all, it is the collective sense of grievance among minority populations that, more than any other single cause, drives conflict in the region. In the 1990s, for example, the sense of Serb vulnerability in Bosnia and Croatia allowed Milosevic and his proxies to lay the foundation for ethnic cleansing and to attempt the creation of a Greater Serbia. No degree of assurance to the Serb minority in either Croatia or Bosnia could likely have deterred Milosevic from deploying the arsenal of Yugoslavia for his aims. But today the climate is different: unscrupulous politicians still seek to exploit minority grudges, but none has the wherewithal of Milosevic or former Croatian strongman Franjo Tudjman to defy the united international community.

It is hard to overestimate how essential the minority-treatment principle is for the Balkans. Without full consideration, for example, of the appalling human rights record of Kosovar Albanians--who continue to make Kosovo inhospitable to Serbs and other minorities--southeastern Europe will be doomed. The Serbs will demand compensation in Bosnia for the loss of Kosovo, through annexation of all or part of Republika Srpska into Serbia proper; in turn, Muslims will demand territory for having been driven out of Serb-dominated areas during the war. Forcing Belgrade to accept an unfair Kosovo settlement without some redress for the tens of thousands of Serbs chased out after NATO bombing ended will burden the former Yugoslavia's largest and most populous country with a permanent grievance.

If Kosovo's indeterminate status is to end with independence, as the province's majority Albanians demand, then principle and practicality demand a territorial accommodation to the Serb minority. The question is how to achieve this with minimal disturbance to the region. Just as outright independence for Kosovo would leave Serbs with a permanent grudge, so outright partition would enrage Albanians and create a host of problems in neighboring areas with substantial Albanian populations. A sensible compromise would grant Kosovo independence with substantial international guidance, declare the divided town of Mitrovica a unified "open city" with continuing international supervision, create defined cantons and municipalities for Serbs (including key historical sites), and offer all Serbs who live in Kosovo a formalized "special relationship" with Serbia (with compensation for refugees who cannot return to Kosovo). As in Bosnia, Kosovar Serbs would get to retain their Serb citizenship. But unlike in Bosnia, the scope of "special relations" would be more narrow, ensuring that Kosovo's new sovereignty is not undermined. The fact that half the Serb population is concentrated in the north of Kosovo and the rest are more dispersed in the south should be no bar to creating Serb cantons. Just as Belgrade will have to swallow the loss of Kosovo as a whole as a price for its years of oppression, so Pristina will have to accept local Serb control over some Albanian villages and parts of towns as the price for its appalling record.

Such an approach would address the core security and political needs of both sides without forcing Kosovo's partition, the consequences of which would be difficult to control. Albanians would finally realize the dream of an independent, unitary Kosovo, whereas Serbs would get territorial protections--not just paper promises--for their people and religious sites within the new Kosovo. Leaving minorities tethered to neighboring states (with a "special relationship") is hardly ideal, but neither is the current situation in Kosovo. Gradually, as both Serbia and Kosovo developed their economies and justice systems and moved toward the EU, the drive for formalized ethnic separation would ease. In the meantime, a solution along these lines would remove the uncertainty that currently makes progress on the economy and the rule of law so difficult.

Unlike the thinly disguised land-grab that Belgrade has proposed, Serb cantons in a newly independent Kosovo need not be excessively large and, unlike Republika Srpska, should not be contiguous (except in the north, where special measures in Mitrovica could check the temptation to secede). The exact dimensions of the cantons, their financing, their degree of interaction with Albanian local and central authority, control of key assets, and compensation for non-returnees would be negotiated among the parties.

How can Kosovo's Serbs and Albanians, so embittered by recent events, be brought to agreement? The answer is by a collective decision on the part of the Contact Group to move forward on status. The truth is that what the parties are negotiating in Kosovo is the terms of their divorce, not the future of their co-existence. Once they grasp that Washington and Europe are committed to resolving Kosovo's status, the parties will begin to negotiate in earnest. The mistake in Kosovo has been to wait for Albanian progress in meeting standards to lead, step by step, to a negotiated solution with the Serbs. There is nothing in the record, not even the few examples of rural co-existence, to suggest that such an incremental approach would work without years more of delay. Kosovo's undetermined status has left it starved for investment and kept its young, growing population angry and frustrated. This has only ensured that the greater region, Serbia included, remains mired in uncertainty.

