Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Kosovo: Countdown to Independence?

By Tim Judah in Gracanica and Pristina

Drive ten minutes from Kosovo's capital of Pristina and it feels like you are in a different world, or at least a different country. Suddenly, one language, one culture and even one religion have vanished. The music, car number plates, documents and money are all different. Welcome to Gracanica.

Ever since the end of the Kosovo conflict in 1999, Serbs have retreated into small enclaves across the province and an area in the north which abuts Serbia.

Most Serbs do not speak Albanian and they remain fiercely loyal to Serbia. They continue to use Serbian Dinars – the rest of Kosovo uses the euro – and they carry Serbian documents, while Kosovo's 1.8 million or so ethnic Albanians carry ones issued by the United Nations.

Gracanica, little more than a village, is centred around a magnificent medieval Orthodox church. Most Kosovo Albanians are Muslims. Symbolically, however, the gap between these two people is represented by their mobile phone networks.

Serbs talk to each other on a Serbian network. Because Kosovo is not (yet) an independent country, the Kosovo Albanian equivalent borrows the international prefix of Monaco. So, to talk to one another, a Serb and Kosovo Albanian must make an international call, even if they are close enough to see one another.

Over the last few weeks the opportunities to do even that have been diminishing. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian-run government has declared that the Serbian network is illegal and its transmitters are being turned off. This has come as a shock to the 100,000 or so Serbs that remain in Kosovo, but less of a shock than the message that was delivered recently by John Sawers, the political director of the British foreign office.

Meeting Kosovo Serb leaders on February 6 he told them, in unusually undiplomatic language, that the Contact Group, the main foreign powers that deal with the region, including Britain, France, the United States and Russia, had decided that Kosovo would soon be independent.

At the talks on Kosovo's future which begin on Monday in Vienna under the supervision of former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, he said, they and Serbia would have to fight hard for a good deal on autonomy and minority rights.

Such news should not have come as a surprise. After all, the messages had been clear for months. The Contact Group had already said that the solution for Kosovo had to satisfy the will of its people – and well over 90 per cent are ethnic Albanians who want nothing less than independence.

But, ever since 1999, Serbs in Gracanica and elsewhere appear to have lived in a dreamland, fed by stories from Belgrade, in which they expected that one day the Serbian flag would once more fly over Kosovo.

Vojislav Vitkovic is a teacher in Gracanica. "It was an extreme shock," he says, adding that discrimination against Serbs in Kosovo is such that, to his mind, the province "is a hypocrisy and not a democracy".

Asked if he will leave, if and when Kosovo becomes independent, he says that like his friends he has adopted a "wait and see" policy. He added that 70 per cent of Kosovo Serbs still do not believe that independence will happen.

Rada Trajkovic, a local Serb leader who was at the meeting with Sawers, says that it was a stormy event, but that it was not the first time a foreign emissary had told them that independence was coming. Why then had she not told her people this? "Because I am not a servant of the Serbian government."

"If the status of Kosovo has already been decided," she says, "what are we supposed to negotiate? Are we supposed to go, just to see how beautiful Ahtisaari is? "

The mood here is best summed up by Zivojin Rakocevic, the editor of the local radio station, who declares that everyone is "fatally depressed".

But they are clearly not giving up yet. In the restaurant where we meet we overhear a man who has come from Serbia lecturing local Serbian journalists. He is discussing bringing in broadcast transmission equipment to install here to create or bolster networks for Serbian radio or television to cover all the areas where Serbs live.

Down in Pristina the mood, unsurprisingly, is upbeat. Kosovo's president, Ibrahim Rugova died last month and coach loads of mourners are still coming to have their photo taken behind his tomb. But, contrary to expectations, the presidential succession was smooth.

Now says Ylber Hysa, an opposition deputy who is a member of the political group of the status talks team, minds are turning to the post-independence period. He says that local institutions need to be solidified because until now the province has been run on the basis of "permanent crisis management" and, as the UN mission leaves Kosovo, that needs to change.

Kosovo has huge economic problems, a chronic power shortage, high unemployment and weak rule of law. But all surveys have shown that Kosovo's young population is one of the most optimistic in Europe. And, with independence in sight, young people are even more hopeful. What is important now, says one student who asked to remain anonymous is just knowing, "that Serbia is off our backs for good."

But is it? In the wake of Sawers’s declarations, Tomislav Nikolic, the leader of Serbia's nationalist Radical Party, has declared that he and Serbia's premier Vojislav Kostunica, have agreed that if Kosovo gets independence then it should be declared "occupied territory".

If that happens, then Serbia will, in effect, rip up its application forms for NATO and the European Union and return to being an embittered pariah of Europe. In any settlement, NATO troops will stay in Kosovo and the EU will take a role in helping to run it. Under those circumstances, with Serbia publicly committed to reconquering Kosovo, in which NATO and the EU would be part of the occupation forces, it would hardly be realistic to expect to continue the process of joining those organisations at the same time.

Such a policy might however be popular in Serbia and might even lead to the election of the Radicals as the next government. But the attitude of western diplomats is far from sympathetic. What if independence led to a Radical government in Serbia? "So what?" answers a diplomat close to the talks process in Vienna.

Tim Judah is a leading Balkan commentator and the author of "The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia" and "Kosovo: War and Revenge", both published by Yale University Press.

Balkan Insight is BIRN’s internet publication.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Balkans genocide case in court



Markers for graves containing bodies of Srebrenica victims
Thousands died in the 1992-1995 conflict in Bosnia
The first trial of a state charged with genocide has opened in The Hague, where Bosnia-Hercegovina will accuse Serbia and Montenegro of war crimes. BBC

Bosnia says Belgrade was responsible for crimes of genocide on its territory during the early 1990s Bosnian war.

Belgrade denies its intention was to wipe out Muslims in eastern Bosnia.

The EU is also exerting pressure on Serbia, as foreign ministers threaten to freeze association talks unless it co-operates over war crimes suspects.

The ministers did not set a specific deadline, but indicated that they wanted fugitive suspect Ratko Mladic handed over by the end of March. He is accused of genocide and other crimes committed during the Bosnia war.

The ministers warned that negotiations with Serbia scheduled for April could be postponed if the former Bosnian Serb general was not surrendered to the UN war crimes tribunal.

Compensation

Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus said the security services had been told to arrest Gen Mladic and he hoped this would happen by the end of March.

The genocide case against Serbia and Montenegro is being heard at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also in The Hague.

Bosnian Muslims rally in Sarajevo in support of the start of the ICJ hearing
Bosnian Muslims hope Serbia will be made to pay damages

On Monday, hundreds of survivors of the war held a vigil outside the court and read out the names of Bosnian Muslims killed by Serb forces.

The hearings at the ICJ or World Court, which mediates in disputes between states, are scheduled to run until 9 May, but a ruling is not expected until the end of the year.

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan says if Bosnia wins the genocide case, it will seek compensation from Serbia, which could run into billions of dollars.

