A free Kosova is the right strategy
by Stipe Mesic
You have recently been to Macedonia and Albania. What were your impressions?
I found the situation to be far worse than it had appeared on television, but
then I was there at the very beginning, before the camps had been set up, when
the people were fleeing in the face of terror. It was terrible because neither
Macedonia nor Albania were ready to take in such a great mass of population.
They came carrying a bare minimum, with small children, old and sick people. It
is impossible to understand that Milosevic could use such violence against a
people in their own country. I was simply shocked by what I saw in Macedonia and
Albania. Since air contacts were cut, I went by way of Hungary, Romania and Bul
garia, first to Macedonia and then to Albania. There I met with the KLA leaders.
I even gave one of its commanders my own general's uniform [the former
Yugoslavia's presidents, as commanders-in-chief, automatically held the rank of
general], so that it too is now waging war in Kosova.
We have contradictory reports about the KLA. What kind of force is it?
It is, I must say, a well-organised, but badly equipped army. Unfortunately,
Croatia has played a very bad role [by impounding weapons destined for the KLA].
When we were defending Croatia, arms came in from all sides and no one ever con
fiscated those. Today, however, when the Albanian diaspora collected money and
bought weapons for the KLA, the Croatian authorities confiscated them, as if we
were dealing with some group of terrorists rather than with a struggle for free
dom which everyone should support.
How do you explain the passive attitude of the Croatian government towards the
situation in Kosova?
That is quite easy to understand, since throughout the war in Croatia, and espe
cially during the war in Bosnia, Tudman and Milosevic remained in close touch.
We must remember that Milosevic's plan for a Greater Serbia included genocide.
We have seen the results of this criminal policy. Tudman was impressed by its
initial success and decided that the time had come to enlarge Croatia's borders
at the expense of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It all ended as a big failure, since the
Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina came into being, which solved the whole problem. That
army could no longer be defeated and the war was likely to become another Thirty
Years' War. The world, Europe in particular, could not allow this to happen
and decided to impose a quick solution, without waiting for the capitulation of
the forces which were destroying Bosnia-Herzegovina. So they broÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ
ught both the
aggressors and the victims to Dayton and forged an agreement which brought
peace. It is now necessary to create state structures which would enable Bosnia
to join the European Union.
You were an active participant at the start of the Yugoslav crisis. You know Mi
losevic personally. How in your view is this whole thing likely to end?
When I arrived in Belgrade I realized what was happening, which is why I said
that I would be Yugoslavia's last president. Not a single federal body - govern
ment, constitutional court, whatever - was functioning, and it was clear that
the Yugoslav state no longer existed. I thought, nevertheless, that if Yu
goslavia had to dissolve into its constituent parts, into its republics and
provinces, then this should happen peacefully. Like in the case of Czechoslova
kia. Slobodan Milosevic, however, is a cold and brutal person who had only two
aims: to create an ethnically pure Greater Serbia and to rule over it. He did
not hesitate to use any means available to realize these aims. He is very
dangerous for Europe and the world. He and his regime must fall. Serbia must ex
perience a catharsis, realize that it cannot live at the expense of others and
seek its happiness and satisfaction in Serbia itself. The Serbs who live outside
Serbia's borders, on the other hand, can act as a bridge for cooperation between
Serbia and the states in which they live. They should not be used as an excuse
to occupy other peoples' territories. What would happen if all the Germans had
to live in the same state, all the Hungarians, all the Romanians, all the
French, the Italians, etc? Europe would descend into chaos. This is why Mi
losevic's system must fall, after which Serbia under a Serb Adenauer will join
the European integration process and we in Croatia, Bosnia, etc. will be able to
enjoy good relations with Serbia. In the course of the last century or so, after
all, France and Germany fought three great territorial wars, they were on the
opposite sides in the two world wars, but they are now good friends and impor
tant partners in the process of Europe's democratisation. The same will happen
here, but first Milosevic's regime must go. The one in Croatia we shall replace
at the next general elections.
Do you think that Milosevic can be a partner for the international community in
solving the Kosova crisis?
No, he cannot be any kind of partner - he simply must go. He could perhaps be
the one to sign the act of capitulation, and then he can either end up in The
Hague or commit suicide. I think that would be the best for him.
Do you see Kosova's future within the framework of FRY?
I believe that Hashim Thaci's government sees things differently. They say they
want a free Kosova. I believe that this is good strategy and tactics. Kosova
must first be free. After this has been achieved and peace has been established,
its population can then decide in what system and with whom they want to live.
That is its right. The Badinter Commission in my view passed a correct judgment
when it said that the constituent members of the Yugoslav Federation all had the
right to independence. This applies not only to Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Mace
donia and Montenegro, but also to Vojvodina and Kosova, since they too were con
stituent members of the Federation. They too have the right to decide whether
and with whom they wish to associate. This means that it is necessary to estab
lish an international protectorate in Kosova for a few years, after which the
Kosovars will be able to decide in a peaceful atmosphere how they wish to live.
We wish finally to ask you about the current political situation in Croatia, in
view of the coming elections and the discussions that President Tudman is having
with some of the opposition parties.
Discussions with Tudman, in my view, make no sense. Tudman is the product of a
certain time and his model of rule has no place in the democratic world. Such
ns may be interesting, but they cannot be constructive. The only thing
that matters is the elections, which the united opposition will win. We shall
then establish a state based on the rule of law and proceed to review all that
has been acquired by illegal means. We shall block the accounts of those who are
reckoned to have spirited away as much as eight billion DM. These robbers have
taken this money to the Virgin Islands, to the Cayman Islands, etc., but we
shall find it. Croatia will become a factor of stability. We shall establish
correct relations with all European states and join the process of European
integration. We shall establish particularly good relations with our neighbours,
including Bosnia-Herzegovina, from which the whole region will benefit.
This interview appeared in Slobodna Bosna (Sarajevo), 29 May 1999
Stipe Mesic was the last president of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yu-