Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Analysis: Kosovo's anxious wait

Tensions are rising in Kosovo as a decision on its long-term future nears.

The international community says it wants the Serbs and ethnic Albanians to reach an agreement by the end of the year.

Otherwise, a settlement may have to be imposed.

In the divided city of Mitrovica people seem a long way from agreement.

Hardship

At 0900 the men are sitting outside the bars drinking beer and rakia. With sky-high unemployment, there is not much to do apart from think of the future and gaze at the bridge separating the two halves of the city.

The portakabin shops which line the street add to the pervading sense of the temporary. Patrolling international police and K-For troops seem to outnumber the locals.

Welcome to north Mitrovica, the last Serb urban area in Kosovo. It is tense, depressing and the people are scared about the future.

On the pavement, Dragoljub Mitrovic, 37, is trying to sell a heap of cheese in a blue bucket.

He has travelled from his home village, through an Albanian area, to try and make some money to feed his wife and two children.

"All Serbs, including me, live in constant fear. The UN brings us here on special buses. If Kosovo becomes independent, I'll pack my things and leave and try to get asylum elsewhere. There'd be no life for me here. I'd look for democracy in Europe."

Technically, Kosovo remains a part of Serbia. But in reality it has been run by the United Nations since the end of the war in 1999.

'Troublemakers'

In March 2004, violence exploded across Kosovo in anti-Serb riots, as Albanian mobs attacked Serb communities and burned down churches. In all, 19 people died. The violence began in Mitrovica.

The vast majority of Kosovo's people are Albanians who want independence. Serbs want anything but that.

Oliver Ivanovic, 52, is a leading Serb politician, a member of the Kosovo parliament and regarded as a moderate.

"We have been living in this hotspot since 1999, all the time living under some tension, all the time attacked by Albanians in the south and all the time coming under pressure from the international community.

"Sometimes we are under the impression internationals are not happy that we stay here. We are the troublemakers. And this does not help our relations with them," he says.

Independence drive

Pass the French troops stationed on the bridge over the River Ibar, that separates the Serb north from the Albanian south, and you enter a different world.

The place is humming: crowded, colourful, energetic. There is a sense of expectation.

Edmond Jolla, 32, is Albanian and the owner of the upmarket restaurant Ex.

"Everyone is expecting independence. In terms of my business, independence would enable me to invest for the future. Everyone will live better. I have two flats in north Mitrovica and when we get independence I hope to get them back. The war is finished," he tells me.

Drive 45 minutes south and you arrive at the air-conditioned, spankingly clean New Government Buildings in the capital, Pristina.

The former Albanian guerrilla leader-turned-prime minister, Agim Ceku, is sharp-suited and smiling when I arrive.

He tells me the government will accept nothing less than independence - and partition is out of the question.

"We are expecting full independence. We are sure it will be for the benefit of the region and for local Serbs. We are making a lot of commitments to them. They will benefit from positive discrimination. And Serbia will be free. They will have no enemies around, they will have no need to pay a lot of money to fund power structures and no reason to have large security forces."

Back in Mitrovica, it is no secret that both communities are well-armed and ready for a worst-case scenario.

"I will do whatever is in my capacity, physically and intellectually, to defend our right to live in peace and dignity and to live freely in our state. I, like most Serbs, will not accept being moved from one state to another," says Milan Ivanovic, one of north Mitrovica's most popular politicians.

Extra police

K-For recently reopened its base north of Mitrovica and close to the border with Serbia proper. Extra UN police have been deployed in the region. All in case it all goes wrong.

An old man, carrying a bag of shopping and wearing a traditional Serbian shaikatcha cap, sits in a bus shelter on the main street in north Mitrovica.

Behind him, pasted on the shelter, are black death notices of people who have died, of natural causes, during the past few days.

The people of north Mitrovica are waiting for something to happen. And whatever is going to happen, they believe, is not going to be good.

In Mitrovica, the River Ibar separates the Serb north from the Albanian south; Mitrovica's River Ibar separates the Serb north from the Albanian south; Local Serbs come from rural areas to earn a living

15 comments:

Serbs In Kosovo are in Danger said...

If Kosovo does become independent Serbs should definitely have to right to vote on whether or not they want to move from Serbia to an independent state. It is not fair to the Serbs to force them to live in another country when they now live in Serbia.

ANYC said...

This story is not related to above, but I find icredibly amusing. I never heard this from any other country but here it is.


Police officers for rent
2 August 2006 | 10:20 | Source: B92
BELGRADE -- MUP has decided to make money renting equipment and personnel.

