bosnia report
New Series No. 9/10 April - July 1999
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 discussioÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ 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- goslavia.


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