Phon van den Biesen, one of the lawyers acting for Bosnia, said: "They really destroyed important parts of each and every town which would be relevant for a comeback of the non-Serb population.

"So the destruction which has been brought about after the actual takeovers of cities and towns is enormous."

Historic challenge

Serbia will deny that the state - rather than a group of individuals - had the specific intent to wipe out the Muslim population of eastern Bosnia.

Bosnia's case will focus on the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, already established as genocide by the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Proving the Serbian nation's responsibility for the most serious war crime of genocide is an historic challenge for the Bosnian legal team, says our correspondent.

The hearings have been delayed for over a decade, since Belgrade filed a series of counter-claims and disputed the court's authority.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Berisha talked with Limaj

Albanian Premier Sali Berisha has assessed in Tirana that the “platform of the
Kosovo delegation presented in Vienna shows that the political leadership is
willing and working decisively on creating a free, democratic and European
Kosovo where all citizens will be equal before the law.”

Following the meeting with former ICTY indictee Fatmir Limaj, Berisha
assessed that it was an undisputable historic fact that Limaj and KLA
forces were NATO’s allies in the fight for freedom and rights of the people
of Kosovo. Tanjug

NATO deputy, James Pardew, pays visit to KPC

K. Dailies report that the US Ambasador to NATO James Pardew following his visit
with KPC Commander Agim Çeku said that the future of KPC is related to the
political process and status solution.

There is a clear vision on KPC in Kosovo and this vision should be part of
political process adding that KPC have done a very good job so far by offering
emergency support to the population, Koha Ditore and TVs’ reported.

Çeku, on the other hand, said that KPC is preparing for transformation and
informed that during his meeting with Pardew he has discussed the possibility of
involving NATO, within its mandate, to assist KPC in this process.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Mass pro-Mladic rally in Belgrade


Gen Mladic
Gen Mladic is considered a national hero by many Serbs
Serb nationalists have warned Belgrade not to hand over General Ratko Mladic to The Hague war crimes tribunal.

About 10,000 Serbian Radical Party (SRS) supporters rallied in the Serb capital chanting slogans and carrying pictures of Gen Mladic.

"Mladic is the pride of the Serbian nation and not those who have been in power," said SRS MP Natasa Jovanovic.

The protest comes amid reports from Serbian media suggesting that Gen Mladic may be ready to give himself up.

He has been indicted over the siege of Sarajevo, which claimed at least 10,000 lives, and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which at least 7,500 Muslim men and boys were killed.

SRS party official Aleksandar Vucic said there would be "no forgiveness" for anyone who surrenders Gen Mladic.

'Credible partner'

The demonstration was organised to mark the third anniversary of the voluntary surrender of SRS leader Vojislav Seselj to the Hague tribunal.

He is being held in detention and faces charges of inciting ethnic hatred during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

The Serbian government is doing all it can to fulfil the international obligations toward The Hague tribunal
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica

The EU this week warned Serbia that its talks on closer ties with the EU would be disrupted if it failed to co-operate fully with the war crimes tribunal.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica insisted his government wished to be a "credible partner" of the EU and said it was determined to hand over Gen Mladic.

"The Serbian government is doing all it can to fulfil the international obligations toward The Hague tribunal," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Bosnia, demonstrations have been held in support of a lawsuit seeking reparations from Serbia and Montenegro.

Bosnia first sued what was then Yugoslavia 13 years ago for its role in the violent ethnic cleansing of Bosnia in the early 1990s. BBC

Serbs oppose Independence for Kosovo, but give mixed signals about alternatives


BELGRADE -- Thursday – According to the most recent Gallup polls, more than 70 per cent of Serbian citizens are opposed to Kosovo independence, while only six per cent support this option completely.

Forty-one per cent of Serbian citizens support regional autonomy, while 12 per cent want the Kosovo status to return to what it was before 1999. Ten per cent of those surveyed want Kosovo to become a republic within the federal union of Serbia-Montenegro, while ten per cent want the region to be divided into cantons separated by ethnicity. A total of 1,000 citizens were surveyed.

Director of the Medium Gallup Agency, Srbobran Brankovic, reminded that according to surveys conducted in April 1998, 65 per cent of Serbian citizens supported autonomy, while four per cent supported Kosovo independence. In November 2000, 49 per cent supported autonomy and one percent independence.

The latest surveys show that Kosovo autonomy within Serbia is supported most by supporters of the Socialist Party of Serbia, with 61 per cent of the party’s supporters choosing this option. Most of the people who support dividing Kosovo into cantons by ethnicity are supporters of the Democratic Party. B92

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A milestone on Kosovo's road to independence

Talks on the future of Kosovo began on Monday February 20th in Vienna. They are almost certain to lead to its independence. If that happens, Serbia may declare its former province "occupied territory"—a move that would probably end its bids to join NATO and the European Union. ( The Economist)


FOR months, diplomats who deal with the issue of Kosovo have been suggesting, first in a circumspect way, recently more openly, that the talks beginning on Monday February 20th on the future of the province will lead to its independence. Their thinking was that with a little gentle persuasion, Serbia's leaders could begin to prepare their public of the final loss of their southern slab of land, which has been under the jurisdiction of the United Nations since NATO forces drove out Serbian ones in 1999. Finally, says a source close to the talks process, “the message is sinking in.”

However, things are not quite that straightforward. While Kosovo-watchers had hoped that Serbia's leaders would blame the loss of Kosovo on the policies of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic—who was tossed from power in 2000—and extreme nationalist parties such as the Serbian Radical Party, this is not happening. Indeed, the Radicals now seem to be setting the agenda for debate in Serbia.

More than 90% of Kosovo's 2m people are ethnic Albanians who have long demanded independence. In the wake of the Kosovo war, tens of thousands of Serbs and Roma fled Kosovo, which remains technically a part of Serbia. The 100,000 or so Serbs who remain live either in the north, in an area adjacent to Serbia proper, or in enclaves scattered across the province. It is they, above all, who fear for their future.

In November the UN appointed Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, to preside over talks on Kosovo’s future. Meeting in London at the end of January, the Contact Group, which represents the major powers that deal with the former Yugoslavia, issued a statement which, reading between the lines, made clear they had decided Kosovo would be independent but that strong safeguards needed to be put in place to protect its Serbs. Emissaries were then sent to the region to explain this.

Serbia's leaders responded angrily. The leader of the Radical Party said that he and Serbia's premier, Vojislav Kostunica, had decided that if Kosovo became independent against Serbia's wishes it should be declared “occupied territory”.

Under the terms of any settlement, NATO troops would remain in Kosovo. The European Union is also planning to play a big role. Thus, if Kosovo is “occupied territory”, they would presumably count as occupying powers, and it would thus no longer be realistic for Serbia to continue talks on joining both organisations. This would mean that Serbia, which has slowly been clawing its way back after years in isolation, would once more become the embittered pariah of Europe.