Riding a police horse will cost citizens 2400 dinars per day. Police dog comes with rent price-tag of 1800, while those bent on renting a police uniform will have to spend 1200 dinars per day.

Police officers for rent

MUP has decided to make money renting equipment and personnel.

Riding a police horse will cost citizens 2400 dinars per day. Police dog comes with rent price-tag of 1800, while those bent on renting a police uniform will have to spend 1200 dinars per day.

All of this is envisaged in the Act on the services provided by MUP in order to gain income. The use of police vehicle costs 120 per kilometer, and MUP personnel engaged as security comes to 30 dinars per hour. The act also includes the services of helicopter transportation, transportation of passengers, goods, etc.

B92 awaits the answer to the question it posed to the MUP: under which conditions will it possible to hire a police officer, or rent a police dog.



I guess since MUP can't wage war and rob civilians from neighboring countrys anymore, it is time to do this. Ohhhh waging war, those good old times.....

raindrop said...

2400 dinars a day to ride a police horse is a bit much.
How much to just buy one? And can you ride it wherever you like? I want to ride it by the skupstina and go to the big park near there to the Italian restaurant there. It's the only really, really good restaurant in Belgrade and it's cheap. Try the gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce.

BTW Restaurant Ex is an excellent restaurant. Great chicken curry (a friend of mine claims it is the most sublime curry in the region) also the roasted pineapple and ice cream dessert rocks. I still say the Restaurant No Name out by the Ibar has the best salads tho.

raindrop said...

BTW Serbs already voted on their future and they lost the vote. That's democracy. You don't always get what you want.

mitrovica pika pika said...

Serbia is run by a cartel

Author: Nenad Dimitrijevic interviewed by Dejan Ilic for Feral Tribune (Split)
Uploaded: Wednesday, 02 August, 2006

Serbian political scientist teaching in Budapest discusses denial of crime, collective responsibility and the problems confronting Serbian society today

Over the past years you have given several talks in Serbia and written a number of texts on the need for Serbian society to confront the evil of the past, i.e. its own role in the events of the 1990s. What is the cause of your engagement?

There are two questions here. The first is: What actually happened? The second is: Is what happened relevant for living in Serbia today? The answer to the first question is to me simple and unambiguous. Great iniquities were committed in the past: mass murder, persecution, deportations, destruction of property. We can identify this injustice as crimes committed against non-Serb population on the basis that it was ethnically non-Serb, and in the name of the Serb ethnic group and all its individual members. This, in my view, is the starting-point for answering the second question. There is no alternative to confronting the truth. Not to do so has dramatic consequences: the crime is not recognised as crime, the victims are not recognised as victims, the perpetrators are not recognised as perpetrators. Omission to do so does not remove the past, but rather affirms it in practice. I am speaking here not about the intentions of the actors, but of the situation in which the political, cultural and moral heritage of the crime remains permanently present.

This can be summed up with the simple proposition that one cannot put aside the past by either an act of political will or mere silence. It is clear today that policy towards the past became the point of division within the democratic forces following the change of regime in 2000. Those who were prepared publicly to defend the lie about the crime have won. What I will call colloquially ‘post-Dinđić’ Serbia appears today, six years after its liberation from Milošević’s regime and three years after Đinđić’s assassination, as a state which has decided to stay in the past.

Few, of course, would publicly declare that the period under Milošević is something that should be preserved or restored; but the analysis of the dominant values, ideological matrices and behaviour of the leading political actors reveals a practical commitment to the preservation and reproduction of essentially the same ideological themes and governing mechanisms. Our present is based on retrograde and anti-civilisational choices of approach to the past which simultaneously form in a decisive manner the character of our present and our attitude to what constitutes a desirable future. These choices are inspired by an a priori refusal on the part of citizens, nation, society and state to confront what happened not long ago in the area that used to be called Yugoslavia. The refusal commonly takes the form of denying criminal, political and moral responsibility for the crimes committed. This then materialises itself in political and social speech, political and social activity, in which the central place is taken, neatly complementing each other, by betrayal and national honour; obsession with a glorious past and celebration of equally glorious defeats ranging from Kosovo in 1389 to Kosovo in 1999; complaints that the world does not understand or respect us; hatred of minorities; glorification of murderers as heroes, and much else besides. One can say that this country has fallen victim to unbridled right-wing options, ranging from a specifically Serbian form of liberal nationalism personified by the ruling coalition to a specifically Serbian form of street fascism personified by the Serbian Radical Party.

