Monday, November 28, 2005

Blame it on Paddy

Bosnia's political culture
From The Economist print edition

Trained by the centuries not to take decisions

WE IN the international community must now begin to move from heavyweight, intrusive interventions to a new role of adviser, persuader and partner.” So says Lord (Paddy) Ashdown. Like most policymakers who deal with Bosnia, and a growing number of locals, he believes it is high time for Bosnians to take responsibility for their own affairs. The hope is that his powers as high representative will be used less and less often, and that Bosnians can be nudged into making more of their own decisions.

On November 25th, Bosnia is due to start talks with the EU about the first steps on the path to eventual accession. Early next year, Lord Ashdown will step down. His successor is expected to be Christian Schwarz-Schilling, a former German minister and Bosnia hand who favours handing full powers back soon.

The high representative is also the EU's special representative in Bosnia. It is hoped that, over the years, EU conditionality can be used to keep Bosnia, like other countries in the region, on course towards stable prosperity.

Some westerners are uncomfortable over the vice-regal role the high representative has played. They wonder whether such a colonial institution is appropriate in 2005. Yet the past ten years have shown that Bosnia's problem is not just the legacy of a brutal war, but also a culture of deference. The origins of this phenomenon lie in the distant past.

For many Bosnians, it seems natural for a high representative to give orders to their leaders. That is, after all, how Bosnia has been ruled since the Ottoman conquest in 1463.

From then until 1878, Bosnia was ruled by a pasha sent by the Sultan from Istanbul. Between 1878 and 1918, it was governed by a representative of the Austro-Hungarian Empire sent from Vienna. From 1918 to 1992, the buck stopped in Belgrade. Now the high representative rules with orders given in Brussels, which has become Bosnia's latest imperial capital.

Two years ago the EU told the Bosnians to do 16 things before they could start talks on eventual accession. With much cajoling and bullying from Lord Ashdown, all were done by last month. Few believe that anything would have been achieved without him. Indeed Bosnian politicians like the role he has played, because it means they never have to take unpopular decisions. Sometimes they even ask him to impose decisions, knowing that, to their own voters, they can “blame it on Paddy”.

Bosnia: Peacful,rebuilt but still divided

Bosnia, rebuilt but still divided
Nov 23rd 2005
From The Economist Global Agenda

Ten years after the Dayton accords, the testing ambition is to bring Bosnia and the rest of ex-Yugoslavia into the European Union

IT IS a beautiful, sunny Sunday. The church door is open to all comers and the abbot of the little monastery is entertaining guests over cups of thick black Turkish coffee. In the fields, a couple of men are working; on the nearby road, a few cars pass on their way to the coast, perhaps families off to lunch by the seaside.

A normal enough scene, but one that tells an amazing story. Ten years ago, when the peace deal on Bosnia-Hercegovina was agreed at an American airbase in Dayton, Ohio, on November 21st 1995, ending a war between Bosnia’s Serbs, Croats and Muslims (known as Bosniaks), in which Serbia and Croatia sought to carve up Bosnia, this peaceful scene in the village of Zitomislic would have been unimaginable. For the monastery is Serbian Orthodox, and it was left after Dayton in an area controlled by Croats and Bosniaks. In 1992, when the war began, Serbs fled; the church, built in 1566, was dynamited. The message was clear: “Don’t come back!” Yet some have.

The church, lovingly rebuilt, reopened in May. There are similar scenes across Bosnia. Catholic churches have been rebuilt in areas where Croats once lived. Hundreds of mosques, dynamited in Serb-controlled areas, have risen from the ruins. In Mostar, a few miles from Zitomislic, the Ottoman bridge, also built in 1566 but destroyed in fighting between Croats and Bosniaks in 1993, reopened last year.
Explaining why there is no longer any active hostility to Serbs returning to Zitomislic, Abbot Danilo, aged 29, says simply that “we have to show that we are willing to live here and people recognise that.” Yet the rebuilding of the church symbolises something profound. To build a country takes more than bricks, mortar and constitutions. In Bosnia, restored security and repaired roads have encouraged hundreds of thousands of refugees to return. Immediately after the Dayton deal, a NATO-led peacekeeping force of 60,000 troops took over the country. Today, only some 6,000 soldiers from a European Union military force remain.

All Bosnians now share common passports. They can travel freely and safely wherever they want across the country. A single customs and border-police service staffs the frontiers. Separate armies have been abolished. Next year a single value-added tax (VAT) regime for the country will come into force. And on Friday November 25th, the EU, recognising how far the country has come, plans to begin talks with Bosnia that could lead to its eventual accession.

From Dayton to Brussels
Bosnia has been transformed, but still has far to go. Dayton ended the war but by imposing a complicated and costly system of government, divided between a Serb part, the Republika Srpska, and a Bosniak-Croat federation, each with its own government and one autonomous district, belonging to neither. Central administration is weak.

On top of all this is the Office of the High Representative. Despite its neutral-sounding name, this hugely powerful position would once have been recognised as an imperial governorship. Lord Ashdown, a former leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, is about to end three and a half years in the post. He can claim that, thanks to the forceful use of his powers (sacking intransigent elected officials, for example), he has led Bosnia “from Dayton to Brussels”.

Foreigners are more impressed than the Bosnians themselves with all this. For them, change has been agonisingly slow. The economy—as far as statistics mean anything—remains weak. Unemployment stands at 43%. Dirk Reinermann of the World Bank argues that, if the grey economy is factored in, true unemployment is around 16-20%. However, he concedes that 18% of Bosnians live below the poverty line, and another 30% just above it.

Bosnian leaders are talking about revising the Dayton constitution. Under American pressure, the eight leading political parties signed a deal this week in Washington, DC, promising to make changes by next March. As it stands, the constitution cannot deliver an efficient government, nor can it bring the reforms needed for Bosnia to enter the EU. All parties agree it must be changed, but they have not yet been able to agree how.

Few Bosnians now fear that a new conflict might break out. Most Serbs and Croats who wanted to create a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia now recognise that Bosnia is here to stay. But they do not like it much. When Serbia beat Bosnia at football, young Serbs in the Republika Srpska came out to celebrate. The Bosnian flag, as opposed to the Serbian one, is rarely seen in Serb areas; the Bosnian Croat flag festoons Croat ones.

Some of the claims made for post-war Bosnia may be exaggerated too. Churches and mosques have been rebuilt but the numbers who have returned to territory controlled by former enemies are not as impressive as they seem. Before the war, the Bosnian population was 4.4m. The war displaced some 2.2m, of whom 1.2m are believed to have gone abroad. Some 150,000 are thought to have died. Today the population may be 3.5m but it could be less (no post-war census has been held). The Bosnian foreign ministry thinks 300,000 Bosnians are now citizens of countries outside ex-Yugoslavia.

According to the UN refugee agency, just over a million displaced people have returned home, of whom nearly 450,000 are so-called “minority returns”—eg, Bosniaks in the Republika Srpska, or Croats and Serbs in Bosniak-dominated Sarajevo. But there may have been fewer minority returns than the figures suggest. Many people “returned” only to regain possession of their property, which they then sold. Minority returnees may have stayed on in parts of the countryside but the towns and cities are overwhelmingly dominated by one or other ethnic group.

Drive through Bosnia at night and you notice something else. Much of the countryside is dark. Many people have repossessed and rebuilt their houses but no longer live there. Thanks to the war and its aftermath, their children have grown up in cities and do not want to live a tough rural life. In many cases, only elderly people have returned, and their families come back just for holidays. Although the post-war returns have dented ethnic cleansing, they have not reversed it. And the war accelerated the drift from country to town.

Divided city
Mostar should be different: on paper, it is the only truly mixed Bosnian city. But few Serbs have returned, and Bosniaks now live on one side of town and Croats on the other. The dividing line is a street with two names: the Boulevard of Croatian Defenders, or of the People’s Revolution. Yet to a foreigner the change in Mostar is palpable. Even four years ago, the atmosphere crackled with hate. Now that feeling has subsided. Since 2004, the administrations of the two halves of Mostar have been unified. In the old Ottoman (now Bosniak) part of town, souvenir sellers say that, after the reconstruction of what is now called the “New-Old Bridge”, this year has been their best since before the war.

Yet schools are strictly divided on ethnic lines and people simply do not mix. In that sense, Mostar is a template for the rest of the country. Richard Williams, who has worked for Lord Ashdown in (re)uniting the city’s administration, says that, having created the mechanisms to run one city, “it is up to the citizens of Mostar to carry those processes forward.” The same might be said of the country as a whole.

What of the common Bosnian institutions—including state border police, customs and a defence ministry—that have been created in the past few years? The good news is that they exist; the question is how real they are. Nerma Jelacic, the Sarajevo head of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, a news service, dismisses them as “Hollywood sets. They are two-dimensional and have no substance.” Senad Slatina, a political analyst, agrees: “They are so fragile that they would collapse in any tense situation.” Yet the movement towards EU integration is designed to lock the country into a process from which there is no return, in which what is now fragile becomes solid.

One problem is that this process cannot be completed without the arrests of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb wartime leaders, who are still at large a decade after having been indicted by the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal. The EU has made clear that their arrest is a precondition for entry talks. In Washington this week, Bosnian leaders called for the two men to surrender.

Making the best of it, perhaps
Bitterness still bubbles beneath the surface. Yet in the words of Milos Solaja, head of the Centre for International Relations in Banja Luka, in the Republika Srpska, “[Bosnia] is a country, like it or not. We live here and are citizens of Bosnia.” In Bosnia, even to say that is progress.

