Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Talks near on Kosovo's future - Granting Independence for Kosovo

By Nicholas Wood The New York Times
TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2006

BABIN MOST, Kosovo The concrete barrier that encircles this Serbian village is supposed to prevent anyone traveling on one of the main roads of Kosovo from taking a potshot at any of its 1,000 inhabitants.

The last attack was in 2000 when two Kosovo Albanian gunmen shot and killed a local Serb shopkeeper and the wall, 4 meters, or more than 12 feet, high was built as a defense.

Its continued existence is a reminder of the deep divisions remaining despite six and half years of international supervision of Kosovo, a province of Serbia that is populated chiefly by separatist ethnic Albanians.

On Jan. 25, talks are to start in Vienna that both Serb and Albanian leaders hope will lead to the removal of the barrier in Babin Most and others like it.

Interethnic violence has bubbled up ever since Kosovo was placed under the authority of the United Nations in June 1999. At the time Serb-led security forces, accused of widespread atrocities in the province, were forced to leave under the weight of a NATO bombing campaign. To this day, Serb and Albanian communities live overwhelmingly separate lives.

International officials say that without an agreement on the province's future, there is little chance of reconciliation.

The negotiations chaired by Martti Ahtissari, a former Finnish president and a veteran negotiator, were approved by the UN in October and ultimately will determine whether Kosovo becomes an independent state, the goal desired by the ethnic Albanian majority, or remains a part of Serbia.

That core issue is one of the most intractable problems left over from the breakup of Yugoslavia, a process that began with the wars of the 1990s.

Serbs regard Kosovo as intrinsically linked with their religion, history and identity. But Albanians make up more than 90 percent of the population and after brutal repression during the 1990s are adamantly opposed to a return to Serbian rule.

Officials in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, rule out independence for Kosovo but, speaking practically, they concede that they cannot regain control over the province. They have ruled out direct rule from Belgrade, and acknowledge that a return of Serbian forces could provoke a new conflict.

"We don't want to have troops that could be seen as an occupying force," said Alexander Simic, an adviser to the Serbian prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, and the Serbian negotiating team. "We don't want to provoke the future instability of the region."

Still there are many problems.

The negotiations, which are expected to last at least throughout the summer, are to cover the protection of Serb patrimonial and cultural sights in Kosovo, the freedom of movement of minorities and the protection of minority rights in a new constitution.

Both sides agree that the key to reconciliation lies in giving those Serbs living in Kosovo more say in running their affairs. By this, both the UN and the Albanian majority tacitly agree that the current government in Kosovo has failed to meet the needs of the Serbs.

"If I get a traffic ticket I have to go to Pristina to pay it," said Zlatibor Ristic, a Serb living in Babin Most, referring to the provincial capital. "But in order to go to Pristina, I have to have a police escort, because it is too dangerous for Serbs to travel alone there."

The Serb government in Belgrade wants to establish municipalities in areas with Serbian majorities so they can elect and appoint Serbs to the police, the judiciary and to health and education postings.

These issues will quickly touch on matters of sovereignty, where there seems to be little room for compromise.

Albanian negotiators say they may be willing to grant a degree of autonomy to Serb-dominated localities provided that they are linked to the government in Pristina in a Kosovo that is independent. But the Serbs refuse to countenance discussions of Kosovo's independence from Belgrade.

Albanians also worry that the Serbs will try to link the municipalities into "entities" linked to Belgrade. That, the Albanians fear, could lead to new divisions and undercut an independent Kosovo.

"This is code for partition," said Blerim Shala, technical coordinator for the Kosovo Albanian team. "Even the smell of partition is problematic for Albanians and also for the international community."

Other hurdles exist away from the negotiation room.

In Belgrade, the government has a slim working majority in Parliament and may call elections this spring. That could delay the completion of talks by several months.

Also, the head of the Albanian team, Ibrahim Rugova, the president of Kosovo, is being treated for cancer and is not expected to see the end of negotiating process. His death could provoke a fierce dispute over his successor as the leader of Kosovo's largest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic League of Kosovo.

Western diplomats do not want the negotiations to drag out, fearing that if they do, extremist sentiment could revive.

At a certain point, according to these diplomats in the region and Western capitals, a solution might have to be imposed by the West, granting independence for Kosovo and certain rights for the Serbs living there.

11 comments:

Kosovar2006 said...

Im back ;)

I was in Kosova for 2 weeks. Well all I can say to the Serbians well I see more smiles now then ever before, Dont listen to propaganda but go and visit Kosova itself its the most peacefull place around You can walk around Prizren at 2-4am in the morining with no worries at all. You can hear albanian,Serbo/croat ,turkish simultanious being talked and people do understand each other no problem. Kosova is one of the most peacful places in Europe certainly.

But with Independence I do see a lot of pesimissm among people. They are loosing trust on UNMIK in the ground and loosing it very fast.
They think privitastion is not going well bringing nothing to the people but millions to some British 'economics'(thugs i call them 'check dictionary for precise meaning of thug) They have hope for independence but what I realised they also have the readines to fight if something less is given.

I think Independence will not come as easily as some of my friend in this blog are making out to be. There are loads if complication that have to considered.for some this is a lose-lose situation. May it all end well with no more war. But at the moment it is very peacedul but also fragile in many cases

Dardania 2006 said...