You say that you too are responsible for the crimes committed by the Serbian side, by the very fact of being a Serb. What do you mean by that?

To say that I am co-responsible for the crimes on the basis of national membership implies that you too, and all those who are Serbs by nationality, including our children, are also responsible. I defend, in short, the concept of collective responsibility while affirming at the same time that politically I am a liberal. This may sound extravagant or simply wrong. Many people, including liberal Serbs living in Serbia and abroad, do not agree: they say that this only contributes to the mystification of the nation, or that the affirmation of the concept of collective responsibility perpetuates in the long run, despite good intentions, the worst elements of Milošević’s inheritance. I wish to stress, however, that my position is not doctrinaire - it is just an attempt to identify the main obstacle that bars Serbia’s progress to civic and political normality. It is not a question here of culpability. Culpability is a legal category applied to individuals who become identified as perpetrators or collaborators in acts defined as criminal in nature following a correctly executed procedure. The difficulty is that legal-criminal procedures are not sufficient for confronting the recent crimes. We are dealing with mass crimes, with the manner in which the regime selected the victims, the role of the political elites, the support extended to the crime and its perpetrators by a large number of ‘ordinary people’, i.e. with the wide acceptance of a perverted system of values in which approval of the crime was a sign of morally correct behaviour and patriotism, and finally with the heavy moral and political consequences that the crime has left behind. These are the factors that should condition our way of looking at the past, the choice of institutional mechanisms that should help us to confront it, and the assessment of our individual and collective political and moral positions.

All these factors could be reduced to a simple proposition: every non-Serb, i.e. every innocent person who was killed because he was not a Serb, was killed in my name, for I am a Serb. I believe that this painful perception represents the foundation of the moral responsibility of all members of the Serb nation. I will repeat something that I wrote long ago: I am accidentally a Serb, but the crime was consciously and systematically executed in my name. It follows from this that the fortuitousness of my national identity has been cancelled out by the deliberate intention and activity on the part of those who proclaimed my national name to be the reason for killing those of another name. The fortuitousness of my national being ends at this point, because the crime committed in my name is a final fact of a special kind: the ideological foundation, nature and extent of the crime are such that it penetrates my individual identity. Therefore, in order to be able to become autonomous individuals, each of us separately and all of us collectively must confront the fact of crime. This facing up to facts and their assessment is the first aspect of moral responsibility. Secondly, we must address the community of the victims, and state clearly that what was done in our name was a crime which we condemn - this is another collective act through which we would re-affirm our individuality.

You argue at the same time that the Serb national identity has been destroyed, and that it must be rebuilt anew. Is it possible that the only indisputable fact that will remain at the core of the Serb national identity is that Serbs have committed crimes while everything else will become questioned? If so, then the refusal on the part of Serb society to confront the events of the 1990s is perhaps inevitable and understandable?

The Serb national identity has been destroyed with a highly inflammable combination of nationalism, mass crime and refusal to recognise the true nature and consequences of this crime. We can discuss at length whether from the historical point of view nationalism as an ideology contains also positive elements, but in the Serb case such a discussion no longer makes sense. Serb nationalism in the recent period has manifested itself as a barbarous ideology: it abolished the difference between good and evil and sent a message to the Serbs that they are free from civilisational constraints and can kill at will. Following this self-exclusion or voluntary withdrawal from civilisation, i.e. after a collective sacrifice of all fundamental moral norms, it is illusory to speak about something worth calling national identity. I do believe that when we use the first person plural and say ‘we Serbs’, we can only refer at this moment to the recent crimes.

Confronting a crime and its consequences is a very painful and humiliating experience for all members of the Serb nation. To that extent the refusal of the majority of members of Serb society is foreseeable and at an elementary psychological level understandable. The fact remains, however, that it is impossible to justify this refusal. The thesis that it would be counterproductive to ‘open old wounds’, because it would further divide society, is wrong in an elementary sense: the fact is that society is already deeply divided, as a direct result of the war, the perception of it, and the political abuse of its consequences. Since the border between truth and lie in regard to the past is unclear, the lie can effortlessly be translated into a manipulative political discourse. One should also not forget that the lie of which I speak consists precisely in presenting the recent crime as something that can be justified in the name of defence of ‘national interest’.

In this sense the view into the past is a pledge for the future. To put it differently, dealing with the issue of moral responsibility should not be viewed as a burden, but as a process that should help us accept as our own that minimum of universal values which we rejected not long ago, and which separates civilisation from what is not civilisation.