At its core, Dayton was a compromise. Bosnian Serbs were forced to give up their war aim of independence and union with Serbia. In exchange for autonomy within Bosnia, they agreed, reluctantly, that it should be a sovereign state. Now, ironically, as discussion focuses on how to reform Dayton, the Bosnian Serbs are its staunchest defenders. Not so Bosnian Croats, a minority in the Croat-Bosniak federation, who feel squeezed between Serbs and Bosniaks. Of Bosnia’s pre-war Croat population of some 830,000, only half remain. Many, especially the young, have gone to Croatia, which, since independence, has offered them automatic citizenship. Some Bosnian Croats demand a “third entity” for Croats, but it is a demand that stands no chance of success.

Since 1999, with the death of the then Croatian president, Franjo Tudjman, Bosnian Croats have seen their support from Croatia, financially and politically, cut drastically. The reason is that Croatia’s leaders made a strategic decision: that accession to the EU is more important than Greater Croatia. Serbia’s leaders, too, have come to the same conclusion.

With both Croatia and Serbia in talks, albeit at different stages, with the EU on eventual accession, Bosnia’s borders are (mostly) no longer contested. Hence, says Osman Topcagic, head of Bosnia’s Directorate for European Integration, the EU should see his country as an “economic development and transition issue”, rather than a “political and security problem”. Apart from keeping a beady eye on a few Islamic radicals, he is probably right. But several problems loom for the coming year, many to do with the neighbours.

Trouble in the neighbourhood
Croatia is on track to follow Slovenia into the EU and NATO. Macedonia is also set to be given EU candidate-status in mid-December, an achievement which is designed to lock its Macedonian and minority ethnic-Albanian leaders into a process that should stop any return to the inter-ethnic violence of 2001.

But problems for the region still flow from the final acts of the drama of Yugoslavia’s disintegration. The lesser of two great unsolved issues is the relationship between Serbia and Montenegro. The two states remain locked in a “state union”, although the two function more or less independently of each other. Serbia has a population of 7.5m; Montenegro only 650,000. Yet Montenegro’s government is determined to hold a referendum on independence next year. If it passes, a new state will be born, albeit supported only by a slim majority of its citizens.

The worst unresolved legacy is Kosovo. Of its 2m people, well over 90% are ethnic Albanians who want full independence. Technically Kosovo remains part of Serbia but, since the end of the war there in 1999, it has been under the jurisdiction of the UN. Now, talks on its future status are starting, led by Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president. Serbia’s leaders say that Kosovo can have “more than autonomy, less than independence”.

The talks will probably end with Kosovo getting so-called “conditional independence”. Between now and then, however, violence is a distinct possibility. Some Serb leaders, in Serbia and in Bosnia, are hinting that, if Serbia loses Kosovo, it should be compensated with the Republika Srpska. They know this will not happen, but by using it as a threat, they hope to extract concessions.

Ten years after Dayton, many in the former Yugoslavia are still gloomy. The region suffers from low standards of living and a serious brain drain, and frustration is widespread. Yet it is slowly progressing towards EU membership. And if the church at Zitomislic is anything to go by, what was once unimaginable may yet be possible.

The Balkans, ten years on

Europe's banlieue
Nov 24th 2005
From The Economist print edition

Like France's troubled suburbs, the Balkan war zones cannot be sealed off—or safely ignored

THE Balkans, said Otto von Bismarck, are not worth the healthy bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. A century and a quarter after that famous brush-off, Europe's richer, smugger parts are still tempted to turn their backs on their continent's most unstable and wildest corner.

To a European Union that views itself as part of the world's elite—a huge, if rather sluggish, economic power that can be rather choosy about who it deals with—its squalid Balkan backyard is an embarrassment. Indeed, there are questions about whether it is part of Europe at all. Serious politicians in France, Germany and Austria were saying, only a decade ago, that countries with an Ottoman or Byzantine heritage—such as Romania, Bulgaria and most of ex-Yugoslavia—weren't really heirs to the glories of European civilisation.

If west Europeans feels uneasy about the Balkans, that is partly because of the blunders they have made. For all his detachment, Bismarck was a master of Balkan diplomacy, but modern Europe has lacked his touch. When old Yugoslavia broke up, it was initially seen, absurdly, as a little local difficulty which Europe could handle with no help from anyone else. Then, when the horrors began, they were dismissed as too intractable to stop.

In fact, as became clear in the final chapters of the conflicts in Bosnia—which ended in a peace agreement exactly a decade ago—and then Kosovo, Balkan wars are as easy to control as people want them to be; but they stop only when America and all the main European powers act together, instead of scoring points off one another. Now, the Balkan guns have mostly fallen silent, and the region and its queasy European friends are at another crossroads (see article). In a year's time, Kosovo may be independent. Bosnia is gradually turning into a functioning state. Montenegro may vote in a referendum to break with Serbia. The accord that saved Macedonia from civil war seems to be holding. An era of intensive care, in which Kosovo was run by Finns or Danes, and Bosnia by Austrians and Brits, may be ending.

So what does rich Europe do now? For a half-exhausted, introverted EU with many problems nearer home to worry about, it is tempting to walk away altogether, at least from the places which seem incorrigible. The Union has proved good at teaching governance to countries like Bulgaria and Romania where politicians want to learn and will get a nice prize—early membership—in return. Among the six republics of old Yugoslavia, there is only one European super-star, Slovenia; and Croatia is back on a European track after wobbling off it.

But as for the other countries of the region—all scarred by war, anarchy or criminal nationalism—a sceptic could make a decent case for writing them off. In Albania and much of ex-Yugoslavia, the forces ranged against the state—crime syndicates and armed nationalists—are often more than a match for legitimate business and politics. Government, in so far as its writ runs at all, is frequently worse than useless: customs barriers and regulations simply obstruct legal business, offer bribe opportunities for bureaucrats and abet crime.

Given that the total population of the Balkans' most problematic parts is barely 20m, and their per head income is barely a fifth of the EU average, why not just quarantine them until they start behaving like potential members of a rich, respectable club? That, in a way, is what Europe managed to do during Bosnia's horrors: the Vienna stock exchange hardly flickered as massacres occurred a couple of hours' drive away.

To find out why that is not an option, ask the British police who, with help from the UN police in Kosovo and several other countries, have just cracked a people-smuggling ring that originated in Turkey and may have spirited as many as 200,000 desperate folk (mostly from eastern Turkey) into the Union's richer places. Or consult a report by Europol, the European police agency, which has traced the activities of Balkan-based crime syndicates. Albanian gangs spirit people into Britain and Germany; guns are reaching Britain from Croatia and points south; the stolen-vehicle trade in the Netherlands is dominated by Serbs; and Chinese syndicates based in ex-Yugoslavia send illegal migrants to Finland. It was once said of the Balkans that they produce more history than can be consumed locally; it is even more true that the region is a big net exporter of crime.

Hard as things are now, they would be worse if rich Europeans tried—and inevitably failed—to seal the Balkans off. The less access the people of south-eastern Europe have to EU markets for goods and labour, the easier it will be for organised crime to tighten its grip on the region and spread mayhem elsewhere. Especially in places like Kosovo where the population is rising fast and underemployed, there is huge unspent energy which will find malign outlets unless a healthy, outward-looking economy can put idle hands to work. Putting a wall round the Balkans will have the opposite effect.

In need of a better future to bury the past
That is one reason why Europe's fate is intertwined with the Balkans. Rich Europeans cannot ignore the region, any more than wealthy citizens of France (or any other European country) can shrug off the problems of compatriots whose poverty and alien speech or faith makes them awkward neighbours.

Another reason to avoid a massive turning of backs on the Balkans is that events there can have repercussions in unexpected places, in part because of religious solidarity. Neither the French riots nor the Balkan wars were mainly the result of clashing faiths. But in this ultra-sensitive area, actions (or non-actions) by European governments send ripples round the world. Just as French mishandling of immigrant youths reverberates in Jakarta and Algiers, so the fate of Bosnia's Muslims caused rage in Malaysia and Pakistan. The effects of any new failures in the Balkans will be felt well beyond the region.

Like it or not, west Europeans must remain engaged in their squalid south-east, offering advice, money and the ultimate prize of admission to the EU club. Otherwise the woes of the Balkans will come to them, just as the French slum-dwellers have rattled nerves in the smart districts of Paris.

Kosumi: People of Kosovo have the right to determine their fate

Bota Sot carries an interview with Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi.
Kosovo cannot go back. In fact Kosovo has been independent for six years now.

Serbia, during this period, has not had any influence, except in some violent and
illegal ways. But, legally, it has no impact on developments in Kosovo. Kosovo de
facto is independent and it will be de jure, are some points the paper highlights
from the interview.

Kosumi further said that the process of the status talks will not be delayed, as it
would endanger the core of the process.
PM Kosumi also said that direct recognition of Kosovo’s independence would be
the best solution.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

US Denies it has a Mini-Guantanamo in Kosovo

The US military Saturday denied that it was running a Guantanamo-style prison for terror suspects in Kosovo, as tensions continued to simmer over reports of secret CIA flights across Europe.

Picture: Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo is one of the largest US military bases in Europe.

"There are no secret detention facilities located on Camp Bondsteel (eastern Kosovo)," Major Michael Wunn, US military spokesman in Kosovo, told news agency AFP in reference to the US base as part of NATO forces in the Balkan province.

The major was responding to comments Friday by Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles, who claimed to have seen Muslims [None Albanian] being held at a facility in Kosovo which looked like the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, used to house captives from the US-led "war on terror." Gil-Robles told France's Le Monde newspaper he had been "shocked" by conditions at the center, which he said he witnessed in 2002.