Only a few political heavyweights in Serbia, such as former foreign minister Goran Svilanovic, have dared to say that Kosovo will become independent at the end of the process that is beginning this week. For that he has been vilified as a traitor in parts of the press. More common have been reactions such as that of Aleksandar Simic, an adviser to the Serbian premier: “The Kosovo Albanians have to be aware that they will not receive independence from Serbia and that Serbia will retain the right to take back everything which it lost in an illegal manner.”

Such talk has been greeted with dismay by many in Serbia who think its leadership has not presented Serbs with all the options. Daniel Sunter, head of the Euro-Atlantic Initiative, a Belgrade think-tank, says there has been no serious debate in Serbia about what its people could expect if Kosovo was not given independence. Quite apart from the demographic issues that come with trying to live in peace with a young, growing and hostile Albanian population, Mr Sunter suggests that “it would take 500,000 [Serbian] soldiers to keep [Kosovo] under control.” Kosovo Albanians have consistently said that any renewal of the link to Belgrade would lead to a new war.

In the past, diplomats have predicted that Kosovo would gain some sort of “conditional independence”. In fact it is likely to have more freedom than this, and now the diplomats talk of “sovereignty with limitations” or “monitored independence”. NATO troops will remain behind, Kosovo may have a “gendarmerie” rather than an army (for the moment), and it may not get a seat at the UN immediately.

With independence in sight, Kosovo Albanian leaders are beginning to think of the future. The province is small and crowded, its resources are limited, unemployment is high and it suffers from a chronic energy shortage. The World Bank says that Kosovo needs some $1.2 billion of investment—substantially more than its entire annual budget—in a new power plant and coal mine alone. For Kosovo, a huge amount of work is needed, and many will see this week as the point at which it begins in earnest.

Staes: Ramush Haradinaj has an important mission in Kosovo

Bart Staes, member of the European Parliament says in an opinion piece that it is
important to apply the principle of innocence to Haradinaj and allow him an active
involvement in political life in Kosovo. This, according to him, is important not only
for Kosovo and the region, but also for the EU, Zëri reports.

Staes further says that when he was in Kosovo, last October and recently at the funeral
of President Rugova, he noticed that Haradinaj is a national symbol for Kosovans and
also very appreciated by the international community, therefore he is important for the
peaceful process of final status.

Staes recalls the ICG assessment that Haradinaj’s call to the people in Decani to keep
calm, after his indictment, saying he trusted ICTY and international justice, was an
important factor in preventing violence. He also cites former British Foreign Minister,
Robin Cook as saying that Kosovo under Haradinaj’s leadership did more for the
implementation of the key Standards, like the rights of minorities and return of
refugees, than had been achieved in the previous five years.

The European MP also writes that the chief of the UN mission in Kosovo Jessen-
Petersen has described Haradinaj as a friend and a man with ‘dynamic leadership,
strong engagement and a vision’.

A small but important step in all this process would be to ensure that Ramush
Haradinaj is free to exercise all his constructive influence, Staes concludes.
Zeri, Kosovo Daily

Kosovo Government opens temporary liaison office in Vienna

K. Daily Zëri reports that the temporary office in Vienna will serve as a liaison center for the
Kosovo delegation during status talks. Its chairman has not yet been appointed, and
it’ll be financed from the Kosovo budget.

“It will be a temporary office, as a center for Kosovo, because now we will have
continuous shuttling of the Kosovo delegation to and from Vienna and the office will
be a coordination center for the delegation until the solution of the status”, Zëri quotes
Government official Sylë Ukshini as saying for Kosovalive News Agency.

Dailies report that the Government took this step having in mind, as they say, the
status process taking place in Vienna, where the UN Special Status Envoy has his
office and because Austria is currently in the EU Presidency.

Government creates ‘home’ for negotiators in Vienna, reports Koha Ditore.
Kosovo with a coordination office in Vienna, writes Iliria Post. The office does not
have a diplomatic character, but will be at the service of Kosovo’s Delegation, it says.
Kosovo Dailies

Bugajski: Status of Kosovo should be made clear to Serbs (Koha)

Janusz Bugajski from Strategic and International Studies in Washington in an
interview for the paper says that Serbs should be told at the beginning of status
talks for Kosovo what the outcome will be. He says the negotiations are
important not to decide the status of Kosovo but to make Kosovo and Serbian
leadership talk amongst each other. Bugajski thinks it is also important to
demonstrate that Pristina has serious intentions of co-operating with Belgrade
and the other way around. Koha Ditore

Serbia under pressure over Mladic


Gen Mladic
Gen Mladic has been indicted over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre
The Serbian government could capture top war crimes suspect General Ratko Mladic today if it wanted to, the UN's chief war crimes prosecutor has said.

Carla del Ponte told the BBC that Gen Mladic was within "immediate reach" of the Belgrade authorities.

Her comments came after a flurry of reports from Serbian media suggesting that the net was closing on Gen Mladic.

The former Bosnian Serb commander is wanted in The Hague to face war crimes charges including genocide.

"The authorities in Belgrade can arrest and transfer Mladic... I'm sure they can do it... it is my personal opinion, I think they can do it today, if they want," Ms del Ponte told the BBC.

She said she believed the next few days could be crucial in determining his fate.

On Wednesday she said there was no indication yet that Gen Mladic's surrender was being negotiated.

EU warns Serbia

Gen Mladic has been indicted over the siege of Sarajevo, which claimed at least 10,000 lives, and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which at least 7,500 Muslim men and boys were killed. It was the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

I think they must put sanctions [in place] now if Mladic is not arrested
Carla del Ponte

The EU's Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, warned Serbia on Thursday that its talks on closer ties with the EU would be disrupted if it failed to co-operate fully with the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

He told a committee of the European parliament that co-operation meant delivering Gen Mladic to The Hague.

"Negotiations should be suspended if the commission judges that Serbia and Montenegro at any time does not satisfactorily address this," he said.

Mr Rehn is due to present a report early next week to EU foreign ministers on whether Serbia is co-operating with the tribunal.

Mr Rehn told the BBC that the next round of talks on a new trade and aid agreement with Serbia on 5 April could be suspended unless Gen Mladic was handed over.

Ms del Ponte told reporters that Belgrade had assured her on Tuesday that "Mladic remains at large".

However, she said there was "no doubt" he was in Serbia, and had been since 1998.

The fugitive was Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's army chief during the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995.

Gen Mladic lived openly in Belgrade for some time after the conflict, but he disappeared from view when former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was arrested in 2001.

Some of the suspect's former aides have surrendered to the war crimes tribunal to face charges of ethnic cleansing. BBC

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Interview with Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu ( Video)

This is the first Interview of the new Kosovo[Kosova] President Fatmir Sejdiu. This one is in Albanian.