Belgrade will no doubt resist independence for Kosovo, arguing that now is not the time to discuss final status and that independence will bring radical forces to power in Serbia. Neither argument washes. There is never a good time to deal with highly emotive issues. Radical parties do benefit from rising tensions, but postponing a decision on Kosovo has only kept such tension high and given the radicals plenty of ammunition to exploit. The victory of Tadic, a moderate, last June suggests that Serbia is slowly moving forward after the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in March 2003. But Serbia's democracy still has more to gain from confronting the prospect of Kosovo's independence than from avoiding it. If the United States and Europe can present a united front that includes Moscow (which has never truly risked its relationship with Washington on behalf of the Serbs) and offer a solution that contains strong territorial protections for minority Serbs and Serb religious sites, as well as generous EU financial assistance, Belgrade could be persuaded to accept a deal on Kosovo and not demand Bosnian territory in return. With Kosovo's status resolved, Serbia could finally move forward and focus on other overdue reforms.

As in Kosovo, the international community has for too long averted its eyes from the troubled reality in Bosnia: the Dayton peace framework has become dysfunctional. Bosnian Serbs continue to think that the stronger central Muslim-dominated institutions become, the weaker Republika Srpska will become. With no incentive to embrace the authority of Sarajevo, the Serb republic remains a Serb citadel, and joint, central institutions do not function. International officials have been forced to act in their place.

The solution for Bosnia lies in applying the same minority fair-treatment principle as in Kosovo. The few Serbs and Croats who live in Sarajevo today have been marginalized. Providing them an equal share of political and economic power would stimulate more of their ethnic brethren to return. A movement toward Bosnia's center could start to reverse Dayton's centrifugal dynamics and alter its obsolete, dual structure. As the successful example of Brcko, a formerly divided town on the Sava River shows, making Sarajevo an "open district" with protections for all could transform attitudes. Of course, getting the parties to agree to this will not be easy; the Serbs, wedded to the preservation of their mini-state, will resist, as will some Muslims unwilling to cede unitary control of the city they suffered in through more than three years of war. Hard-line Croats will also shrink from the move, as it will spell the end of their dream for maximal separation. But the only realistic alternatives for Bosnia are either outright partition (a complex undertaking that would expose the United States to accusations of abandoning the Muslims) or a permanent international presence. Neither is a desirable outcome.

The consequences of partitioning Macedonia would, as in Kosovo or Bosnia, be disastrous. The scare over the November referendum should lead the Bush administration to recognize that it has consistently overstated the country's stability. Macedonia's vulnerability is no reason to postpone deciding Kosovo's status. But now is the time to help Skopje prepare for it. About the only thing most Albanians and Macedonians share enthusiasm for is NATO and EU membership. Since the last round of NATO enlargement in 2002, Croatia, Macedonia, and Albania have been relegated to a symbolic waiting room known as "the Adriatic Charter." Macedonia, in particular, would benefit enormously from accelerated consideration for entry. At the same time, Washington and Brussels must continue to act as guarantors of Albanian rights gained at the peace talks on Lake Ohrid in August 2001 and must also push the government to address the fears of local Macedonian minorities. The police must crack down on well-armed Albanian criminal gangs, and structural reforms should be implemented. And as it moves toward a decision on Kosovo, the United States should unequivocally warn Albanians in Macedonia (and Montenegro) against any moves toward separation or federalism, isolating all those who advocate them.

When dealing with the Balkans, the devil is usually not in the details but in the failure to confront the obvious. Letting serious problems fester, relying on delay as a default option, and believing blindly in long-term prescriptions for pressing problems will only mire the international community in a region that it badly wishes to forget. Ignoring the region's implications for the U.S. relationship with the Islamic world would also be foolhardy. It may not be possible to completely "solve" the Balkans. But with strong U.S. leadership, transatlantic cooperation, and the application of clear principles, the stalemate in the region can be broken--and Washington can move on to other compelling concerns.