Major Wunn said it was "common knowledge" that Camp Bondsteel included a detention facility used to house people detained during NATO peacekeeping operations in the UN-administered southern Serbian province. But he said it was currently empty and it was not used as a secret prison by the Central Intelligence Agency.

"The facility is operated by US military police soldiers fully trained in detention center operations. Currently, no one is detained in this facility," he said. "The facility is subject to inspection by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and is regularly inspected by the United States Army, Europe."

Washington under pressure

The denial came as Washington felt mounting European pressure to reveal the routes and activities of its CIA prisoner flights amid concerns about human rights abuses and torture on European territory. Reports of CIA plane touch-downs have come from countries as far apart as Macedonia, Finland and Portugal in recent weeks.

The Council of Europe opened a probe this week, but top investigator Dick Marty, of Switzerland, conceded Saturday that he had "practically no methods of constraint" to stop the flights to change CIA methods.

The council's member states have until Feb. 21 to provide information to the inquiry, which will examine governments' compliance with European human rights law and whether officials have been involved in "unacknowledged" detentions or transport of detainees.

"The Council of Europe cannot adopt specific measures against the United States," Marty told The Times newspaper in Geneva. But he said Washington could be made to feel an "international reproach" and explain itself before the United Nations.

European governments have expressed concern over reports that the CIA flights could be used to transport prisoners, held without charge as "enemy combatants," to secret torture sites outside US legal jurisdiction.

"Those responsible must pay"

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana told Spanish radio on Saturday that Europeans found any suggestion of torture "intolerable" and insisted that such reports be investigated.

"I have no doubt that this will be the object of an investigation... It must be investigated and those responsible must pay," he told Cadena Ser radio.

Meanwhile, Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed that a CIA plane had "put down" at the Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul last week in order to refuel.

"There was a landing requested for technical reasons. Its landing was authorized. It was not carrying any passengers -- only equipment was on board," the minister was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. "It filled its tanks with fuel and continued in its way," he said, adding that when planes requested landings to refuel it was difficult to refuse them.
Deutsche Welle

Poems honour Karadzic and Mladic

By Vincent Dowd
BBC arts reporter

Serbia and Montenegro has withdrawn a submission to a UN-funded arts project as it glorified Bosnian Serb leaders indicted on war crimes charges.

Recordings of the poetry were to have been included on a list of "masterpieces of oral heritage".

The Serbian Cultural Institute is an independent group based in Belgrade.

It insists it was "an oversight" that two poems praising Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic were submitted to the Unesco project.

A CD of recordings of epic verse, mainly historical, was to be sent by the government in the capital, Belgrade, to the UN organisation to be assessed for possible World Heritage status.

Both Karadzic and Mladic were indicted a decade ago on genocide charges following the massacre of Muslims in Srebrenica.

It is generally believed both men are in hiding somewhere in Serbia-Montenegro.

Karadzic is himself a published poet and a new book of his verse appeared only a few weeks ago.

Motives unclear

The Serbian Cultural Institute says the verses praising the two men were recorded on recent field-trips to various locations including Serb-dominated parts of Bosnia.

They say the man in charge of the project has been dismissed and the entire idea has now been abandoned.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic claimed this had been an attempt by people still loyal to the old regime to dupe Unesco.

It is hard to be certain what the institute's motives were - but it is a reminder that in the former Yugoslavia, questions of cultural identity and loyalty still loom large.

Friday, November 25, 2005

My people deserve their independence

International Herald Tribune
Hashim Thaci

PRISTINA, Kosovo Talks on Kosovo's future status will begin soon. The central issue in these talks will be "sovereignty" and little else. Belgrade has already said that ethnic Albanians can run their own affairs, but that ethnic Serbs must run theirs. What Belgrade has said it will not negotiate is the issue of sovereignty. It is this issue that will be the most contentious.

The people of Kosovo have earned their right to sovereignty.
Like the oppressed people of Iraq and Afghanistan after their liberation, the new century saw us breathe the air of a free people for the first time, hold our first free and fair elections, install democratically elected leaders and write a new set of laws and a constitutional framework that set the standard for the region. We are not finished, but much has been achieved.

The people of Kosovo deserve independence. We lived under the control of Belgrade much too long. Whether under Serbian kings, Communists or nationalists, Albanians suffered purges, expulsions, and ethnic cleansing - three times in the 20th century alone. Why should we think a democratically elected government will be any different when the same old nationalism continues to be a force in Serbian politics?

The Serbian state and the Serbian people have lost their moral right to continued sovereignty over the land and people of Kosovo, but not their right to live there as free and equal citizens. However, the Albanian people of Kosovo will never again risk living under Belgrade's rule.
We understand very well the international community's concern for minority groups in Kosovo, especially the Serbs; after all, we share those same concerns for minority communities in Serbia and Macedonia. But let's be clear about one thing. Kosovo is overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian, at least 90 percent by any reasonable estimate.
There is certainly an element of prejudice in our society toward ethnic Serbs, just as hostility to ethnic Albanians remains in Serbian society. But keep in mind that every single Albanian family, as well as those of other ethnic communities, experienced murder, beatings, expulsion and property damage, as well as years of humiliation and brutality from the Serbian government throughout the decade of the 1990s. We know of many war criminals still active in the Serbian police and military who have not been brought to justice.

Yet, in spite of all this, the Kosovo government did the right thing after the ethnic clashes of March 2004 that left hundreds homeless and 30 churches destroyed or damaged. Ethnic Albanian political and religious leaders condemned the violence, the government moved quickly to allocate funds to repair the damaged homes and churches, and reconstruction was under way within weeks.

In contrast, up to now the Serbian government in Belgrade has not offered to compensate a single Albanian family for property destroyed by Serbian government forces, nor offered to pay to rebuild any of almost 200 mosques that were damaged or destroyed, even though all of this was done by their own forces or paramilitaries they controlled. What clearer proof is there that Pristina has earned the right to sovereignty over the territory of Kosovo while Belgrade has lost it?
Belgrade talks of "more than autonomy but less than independence," but we had autonomy before. In 1974, we had the highest degree of autonomy imaginable, and Belgrade has already made it clear they are not willing to let us have even that level, not that we would want it at this point, anyway. Because of Belgrade's sovereignty over Kosovo, that autonomy was lost at Belgrade's whim. It could happen again.

It is simply not in the interest of the international community to set the people of Kosovo back 30 years or more after what we have endured and the efforts we have made to meet the standards of the world community.

Perhaps the best incentive for all of us is for the European Union to admit Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro as three independent countries who have implemented the same standards of democratic development, minority protections and economic safeguards, under the umbrella of NATO. In this way, the entire region can be demilitarized with open borders, a free flow of people, goods and services, strong rule of law, and a vibrant economy with a common currency that unites our various communities. Then and only then will the hatreds and conflicts of the past be truly consigned to collective memory and not resurrected in the experience of each successive generation.
(Hashim Thaci is president of the Democratic Party of Kosovo and former political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army.)

Macedonia's Army chief faces Vukovar war crime inquiry

PICTURE:Stojanovski was in the Yugoslav army at the time of the siege. Thanks to Mario Profaca from Mario's Cyberspace Station for these pictures.

Macedonia's army chief of staff faces an inquiry into allegations that he committed atrocities in the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991.
Croatian police have been told to look into Miroslav Stojanovski's role in the three-month assault on the town.

Croatian media this week accused the general of heading a unit that captured about a dozen Croatian soldiers who were never seen again alive.

More than 1,000 civilians died during the siege and bombardment of Vukovar.

Macedonia's Defence Minister Jovan Manastijevski has rejected the claims against his chief of staff.

Vukovar prosecutor Bozidar Piljic ordered police to investigate Gen Stojanovski, who media reports said was an officer in the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army at the time.

Three former Yugoslav army officers are already charged with having committed crimes in Vukovar.

BBC World News

Serbia returns Albanian bodies to Kosovo

MERDARE -- Friday – Officials from the Serbia-Montenegro Missing Persons Commission have turned over the remains of bodies exhumed from the mass grave in Batajnica to UNMIK officials.

According to Commission President Gvozden Gagic, 37 bodies have been handed over, and other body parts of four unidentified Albanians who were killed during the 1999 war in Kosovo were given to the UNMIK forces as well.

“Even though the identifications have not been completed yet, we are handing over the bodies because of the pressure we have been receiving from representatives of the families of Kosovo Albanians and UNMIK who say that we are slowing down the identification process.” Gagic said.

He wanted to make it clear that the individual bodies that were found in the mass graves in Batajnica could not have been identified right away because many were found torn to pieces.

The 37 bodies will be taken to an autopsy centre in Orahovac[Rahoves], where the identification process will be completed with help from the information already gathered at the Belgrade Institute of Medicine. The bodies will then be handed over to the families of the victims.

A total of 658 identified bodies of Kosovo Albanians found at mass grave sites in Central Serbia, have been handed over to UNMIK. There are still 140 bodies that have yet to be identified. B92

Swiss to advise Belgrade on Kosovo talks

The director of Switzerland's Federalism Institute, Thomas Fleiner, is to advise the Serbian government's team negotiating the future status of Kosovo.

The announcement came as a special envoy to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened talks on how the Balkan province should be governed in future.
Negotiations formally started on Monday when the former Finnish president, Martti Ahtisaari, arrived in Kosovo.

The province has been under UN and Nato administration since a 78-day Nato-led air war halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanians in 1999.

Tensions remain high, with local ethnic Albanians demanding independence, a move rejected by the Serbian government in Belgrade.

Fleiner, a lawyer who has headed the Fribourg-based Federalism Institute since 1984, told swissinfo Serbia and Montenegro had approached him because of his knowledge of "federalist systems, multiculturalism and international law".

He said his role would mainly be that of legal adviser to Belgrade's negotiating team.