The Death of Yugoslavia, Part II ( Video Documentary)

he Death of Yugoslavia! This is a documentary by the Private Serb TV ZIP. It's a 4 hours-2 parts (this is the Second part) program that details the destruction of Yugoslavia. About 90% of the program is in Serbian, but there a little bit in Albanian, Slovenian and English.
It€'s a very detailed and I would say pretty accurate analysis with movers and shakers of the region. The program actually shows the meeting where the destruction of Yugoslavia started (I could not believe they had recorded it). Some of the many leaders featured in this program include: Slobodan Milosevic,Tujman, Izetbegovic,Karadzic,Mladic, Sheshel, Haris Siladjic, Azzem Vllasi(Albanian), Richard Holbrook, W. Clark, Ch. Hill and many many more. Check it out!

Russia supports Kosovo independence?


BELGRADE -- Wednesday – Director of the International Crisis Group for Europe, Nicholas White, said that all member countries of the Contact Group, Russia included, believe that granting Kosovo conditional independence is the only solution.

White told daily Vecernje Novosti that Kosovo will definitely become independent, either this or next year, and that the main topic of discussion will be how to ensure that Serbs and other minorities will be able to remain in the region safely.

“At the end of last year, the taboo on Kosovo independence was broken in Paris, because everyone was talking about independence before the Russian officials, who did not have any arguments to counter the proposal. Even earlier, diplomatic sources in Moscow gave signals that Russia would accept conditional independence. On the other side, Russia has clearly made Serbia aware that they will not use their veto at the United Nations Security Council meeting.” White said, adding that similar signals were sent to Serbia from Italy and France.

“The discussions serve to secure the existence of the minorities, taking care of the question of northern Kosovo, and to find a temporary solution from conditional to full independence. In order for Kosovo to join international organisations it must implement standards that would qualify the state, and that will include a lot of work which the international community must help with.” White said.

He added that there have been no serious proposals from Belgrade on how to reintegrate Serbs in Kosovo and that the “more about autonomy, less about independence,” mantra of the Serbian side sounds like Serbia wishes to keep its international responsibility for Kosovo, without having any essential contents to their plan. B92

Monday, February 20, 2006

Talks begin on....the status of Kosovo Serbs?


As many people have predicted, talk are being focused on the status of Kosovo Serbs not the actual status of Kosovo. It's looking more and more every day that the status of Kosovo has already been decided and what remains to be resolved is the status of Serb minority. I think the Serb delegation will be brought before a finished act at the end of THE Talks. How will they react when they realise it? I think much depends what happens with Montenegro. If Montenegro seperates it will be much easier for Serbia to let Kosovo go.


VIENNA, BELGRADE -- Monday - On the heals of the UN Envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s statements yesterday that Kosovo will gain independence, the first official meeting of the status discussions between the Serbian and Albanian delegations began today in Vienna. Some of the topics today were education, health and cultural autonomy in the region of Kosovo. According to B92’s sources, the main problems in the education and health discussions is that the Serbs would like to see the community municipalities preside over the administrative system, while the Albanians are demanding that the Ministries remain in charge. As their main argument, the Serbian side is reminding the Albanian negotiators that they had parallel health and educational institutions as well. The main topic of today’s discussions was as announced; decentralization. The talks began with the two sides separately meeting that Ahtisaari.

Although the meeting was supposed to be of simple protocol, it was hard for the Belgrade team to not say anything after the statement’s that Ahtisaari made over the weekend. B92’s Vienna correspondent Jelena Aleksic said that the discussions are taking place in a conference room where the teams are facing each other, sitting around “P” shaped desks with Ahtisaari’s deputy envoy, Albert Roan, sitting in between the two delegations and leading the talks. The morning meeting was opened by Roan, after which the Serbian and Albanian teams had 20 minutes each for opening arguments. Discussion began afterwards, where both delegations discussed their strategies for decentralization.

The largest discrepancy in the decentralization discussions revolves around the timeframe. The Serbian side believes that decentralization should be implemented as soon as possible, while the Albanian side believes that decentralization can take place only after a solution for Kosovo’s status is agreed upon. The optimism of the Albanian negotiators was obvious from the beginning. Their team chief, Local Self-Administrations Minister Ljufti Haziri said that his delegation is prepared to cooperate. “We will fully cooperate. Today we focused on the agenda and jurisdiction. We want to see results as soon as possible. Independence is nearing, and we are playing a positive role.” Haziri said. The discussions tomorrow will include police and judiciary issues. More detailed information regarding the talks is expected tomorrow, when both sides, along with international officials, will hold press conferences. B92

An uncertain future awaits Kosovo

An uncertain future awaits Kosovo
A Kosovo Albanian watches the funeral procession of President Ibrahim Rugova in Pristina
Talks were postponed after the death of President Ibrahim Rugova
Serbs and Albanians are set to meet in Vienna for talks on the final status of Kosovo.

Part of Serbia and Montenegro, the province has been under international administration since 1999, when Nato drove out Serb forces.

Matt Prodger explains why Serbia is so strongly opposed to independence.

Safely stored away in the basement of one of Belgrade's museums is one of the country's most prized paintings.

It is called the Kosovo Maiden and was painted by Uros Predic in 1919.

It depicts a fallen Serb soldier being tended to by a girl on a blood-drenched battlefield.

It is said that Kosovo is Serbia's Jerusalem, the cradle of our culture and civilisation
Predrag Markovic, historian
The Battle of Kosovo, in 1389, is part of the Serb psyche - a defeat which led to five centuries of Turkish occupation.

Since then, Kosovo has grown in significance to almost mythical proportions - it is regarded as the cradle of the nation, the birthplace of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the source of Serbs' cultural identity.

And the idea of this so-called "sacred land'' being separated from Serbia is to Serbs, simply unacceptable.

'Jerusalem'

Predrag Markovic is a historian with a passion for the unique blend of western and eastern heritage that has long been a feature of the landscape of Kosovo.

In Belgrade's Gallery of Frescoes he shows me the reproductions of Christian religious icons from the province.

Many of the originals were destroyed by ethnic Albanian rioters during a violent upheaval in 2004.

"It is said that Kosovo is Serbia's Jerusalem, the cradle of our culture and civilisation," he says. "It seems that one part of our history is going to disappear forever.''

The issue of Kosovo began the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, Mr Markovic contends.

"The rise of Albanian nationalism there in the early 1980s was met several years later with the Serb nationalism which Slobodan Milosevic exploited in Croatia and Bosnia.

"Now, with Kosovo the final unresolved conflict, it's come full circle.''

In June 1989 - on the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo - Slobodan Milosevic consolidated his position as "saviour of the Serbs'' when he spoke to a mass rally on the very same battlefield.

The rest is history.

A new approach?

Today, on the streets of Belgrade, graffiti has appeared which appears all too familiar: "Better war than occupation - we will never surrender Kosovo,'' reads one slogan.

Kosovo Serbs protest against independence outside the British embassy in Belgrade
Kosovo Serbs are unwilling to sever links with Belgrade
But Serbs are war-weary.

