Monday, August 21, 2006

Kosovo Serb leader criticizes Belgrade for taking decentralization "too lightly"

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Text of interview with Oliver Ivanovic, head of the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija, by Zeljka Jevtic entitled "Belgrade asks us nothing" published by the Serbian newspaper Blic on 20 August

On Sunday I was in Osojani and Gorazdevac. The former is a returnees' village and the latter survived 1999. Osojani is celebrating return, Gorazdevac is commemorating the murder of children who were shot while swimming. Osojani is happy, people are at home and filled with optimism, Gorazdevac is as sad and tragic as it was three years ago. There is no justice as the killers have not been caught. A feeling both share is insecurity, and yet a wish to remain on their land. This is common throughout the Serb community in Kosmet, Oliver Ivanovic, head of the Serb List for Kosovo and Metohija, said in an interview with Blic.

[Jevtic] Are people discussing future status?

[Ivanovic] There are concerned mostly about the different statements of our politicians. Belgrade's concept at the talks is not clear. People here have no clear message on what is expected of us all. They have no idea what is to be done the day after. If there is an alternative strategy, it is not clear and the Serbs do not know about it. Finally, the negotiating team in Belgrade has no direct contact with Serbs in Kosovo. People ask: How are they negotiating on our behalf without asking us what we need? The negotiating team should visit us here and talk to people and get a feeling for our problems.

[Jevtic] And the Albanians?

[Ivanovic] They are completely confident. Increasingly frequent statements by [UN envoy] Martti Ahtisaari are actually criticisms of Belgrade's position, which the Albanians take as praise. On the whole, Albanians deem the presentation of Pristina's team as successful, which puts the poor economic situation into the background, and many differences between the government and opposition are sidelined. A crisis will break out if the talks come to a standstill.

[Jevtic] What is your grudge against the Belgrade negotiating team?

[Ivanovic] Besides what people think, I would add Belgrade taking the question of decentralization too lightly. If we succeed in keeping Kosovo part of Serbia, only decentralization can ensure normal life for Serbs in an Albanian environment. Belgrade is putting emphasis on status, while questions on technical talks that have to do with everyday life are considered less important. That precisely is the basis for Serbs to remain in Kosovo. However status is resolved we must establish relations and be protected through the institutions.

[Box] Ruecker optimistic

[Jevtic] You met the new chief of UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo], Joachim Ruecker. What are his opinions?

[Ivanovic] He told me that Martti Ahtisaari would propose a solution for decentralization in September and conveyed his opinion in principle on status. I doubt it will happen that swiftly, I think the new UNMIK chief is overly optimistic. He said he was the last chief, but the last three shared this belief. Ahtisaari will be here next week so that will be an opportunity to clarify many issues.

[Box] Institutions

[Ivanovic] There is no alternative to the Serb List and no alternative solution until elections. This should be quite clear to everyone who called for early elections.

Source: Blic, Belgrade, in Serbian 20 Aug 06 pp 2-3

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