"I will also be able to give advice and ideas on what solutions [for Kosovo] could be considered by looking at examples we have in the world of autonomy and multiculturalism," he added, pointing to Switzerland's own federalist structure as "one possible model among many others".

Fleiner expects to shuttle between Switzerland and Belgrade on a "fairly regular" basis over the next few months as status talks get underway.

But he said he would not be taking an active role in the political horse-trading.

"I am certainly not someone who has been asked to have a political impact on these negotiations."

Diplomatic row

The Serbian negotiating team will be led by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and President Boris Tadic, who earlier this year criticised the Swiss government for making a public statement in favour of a form of independence in Kosovo.

Belgrade has called on Switzerland not to jeopardise its credentials as a neutral facilitator.

Fleiner would not be drawn on whether the Swiss had made a mistake by publicly endorsing the idea of an independent province even before the start of status talks.

But he made it clear that continuing with the status quo was not an option.

"The UN peacekeeping force [in Kosovo] was only ever meant to be a solution for a limited time, so we have to find something more sustainable," he said.

The federalism expert is quick to play down suggestions that there might be a "quick fix" for Kosovo, saying that nobody should believe "you can solve such a historically long-lasting problem in [just] a couple of weeks".

"It's not unusual that you have totally opposite positions at the beginning of negotiations.

"Now it is up to the mediators to explore where they can find [room for manoeuvre]... and which positions they cannot give up because they would be considered traitors by their own people."

swissinfo, Ramsey Zarifeh

Police seize Albanian flags

Presevo Valley-Serbia
During passenger and vehicle check up at the Depce security checkpoint, the
police have found 119 Albanian flags in the vehicle driven by Idriz Aliju from
Presevo. Since Aliju didn’t have a trade permit and the documentation, the flags
were seized. The police pressed charges against him over the suspicion that he
had performed a criminal offense of banned trade.

On a related note, RTK reported yesterday that Albanians of the Presevo Valley
are gearing up to celebrate 28th November for the first time [Albanian national Flag Day].
Previously Albanians in this region were not allowed to celebrate 28th November
because the Serb government didn’t allow it.
Serb government agreed to allow Albanians to celebrate their Flag Day after peace
negotiations that ended the armed conflict in 2000. This incident will most likely be
seen by Albanians as an attempt by Serbian government to prevent the celebration.

Surroi: We see borders as symbols not as walls

ORA leader Veton Surroi has said that there will be no compromise with the
independence of Kosovo. “If there will be changes in the ethnic borders, partition
of Kosovo’s territory, then we will ask for changes in the FYROM and in Presevo
Valley, meaning we will ask for national unification”. Surroi made these
comments in a meeting with party officials, citizens and representatives from
Medvedja and Bujanoc in Gjilan on Wednesday night.

Kosumi sees Tadic’s plan as extremist solution

Under this headline, Koha Ditore reports that the Government of Kosovo has
reacted to the Serbian President’s plan for division of Kosovo, considering it a call
to renew bloodshed and genocide in the Balkans. PM Kosumi has further said that
Tadic’s plan looks into the past and not ahead.

Zëri quotes Kosumi as saying that the Serbian plan on Kosovo is also in
contradiction to the principles of the international community. “Kosovo has its
borders and any effort to divide it on ethnic lines is a call for extremist solution to
the problem, something not accepted by the Kosovo side, or any other democratic

PM Kosumi convinced on ‘independence in half a year’ (Koha Ditore)

Koha Ditore reports that Prime Minister Kosumi has expressed his belief during
an interview with the German News Agency DPA that Kosovo is going to be
independent in half a year.

“We believe the process will end in June 2006”.
Kosumi said that with Serbia there will be no discussions on the status of Kosovo,
but on practical issues like travel documents or protection of cultural heritage.

UN Status Envoy Martti Ahtisaari visiting Belgrade

All Kosovo dailies cover the visit the UN Status Envoy Ahtisaari is paying to Belgrade
and his meetings with Serbian top officials. Dailies say that Serbian Prime Minister
Vojislav Kostunica has submitted to Ahtisaari the Serbian platform fur the future
status of Kosovo. Epoka e Re says Serbs have submitted a plan for the partition

Zëri reports that Serbian and Montenegrin Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic has
told Ahtisaari that the international recognition of Kosovo’s independence would
cause a chain of dramatic turmoil in the Balkans, Europe and the world.

Under the front-page headline “The first withdrawal”, Express reports that Serbia
has started publicly admitting that return of control in all of Kosovo is impossible.
According to the paper, Belgrade is demanding benefits concerning situation
Bosnia-Hercegovina, “in opposition with the principles of the Contact Group.”

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Situation of human rights and of minorities in Kosovo

By: Nazmi Fejza, the Deputy Minister for Communities and Return in Kosovo government

The determination of Kosovo citizens for a democratic, functional and progressive state for all citizens, irrespective of ethnicity or religion can be clearly seen in all its institutions, laws, and resolutions passed by the Parliament, in the government’s program, as well as in the municipal programs.

Kosovo had two fair parliamentary elections evaluated highly by the international community, in which all its citizens and political entities could participate and represent their interests. Regardless of this fact, 20 out of 120 seats in the Parliament were reserved for non-Albanian communities, in addition to the seats they won during the elections, which is a unique case in the region.

I also need to emphasize that during this period, the Parliament has approved a large number of laws and resolutions, which are in the interest of all Kosovo citizens.

The ethnic structure of Kosovar MPs, except Serbs, reflects the ethnic structure of Kosovar citizens. So majority of them are Albanians, but there are also MPs representing Turkish, Bosniac, Askali, Roma, Egyptian, Goran and Serb communities.

The minorities make almost 12% of employees in the public sector and our goal is to increase this rate up to 16.6% by the end of this year. But the boycotting Kosovar institutions from the side of Serb community has made difficult for us to achieve this goal.

It is difficult to talk for full respect of human rights, when according to the World Bank assessments over 52% of people here live in poverty.

The level of human and community rights protection varies from the aspects of life and work. We have not a desirable progress over these rights in the areas where the competences are reserved for internationals (UNMIK and KFOR), such as in security, justice, socially owned and publicly owned property management, etc.

The negligence of Kosovo Trust Agency in the privatization process did not allow those who were earlier employed to get back their jobs, whereas the legal right over the 20% of the sold enterprise that belongs to workers is being realized with long delays.

The aspects of security and freedom of movement is below its normal and desirable level, regardless of the progress achieved. We have several parallel institutions in Serb enclaves, especially in the north of Mitrovica. This happens because of UNMIK and KFOR hesitation to control the entire territory of Kosovo, for what they are also obliged by the UNSC resolution.

The citizens who are in small numbers there do not have their essential right of electing or being elected in the municipal authority structures. I am talking for the residents of Koshtova, Bistrica, Cerraja in Leposavic municipality and for the residents of villages Kelmend, Zhazha and Boletin in Zvecan.

Each political entity and each community had its opportunity to elect its representatives in the Municipal Assembly. However we should emphasized a case in the Municipality of Mitrovica in 2002, when Special Representative has invalidated the free vote of the citizens.

Great progress in the area of human and community rights has been achieved in the area of education, whereas the health sector has gone through a good transformation, for the good of all the citizens.

The fact that radios and televisions in Kosovo broadcast programs in Albanian, Serbian, Bosniac, Turkish and Roma language shows the great progress that has been made in the area of information, without going through a deep analysis of program schedule.

There area 26 radios in Serbian language in Kosovo. Only in Gracanica, an area with some 3500 residents, there are three radio stations in Serbian.

Serbs make up the largest number of employees in the Ministry of Communities and Return (MCR), headed by the Serb Minister, Slavisa Petkovic. MCR in cooperation with other partners in the Working Group for Return (including UNMIK, UNHCR and KFOR) have prepared the Strategic Framework for Return for 2005.

In order to improve the further implementation of human rights and rights of communities:

1. We need to intensify the process of final status settlement, Independence of Kosovo, so the citizens could understand that they need to address their problems in Prishtina and not in Belgrade.

2. We need to create new ministries and to see a power handover to locals in the area of police and justice, which is necessary.

3. Government and political leaders should work persistently with citizens from all the communities in democratization of the Kosovo society.

4. We need to reform the election system, and together with it to ensure an affordable representation of all communities, in central and local level.

5. We need to continue the process of reconciliation between the communities, which has become worsened because of war and Serbian suppressing policy in Kosovo.

6. Kosovo government institutions, including the Presidency, Parliament and the Government should permanently prove that they are determined to establish good neighboring relations and that they strongly support the regional stability.

Serbian cabinet names Kosovo team

BELGRADE -- Thursday – The Serbian Government has formed its team of negotiators for the Kosovo status talks.

The team will be headed by Serbian President Boris Tadic, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, and Serbia-Montenegro Foreign Affairs Minister Vuk Draskovic. Kostunica and Tadic will be the co-presidents of the team.

Other members of the delegation include Tadic's advisors Dusan Batkovic and Leon Kojen, Kostunica's advisors Aleksandar Simic and Slobodan Samardzic, Kosovo Coordination Centre President Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, and Kosovo Serb representatives Marko Jaksic and Goran Bogdanovic.

The team will have additional advisors, as well as four work groups.

Meanwhile, the UN special envoy for the negotiations, Martti Ahtisaari, has arrived in Belgrade where he will spend two days in talks with officials of Serbia and Serbia-Montenegro.

He is scheduled to meet Kostunica and federal Foreign Affairs Minister Vuk Draskovic today and President Boris Tadic tomorrow.