"Ich weiß, was ich im Krieg getan habe" - Haradinaj on Die Presse

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Exclusive: Where to Start With Europe - Washington Post

Where to Start With Europe

By Morton Abramowitz and Heather Hurlburt
Thursday, December 23, 2004; Page A23

As President Bush begins a new year's effort to rebuild ties with European allies, one good place to start would be in the heart of Europe, with Kosovo. Europe needs this festering problem resolved -- and strong U.S. involvement to do it.

Kosovo is becoming increasingly dangerous. Five years of uncertainty about its future -- in or out of Serbia -- has left its U.N. overseers unable to foster economic development and, despite a series of democratic elections, unwilling to give the Kosovo government more power to run itself. The result is enormous popular frustration, leading to new and ugly violence against Kosovo's Serbs and renewed talk of unilateral action. A further complication is the possible Hague tribunal indictment, for alleged wartime atrocities against Serbs, of the newly named prime minister, war hero Ramush Haradinaj. Sending him to the Hague could generate massive popular anger, leading to violence not just in Kosovo but also among Albanians across the border in fragile Macedonia.
The situation in Serbia continues to decline. Recent elections generated gains for extreme nationalists and produced a government that barely functions. Leading politicians are afraid to publicly accept an independent Kosovo, even while privately recognizing that Kosovo's 2 million ethnic Albanians would make Serbia unviable. They have put forth a plan to gather Serbs in Kosovo's north and east, apparently aiming to establish a strong basis for partitioning Kosovo. Kosovo's Serbs, frightened by Albanian violence and unwilling to accept Albanian rule, have come firmly under Belgrade's thumb and refuse to participate in Kosovo's political life.

Concern is growing that this spring the perception of international indifference or division will unleash more undesirable results: massive popular protests, pressure on Kosovo's politicians to move on independence somehow and attempts by Kosovo's hard men to use force to further their ends. Belgrade's leaders see such violence as increasing the prospects for Kosovo's partition, and they may want to use provocation to help matters along.

That would be tragic for the people of Kosovo and a great embarrassment to the West. Continued uncertainty over Kosovo's future and over a possible flare-up in violence does more than just hold the region back economically; it brings into question the viability of multiethnic states, and it particularly threatens fragile Macedonia and even Serbia with all its minorities. That is a distraction that neither Brussels nor Washington wants.

The present situation is a direct result of dawdling in Washington, New York and European capitals. For too long the difficulties of working out a Kosovo solution that would stick were just too painful to face. From 1999 on, all sides resorted to hoping something would turn up. When nothing did, they foisted a neocolonial administration on Kosovo and saddled its citizens with standards for government that were desirable but unrealistic -- while offering little economic development and no reason to hope for a permanent solution.

Today it is the prospect of stalemate and renewed violence that is too painful to face. The United States usefully nudged the process along this year by declaring that 2005 would be the crucial time for starting the resolution of Kosovo's status. Now the time has arrived.

Western countries and Russia -- the so-called "contact group" -- must work out both the tricky nature of a solution and the difficult process for getting there. A settlement must bite the bullet on independence, provide ironclad protection for Kosovo's Serb population and offer Serbia a fast track toward membership in the European Union once it resolves the Kosovo problem. Any solution will also require the rest of the world to continue providing resources, troops and careful monitoring for years.

The process of reaching a solution will be equally difficult. The road to resolution will, at some point, have to traverse serious negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia, proceed through a balky and sovereignty-obsessed U.N. Security Council, and, ultimately, be expressed in a final act or international conference.

Time was that the U.S. and European presence in the Balkans symbolized a robust commitment by NATO to defend its interests and values. Today, instead, that presence poses this serious question: If the United States and Europe can't work more vigorously together to resolve conflicts in Europe, how can either hope to deal successfully with much larger conflicts outside Europe? President Bush should commit the United States, working with its European friends and allies, to thrash matters out on Kosovo this year.

Morton Abramowitz, former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. Heather Hurlburt wrote speeches about foreign policy for the Clinton administration and was deputy director of the International Crisis Group's Washington office.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Kosovo PM welcomes contacts with Belgrade - AFP

Kosovo's prime minister, the former guerrilla leader Ramush Haradinaj, said Tuesday he was interested in holding political contacts with Belgrade, which objected to his appointment earlier this month.

Haradinaj told reporters that he was "aware of the benefit of the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade on technical matters, but also of the benefit of political contacts."

"It is in our interest and in the interest of finalizing the final status of Kosovo to have such contacts with our neighbours," Haradinaj said.

The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia held their first face-to-face talks since the 1998-99 Kosovo war in Vienna in October last year, agreeing to launch an ongoing dialogue on matters of mutual concern such as energy, communications and the return of refugees.

But the process was badly undermined after violent anti-Serb riots erupted in the province in March, leaving 19 dead and some 900 injured.

Haradinaj, 35, was a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrilla movement during the 1998-99 separatist war against Serbian forces, and has recently been questioned by UN war crimes investigators.

Macedonian commentary urges new premier to "embrace Kosovo"

Text of commentary by Agim Mehmeti: "When will Macedonia embrace Kosova?", published by Macedonian Albanian-language newspaper Fakti on 20 December

What is the picture of Kosova [Kosovo] that Macedonians see and who is painting such a gloomy picture? Undoubtedly, despite continuous efforts by Albanian politicians and the media, Macedonians still see Kosova as a permanent hotbed of crisis that could also engulf Macedonia at any time. Kosova is a dark spot on the Macedonians' souls, minds and memories. To them, Kosova is what it is to the Serbs - a nightmare and a pain. But, it is a pain that disregards the pain of others and their rights. This is how ordinary Macedonians see and perceive Kosova. But, who has been serving up this image of Kosova and Kosova Albanians with so much fear and enmity to them?

The SDSM [Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia] has always been the source of hatred and fear of Kosova and Kosovars in Macedonia. It is the party that is regarded, with good reason, as the most pro-Serbian party in Macedonia. In its midst, this party harbours people who have had their eyes set on Moscow and later on Belgrade. And, it is certain that this party's people who, if you remember, did not hesitate to organize anti-US demonstrations during the campaign to save the Albanians from Milosevic's regime, have always led media campaigns against Kosova, and these campaigns continue to this day. Intelligence structures in this party, which have always cooperated with similar structures in Serbia, are trying to scare the public with the help of Macedonian journalists from the Serbian school and tradition. In this respect, the role of "citizen Crvenkovski" was significant.

Analysing all this unnatural Macedonian fear of Kosova and Kosovars, which is manifested through their ridiculous concerns about "Macedonia's fate if Kosova becomes independent, the effect of Haradinaj's appointment as prime minister on Macedonia, dangers that Albanians' Western orientation poses for Macedonia", and so forth, we have to say that Macedonians' concerns are wide of the mark. The truth is that an independent Kosova would mean that Macedonia would finally no longer have a border with Serbia. And, this could arouse painful nostalgia among former partisans, but nothing else. Realistically, Macedonia would gain a neighbour that does not have territorial ambitions against it and an economic partner that could contribute to the revival of Macedonian markets. This is the picture of Kosova that Macedonians should be seeing. At the moment, Kosova is a big terrible bogeyman in their heads. However, [DPA/ PDSh leader] Arben Xhaferri's interjections are not enough to dispel that image. In order to have "peace in the house", Buckovski should take some serious steps. He is said not to be greatly influenced by the Serbian lobby in the SDSM and that his leanings are pro-US. But, we remind Buckovski that Albanians, too, are pro-US - perhaps a little more than he is. It remains to be seen whether Macedonia will embrace Kosova. If for nothing else, than for its own good.

Kosovo daily hails new face of UNMIK's policy toward Belgrade

Since the departure of Charles Brayshaw [former deputy of UNMIK, UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] and Harri Holkeri [former UNMIK chief administrator], things are clearer in the UN mission and you can see that the leading policy is not what it used to be.

Soeren Jessen-Petersen [UNMIK head] and Larry Rossin [UNMIK deputy], the two new officials at the helm of UNMIK, are making it clear to all senior Belgrade officials that they cannot gain anything with their position and that on the contrary, they will damage the Serb minority in Kosova [Kosovo]. The first visit by a Serbian official to Kosova since the Assembly election has marked a turning point in UNMIK's position towards Serbian politics. The criticism by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General addressed to Nebojsa Covic [head of the Serbian Government's Coordination Centre for Kosovo] was direct; he faulted Belgrade for its wicked policy towards Kosova.