Besides, the country's military and police have been massively diminished since the Nato bombings of 1999.

Instead, Serbia's leaders will use the coming negotiations to try to regain some control in Kosovo, with a hopeful offer of autonomy, not independence, for the province.

And if it comes to independence, they want at least self-government for the enclaves where many Kosovo Serbs - who make up little more than 5% of the population - live.

There are also suggestions in Serbia of partitioning Kosovo, with parts of it remaining in Serbia.

Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, the Serbian government's co-ordinator for Kosovo, is part of the negotiating team.

"Nobody in Serbia expected independence after 1999,'' she says.

"We expected that the international community would bring peace and stability to the region, would help Albanians to take their own future in their own hands but within our state, within Serbia.''

Western diplomats scoff at such statements, and say that Serbia's leaders should be doing more to prepare their people for the inevitable.

Domino effect

It is not just the territory of Kosovo which is preoccupying Serbia.

Montenegro, which has been in an uneasy union with Serbia since the final dissolution of Yugoslavia three years ago, is preparing to hold a referendum this year which could also see it declare independence.

I wouldn't even accept Montenegro's independence, let alone Kosovo's
Tomislav Nikolic, Serbian Radical party

At the headquarters of Serbia's powerful nationalists, they know that such tensions are increasing their popularity by the day.

"I wouldn't even accept Montenegro's independence, let alone Kosovo's,'' says Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the Serbian Radical party, which although in opposition, is the single most popular political party in Serbia.

"If Kosovo gets independence why would we co-operate with someone who has stolen our territory?'' he says. "Kosovo would have to be declared occupied land.''

In Belgrade's bookshops, you can buy glossy coffee table books which celebrate the history and culture of Serbia.

Within them, photographs of scenes from Kosovo as Serbs see it.

Orthodox monasteries, monks at prayer, beautiful frescoes, and rosy-cheeked peasants harvesting the fields.

Page after page of them. Even as the province itself prepares to turn over a new leaf.

BBC

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Death of Yugoslavia, Part I ( Video Documentary)

The Death of Yugoslavia! This is a documentary by the Private Serb TV ZIP. It's a 4 hours-2 parts (this is the first part) program that details the destruction of Yugoslavia. About 90% of the program is in Serbian, but there a little bit in Albanian, Slovenian and English.
It€'s a very detailed and I would say pretty accurate analysis with movers and shakers of the region. The program actually shows the meeting where the destruction of Yugoslavia started (I could not believe they had recorded it). Some of the many leaders featured in this program include: Slobodan Milosevic,Tujman, Izetbegovic,Karadzic,Mladic, Sheshel, Haris Siladjic, Azzem Vllasi(Albanian), Richard Holbrook, W. Clark, Ch. Hill and many many more. Check it out!

Bosnian film triumphs in Berlin


Film director Jasmila Zbanic
Grbavica is Zbanic's first feature length film
A Bosnian film has won the Golden Bear award at the 56th Berlin Film Festival.(BBC)

Grbavica, by director Jasmila Zbanic, looks at the aftermath of the mass rape of women during the siege of Sarajevo in the Bosnian war.

British directors Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross were awarded the Silver Bear for best director, for their film, Road to Guantanamo.

It tells the true story of three British Muslims caught in Afghanistan and who end up at Guantanamo Bay.

This year's festival appears to have an overtly political theme.

"War in Bosnia was over some 13 years ago and yet war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic (former Bosnian Serb leader and army commander) still live in Europe freely," Ms Zbanic said.

"They've not been captured for organising the rape of 20,000 women in Bosnia. This is Europe and no one is interested in capturing them," she added.

Michael Winterbottom dedicated his award to the three men which inspired his film.

The head of the jury, British actress Charlotte Rampling, said this year's films "reflected the mood of the world today".

Two films won the Silver Bear: Offside, by the Iranian director Jafar Panahi, a drama about a girl who has to disguise herself as a boy to watch a football match, and Danish-Swedish film A Soap about a woman's relationship with a transsexual.

Silver Bear awards for best actors went to two Germans - Moritz Bleibtreu for his role in the film Elementary Particles, and Sandra Hueller for her part in Requiem.

Nato General: I would not mind to be the first general in independent Kosovo

Valotto: I would not mind to be the first general in independent Kosovo

K. Dailies cover the visit of the KFOR commander General Valotto to Malishevo
where he said that the security situation in Kosovo is stable. However, Valotto
also said that the stable situation in the town and in Kosovo should be followed by
investments and on the part of KFOR promised security in Kosovo.

“I would not mind being the first general of an independent Kosovo,” daily papers
quote COMKFOR Giuseppe Valotto as saying during a visit to the town of
Malishevo, is another quote dailies highlight.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Kosovo: The Challenge of Transition

Click here to view the full report as a PDF file in A4 format.


Kosovo: The Challenge of Transition
Europe Report N°170
17 February 2006
International Crisis Group

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The key issue in the current final status process is the creation of a Kosovo that will have the greatest chance of lasting stability and development. While agreement between Belgrade and Pristina remains desirable in theory, it is extremely unlikely that any Serbian government will voluntarily acquiesce to the kind of independence, conditional or limited though it may be, which is necessary for a stable long-term solution. The international community, and in particular the UN Special Envoy charged with resolving the status process, Martti Ahtisaari, must accordingly prepare for the possibility of imposing an independence package for Kosovo, however diplomatically painful that may be in the short term, rather than hoping to finesse Pristina and Belgrade’s differences with an ambiguous solution, or one in which key elements are deferred.

None of this removes any responsibility from Kosovo’s Albanian majority. They must offer packages of rights for Kosovo’s Serb and other minorities in at least three areas: central institutions, decentralisation and religious and cultural heritage. Details of inclusion and representation in core governing institutions, with arrangements for involvement of the relevant mother country in fields such as culture, education and possibly more, should be negotiated with not only Kosovo’s Serb minority but also its Turks, Bosniaks and others. An agreement on decentralisation, to be brokered in the first instance by Ahtisaari and his team, could then be implemented under international oversight for three years, as was done with the Ohrid Agreement in Macedonia. Pristina’s negotiators should also immediately start direct negotiation with the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo on a package of protection arrangements for it and its sites. Only once this groundwork has been done should the Contact Group be prepared to make concerted, formal moves toward recognising Kosovo’s independence.

The independence package the international community settles upon Kosovo should prioritise its social and economic development. Crafting it should be an opportunity for the European Union and its member states in particular to expand their commitment, including resources, to the Western Balkans generally. A generous education assistance program and visa liberalisation are needed, as is assistance for rural development. The EU must not end up spending more on its own post-status mission costs in Kosovo than it does on pre-accession structural funds for the new country.