Speaking after a series of meetings in Pristina yesterday, Ahtisaari said that, at the beginning of his mission, he didn’t want to make any guesses about the outcome of the status talks, but added that he was against partitioning the province.

He also emphasised that the outcome is not up to him but to the UN Security Council.

“I’ve said clearly that I’m not making the decision. The secretary-general of the UN has a significant role and it is up to the UN Security Council to decide what the status will be,” he said.

During all his discussions in Pristina, Ahtisaari underlined that any kind of force in the negotiations process would be counterproductive and warned that individuals and groups would be excluded from the process if their activities were not productive.

He added that there was no time limit to the negotiations.

“I think that it is very important to grasp that the duration of the discussions depends on all sides and on how all parties cooperate in the negotiations. There’s no time limit, but I assure you that we shall advance as fast as we can,” he said, adding that it was too early to talk about when direct discussions between Belgrade and Pristina would begin.

After his two-day visit to Belgrade, Ahtisaari will visit Podgorica, Skopje and Tirana, after which he will next week visit some member countries of the Contact Group, whose members are the US, Russia, France, the UK, Germany and Italy. B92

Draskovic seeks support in Cairo

The SCG Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic has asked for support in Cairo from
Egyptian officials for the preservation of the SCG’s territorial integrity and for
finding a compromise solution in the upcoming talks on the status of Kosovo.

In a telephone statement to Beta, Draskovic stated that Kosovo was one
of the man topics in his talks with Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Foreign
Minister Ahmed Abdul Gate. Beta

Justice and Order ministries to be formed before New Year (Zëri)

Zëri quotes a press release issued by the Assembly of Kosovo, according to which
the head of Pillar I Jean Dussourd has informed Parliamentary Speaker Nexhat
Daci that the two new ministries will be formed before Christmas, whereas the
Police Law will be adopted as an UNMIK Regulation.

Special Envoy Ahtisaari holds press conference in Pristina

The main story in the Kosovo daily press is the coverage from yesterday’s press
conference by the UN Status Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his deputy Albert Rohan.

Dailies say that the two officials have refused to predict how long the talks will
last or if they will be successful. Both Ahtisaari and Rohan said the success of the
process would depend on the cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade and that
both capitals would determine the timeframe of talks. Ahtisaari also said that he
has made clear to his interlocutors that status goes alongside standards, “and it is
important to have stability during this period.”

The leading headline on the front-page of Koha Ditore is Ahtisaari doesn’t
exclude the possibility of failure. “Of course there is a possibility that we may
fail, or the international community may fail, that is why perhaps they chose two
retired persons to carry this out. We at least don’t have any career problems, we
don’t have any ambitions except to perhaps return to our respective homes,”
Ahtisaari is quoted as saying.

Zëri reports on the front page that the UN Status Envoy has excluded the
possibility of Kosovo’s partition. “The status will be decided by the Security
Council, the timeframe depends on Pristina and Belgrade,” said the Status Envoy.
The paper also quotes Ahtisaari as saying that in his headquarters in Vienna he
would have a liaison officer from the US, the EU, NATO and the Russian

Dailies also report that Ahtisaari will not only be holding meetings with the parties
in Pristina and Belgrade, but he would also invite them to Vienna for talks.

Under the front-page headline A major change, Express reports that Ahtisaari said
that his post-war opinion on Kosovo – that independence was not the proper
solution – should be seen in the context of that period in time. “He [Ahtisaari]
hopes that the future status of Kosovo will be the final status,” the paper added.
Kosova Sot quotes Ahtisaari on the front page as saying, “It is still too early to
foresee the future status of Kosovo, however, partition is an option that has been
excluded and this was clearly stated by the Contact Group”.

Serbia deportee fights Australia

BBC World News
Picture ABC TV:Mr Jovicic started his protests two days ago.

A man deported by Australia to a country he had never before set foot in has vowed he will campaign until he is allowed to return "home".
Robert Jovicic, 38, who had lived in Australia since he was two, has been camping on the steps of the Australian embassy in Serbia's capital, Belgrade.

Mr Jovicic was born in France to Serbian parents.

He was deported to Serbia in 2004, when his permanent residency was revoked after a jail term for drug crimes.

Belgrade has not recognised Mr Jovicic - who had never been to Serbia before his deportation - as a citizen, leaving him stateless with no right to work or welfare.

If I'm considered Australian trash that I will rot on Australia soil

Robert Jovicic

His plight is the latest immigration row to hit the government in Canberra which has faced growing criticism from human rights groups for its tough immigration policies.

The Australian authorities have recently been under fire for mistakenly deporting one of its own citizens to the Philippines and locking up a German-born Australian national in an Outback detention centre.

But the government has shown some sign of modifying its approach.

Earlier this year, the government ended its policy of detaining children suspected of being illegal immigrants.

'I'll die'

Mr Jovicic began the protests in Belgrade two days ago.

"I've explained to the embassy if I'm considered Australian trash, that I will rot on Australia soil," he told Australia's ABC television.

"If I don't... get back home, I'll die".

Mr Jovicic was sent to Serbia on "character grounds", following his conviction for a series of drug-related burglaries.

His brother and sister, who live in Australia, are demanding his immediate return to Melbourne.

"You can't just throw someone who's been here all their lives and calls this place his home, and just dump them somewhere else," Susanna Jovicic told ABC.

Australia's department of foreign affairs official said that Mr Jovicic had been given temporary accommodation and the embassy has arranged for a medical examination.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said in a statement that she had asked her department for a detailed report on Mr Jovicic's case.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Kosovo statehood is indispensable for Balkan stability

By Agron Bajrami EUOBSERVER
- There are, as some say, a myriad of solutions for Kosovo. But only one has the power to make the final push of the whole Balkans region towards Europe. And that one is an independent Kosovo.

This week, Martti Ahtisaari, the UN envoy for the Kosovo status talks, starts meeting political representatives in Pristina and Belgrade in what is expected to be the final stage of putting in place the last jigsaw piece in the political mosaic of south-eastern Europe.

The reputable Finn will be opening the series of hauntingly difficult discussions that are expected to result in a viable solution that will justify the international community's engagement since 1999, when NATO led an air campaign against Belgrade to end years of Serb repression against the Albanian majority in Kosovo.

With the time ticking away for the fruitless status quo of the last six years of the UN protectorate, there are more and more voices being drawn into the debate over the most desirable and viable solution for Kosovo.

Different analysis and perspectives are being thrown into the debate, and most of them are insisting that some form of independence is indeed the best solution for Kosovo.

While Serbia, and a dropping number of its allies still maintain that Kosovo must remain under Belgrade's rule and within the borders of Serbia, the facts on the ground are mercilessly straightforward: Kosovo is de facto independent from Serbia - what remains is to make the settlement legal.

Therefore, the best possible, realistic solution, and the only one that can guarantee long-term stability in the Balkans, is precisely granting independence for Kosovo.

Apart from being the only just solution, this can also be turned into the first true long-term success story of the West's involvement in the Balkan crisis, since only through independence can Kosovo's multi-ethnic character be preserved.

There are several factors and arguments that weigh heavily on the side of an independent Kosovo with its current borders.

First of all, this is the only just solution. Serbia, as a state, has engaged in systematic discrimination and massive repression against the Albanians in Kosovo for years.

The 1999 NATO air campaign came after 10 years of apartheid that culminated with ethnic cleansing and war crimes against the majority population. During 1998 alone, Serb police and military forces killed more than 2,000 people and 400,000 were displaced.

During the spring of 1999, forces under Belgrade's command, in their campaign of planned ethnic cleansing, killed more than 10,000 Albanians and forcibly deported around one million. More than 120,000 houses were burned, cities emptied, and an entire population traumatized.

For these reasons, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, has brought war crimes charges against several of the highest-ranking Serb and Yugoslav officials of that time: Slobodan Milosevic, then president of Yugoslavia, Milan Milutinovic, then president of Serbia, Nikola Sainovic, then deputy prime-minister of Yugoslavia, Nebojsa Pavkovic, then Serb army general with command authority in Kosovo, Sreten Lukiq, then Serb police general with command authority in Kosovo.

Accordingly, it is the state which carried out war crimes in Kosovo that has had the irreversible effect of depriving Serbia of its right to have a say in Kosovo's future.

Of course, there were grave mistakes during the last six years in governing Kosovo. But for those failures - like the March 2004 violence - the blame is not only on the Albanian side, but should be shared, since the UN mission here has been the highest administrative authority. And, those failures cannot in any way eclipse the systematic terror of the Serbian state against the Albanian majority in Kosovo since the 1980s.

Serbia today - even five years after Slobodan Milosevic is removed from power - is still pursuing its policy of territorial conquest, which derives from the Serb nationalist platform of the 19th century.

Even though the current officials in Belgrade try to put the whole blame on Milosevic, they themselves have constantly pursued the same nationalistic policy. Even today their statements are about territories, not people; their policy is based on historical myths, not programmes for good governance.

Last week, Serbian president Boris Tadic, while visiting Russia, publicly proposed dividing Kosovo between Serbs and Albanians by creating two separate entities.

This formula is not working in Bosnia and can bring only new segregation. Also last week, in several statements, Serb foreign minister Vuk Draskovic claimed that Serbia does not want to rule over the Albanian citizens of Kosovo, which effectively means that Belgrade wants the territory but not the people living there.

Therefore, Belgrade's offer for "more than autonomy, less than independence," apart from being insincere, is also too little too late.

Righting the wrongs
There is, of course, a lot left undone. Human rights records in Kosovo are worthy of blame. The treatment of minorities, especially the Serbs, has been shameful.

The majority, also, has not achieved a better standard of living. The economy is in ruins, unemployment is high, and poverty is widespread. Governance is awkward, politics is dirty, corruption is on the rise, and the system of values is distorted.