Simply stated, two things are crucial for the transition in which Serbian society finds itself today: democratic processes and market economy. It is possible, however, to show that at this moment both the democratic procedure and the market are working in favour of maintenance of the system of values that was built during the 1970s and the 1980s and that became dominant in the 1990s. In public life and in the market, people largely follow the ideas strongly promoted during the last decade and a half and which provided the basis for Serb participation in the recent wars. It could be argued perhaps that both the democratic process and the market reform should be suspended for a while, to give time for building a new system of values. Does Serbia in these conditions have any chance of successfully completing the transition?

The problem does not lie in democracy, the market or what we call ‘open society’. The problem is that we do not have, and have never have had, any of this. What we have now is a seeming democracy and a poor imitation of a market economy inherited from Milošević’s period. People in Serbia believe that democracy is a political form in which those who rule are legitimised by the majority will expressed in elections, and that those who have won elections can do whatever they want - from infringements of human-rights values and disregard of constitutional norms to a pilfering economy and criminal wars. We are no longer at war, true, but all the above-mentioned forms of brutal despotism have remained under the mask of democracy. As in Milošević’s time, Serbia is a privatised state: the political institutions, the mechanisms of repression, the judicial system, the financial powers, the economic institutions and processes as well as - by no means least important - ‘the ideological apparatuses’ - remain under the control of a kind of a para-state cartel formed by the ruling parties, the parties of the ‘opposition’, the enormously wealthy ‘controversial businessmen’, the army, various police formations, the mafia, the Church and the court intellectuals. In sum, the basic facade of statehood inherited from the previous period has been retained, and the actors of the old regime have succeeded in preserving their network of interests practically untouched by forming an alliance with the part of the new elite gathered around Vojislav Koštunica and the Democratic Party of Serbia. Instead of a democratic transition as a process in which the institutions and the ideology of the old regime are dismantled and at the same time democratic institutions, rules and values are affirmed, we have got a perverted hybrid regime which keeps us tied to a bad past.

As to Serbia’s chances, I must say first that nothing is predestined so far as social and political relations are concerned, so that Serbia is not condemned to a gradual decomposition without an alternative. On the other hand, the comparative experience of the countries in transition suggests that there exist a certain sequence and rhythm of steps that must be made both in the dismantling of the old regime and the construction of a democratic order. If we look at the countries that have gone through the transition, we can see that some moments are most suitable for certain kinds of reform: first come constitutional changes that reform the political institutions, then democratic elections, after which so-called systemic laws are adopted of which probably the most important are those regulating the economic sphere. At the same time there is reconstruction of the state administration and the judicial system, subjection of the repressive apparatuses to democratic control, etc. But if you say that you are a society in transition, yet spend six years doing nothing but maintaining the key institutions and values of the old regime, then you are not standing in the same place but are in effect moving backwards, so that something that was possible and necessary to do at the very beginning becomes today almost impossible.

Nenad Dimitrijević teaches at the department of political studies of the Central European University in Budapest. His subject is constitutional and political theory, and he is the author of The Case of Yugoslavia: Socialism, Nationalism, Results (2001). This interview has been translated from Feral Tribune (Split), 30 June 2006.

ivan said...

Siptari,

If you are so peace loving people, why does the man from the excerpt that is selling cheese in Northern Mitrovica need UNMIK protection to get to Northern Mitrovica? Why cant he sell this in south Kosovo, since he lives there? This time I am not provoking you , I just want to hear your view on this.

By the way I love the objectivity of this article. Interview the farmer selling cheese on the road from the Serbian side, and the owner of the Ex restaurant from the siptar side.

Fatos said...

Every citizen of Kosova should be entitled to move freely, without a takn following him/her, anywhere inside the borders of Kosova, including Northern Mitrovica.

ivan said...

Fatos,

the borders of "Ksovoa" are discussable just the way the borders of Serbia are. you have to give the " citizens" of Northern Kosovo and Metohija the same right as to the rest of your state, and that incloudes the right of self determiantion.

raindrop said...

erWell I'm not a 'Siptar' but I'll parry that one since I live and work in Mitro on both sides:

People do go back and forth and there is a fabulous NGO with half and half Albanian and Serbs running and working on a magazine called M which covers both sides. Also there are public debates and lo and behold I have gone to Restaurant Ex with Serbs and have seen Serbian colleagues there and in the Cafe Rendezvous (the best pizza imo). If there is work in Prishtina (or anywhere else) Serbs will go. If not I find they won't go and say they feel uncomfortable.It's usually because they don't know an area and that's understandable. And remember there are Serbian areas in the South as well. They are also building a new market for both sides near the river so that there is finally somewhere decent for both sides to go and that will change things. But both sides have to make an effort not just one.