While a new UN Security Council resolution will be vital to set Kosovo on a course of independence from Serbia, any new international mission there should desirably be based on agreement with the new state, preferably founded in its constitution. This international presence should have fewer powers than the High Representative has enjoyed in Bosnia. EU institutions properly emphasise that they want a Kosovo which can be treated in most respects as a normal country, with politicians answerable to their own electorates. But there is one area where the international community should consider a more intrusive mission: northern Kosovo, and Mitrovica in particular, where Serb parallel structures defy UNMIK and the provisional government (PISG) alike. Leaving a new Kosovo government to try to incorporate the north would invite a violent breakdown. A transitional international authority there is the only sensible answer.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To Kosovo-Albanian negotiators:

1. Produce a plan for forging an inclusive, multi-ethnic state identity for Kosovo, as a tool with which to engage minority communities and the European Union.

2. Seek opportunities – such as the Basic Principles document published by the Orthodox Church – to engage Kosovo Serbs in negotiation, not using Belgrade’s sidelining of them as an excuse for passivity.

To Serbian negotiators:

3. Negotiate:

(a) the maximum degree of protection for the rights of Kosovo’s Serbs;

(b) more development assistance both for Kosovo’s Serbs and Serbia; and

(c) international and Kosovo-Albanian agreement to an appropriate range of institutional links between Serbia and Kosovo’s Serbs.

4. Refrain from sensationalist and nationalist rhetoric.

To Kosovo Serbs:

5. Begin developing structures through which to operate as a politically self-sufficient community within an independent Kosovo, and seek international support for this.

To UNMIK:

6. As the mission winds down, maintain – and preferably augment – staff and resources in the Mitrovica region in particular and engage the Contact Group and European Union in planning for a new transitional international authority for north Kosovo.

To UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari:

7. Go earlier rather than later to the UN with a recommendation for imposing a conditional independence package, if Kosovo’s Albanians have conscientiously made good offers on minorities, covering inclusion in central institutions, decentralisation and protection of religious heritage, rather than hold out for an ambiguous solution, or one in which key elements are deferred in order to keep Belgrade on board.

To the Contact Group:

8. Be prepared to indicate how Kosovo might become independent, including how this might be implemented in the event of Belgrade’s refusal to agree, once Albanians have made serious offers to minorities, engaging with them on inclusion in central institutions, decentralisation and protection of religious heritage.

9. Discuss and plan for a north Kosovo transitional international authority.

To the European Union:

10. Plan for social and economic development in post-status Kosovo, with particular emphasis on education and visa liberalisation and agricultural development, rather than adopting a purely policing and security agenda.

Pristina/Belgrade/Brussels, 17 February 200

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Five years on, Milosevic is still in the dock

By Vesna Peric Zimonjic in Belgrade

February 2006

The trial of the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, the first sitting head of state to be indicted for war crimes, enters its fifth year this week amid expectations that a verdict will be pronounced by the end of the year.

Mr Milosevic, 64, faces 66 charges stemming from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. He is accused of genocide against Muslims in Bosnia, war crimes and grave breaches of international conventions in the military offensives that led his forces into Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

More than 300 witnesses have taken the stand, including Western politicians and the leaders of the former Yugoslav states torn apart by the war. Yet far from undermining Mr Milosevic's reputation in Serbia, the trial has provided the former leader with a new propaganda tool.

"The indictment against Mr Milosevic is the most serious one laid by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague," said human rights activist Biljana Kovacevic Vuco. But "media coverage should deal more with the indictment itself, rather than with the comments of Mr Milosevic and his witnesses."

The live broadcasts of the trial and some media reporting have had a counter-productive effect on the public, which is still deeply divided as to what really happened in the conflict.

Mr Milosevic concentrates on discrediting the court by depicting it as illegitimate and anti-Serb. At this stage of the trial, his defence witnesses are taking the stand and placing all the blame for the wars on an evil world conspiracy against the Serbs. They attack the "unprovoked" Nato bombing campaign in 1999, which they say was aimed at annihilating the Serb nation.

Television broadcasts of the trial have provided Mr Milosevic with a political platform in Serbia and the chance to seek revenge against those who toppled him in 2000.

The prosecution and Mr Milosevic have called 350 witnesses since February 2002. The former Serbian leader has only 22 working days left in the defence proceedings. Once this part is over, the panel of three judges will need months of deliberation before delivering their verdict.

But Mr Milosevic's presence in Serbia comes not just through the trial broadcasts. His influence on local politics remains strong, through regular consultations and decisions taken with aides in Belgrade. Delegations of Socialists regularly visit him, while phone communications take place almost daily.

Mr Milosevic's Socialist party supports the minority government of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in the parliament only after his instructions arrive from The Hague. Such was the case when the Serbian budget was adopted recently, Socialist leader Ivica Dacic has confirmed.

The trial of Mr Milosevic is among the longest in the annals of international justice. It has been adjourned more than 20 times due to his high blood pressure, flu or other health reasons. Since 2003, trial hearings have been scheduled for only three days a week to provide rest for the ailing Mr Milosevic, who acts as his own lawyer after successfully appealing the imposition of a defence team.

In December, Mr Milosevic asked to be transferred to Moscow, to obtain "proper" medical care. A ruling is expected shortly.

Most Serbs think the request had nothing to do with his health. They believe Mr Milosevic is desperate to see his wife, Mira Markovic, who fled to Russia in 2003. She used to visit Mr Milosevic regularly until then, but can no longer do so. The couple's son, Marko, also lives in Russia, where he fled from Serbia days after Mr Milosevic was ousted.

As Serbs still struggle to come to terms with the legacy of the conflict,the Sarajevo-based Investigation and Documentation Centre has halved the number of people estimated to have been killed in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995.

Mirsad Tokaca, the head of the Centre, funded and financed by Norway, finalised a list of 100,000 citizens of Bosnia killed in the war. Some 70 per cent of victims were Bosnian Muslims, about 25 per cent were Serbs and 5 per cent Croats.

"This is still an extremely high figure, but there is a big difference now that people cannot irresponsibly use inflated numbers for their political goals," Mr Tokaca recently said in Sarajevo.

The €450,000 project to establish the exact toll is likely to be completed by the end of March, with all the confirmed victims' names made available on the internet.

Long road to justice

* FEBRUARY 2002 Trial opens with chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte accusing Milosevic of responsibility for incidents of "calculated cruelty". Milosevic challenges court's legitimacy

* MARCH 2002 First witnesses testify in secret. Lord Ashdown testifies about indiscriminate shelling of ethnic Albanian villages in Kosovo

* MAY 2002 Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova clashes with Milosevic

* SEPTEMBER 2002 Trial moves from the subject of Kosovo to Bosnia and Croatia with Milosevic charged with genocide

* OCTOBER 2002 Milosevic confronted by President Stjipe Mesic of Croatia

* JUNE 2003 Former Yugoslav president Zoran Lilic says Milosevic had nothing to do with Srebrenica massacre

* SEPTEMBER 2003 Trial hearings scaled back to three days each week

* NOVEMBER 2003 Lord Owen testifies that Milosevic had strong power over Bosnian and Croatian Serb rebels

* FEBRUARY 2004 Prosecution case rests

* AUGUST 2004 Milosevic opens defence



The Independent

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fatmir Sejdiu: Ibrahim Rugovas Spirit to Guide Kosovo


Can Karpat, AIA Turkish and Balkan Section
One could have never dreamt of a better president for Kosovo: Ibrahim Rugova’s double. All major external powers support the second Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu. In Kosovo he enjoys a large base of support.