All this, and much more, is hurting Kosovars of all ethnic and religious backgrounds.

But, Kosovo is not the only one with these problems. The whole region, from Serbia, through Bosnia and Herzegovina to Macedonia, is engulfed in the same problems.

The four wars, initiated by Serbia in the 1990s, have left deep scars in most of these societies. The healing is a process and will take time. Some wounds might never heal completely.

Functionality, stability and security
Therefore, for Europe, and the international community in general, there is an imperative to treat the Kosovo status issue in a way that will guarantee functionality, political stability and regional security.

In Kosovo, the six post-war years have been a time of learning difficult lessons. Just as democracy is not only about having fair and free elections, also functionality is not only about having democratic institutions and international aid.

Creating a functional society in Kosovo - just as throughout the rest of the Balkans - has turned out to be a very difficult task, but not an impossible one.

One other lesson learned since 1999 is that lack of status is the best recipe for instability and unpredictability.

Under independence, Kosovo's main source of political instability - its unclear status - would be gone, while the security threats should be far easier to deal with. Only then would the Kosovars be fully accountable.

Kosovo, as part of Serbia, can deliver none of this. Quite the opposite: while the absolute majority of Kosovars are completely unwilling to live under Belgrade's rule, Serbia itself has never shown interest in treating these 2 million as something more than unwanted second-class citizens.

Such a combination will produce anything but functionality, stability and security.

On the other hand, after liberation Kosovo and Serbia have become accustomed to living separately. Linking them back again will certainly cause more short-term trouble and long-term problems than independence.

In addition to this, the whole arrangement will significantly affect the wider neighbourhood.

Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and the Preshevo valley are going to be directly touched by the status of Kosovo, with ethnic Albanian populations living there. Only a multi-ethnic Kosovo, with a status reflecting the will of the majority, can be a guarantor of long-term stability and security in the region.

Denying Kosovo independence is the best way to bring the whole southern flank of the Balkans back into the 1990s.

Future international presence and European integration
It is clear that any solution to Kosovo's status is going to require additional and continuous Western presence and support.

Chances are that NATO will have to continue its role as the sole military structure in Kosovo for several more years.

Also, the UN mission will transform into some sort of EU-led presence, whose mission is still to be decided.

But this international presence can serve as guarantor of a status agreement only if the majority accepts the solution.

Otherwise, the EU mission would be effectively administering a Gaza Strip or West Bank rather than a Kosovo. Turning Kosovo into a Palestine would, of course, also mean that Kosovo and Serbia would move away from European integration as well. But not only them: Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro would face trouble and pain as well.

There are of course, as some say, a myriad of solutions for Kosovo. But only one has the power to make the final push of the region towards Europe. And that one is an independent Kosovo.

The author is editor in chief of Koha Ditore, Kosovo's biggest daily newspaper

Kosovo Negotiations Team meets UN Status Envoy

The main story in the Kosovo daily press is yesterday’s meeting between the Kosovo
Negotiations Team and the UN Status Envoy Martti Ahtisaari. Zëri reports that the
Negotiations Team has submitted to Ahtisaari the document about the vision of
Kosovans on final status. Express carries the full copy of the document. Koha
Ditore reports that Kosovan leaders have asked for support from Ahtisaari and the
international community in implementing the aspirations of the people of Kosovo
for independence.

Asked if he was satisfied with the course of the first meeting, the UN Status Envoy
was quoted as saying, “Yes, we have started”.
President Ibrahim Rugova said the key issues in the document submitted to
Ahtisaari were the independence of Kosovo, integration in EU and NATO, and
security and guarantee for the minorities.

PDK leader Hashim Thaçi said the meeting with Ahtisaari was a good start. Thaçi
also said the Kosovan delegation presented clear and united positions for the
building of an independent and sovereign state of Kosovo.

Under the headline Impregnation of the state, Express carries on the front page a
picture of President Rugova and Ahtisaari shaking hands. The subheader of the
picture reads: “Starting from Tuesday, 22 November 2005, if there are no
obstacles during the process, next year there will be a new state in the world.
Kosovo”. The paper also quotes Ahtisaari’s deputy Albert Rohan as saying that he
has witnessed a united front.

Several dailies report that while the meeting was going on inside the Presidential
Residence, members of the Movement for Self-Determination held a peaceful
protest by throwing red colour on the streets that lead to the Residence. The press
quotes leader of the movement, Albin Kurti, as saying that the red colour
symbolises blood of martyrs and victims.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

UN mediator begins Kosovo mission

The United Nations special envoy on Kosovo has met ethnic Albanian leaders at the start of his mission to mediate a deal on the province's future.
The ethnic Albanian team gave Martti Ahtisaari a document outlining their insistence on independence.

"The time has come to wrap up this business," Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova said after the meeting.

Kosovo has been administered by the UN since Nato-led troops expelled Serb forces in 1999 to end the war there.

It is legally still a part of Serbia and Montenegro.

The UN Security Council appointed Mr Ahtisaari - a former Finnish president - to lead the talks process.

He made no comment after Tuesday's talks at Mr Rugova's residence.

Mr Ahtisaari was due to meet Serb religious leaders in the province later on Tuesday - as well as travelling to Belgrade and neighbouring countries.

Lengthy process?

He is expected to spend months shuttling between the Kosovo capital, Pristina, and Belgrade to reconcile their positions.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority wants independence, but Serbia wants to maintain sovereignty over the province.

Before his arrival in Pristina on Monday, Mr Ahtisaari played down speculation that a deal might be reached in just three or four months.

However, he has also echoed the views of other UN officials who have said that the talks cannot be prolonged indefinitely.
BBC News

Kosovo Assembly to draft Constitution

Kosovo Dailies report that Kosovo Assembly members have approved unanimously the
initiative to draft the Constitution of Kosovo.

Although all 70 MPs present in the session voted in favour of the initiative, Koha
Ditore writes that various options as to who should draft it and the way it should
be drafted were raised.

LDK asked for creation of a special committee to draft the
Constitution, AAK said it should be done by Assembly Legislation Committee,
while PDK, ORA and the non-Albanian representatives said the Constitution
should be drafted by the working groups of the Negotiations Team.

Solana: Bosnia model cannot be applied in Kosovo

All Kosovo Dailies cover the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels.
“I do not think that the model of Bosnia can be applied in Kosovo, because
Kosovo has its specifics”, said Solana asked by Koha Ditore to comment on the
idea of Serbian President, Boris Tadic to divide Kosovo according to Bosnia
model in two entities.

Status negotiations start

Press coverage on first day of Ahtisaari’s visit to Pristina

The leading story in all daily newspapers is the arrival of UN Status Envoy Martti
Ahtisaari to Pristina. Koha Ditore quotes Ahtisaari as saying that he is pleased that
immediately after being appointed to the post, he has the opportunity to come to
Kosovo and to meet the parties that will participate in status talks. “I can’t wait to
meet the leaders here, today and tomorrow,” the Status Envoy is quoted as saying.
“I am happy that we are starting the resolution of Kosovo’s status,” Ahtisaari is
quoted as saying on the front page of Zëri.

Dailies report that yesterday Ahtisaari and his deputy Albert Rohan have met
SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen. Today Ahtisaari and his deputy will meet the
Kosovan Negotiations Team and representatives of the Serb minority. According
to Koha Ditore, the former Finnish President will stay in Kosovo until

Under the headline ‘Martti, the Compromise’, Express reports on the front page
that Ahtisaari and Albert Rohan began negotiations on the status of Kosovo on the
anniversary of the Dayton Accord.

‘The chief negotiator is here – Negotiations have started’, reports Epoka e Re on
the front page. The paper also notes that the Kurti-led Movement for Self-
Determination has awaited Ahtisaari with slogans.

In a separate article, Epoka e Re quotes US Under-Secretary of State Nicholas
Burns as saying, “Ahtisaari goes to Pristina with the full support of the US.”

Monday, November 21, 2005

Presevo sacks mayor

PRESEVO -- Monday – According to first results, Riza Halimi, the long-term mayor of the municipality of Presevo on the Kosovo border, has lost his job in yesterday’s referendum.

The initiative for the referendum to remove Halimi after twelve years as mayor came from a coalition of three Albanian parties who together hold power in the local government.

The vote against Halimi needs an absolutely majority of the municipality’s 29,500 registered voters to succeed.

Halimi’s party lost its majority in the local government assembly after extraordinary elections last year. The new authorities sought Halimi’s replacement, saying that he was obstructing the work of the assembly.

His opponents have accused him of “Belgradising” the municipality, which has a majority Albanian population. B92

Mesic: Serbs in Kosovo like Albanians in Presevo Valley

In an interview for Banja Luka-based Nezavisne Novine newspaper, Croatian
President Stipe Mesic said Kosovo Serbs must fight for their position in Kosovo
institutions with the help of the international community, and added that the final
status of Kosovo would be settled through negotiations between Pristina and

“Kosovo Serbs are concentrated in enclaves. When they ask for autonomy in those
areas, Albanians pose the immediate question – what will happen with Presevo
and Medvedja. Because what you ask for yourself you must be ready to give to
others,” Mesic was quoted as saying.

The Croatian President also said that it was “unreasonable to wait for Belgrade to
resolve the issue of Kosovo Serbs, because this could take too long and the results
are unpredictable.”