Kosovar2006,

It will not be easy, infact it will be very very difficult. First of thanks to our "competent" statemen and then because Serbia is a strong and willing power to cause meyhem.

Anonymous said...

kosovar 2006 said:

"with Independence I do see a lot of pesimissm among people. They are loosing trust on UNMIK in the ground and loosing it very fast.
They think privitastion is not going well bringing nothing to the people but millions to some British 'economics'(thugs i call them 'check dictionary for precise meaning of thug)"

Privatisation always brings millions to some economic thugs and nothing to the people but blood sweat and tears. Just why the Kosovar people, whose fight for freedom, independence and dignity I completely support, have let themselves be hoodwinked with the idea that there is anything good about letting a bunch of robber barons take over what is theirs and impose a new colonialism to replace the serbian one, I can never understand

Visit Prishtina said...

To the above poster:

(i) Allow me to first of all sincerely thank you for supporting our fight for freedom, independence and justice;

(ii) I would also like to inform you that the Kosovars did not let "these people" to come and take over, but instead they were imposed on us by the international community. Kosovars have made many mistakes, however we are not to blame for bringing in international people who are corrupt and misuse their position of power for their own personal benefits.

Warm wishes from Kosova!

heku said...

Kosova can be seen by analogy as a small Irak or as a tiny little bit of Nigeria...

Lots of resources and not enough capital to invest in it, that's the tragedy of rich countries without capital.

heku said...

Or for the purists we could go to a chicken game in the games theory, where the rich always win much more by not collaborating than collaborating...

Future for Kosova is in a partial economic protectionism (which the World Trade Organization does not allow us) and in massive diaspora investment which will certainly not happen due to the threats that the area implies, we'd better all go away from that place and leave it to nobody, it's the wrong place for business...

Anonymous said...

The formula for economic success and prosperity is clear: free enterprise economy, strong property rights, low government regulation, low taxes, no restrictions on individual employment or right to work, law & order, and no protectionism or other barriers to international trade.

Kosova can do the above and be like the USA & New Zealand & Ireland & Hong Kong; OR it can choose to be a quasi-commie-kleptocracy like Serbia or heavily regulated vestigial socialist "paradise" like Moldova. However clear the evidence is that a free enterprise economy brings the most prosperity to the most people, there are always corrupt politicians and "intellectuals" who want to maintain a large role for the government in the economy. It'll be interesting seeing which path is chosen.

illyrianboy said...

This doesnt have to do with what you guys are talking about but I am writing to reply to a post by Cvijus in which he says that he has never heard of Albanians beign expelled from the Nish region. (Nish Sanjak).

This again validates my argument that Serbs in general dont know anything about Albanians.

Cvijus if you actually read any book written by internationals you would have come across that. I guess this proves too that the only thing you read are Serb Ultranationalist website (not even Serbian history books).

Bye everyone

arianit said...

Illyrianboy,

Those that don't bear the brutality on their own backs forget the events of the past. Part of my family are refugees from Serbia's (then still novel) policy of ethnic cleansing. They had extensive land holdings in the Prokuplje region.
My family from Konjuh, Prokuplje joined the column of refugees that was going towards Kosova, but the massacres were so widespread, they would tell, that the rivers froze with the executed men and boys. My great-grandfather was born during this escape.
We're talking about 600 localities that were cleansed and burned in pursuit of the policy of the greater Serbia. One of the comments of a Serb officer posted here struck me when it pointed to this particular cleansing as a model for Serb state to emulate in 1913.
So, it's because of its success that Cvijus doesn't remember it.

Cvijus011 said...

illyriandude,

when we don't believe your fabrications, you accuse us of not knowing good enough the albanian nation. A good friends of mines family lives for ages in Nis and when i asked him if it is true that many albanians live there, he just laughed.
My arguments can be proven in books such as:

Misha Glenny - The Balkans
Rebecca West - Black sheep and grey owl
John R. Lampe - Yugoslavia as a history
Viktor Meier - Jugoslawiens Erben

All these books have a detailed historical backgroung of Serbia.

arianit,

bare in mind that a number of muslim population was retreating voluntarily with the Ottoman Army.
If they left from Prokuplje (Serbian territory) why did they settle in Kosovo-Metohija (at that time Serbian territory)? It makes no sense. To leave from the wolfs nest so they can settle again at the wolfs nest?
Find something better to prove me wrong.

arianit said...

Cvijus,

Your arrogance appalls but does not surprise me. I was talking about Winter 1879, when Serbia had just begun its conquests. They didn't go to Serbia, for Kosova was under Ottoman suzeranity until the Balkan Wars.
Your key words in your statements were "muslim" and "voluntary." Muslim in Serb eyes is a synonym for Turks, and thus a noble target. That's how thousands of Serb Muslims, most of the city dwellers, were sent off to Turkey or just killed off. Petar Njegos (a Montenegrin really) made around this time a massacre of "Turks" into one of the most revered works of Serb literature.
That's how in the 50's thousands "voluntarily" relocated to Turkey too. And in Bosnia Serbs brought up the Turk enemy again with some paramilitaries citing Njegos as their inspiration.

Voluntary? Yes they left their vast lands in Konjuh to live in a rented house in Kosova.
Read your Glenny again, he mentions the event as Serbia's first step towards expansion of the Pashalluk of Belgrade.