The “second violin”
The new President of Kosovo Fatmir Sejdiu (photo: Tagesschau)
The new President of Kosovo
Fatmir Sejdiu

Italian Osservatorio sui Balcani summoned up the situation that the new President of Kosovo Fatmir Sejdiu finds himself in a musical way: “He has never been the ‘first violin’ in political milieus of Kosovo. The greatest challenge will be to turn him into the first violin”.
Within the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), Sejdiu was definitely the “second violin” so far. He was one of the co-founders of the party. Since the 1990s he has been on the presidency of LDK and a very close associate of the late President Ibrahim Rugova.

Following the decease of Rugova, some proposed a neutral figure like a senior university professor for the presidency. As far as the “senior university professor” part of the proposition is concerned, they had what they suggested. The same analysts also added that such a neutral person would be unlikely to have the necessary political authority to lead the status talks. What political authority Fatmir Sejdiu really has is to be seen in the future. However, Sejdiu is not that “neutral” as those analysts foresaw in their proposition since he is one of the veterans of LDK. He took part in the working out of almost all the major documents of the party and a number of legislative texts as well.

There is not much to tell about Sejdiu’s past. His political register is brief. Sejdiu was born on the 23rd of October 1951 in Pakastica in the municipality of Podujevo (north-eastern Kosovo). He graduated from the Law Faculty at the Pristina University. He also has a PhD in law. Later he taught at the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Political Sciences. Sejdiu, who is from the moderate wing of LDK, is the current secretary general of the party, and also the head of its parliamentary delegation. He is the assembly presidency member. Moreover he is member of the Committee for the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly and the Committee for International Cooperation and European Union Integration.

Sejdiu is considered as more realistic than Rugova was: “I am realistic and I know Kosovo well. I know its strengths and its weaknesses”. So far Sejdiu always kept himself behind the scenes. For 15 years he followed the path led by Rugova. Now he is to lead the way alone. His perspective for Kosovo is identical to that of Rugova: To create an independent Kosovo through peaceful means. Even during the NATO intervention in 1999, Sejdiu expressed himself against the use of violence, just as Rugova did. At that time Sejdiu forbade his three sons to carry weapons. He does not have a military past. And this is indeed remarkable in the context of Kosovo. Oliver Ivanovic, head of Serbian List could not help emphasising this point: “It is very important that he does not have military past. Till now this was an obstacle for communication between Serbian community and such people”. Although Ivanovic did not specify whom he meant by “such people”, one of these must be the ex-guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci.

In fact no one really expected that the new Kosovo President could be elected so quickly and easily. Many analysts prophesied violent clashes for power, at least within LDK. However, Sejdiu managed to be the sole candidate for presidency by the 30th of January. Analysts said that Sejdiu's quiet, reserved manner won over the LDK's various factions. According to Kole Berisha, a LDK member: "[Sejdiu] is a man of tolerance, cooperation and understanding". Even the assembly speaker and LDK member Nexhat Daci, who was one of the most probable candidates, supported Sejdiu.

Fatmir Sejdiu (photo: Xinhua)
Fatmir Sejdiu
The main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK) requested to postpone the vote until next week (13th of February) due to Hashim Thaci's schedule. However, the Special Representative of UN Secretary General Soren Jessen-Petersen sharply criticised any delay, saying it is urgent to move the process forward. On the 10th of February, contrary to the expectations, DPK did not field a candidate. According to the Constitution, a two-thirds majority in the 120-seat assembly in either the first or second round of voting is needed to elect a president. If two attempts fail, a simple majority (61 votes) is enough in the third round. Sejdiu was elected president in the third round with 80 votes “in favour” and 12 votes “against”. The parties, which voted “in favour” were LDK and its coalition partner the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), the Turkish - Bosniak alliance “G-6 +” (including the Kosovo Turkish Democratic Party and Vakat) and ORA Party. Serbian MPs boycott the Assembly since the bloody riots in March 2004. Only two Serbian parliamentarians from the Serbian Democratic Party participated in the voting. The eight representatives from the "Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija" did not participate in the session.

Fatmir Sejdiu, who became the second Kosovo President, received a standing ovation as the vote passed. Sejdiu is also expected to head the Kosovo Albanian negotiation team in Vienna: “I assure you I will lead the negotiating team as president Rugova created it, to finish this process as soon as possible within 2006”. He is definitely the best “stabiliser” that one could ever wanted for Kosovo during this fragile transition period.

Reactions are reassuring

There were many others, often more powerful than Sejdiu, who could have been expected to apply for presidency. The popular Nexhat Daci and the powerful opposition leader Hashim Thaci were the most
Nexhat Daci (photo: LDK official web site)
Nexhat Daci
probable candidates.

However Sejdiu is backed by all major western powers. Supporting Sejdiu, the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) seems to refute the international criticism, which claims that the UNMIK settled a semi-colonial government, and thus did not give Kosovo the opportunity to develop its own democratic structures. The two above mentioned politicians have their power bases rooted not in modern political institutions but in their home regions, their clans, or their old UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army) networks. Sejdiu, however, is one of those few, who has a civil and pacifist past.

Therefore there is no wonder that the NATO, the EU and the UNMIK congratulated the new president with great zeal and promised him their full support. In his statement, NATO’s Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer put emphasis on Sejdiu’s “reputation for moderation and willingness to seek compromise”. This reputation was the key of his presidency. Bulgarian Foreign Ministry was one of the first to congratulate Sejdiu on his election. Albanian President Alfred Moisiu and Prime Minister Sali Berisha also congratulated Sejdiu on his election.