Kosovo Serbs consider themselves a third party in talks (Zëri)

Kosovo Serbs are considering themselves a third party in talks for Kosovo’s
status, and they are only waiting for this to be formalised, Zëri reports. “We are a
third party and we are functioning like a third party in talks,” said SLKM leader
Oliver Ivanovic. “There is no need for us to ask Ahtisaari to consider us as a third
party, because the fact that he is calling for a separate meeting with us implies that
he already considers us a third party.”
The paper notes that K-Serb political representatives still haven’t arranged a
meeting with Ahtisaari and don’t have a clear picture of what is going to be

Martti Ahtisaari arrives in Pristina

All daily newspapers are reporting on the front pages that UN status envoy Martti
Ahtisaari will arrive in Pristina today. Koha Ditore cites sources within the
Kosovo Negotiations Team as saying that their meeting with Ahtisaari will take
place on Tuesday and not on Monday as was previously announced. The headline
that Koha uses for the article is Ahtisaari awaited by three resolutions on Kosovo,
illustrating the two resolutions in favour of Kosovo’s independence (one adopted
by the Kosovo Assembly and the other by the Parliament of Albania) and the third
resolution which the Serbian Parliament is expected to adopt today. The paper also
quotes UNMIK DPI Director Hua Jiang as saying that Ahtisaari will meet today
with SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen.

Zëri reports that after Pristina, Ahtisaari will visit Belgrade, Podgorica, Skopje and
Tirana. Citing sources close to his team, the paper also notes that the chief
negotiator will return to the region in January 2006. In a separate article, Zëri says
that one day before the meeting with Ahtisaari, the Kosovan side will make the
final preparations for the document that prepares Pristina’s position on the
resolution of Kosovo’s final status. Skender Hyseni, advisor to President Rugova,
told Zëri that the Kosovan side is prepared for the first meeting with Ahtisaari and
expects the meeting to go smoothly.

Kosova Sot quotes Kolë Berisha, member of the Political Group, as saying that
today Ahtisaari will get to know the position of the Kosovo Negotiations Team –
full independence.

Under the front-page headline Ahtisaari in favour of conditional independence?,
Epoka e Re recalls that Ahtisaari was head of the International Crisis Group,
“which in the last couple of years has advocated conditional independence for

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Divided They Stand

Kosovo seems headed for independence, but Serbs and Albanians are still at odds over their future.

Picture: SPLIT DECISION: "No negotiations, self-determination!" slogans reject any dealings with the Serbs


Walking across the bridge over the Ibar River, which links the Albanian south side to the Serbian north side of the Kosovar town of Mitrovica, is like crossing an international border. nato sentries guard each end of the span, the local currency switches from euros to Serb dinars, and the script on signposts shifts from Latin to Cyrillic. On the Albanian side, slogans on buildings call for Kosovo's independence, while a banner hung prominently on the Serb side proclaims the region as Serbia's legal domain. Both sides honor their war heroes: Albanian neighborhoods are adorned with pictures of Ramush Haradinaj, the former Kosovar Prime Minister who is awaiting trial in the Hague for atrocities against Serb and Roma civilians, while Serb store windows flaunt posters honoring ultranationalist politician Vojislav Seselj, on trial at the same war-crimes tribunal for his role in the murder of Bosnian and Croatian civilians during the 1991-99 Yugoslav wars. A visitor arriving in a vehicle bearing Kosovar license plates prudently parks on the Albanian side of town, for fear of provoking Serbs.

Like Mitrovica, the entire province of Kosovo is caught between two masters: Serbia, which lays claim to the landscape Serbs regard as the birthplace of their nation, and the majority Albanian population, dreaming of a country of their own. Six years have passed since a U.S.-led bombing campaign drove Serbia's forces from Kosovo and ended their campaign of ethnic cleansing, but the tug-of-war for Kosovo is not over yet. After a bitter standoff under nato control, the two communities could soon find themselves fellow citizens of a new nation. U.N.-sponsored talks on the future of the province are expected to start by year's end. The negotiations — over minority rights, a free-market economy and an impartial legal system — will be enormously contentious, but the outcome is virtually assured: independence, perhaps as soon as the end of next year. Is Kosovo ready?

Since fighting ended in 1999, nato troops have patrolled the hilly roads and towns in armored vehicles, guns at the ready, to prevent renewed clashes between the province's 1.7 million Albanians and the 130,000 Serbs who stayed put despite losing the war. But the tension endures. "We have tolerance, but not much more than that," says Larry Rossin, a former U.S. diplomat who is now deputy head of the U.N. Mission in Kosovo. A new group of Albanians calling itself the Army for the Independence of Kosovo has set up roadblocks and shot at several Serb police vehicles, issuing threats against anyone who stands in the way of independence. In Belgrade, the Serb parliament last week ruled out that possibility. Coexistence — not to mention reconciliation — will be tough.

Oliver Ivanovic, one of the province's few Serb politicians, knows just how hard the task will be. Sipping coffee in his Mitrovica neighborhood, he recalls the day his son Janko asked, "'Daddy, will you show me a real live Albanian?'" Almost 90% of Kosovo's 1.9 million population are ethnic Albanians. Yet at 12, Janko has never met one — a measure of the chasm that separates the two communities. "My son has the impression that Albanians are so evil, they must have horns," says Ivanovic, 52. To the 15,000 Serbs in Mitrovica, he says, an independent Kosovo is unthinkable. "No way. This is our whole identity."

Ivanovic has spent almost his entire life in the town, working as a top karate coach before becoming a manager of Kosovo's lead-smelting plant. His fluency in English made him a natural head of the small Serb delegation in the U.N.-created Kosovo Assembly. The job has become increasingly hazardous, pitting him against Albanian politicians and officials in Belgrade, who have ordered Serbs to boycott a parliament that they believe already gives Kosovo a veneer of statehood. When Ivanovic's car was blown up in February, he immediately suspected local Serbs who consider him a traitor. Now he travels to the Assembly in bulletproof U.N. vehicles guarded by Polish soldiers.

There Ivanovic discreetly meets Albanian politicians to discuss Kosovo's future; he sees dialogue as the way to heal ethnic divisions. "The political tension is killing the Serbs," he says. He remains unyielding on independence, however: he wants Serbia to annex three Serb-populated municipalities in northern Kosovo that comprise 15% of the province. But Western diplomats and Albanians have already rejected that proposal as unworkable, since many Kosovo Serbs do not even live in the north. If the province does gain statehood — and Ivanovic is resigned to the fact that it will — he says a mass of Serbs will leave, joining 100,000 exiles who fled to Serbia in 1999. "If they don't leave," he says, "there will be more killings."

The possibility of fresh bloodshed has risen since March 2004, when Albanian riots across the province destroyed Serb churches and houses, leaving 19 people dead. Yet the Albanians, though united in desire for their own state, are divided politically. They have not settled on a successor to President Ibrahim Rugova, who is severely weakened by lung cancer. "Each person wants to be the one to lead his country to independence," says Verena Knaus, senior analyst on Kosovo for the European Stability Initiative, a Berlin-based policy group. The main contenders, from strikingly different backgrounds, are Nexhat Daci, a longtime official in Rugova's centrist party; Hashim Thaci, a former guerrilla leader who now runs Kosovo's second largest party; and Haradinaj, another former guerrilla, who hopes to be acquitted at his war-crimes trial and re-enter politics.

One of the fiercest partisans, though, is Albin Kurti, whose protest group, the Self-Determination Movement, flourishes on a strong anti-Serb message. His campaign for a unilateral declaration of independence has attracted a network of 8,000 members in 16 branches around the province. If Serbia attempts to block independence or reclaim Kosovo, "there will be a great willingness and readiness of people to fight again," he says. "People are tired of war, but people are even more tired of fake peace."

One recent afternoon in the western town of Decani, Kurti spoke to a combat-hardened group of 12 veterans from the defunct Kosovo Liberation Army, the guerrilla force that fought Serb soldiers in the nearby villages and forested mountains. Closeted in a small room, men with battle-scarred faces squeezed around a table, hanging on Kurti's words. "There is corruption. The state-run factories are being destroyed," said the tall, lean activist in black-rimmed glasses, his fist punching the air. "It is time to channel dissatisfaction into political action." The group listened to Kurti because his bravery has earned their admiration. In 1997, he organized illegal mass protests in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, under the noses of the Serb security police. As nato bombs fell in 1999, he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years for political terrorism. He served more than 2½years in Serb prisons, where he says he endured torture and beatings.

As the diplomatic wrangling over Kosovo's status revs up, Kurti's message has grown more vociferous: he wants Albanians to reject any U.N. negotiations with Serbia, since he is convinced Belgrade "has plans to take over Kosovo again." In June, Kurti's group began stenciling Pristina's walls with a simple motto: "Jo negociata, vetevendosje!" (No negotiations, self-determination!) The phrase now appears on hundreds of walls in almost every corner of Kosovo. Kurti shrugs off critics, saying that a deal with Serbia "would mean a solution that is not in the will of the people."

But most Kosovo Albanians are eager to start independence talks. Café workers, postal clerks and homemakers in Pristina say they are willing to put their faith in Western diplomats to deliver their freedom. Pristina publicly proclaims Albanian gratitude for the role the U.S. played in ending Serb rule six years ago. The road leading downtown from the airport has been renamed Bill Clinton Boulevard, and a sprawling apartment complex displays a giant mural of the former U.S. President, smiling and waving. Even if Ivanovic and Kurti have tapped into the fear and fury of their constituents, young Albanians in the capital seem ready to move on. Many of those who escaped to be educated abroad have filtered home, and the go-getters represent a rich vein of talent for a new nation.

"The possibilities are endless," says Petrit Selimi, a 26-year-old who has come back to help build the country after spending seven years in Oslo. Selimi says he hopes to enter politics in an independent Kosovo one day. Meanwhile, he darts between appointments with business clients and advertisers, appears on TV talk shows, and dines with Western diplomats who are intrigued by his modern views.