One big problem is that Serbs use dinars and everyone else uses Euros. Another problem is that Serbs refuse to use any Albanian and Albanians have to use Serbian when they go to say Zvecan (there is a good restaurant there that people from both sides still go to or used to before things got tense again). Younger Albanians sometimes don't or won't use Serbian and very,very few Serbs speak Albanian (And Albanians should still learn Serbian as should Serbs learn Albanian-- hell you are going to be living together forever and you can talk to the Croats and Bosnians). You are also not safe going across the bridge in KS plates although I see Serbian and Montenegrin plates regularly in the South and in Prishtina. This is partly because Albanians live in the Preshevo valley and in Ulqin and come to Kosovo often.

However, if you go to areas like Gjilan or Novobrdo or Kamenice you see Serbs and Albanians living right next to each other. In fact in Kamenice the Serb High school is next to the Albanian middle school. No problems. You will also still see the old plates as well and no one bothers those guys even tho they are technically breaking the law. (I once yelled out my car window for directions from some guy in Kamenica first in Albanian and he said he didn't speak that then I yelled in Serbian and bingo--no problems just another day).

I was having coffee with some Albanian friends of mine-- wonder what is the problem with Mitro and why has it become so nasty whereas in Gjilane and Kamenica the situation is so different. And I'm curious too anybody got any theories? I have a couple but I'll keep them to myself for now.

WARchild said...

Raindrop,

Thanks for your insights.

Mitrovica turned into K-Serbs' self-fulfilling prophecy. They believed that Albanians were out to get them, so they closed themselves off from the south through the Bridge Watchers criminals. Albanians in return, unable to go to their homes in the north, were more keen to protest violently due to that fact. Then Serbs would come out with "see, we told you soo."

In other areas, because of the discontinuity of Serb enclaces from Serbia and the tiny numbers to make them self-sustaining, K-Serbs had to inevitably turn to their Albanian neighbhors for business and community relations. In this region, Serbs are much more likely to give a "politics doesn't interest us" answer than a three-finger salute and the poster of Milosevic like you'll get across the Iber.

"Performance" of the local Serb community during the war is also a good indicator of where some of the current hotspots are. For example, Anamorava (Gjilan area) did not see the level of fightings ensued by brutal massacres and village torching like the Drenica or Dukagjin regions did.

I hope this helps.

raindrop said...

Thanks Warchild that was my supposition as well. But I also thought the Albanians were closer socially to the Serbs in Mitro and hence when things got ugly, they got really ugly. Which was the pattern in Bosnia. I mean you can still say krompir in Mitro instead of patate or slag but while in Peja/Pec I got caught out saying Serbian words but the waiter just laughed.

Fatos said...

Can someone help me understand this:

At 4:51 PM, ivan said...

Fatos,

the borders of "Ksovoa" are discussable just the way the borders of Serbia are. you have to give the " citizens" of Northern Kosovo and Metohija the same right as to the rest of your state, and that incloudes the right of self determiantion.

Is he coming to grips with reality or what... I especially like this part: "as to the rest of your state". We thank you for admitting the Republic of Kosova.

ivan said...

Fatos,

what is there not to understand. You want independance from Serbia under the excuse of self determination of the people, well guess what serbs then want independance from you as well. And as for your state, I actually do support you leaving, Serbia would be much better without you, but i am against you taking the homes of 200 thousand non albanians, and to take down the remaining 70 thousand serbs that live there. So give the serbs what you request. Independence from you.

NYoutlawyer said...

Separate albo kosovo and Serbian land with air freshners. Mother fucking albaniacs stink. They do not bathe, do not use deoderants, have little teeth, and like to shit in the open as oppossed to toilets. This is a people that wants independence.

I say fine, and watch the mother fuckers self destruct.

The real threat is that islamo-facists will take over the country. Milosevic was a visionary, you must admit.

bogartwhite said...

The only thing the West fears more than Wahabi fundamentalism (which there is none of in the balkans you ignorant fools) is slavic communism.

As such, the priority at this point is to fully break and shatter the Serbo-russo alliance. Which is really more of a bitchification of serbia than an alliance as the loss of Kosova attests to.

Kosova independence will be granted in exchange for the independence of various territories such as North ossetia and the crimea.

The Serbs got sold out by their russin buddies again...don't you ever learn? But i guess not since all you were ever taught was Marxisms...you dirty commies!

better dead then red!