Even the most crucial party of the Kosovo dispute, namely Serbia reacted positively to the election of Sejdiu. Serbian President Boris Tadic stated: “Mr Sejdiu, my door is always open to you, for us to begin direct discussions”. However, the Serbs of Kosovo are not enthusiastic. Milan Ivanovic, President of the Serbian National Council for Northern Kosovo stated: “We do not expect anything from Sejdiu. He does not have legitimacy to represent Serbs from Kosovo. Electing of Sejdiu was a result of the needs of UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen”.
In his first speech as president, Sejdiu stressed that he is ready for dialogue not only with the Serbs of Kosovo, but also with other minorities in the province. He added that he would continue cooperating with the EU, the USA and the Contact Group. One dissonant note though: He emphasised that the independence from Serbia is non-negotiable. Yet, no one could expect from a Kosovo Albanian politician, let alone the president, to plead for anything else but independence. A disillusioned Marko Jaksic, member of the Serbian negotiation team, stated: “For Serbs from Kosovo it does not make a difference if Hashim Thaci or Fatmir Sejdiu is president. All of them have same goal and that is independent Kosovo”.
There is one difference between Sejdiu and Rugova. Rugova was a poet whereas Sejdiu is a lawyer. Not only Sejdiu is expected to be more realistic than his predecessor, but also he is expected to be less idealistic. And that is the very point, which worries some Kosovo Albanians. These sceptics are anxious that Sejdiu, for legal reasons, tend to compromise with Belgrade, which proposes “more than autonomy, less than independence”. It is also claimed that a couple of days before the elections, Sejdiu received some anonymous letters, which were read: “Who elects Sejdiu hinders Kosovo from independence and becomes the enemy of Kosovo”. It is largely believed that the status talks will result in conditional independence for Kosovo. Even this solution is seen as an unpleasant compromise by some milieus in Kosovo.
Former American Ambassador to Serbia-Montenegro, William Montgomery revealed some shocking information to the independent Serbian radio B92: “[Rugova’s] attraction to foreign diplomats in the mid-nineties, however, was precisely because he never even raised the issue of independence. His focus was solely on a non-violent struggle for increased autonomy and respect for human rights”. Could the international community have found in Sejdiu this potential of pleading for “independence” before cameras while “larger autonomy” in diplomatic milieus? Intriguing speculation.

LDK is the creation of Rugova. The party members were kept together by Rugova’s charisma. Now the question is whether Sejdiu will have the necessary authority to keep the party together. Kosovo Albanian daily Epoka e Re claimed that Nexhat Daci will try to gain control over LDK. However, probably none of the party members could maintain the degree of loyalty and voter support, which Rugova enjoyed. Virtually all the other parties will be looking to pick up supporters and increasing their own voter base.

One of these parties is no doubt Thaci’s DPK. Thaci is strangely silent these days. He did not speak much after the decease of Rugova. He did not apply for the presidency, appearing to have accepted the nomination of Sejdiu. Whether this is the silence before the storm is to be seen. Yet, one thing is certain: He can afford to wait for some time. Because he has two aces in hand.

If one has to enumerate the top three of the most popular politicians in Kosovo, these would be Ibrahim Rugova, Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj. Ibrahim Rugova deceased on the 21st of January this year. Haradinaj, who turned himself in to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, is not allowed to get involved in any public political activity. So, the winner is no one else but Thaci. He will indeed take
Hashim Thaci (photo: Gazeta Java)
Hashim Thaci
benefit from this most advantageous political situation. The crucial question is to know how he will try to take this benefit.

Thaci also has a first class trump in hand: He is an elected member to the delegation for the status talks, which will take start on the 20th of February in Vienna. In this regard Thaci has all the chances to change the balance of power in his favour since his party has a considerable constituency, namely 30 seats in the Assembly. Some Kosovo Albanian newspapers close to Thaci plead for an opposition member to head the delegation in Vienna. The presence of two men, who are unable to reconcile with one another in the delegation would hardly prove beneficial to Kosovo.

However, none of these hypotheses are disturbing. All these anxieties were present even before the decease of Rugova. The compromise President Sejdiu may be an easier “prey” to Thaci than the mythical Rugova. Yet, Thaci must be aware that his divisive methods would decrease his influence in Kosovo as well as abroad. The international community, which is determined to resolve the final status problem by the end of this year, would not let Thaci aggravate the Serbs with his stubborn rhetoric, and thwart Sejdiu's peaceful methods. In this regard the picture is quite reassuring.

The determinant factor will be the external powers. If these powers made up their mind for the conditional independence of Kosovo, either with Sejdiu or with Thaci, they can well manage to have it. Even Russia, the historic protector of Serbia, quietly admits that independence is inevitable. Yet, to impose a decision is one thing; to have the acceptance of the native people is another. No foreign mediator has ever been able to definitively control violence in the Balkans so far. Will the western seed bloom on the Balkan soil this time? That is the question.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bosnia: A Cry From the Grave(BBC Video)

Documentary about Bosnian Srebrenica Massacre and how many questions are yet to be answered.


Please be advised that this video may not be appropriate for minors. It’s very disturbing at times. I am still amazed how the people who were responsible for this slaughter are still on the run 10 years after the fact. In the beginning of this video, Serb Forces force a father to call his teenage son out of the hiding and they kill both of them. I never have seen such cruelty!




Tuesday, February 07, 2006

British diplomat delivers the "painful" message to Serbs

Serbs told Kosovo will be independent - negotiator
Tue Feb 7, 2006 3:26 PM GMT12


By Matthew Robinson

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - A senior British diplomat has told Serbs in Kosovo they should accept independence for the disputed Serbian province, Serb negotiator Goran Bogdanovic said on Tuesday.

"(John) Sawers told us the Contact Group had decided Kosovo should be independent. He said Kosovo would be multiethnic, but in the end independent," Bogdanovic told Belgrade radio B92, after meeting the political director of the Foreign Office late on Monday.

A British diplomat based in Kosovo said Sawers had delivered the "painful" message that Serbs, outnumbered roughly 20-1 by pro-independence Albanians, should be realistic.

The Contact Group of major powers has set international policy on Kosovo since 1999, when NATO bombs drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against the ethnic Albanian majority in a 2-year war with separatist guerrillas.

Sawers was due to meet Serbian leaders in Belgrade on Tuesday ahead of direct Serb-Albanian negotiations later this month -- the first under a U.N.-led drive launched last year to decide Kosovo's final status.

His reported comments stirred tempers in Serbia, which regards Kosovo as the cradle of the nation.

Rich in Orthodox religious heritage, Kosovo was the site of the Serbs' epic 1389 defeat to the Ottoman Turks and has been key to Serb identity and history for the past 1,000 years.

"If that's the opinion of the entire Contact Group, then Belgrade should reconsider its participation in negotiations," said Serbia's Kosovo policy chief, Sanda Raskovic-Ivic.

The ultra-nationalist Radical Party, the country's strongest, said the government should resign rather than go into talks with the outcome already decided.

"I think we should dissolve parliament ... and see what the citizens of Serbia think about all of this," said Radical leader Tomislav Nikolic.

The British diplomat based in Kosovo said Sawers would also take his message to Belgrade.

"They (Serbs) have to look at what the Contact Group says, what the people of Kosovo want and what history will allow," he told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Legally part of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999. Ninety percent of its 2 million people are ethnic Albanians who want independence.

Serbia says that is impossible, despite increasingly obvious hints from the international community to the contrary.

Sawers told reporters on Monday independence could be "delivered" if Albanians showed enough democratic maturity. Western diplomats say this means making concessions to the Serb minority and accepting continued international supervision.

The Contact Group last week told Serbia to "bear in mind the settlement needs to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo."