by Bahri Cani, political scientist and correspondent of Deutsche Welle
The shortest answer would be -- no. We are not ready, because we have not yet learned to think reasonably, independently, without emotions and pressure from others. No, because we do not want and do not know how to respect others. No, because we most often want to make our fortune on the misfortune of others. No, because we have not yet prepared the public for this "historic" year. No, because we are terribly indoctrinated...
I read statements on the web-site of the Serbian government. One obtains an impression that a war is about to break out?! Murders, persecution, shooting, embezzlement, robberies, crime...
On that same web-site, Serbian politicians declare that Kosovo is a part of Serbia and that it will always be so. That they will never accept independence for Kosovo, because that was against all domestic and international documents.
I read and listen to Kosovo politicians, who claim that standards are being implemented according to plan. I hear that the Serbs are doing well and that only those rights that they do not want to exercise are actually being withheld from them. Everything is ready: the only thing now is to wait for independence, the end of all hardship(?!). But, I no longer work in Pristina or Belgrade. From the city that was once Germany's capital, Bonn, one has a somewhat different perspective. Since I am a journalist, working for at least four departments of the Deutsche Welle, I have had many opportunities to speak with German and other diplomats, to read and hear about their ideas, comments and suggestions. I know for certain that the situation in Kosovo is not as black or as white as the Serb and Albanian sides are making it look.
Wiser men than me have said that politicians worry about next elections, while statesmen worry about the future. And do our politicians, intellectuals and public opinion creators think about the future? Or do they only think about next elections, the sale of their books or circulation of their newspapers, the ratings of radio and television stations?
For more than ten years, Milosevic has used Kosovo as a trump card for winning or rigging elections. In the end, he lost the elections because of Kosovo itself -- after a completely pointless war and capitulation. Still, the Serbs were not so blind as to believe Milosevic's state, military, police and, above all, media apparatus, which have declared the defeat a victory.
Unfortunately, the Serbs got the short end of the stick once again. The "October revolution" has not brought the expected changes. Serbia has been and still is functioning largely on the basis of threats, economic and political pressure, instead of on the basis of well-conceived moves of their own. The organizers and perpetrators of the assassination of Zoran Djindjic have probably never imagined what sort of "service" they were doing to their beloved Serbia.
Pressure will continue: because of Kosovo, The Hague, Montenegro... It was at a very late date that the so called voluntary extradition of war crime suspects began in Serbia, and preparations about the possible "voluntary" extradition of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic were being hinted to for the past two months. It sounded ridiculous and completely paradoxical to hear how certain ministers, generals and politicians have only now discovered that Mladic had been receiving his pension regularly until November! Still, this "discovery" could be the first step in preparing the public for the fact that the two main accused for war crimes and genocide must be handed over to the Hague court.
I guess the people are expected to forget that those same politicians, generals and representatives of the media have said that they never saw Mladic in Serbia. People must have been amazed or must have pinched themselves, not being certain whether they saw Mladic in the Banovo Brdo district of Belgrade, or his ghost.
It is more likely that the authorities, before and after the "October revolution," were unprepared to rid themselves of the "heroes," who have held Serbia hostage for almost a decade now.
There has been word in public (in the form of a semi-joke) for a while now, that war crime suspects were Serbia's most expensive export goods. I guess it would be so with Mladic as well, in order for Belgrade to obtain a better position ahead of the final negotiations on Kosovo and to finally receive those promised millions of U.S. dollars. They would probably request EU membership in exchange for Karadzic.
As for Kosovo, the president, premier, ministers and almost all of Serbian politicians, are saying that this was the heart, soul and cradle of Serbia.
I would like to ask two questions, one realistic and the other hypothetical -- after which dozens of other questions add on.
The realistic one first: What if Kosovo becomes independent? Would Serbia start another war? Would politicians lie again, saying that they had done everything humanly possible, but that this wild and hostile West hated the Serbs? Would they, like Seselj and his Radicals, promise that they would once take Kosovo back? Would Tadic and Kostunica invent another Kosovo to build their political positions there?
And the other, hypothetical one: What would Serbia do if the Albanians were to say: "OK, Serbia is our state, we want to live in it as equal citizens!" Has anyone in Serbia contemplated a possibility for Agim Ceku to be the chief of staff of the Serbia-Montenegro Army, for Hashim Thaqi to be interior minister, for Fatmir Limaj to be defense minister, for Bahri Cani to be foreign minister, or another Albanian to be the president of the Albanians, Serbs and Montenegrins in a joint state, whatever its name might be? Would Serb soldiers be safe on the borders between Kosovo and Albania and Kosovo and Macedonia? Does anyone want Kosovo to remain a part of Serbia, as the politicians are saying it should?
I would like to see a public debate in Serbia about all these questions. I would like to hear politicians, experts, media and ordinary citizens publicly declaring their opinions and views of this problem, in a sober fashion and without too much emotion (since emotions can certainly not be completely excluded in such important matters).
That would certainly be in the interest of Serbia. As for me, I promise that I would be one of the more careful observers of such a discussion and that I would report about it to the public.
The Kosovo public is also not prepared for all possible solutions. The Albanians must realize that respect of the rights of the Serbs and other minorities is in their interest. They must know that any crime, even against the "hated" Serbs, is punishable. Criminals belong in prison and citizens must be respected. They must be free, regardless of their ethnic background.
Economic and democratic standards are primarily in the interest of Kosovo, and only after that in the interest of the international community.
And what if Kosovo does not become fully independent at this moment, as the politicians are promising?
A debate about this must also be opened in Kosovo. For a long time now, some sort of conditional independence has been spoken about in the international public. The former foreign minister, Goran Svilanovic, spoke about it in public in Belgrade, and was almost lynched.
Anyone who said in Kosovo that it should remain a part of Serbia would be lynched, too.
There is less and less time for preparing the public for all the possible solutions. Martti Ahtisaari stated recently that his contract expires this autumn.
The people must be told the truth, regardless of how bitter it might be. KosovaKosovo