Selimi began his political career in 1993, when he was 14. He founded a youth organization called the Postpessimists, which brought together Serb and Albanian teenagers to discuss their joint future at a time when conflict between their communities was heating up. Selimi's slight build and guileless blue eyes seem slightly incongruous for a man with such political smarts and a gift for translating big ideas into concrete action. At 17, when Serbia banned the Albanian curriculum, he went to Norway to complete high school and earn a university degree in urban planning, before returning last year to his hometown of Pristina. He quickly started political and commercial projects aimed at transforming Kosovo into a prosperous, multiethnic nation. He is now working with several internationally funded nonprofit organizations and educational institutions, including a technical academy to train young computer engineers. "We could be like Bangalore in India," he says, "with all our returnees starting high-tech companies."

Now that status talks are about to begin, Selimi has been meeting discreetly with like-minded Serbs in Belgrade in a quiet campaign to prevent their politicians from obstructing an independence deal. He plans to publish position papers with practical solutions to contentious issues, including property claims, minority rights and the return of Serb refugees.

In July, Selimi was named ceo of a new Pristina newspaper Express, which was dreamed up by investors and journalists on the patio of Strip Depot café, which he owns. The hard-hitting tabloid is dedicated to investigating government corruption and organized crime, and it is already a must-read for many politicians. The paper's influence could well grow when Selimi begins publishing a weekly Serbian-language edition pitched directly at Kosovo Serbs. He hopes the newspaper will help create a sense of belonging that will encourage them to remain a part of an independent Kosovo. "Right now the Serbs are reading Belgrade papers," he says, "propaganda that tells them to leave."

To Albanians like Selimi, Kurti's protests seem another futile relic of the past. Instead, Selimi says, people should be planning practical steps to create a new independent nation open to all communities. Maybe then, Oliver Ivanovic's son Janko will finally meet a real-live Albanian.

Economics key to stable Kosovo

By Michael Winfrey

SOFIA, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Solving Kosovo's desperate economic situation is crucial to making and keeping peace in the breakaway Serbian province, the head of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force there said on Sunday.

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since NATO kicked out Serbia's forces in a 1999 air war. Talks to determine its status are set to start on Monday, with the province's ethnic Albanian majority arguing for Kosovo's independence and Belgrade insisting the province is an integral part of Serbia.

Poverty, unemployment, and a lack of foreign investment are fanning ethnic tension in Kosovo and contributing to corruption, crime and violence, Italian Lieutenant-General Giuseppe Valotto said in remarks delivered for him at a conference.

"My biggest concern is the economic situation in Kosovo. The great majority of the population is facing extreme difficulties in this field," he said in a statement delivered by Major General Alberto Notari, deputy chief of staff for the Supreme Allied Command Transformation.

Kosovo Serbs, many living in isolated enclaves, have been the target of sporadic violence since the war, despite the watchful gaze of 17,000 NATO-led peacekeepers.

Kosovo's unemployment rate of around 60 percent is the highest in Europe, and a World Bank report showed 50 percent of the population lives on less than 1.50 euros ($1.75) a day.

The province's ambiguous status -- it operates like a state run by the United Nations but has no formal sovereignty -- means it cannot borrow from international institutions and aid has slowed since the U.N. took control six years ago.

NATO kicked out Serbian forces after a two-year conflict which pitted Belgrade against ethnic Albanian separatist fighters. Serbian forces were accused of killing thousands of civilians in a campaign to drive Albanians from the province.

Analysts also blame graft, a lack of expertise, and a perceived risky environment for the economic malaise.

Valotto, who in September took command of KFOR called for a longer-term Kosovo development strategy.

"The absence of a reliable project on development is a main factor for phenomena such as ethnic tension, crime and corruption, smuggling and other problems," he said.

"It is not normal that six years after the end of the war, and with the oncoming winter, people still suffer from cuts in electricity and water."

Western diplomats have warned of a possible upsurge in violence as talks begin for Kosovo's "final status". Many ethnic Albanians see the process as unnecessary and insulting.

But Valotto said KFOR had recently stepped up patrols and raids to show it would not tolerate violence or intimidation.

"This has been done to send a clear message to the part of Kosovo society... that does not believe in democracy and peaceful cohabitation but think they can solve conflict with violence and abusing the rights of the weak," he said.

George Soros: Kosovo Should Be Independent

TIRANA, Albania (AP)--U.S. billionaire philanthropist George Soros on Saturday said there was no alternative other than independence for Serbia's province of Kosovo, but it should also ensure the future and the status of its minorities.

Soros was on a three-day visit to Albania during which he was also awarded Tirana city hall's "Honored Citizen" medal for his contribution to improving Albania's education and infrastructure.

"It is really high time to settle the status of Kosovo. My personal opinion is there's no alternative but to give Kosovo independence. But there have to be conditions to ensure the future and the status of the minorities in Kosovo," Soros said at a news conference.

Kosovo, considered by the Serb minority to be the cradle of their statehood and religion, has been run by the U.N. since 1999, when NATO bombing halted a Serb crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians.

The province is entering a delicate phase with talks on its future political status, U.N.-sponsored negotiations on whether the province becomes independent or remains a self-governing part of Serbia.

The U.N. envoy to mediate talks on Kosovo's future, Finland's former President Martti Ahtisaari, was expected to visit Kosovo and Belgrade next week and move to Austria next month to start the talks.

"I think it would be difficult to find a better man for the purpose," Soros said of Ahtisaari.

Soros also was optimistic about Albania's future and its institutional development, though fighting organized crime and corruption were among its top priorities.

"There's always the danger of political interference in the judiciary and that needs to be resisted and needs to be very carefully watched," he said.

Since its opening in 1992, the Soros Open Society Foundation has spent some $48 million on projects in Albania aimed at improving governance, reforming institutions, enhancing opportunities for youth and fostering a better environment for business development.

Separately, Soros has earmarked $57 million for projects specifically for improving education in Albania.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Kosovo Assembly reconfirms the will of people for independence

All daily papers report that the Kosovo Assembly voted unanimously yesterday
in favour of a resolution that “reconfirms the will of the people of Kosovo for
an independent and sovereign state of Kosovo.”

The text approved says that the Resolution presents a legal and political basis
for the platform of Kosovo Delegation to the status talks, highlights Koha.

Zëri carries a quote from SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen who said that the
Assembly has “appropriately assumed its responsibility”, while Koha Ditore
quotes Head of UNMIK Legal Office Alexander Borg-Olivier who said, “In
principle, the Resolution is OK and this is noted in the last sentence.”

Bota Sot carries the front-page headline Resolution, Historic Decision for
Kosovo while Express writes Of Course they gave in referring to Kosovo
Assembly members. F.F.

Autonomy for Vojvodina

NOVI SAD -- Friday – President of the Democratic Party of Vojvodina Hungarians, Andras Agoston, has proposed autonomy for the Hungarian community of the region.

Agoston has proposed to all of the Hungarian parties in Vojvodina to, as soon as the discussions for the status of Kosovo begin, start their own realization of a united concept for Hungarian autonomy in Vojvodina.

“In the case of Kosovo Serbs receiving autonomy, which is quite possible, then on the basis of reciprocity, we Hungarians have the right to autonomy as well.” Agoston said.

Agoston’s initiative states that the question of the Hungarian status in Vojvodina is still open. His party supports what he calls “personal autonomy” for Hungarians in Vojvodina, which includes autonomy in education and information and would allow the use of the Hungarian language and the protection of Hungarian national identity in Vojvodina.

Media outlets in Podgorica report that in the written initiative which Agoston sent to the Vojvodina Hungarian parties, he calls for help in the realization of the plan from United Nations special envoy Marti Ahtisaari and European Union official Stefan Lene, who will both be key players in the Kosovo status discussions.

Democratic Party of Vojvodina Vice President Oliver Dulic said that this proposal should not be taken very seriously, because Agoston is not a serious political factor in Vojvodina.

“I think that all types of autonomy under the principles of ethnicity can only lead to new problems. You cannot compare the situation in Kosovo and the circumstances of the Kosovo Serbs in looking for a solution, to what is happening in Vojvodina. I think that the proposal is not serious and that no one who is serious would support this, in our nation or in any neighbouring nation.” Dulic said, adding that he believes that most of the Hungarian parties will not support the proposal because it would lead to new conflicts and an internationalization of the Vojvodina problems beyond all reasonable measures. B92

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Belgrade: Indictments for crime in Kosovo soon

Indictments against suspects for brutal murder of 48 Albanians in Suva Reka in
March 1999 might be expected by the end of the year, stated Milan Dilparic,
investigative judge of the War Crimes Chamber with the District Court in

He has stated that among nine suspects, detained on 26 October, there
are five active members of the Serbian Interior Ministry. Spokesperson of the
Prosecution Bruno Vekaric has pointed that this opens the case of the mass grave
in Batajnica near Belgrade, where bodies of the murdered Albanians were buried

Ideas to divide Kosovo a threat to its stability

Prishtina- Kosovo
Kosovo daily "Zëri" reports that Muhamet Hamiti, spokesman for Kosovo President Ibrahim
Rugova, has objected to the statement of Serbian President Boris Tadic who,
according to Serbian and Russian media, stated in Moscow that Kosovo should be
divided into two entities.

“We believe that Serbian President Tadic has deceived the public in Serbia, when
he said that his opinions on Kosovo are welcomed by his Russian counterpart.
Russia is part of the Contact Group for Kosovo, which has strongly objected to
ideas for the partition of Kosovo. The Russian Minister Lavrov has spoken in the
language of the Contact Group during his visit to Kosovo last week,” Hamiti was
quoted as saying. F.F