There is no reason why the Serb minority should remain outside the institutions and oppose everything that is in favour of building a democratic society where everyone can exercise his rights. Covic was certainly disappointed after his meeting with Rossin, because he might have thought that the senior UN official would be soft on him and offer compromises that would suit Serbia. This is what used to happen in the past, when agreements and treaties were signed in favour of the Serbs for the sole purpose of ending their destructive policy.

But after five years it has been noted that this kind of diplomacy brings no results, because as people say, "Give him an inch, and he takes a mile". There is no longer a need for privileges. Serbs should first of all turn to human integrity and then to other things. It seems that Serbia will finally realize that it cannot decide Kosova's fate. This new position by UNMIK can bring results in this respect, because the Serbs now see that not even the internationals will support their absurd demands.

Ex-Kosovo rebel denies involvement in Albanian National Army in Macedonia

Unattributed interview with Bardhyl Mahmuti, political representative for diaspora of the former Kosovo Liberation Army, in Skopje on 20 December, "Let speculation about my being part of military or political structures stop", published by Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 21 December

Shkup [Skopje], 20 December: The former political representative for Diaspora of the Kosova [Kosovo] Liberation Army's political directorate has categorically denied involvement in the political leadership of the armed formation of Albanians - the Albanian National Army (AKSh). He says that his name was mentioned in the AKSh meetings as its political leader. Moreover, his name was mentioned in various diplomatic circles, which in a way have stepped up pressure on him.

[Koha Ditore] Recently, we saw a very complicated situation in Macedonia, which could escalate into an armed confrontation. Your name was mentioned in the Albanian National Army and some Western circles as one of the political representatives of this structure. How much truth is there in such allegations?

[Mahmuti] I have been carefully following political developments in the Balkans and beyond and, in particular, I am preoccupied with the situation in Kosova and Macedonia. The situation is very worrying because the problems are piling up and some people are seeking to solve them through armed conflict. I am quite confident that armed conflicts cause more problems than they help solve. Wars cannot be justified except in the cases when all political means for solving the problems have been exhausted. The war against [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic in Kosova is the best example of historic contests where the involvement of the international players helped a successful resolution. I was a member of the Kosovo Liberation Army's political directorate, and after the war I held important positions in Kosova. In no case was I, or am I a member of any other formation.

[Koha Ditore] Does this mean that you are not a member of the AKSh, and that you are not linked to this military formation that strives for a national unification?

[Mahmuti] No, I do not belong to any AKSh structure. All those who followed the war of the National Liberation Army in Macedonia [NLA; UCK in Albanian] may recall the speculation with my name. After the end of that war, the speculation continued in another respect.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Srpska Rec: Serbia has no evidence against Haradinaj - Follow the link to full article in Serbian

Koha Ditore reports that the Serbian newspaper Srpska Rec, which is published by the Council of the Serbian Renewal Movement led by Vuk Draskovic, ‘has brought to light the lies and manipulations of the Serbian authorities and media to stain the image of Ramush Haradinaj.’

‘All seven witnesses are united in their claim that Ramush Haradinaj had never beaten, raped, mistreated or killed anyone, nor did he give such orders,’ writes the paper.

The article says that during the organized campaign against Ramush Haradinaj, the Serb side has avoided some important elements; that the President Rugova has nominated him based on results of elections, and that Thaçi could have been the only counter candidate, which would have infuriated them even more.

On the one hand Serb politicians are insisting that institutions compatible to European standards are established in Kosovo, while on the other hand they do not miss a chance to block creation and functioning of these institutions. First they boycotted parliamentary elections, and then they opposed the election of the prime minister.

The article concludes that there is no way for a Serb politician to understand that they are not the center of the world and that they cannot change gravitation laws, therefore they cannot set deadlines for the international community.

Kosovo Serbs urge Serbian premier to accept talks with UNMIK chief

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica should accept the invitation issued by UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] chief Soeren Jessen-Petersen and start talks on decentralization, the issue of missing persons and security in Kosovo-Metohija, representatives of the Kosovo Serbs have said. Zeljko Tvrdisic has the details:

[Reporter] Dragisa Krstovic, one of the leaders of the Kosovo Serbs, has described as positive Petersen's initiative to start talks on decentralization, security and the issue of missing and kidnapped persons, and stressed that the invitation should not be turned down. The opportunity to talk should not be passed up for the sake of Serbia and the Serbian community in Kosmet [Kosovo-Metohija], Krstovic said. He added that talks between the representatives of Belgrade and UNMIK would be an opportunity for the Serbian officials to come up with a new position regarding the participation of Serbs in working groups.

Marko Jaksic, president of the Community of Serbian Municipalities and Settlements in Kosovo-Metohija, has told the national news agency that Petersen's invitation to Kostunica was encouraging and that the talks on the topics mentioned had to be conducted between UNMIK and Belgrade. Marko Jaksic added that the participation of Serbs in the working group for decentralization was impossible at this time without first launching talks between UNMIK and Belgrade representatives.

Kosovo population census to be held in 2005

The first census in Kosovo since the province came under U.N. rule will start in early 2005, the United Nations said Monday.

The census will provide demographic information on Kosovo's population -- including a breakdown between ethnic Albanians and Serbs -- and also detail the province's housing situation, the United Nations said in a statement.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, following NATO's air war aimed at stopping the crackdown of Serb forces on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

The census will be conducted by Kosovo's statistical office and overseen by the United Nations and other international organizations.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Contact Group wants Kosovo Serbs included in all dialogue - UNMIK chief

UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] chief Soeren Jessen-Petersen said today, after meeting representatives of the Contact Group Plus in Prishtina, that the Kosova institutions had been given support in implementing the priority Standards and that the opposition would play an active role with its criticism in contributing to the functioning of the democratic institutions and by being part of these institutions.

Jessen-Petersen said that the meeting of the Contact Group with the new heads of institutions was very important.

"The Contact Group Plus listened to what our priorities were and how the new institutions would be moving forward. I think that listening to the opposition was important support, too, which will play an important role with its criticism in contributing to the functioning of the democratic institutions and with their presence in these institutions," Jessen-Petersen said, and reiterated the position of the Contact Group that the Kosova Serbs should be included in all dialogue and that this was a good opportunity for them.

The representatives of the Contact Group also held meetings with representatives of the Serb minority.

The international factors that are represented in the Contact Group have tried to encourage the Serbs to participate in the Kosova institutions.

However, Oliver Ivanovic, a representative of the Serb minority, said that this would not happen now. On the other hand, speaking about decentralization, he said that Belgrade should be involved in the process.

"Decentralization should ensure functioning local institutions, guarantee substantial transfer of powers and reorganize municipalities, which means the creation of new ones," Ivanovic said, adding that he was certain that the Serbs would not join the new institutions.

"We will not participate, because we have no credibility in representing them, because of the small number of votes that we received. This is why we cannot make decisions on important issues. However, everything will depend on whether or not the prime minister goes to The Hague. We will then reconsider our position. If the prime minister goes to the Hague, we could have a political crisis and violence could escalate," Ivanovic said.

In his view, the Kosova Assembly chairman and prime minister were only talking, but not doing anything concrete.

This was the last meeting this year of the Contact Group Plus, which is made up of the five most developed countries in the world, NATO, EU, UNMIK, and the heads of the Kosova institutions, to discuss the implementation of the Standards for Kosova.

Premier Haradinaj against linking Kosovo status to Bosnian Serb issue

The newly-elected prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, has said that connecting Kosovo's status to the status of the Bosnian Serb entity is undesirable.

"We do not want our status to be linked to other issues in the Balkans because we want to believe that our role is to contribute to peace and stability in the region," Haradinaj said in an interview for Television Bosnia-Hercegovina on Thursday evening [16 December].

Haradinaj reiterated several times that Kosovo's objective was to gain independence and that this objective had no alternative.

He said that defining the status of Kosovo would represent a contribution to solving outstanding issues in the entire region.

"I am confident that Bosniaks, who experienced war before us, will understand that we need friends in all countries in the world," Haradinaj said.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Kosovo government pledges to speed up return of refugees

The coordinators of the Standards implementation in the municipalities and Kosova [Kosovo] ministries have discussed the possibilities for speeding up the fulfilment of the Standards laid down by the international community. It was said at the meeting that the return of displaced persons and decentralisation are among the key Standards that require considerable effort.

[Reporter] The return of displaced persons is one of the most important Standards set out by the international community, said the participants at the meeting of the coordinators for Standards at all levels of government. They discussed the assignment of concrete responsibilities for speeding up the process of fulfilment of the Standards.

Minister of Local Government Lutfi Haziri said that the coordinators have started working intensively on building the strategy for the return of displaced persons.

[Lutfi Haziri] As a member of the government cabinet who assumed responsibility for leading this group, I will work actively with the municipal presidents, civic society and all mechanisms that could create an environment where every Kosova citizens returns to their property, their home, to live in a normal place such as Kosova.

[Reporter] The temporary head of the Kosova Association of Municipalities, Ismet Beqiri, spoke of the determination of the municipalities to successfully accomplish the responsibilities resulting from the plan on Standards for Kosova.

[Ismet Beqiri] The year ahead is a year of challenges and we are ready and willing this is also in the interest of Kosova and its citizens to fulfil the Standards so that the international community ultimately treats Kosova as somewhere that has its place among European countries, as a free and independent country.

[Reporter] As far as the decentralisation of the local government goes, the government and municipal representatives said they favoured a process that will not be accomplished along ethnic lines, but a process that will facilitate the improvement of the lives of all Kosova citizens regardless of their ethnic background.

[Lutfi Haziri] We are working at an expert level to finalise the criteria for the selection of municipalities that will carry out the initial pilot project of this reform, although the lessons we have learned from the region have shown that these processes are never completed and often fail. We do not wish to make the same mistakes. We will work slowly and carefully and we want to prove that the reform will be a long process, but nevertheless a good one and acceptable for Kosova.

[Reporter] The meeting of municipal and government coordinators on the Standards was organized by the Kosova Association of Municipalities.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Annan's recipe for Kosovo: strengthen security and economy, include minorities


If the Hague tribunal indicts the former KLA commander, violence may
erupt in his western Kosovo heartland.

By Zana Limani and Muhamet Hajrullahu in Decani, and Jeta Xharra in London

The situation in western Kosovo is increasingly fragile two weeks
ahead of the December 31 deadline for the Hague tribunal to issue the
final war crimes indictments in the former Yugoslavia.

Many people interviewed by IWPR in the Decani region, home to Ramush
Haradinaj, the new prime minister of Kosovo, are predicting major
unrest if he is indicted in the final three weeks.

Tribunal officials visiting Pristina have already questioned Haradinaj
twice, on November 10 and 11, over his role as a commander of the
Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, in 1998-99 in the western Dukagjini

The possibility that an indictment might be issued did not prevent
Haradinaj from being nominated to the second most important post in
the Kosovo government after the presidency.

He was inaugurated as prime minister on December 3, after a coalition
deal was struck between Kosovo's biggest party, the Democratic League
of Kosovo, LDK, and Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo,

Although Haradinaj says he is confident that he will continue to run
the government, some of his hard-line supporters in the Decani area
are preparing for the worst.

Ibrahim Selmanaj, mayor of Decani, says local officials are bracing
themselves for turbulence.

"Knowing the mentality of my people, and knowing that Ramush's family
is highly respected for the sacrifice of family members in the war,
people will react very badly to his arrest," Selmanaj told IWPR.

"This reaction will be directed at everything and everyone, including
my own institution", the mayor added.

Others are also predicting that Haradinaj's arrest will trigger unrest
in the town, which is burdened with high unemployment, especially
among the young, and poor infrastructure.

Naim Rashiti, a researcher with the International Crisis Group office
in Kosovo, who spent two days in the western areas researching the
security situation, says a combination of economic deprivation and
demographics could lead to serious trouble in the event of Haradinaj's

"Six hundred students graduate yearly from Decani high schools, of
whom only 100 go on to university," said Rashiti. "The rest of the
unemployed young people are left behind, listening to stories and
legends about the [1998-99] war. They would have no problem with
violence if somebody with a heroic reputation, such as Haradinaj, was

"There will definitely be riots like those in March if he [Haradinaj]
is arrested," agreed Rexhë Kukalaj, who runs a Kosova Petrol gas
station in Decani. "Once they start, who knows what will happen next?

"If they wanted to arrest him, they shouldn't have let him become
prime minister in the first place."

Naim Haxhosaj, 25, a student from Decani, confirmed he was ready to
take to the streets if Haradinaj was indicted, adding that he would
direct his anger at the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK.

