Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has explained the government's plan for a pilot decentralization project in Gracanica. This would include a municipal court and other elected institutions. Interviewed by a Serbian newspaper, he said the government would attempt to reach out to Serbs "through projects that will help them considerably". Haradinaj thanked the international community for not intervening in the process of forming the new Kosovo government. Asked what would happen if the Hague tribunal issued an indictment against him, he replied that he would have to "fulfil every obligation towards international justice". The following is an excerpt from an "exclusive" interview with Ramush Haradinaj: "I am not afraid to come to Belgrade", published by the Serbian newspaper Danas on 9 December:
[Haradinaj] As I have explained, I personally supported a dialogue on technical issues with the first Kosovo government. As it did not go very well, we turned our energy to an internal dialogue in Kosovo. The results were presented on 14 July 2004, in the form of an accord between the institutions of Kosovo - the prime minister, government, parliament Speaker, chairmen of political parties (Thaci and myself), and institutional representatives of Serbs: Ivanovic, Krstovic, Todorovic and Gojkovic. Together we reached agreement on reconstructing the buildings that were damaged and destroyed in the March violence, on the return of displaced persons and decentralization. As you know, the reconstruction is nearly finished, though there is still work to be done, but most of it is finished. We also agreed on forming two more ministries in the government to handle questions concerning return and decentralization. Speaking of decentralization, we will soon launch pilot projects for municipalities, as proposed for Gracanica.
[Danas] What jurisdictions will the local authorities have in these pilot project municipalities?
[Haradinaj] The new municipalities will have the same powers as other municipalities in Kosovo. As you know, municipal courts are established, so Gracanica will have its own court as a municipality. As for the role of the police, it will be done as part of the reforms in public order, throughout Kosovo. However, as you know, responsibility for police does not lie with the Kosovo government; it is one of the reserved competences.
[Danas] You said you would not have been elected prime minister if Serbs had turned out at the polls. Could you explain that?
[Haradinaj] I said it to explain the logic of Serb politicians. I have identified two periods when Kosovo Serbs lost out in Kosovo. The first began towards the end of 1999, until around 2001, when Milosevic was in power in Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs boycotted the international community. The consequence of that is that they did not benefit from the international community. The same thing is happening now. The Kosovo Serbs are left to themselves. What the Kosovo government is doing, with myself as prime minister, is an attempt to reach out to them through projects that will help them considerably in health care, education, transport and self-administration.
[Danas] But the crucial question for the Serbs is security and safety.
[Haradinaj] It is all interrelated and creates the necessary measures for safety. People living in small towns such as Gracanica will be reorganized into a new municipality, electing their own institutions and forming their own government. Naturally, this will directly impact on other aspects. Safety is a joint effort implemented with the international community, NATO and other security structures (Kosovo police service, and so on).
[Danas] Is it true that you prevented an attack on Visoki Decani monastery during the violence in March?
[Haradinaj] I was doing my job as a political leader, so as to bring an end to the violence, to protect cultural heritage and stop further damage being done to the progress we had previously achieved. The monastery of Decani is part of the heritage of Kosovo and we respect that.
[Danas] You told me you wished Kosovo to join the EU. Javier Solana did not directly support your appointment. How will you achieve your goal?
[Haradinaj] I believe the international community assumed a very good position. They did not directly interfere in our political process, they did not take sides, and in the end they did not support this coalition. I think they would have preferred a broad-based coalition at the head of Kosovo. However, the outcome is the result of our decisions and our political process. We called the elections, we came to an agreement and called the first session of parliament. We asked for help from no one, and we began working. Either way, I understand their position and I know that all representatives of the international community are ready to work with us absolutely. I think that is reality and that we will keep going.
[Danas] You said you wanted to reach out to the Kosovo Serbs. How? How do you mean to win their support?
[Haradinaj] Give us some time and you will see. Wait for the government's first 100 days and perhaps someone in Gracanica will prefer me to a Serb politician. We give them a choice, we work with them and we deal with their everyday problems.
[Danas] What is the current position of your political party? Rumour has it that you are out of favour with Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK [PDK in Albanian]) because of the support you extended to Rugova.
[Haradinaj] Our coalition with Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo [LDK] is the consequence of discussions, conclusions and decisions we made in the party previously. I talked with the LDK personally and those are the rules. We are a young nation and I do not look behind, but ahead, to the future.
[Danas] Yet the negotiations were in progress when the Hague tribunal summoned you for an interview.
[Haradinaj] No, the coalition would not have been formed if the talks had begun then. We opened the negotiations with parties much earlier, last summer.
[Danas] You were summoned to the office of the Hague tribunal after the elections.
[Haradinaj] Yes, that is true, but that was unexpected. We were in the middle of negotiations, but that did not affect the outcome.
[Danas] Speaking hypothetically, which is all we can do now - what if an indictment were issued?
[Haradinaj] I prefer to suppose it will not be, but if it is, my position as a citizen of Kosovo and as prime minister is to fulfil every obligation towards international justice.
[Danas] Are you not protected by political immunity?
[Haradinaj] No, we are under the United Nations. I am a citizen obligated to justice and no one is above the law. Even if proceedings had been filed against me by a municipal court, I would respond as a citizen. I am glad we fought for such a system of values in this country.
[Box] Kosovo Serbs Are My People Too
[Danas] I must ask you again, how will you persuade the Kosovo Serbs that you are working in their interests, if they keep hearing about your past and crimes every day?
[Haradinaj] With my work. Listen, the logic of war is to paint as black a picture as possible about the opposite side. We are working on changing our understanding. I visit my Serb neighbours and I talk to them. We will not depend on how Belgrade sees things.
[Danas] You have drawn a clear line between what you did as a member of the liberation movement and your political positions today?
[Haradinaj] Of course. If your country were in danger, you would do something to help.
[Danas] (Yeah, I would emigrate) [as published]
[Haradinaj] As many Kosovo Albanians would. I did the opposite. My family was in danger. I was elsewhere and living rather well, but I responded to the call of my country, which was in danger. It was a civic duty. You love your country, you love your people, and you stay with them. Today, my people are Kosovo Serbs as well. I will be here for them, too.