"I will join protests against UNMIK because they are the ones who are
cooperating with The Hague over these unfair arrests", Haxhosaj told

Veterans from the Kosovo war also said they held UNMIK responsible.

"We blame UNMIK for every arrest so far, and they are the ones we
protest against," said Sherif Krasniqi, president of the Association
of War Veterans, which says it defends KLA war values.

"In Kosovo, they are the ones leading the inquiries, not The Hague," he added.

The anger vented against UNMIK is ironic given that Carla del Ponte,
the Hague tribunal's chief prosecutor, publicly criticised the UN body
at the NATO summit on December 3 for its alleged failure to cooperate
over war crimes in Kosovo.

In spite of the mounting hostile chorus, the NATO-led peacekeeping
Kosovo Force, KFOR, says it is not convinced there is any serious
cause for concern at the moment.

"The situation is calm and quiet and we love it like that," KFOR
spokesman Colonel Yves Kermorvant told the media in Pristina on
December 10.

A former member of the KLA living in Decan, however, told IWPR that
UNMIK might find itself facing paramilitaries if Haradinaj was

"No one has given up all the arms they had in the war," he said. "We
could easily get a thousand armed people together overnight."

"These are people who have nothing to lose," said Naim Rashiti. "They
are not necessarily members of the AAK [Hardinaj's party] but they
would be former KLA fighters, or members of more militant
organisations who have been involved before in conflicts in the
Presevo valley and Macedonia."

Other potential fighters, according to Rashiti, would be young people
who did not fight in any of these previous conflicts but who are now
desperate to vent their frustration.

UNMIK head Soren Jessen-Petersen certainly knows he will have his
hands full if violence does erupt if Haradinaj is arrested.

On December 13 he told the BBC's Hardtalk show that he had asked KFOR
to ensure that troops in the ground were "more mobile, more flexible
and also more visible".

However, fears remain that it will take more than efficient deployment
of troops to keep control of Kosovo if there is an eruption of
violence, which many believe is imminent.

Zana Limani and Muhamet Hajrullahu are journalists with IWPR's Kosovo
office. Jeta Xharra is IWPR Kosovo project manager.

Serbia returns remains of murdered Kosovo Albanians.

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Serbia was to return the remains on Thursday of some 50 Kosovo Albanians killed in 1999 and buried with hundreds of others in a mass grave just outside Belgrade.

The handover to Kosovo was to be the single largest between Serbia and the United Nations-run province since three mass graves were discovered in Serbia proper in 2001, containing more than 800 victims of the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

The existence of the graves was made public as the reformers who ousted former leader Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 tried to ready the country for his extradition to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Around 350 identified remains have been returned since May 2003, out of a total of 836 bodies exhumed from all three sites.

The 50 to be returned on Thursday afternoon were among some 700 found in five large pits at the end of a firing range on the Batajnica police training ground just outside the Serbian capital. The bodies had been trucked in from Kosovo.

The province became a U.N. protectorate in 1999 after NATO bombing expelled Serb forces accused by Western powers of ruthless disregard for civilians in fighting a rebel insurgency.

An estimated 10,000 people died in the war. More than 3,000 are still missing, including 2,400 ethnic Albanians.

Kosovo's U.N. overseers say Serbia should speed up the handover of bodies for the sake of reconciliation.

"They can go faster," Jose-Pablo Baraybar, the Peruvian head of the U.N. Office on Missing Persons and Forensics in Pristina, said last week. "Why they aren't, they alone should explain."

Serbia is obliged to identify the bodies before returning them, a process Belgrade says is slow and complicated.

Baraybar said that despite post-mortems conducted by Serbia, the vast majority of bodies had been returned with cause of death unknown. Subsequent examinations by U.N. experts have established that 65 percent died of gunshot wounds.

Serbia says it is investigating what U.N. prosecutors says was a systematic operation to conceal evidence of atrocities in the Albanian-majority province, but has yet to charge anyone.

It is also refusing to hand over four army and police generals indicted by the tribunal of war crimes in Kosovo.

Kosovo remains formally a part of Serbia and Montenegro. The West says it will decide whether Albanians will get the independence they demand in negotiations expected to begin next year.