by Branka Magaš
There is a contradiction in the text ‘Serbia is in a hurry’ between the stress on individual rights of citizens when discussing Vojvodina and Serbia, and a focus on the ethnic element in the case of Kosovo. The impression is given that the LDP’s policy on Kosovo is concerned more with winning over the Serbian electorate than with the true needs of Kosovo Serbs. This is confirmed by the supplementary document ‘The 2Cs: Territory for Equality’, where the argument that Kosovo Serbs should enjoy the status of a constituent nationality is further elaborated.
A parallel is drawn in both texts with the status of the Albanians in Macedonia. The trouble with this argument is that while Albanians form 25% - 30% of the Macedonian population, Serbs form no more than 6% percent of the Kosovo population. Their share is going to decline even further and rapidly so, given demographic trends that will make the Albanians the largest single national group in the area of the former Yugoslavia by the middle of the 21st century.
The Kosovo Serbs lack both the numerical weight and the territorial cohesion to be able to bear the burden of responsibility associated with the status of a constituent nation, including the right to veto major decisions affecting Kosovo’s state and society. It is practically impossible for 6% of a given population to play an equal role with the other 94%, if one is to build a society on liberal-democratic principles - which the LDP leaders assure us is the only way forward. Such equality can be ensured only by undemocratic governments.
Even if the LDP’s plan were adopted and Serbs became a constituent nation in Kosovo, this would not prevent the popular majority from seeking to override the powers of the minority, whenever these appeared prejudicial to the majority’s vital national interests. Serbia, on the other hand, would use the opportunity provided by the gulf between the nominal rights of the Kosovo Serbs and their inability to realise them in order to intervene in Kosovo’s internal affairs. The document ‘Territory for Equality’ indeed recommends such a role for Serbia. This is no recipe for establishing good relations between Serbia and Kosova, or between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians. Rather, it is a blueprint for permanent tension between Serbia and Kosovo, even threatening war. Far from contributing to regional stability, good relations between Kosovo and Serbia, or security of the Kosovo Serb community, such a measure would make all these things less likely.
Small national minorities are too vulnerable and too precious to be used as small change in inter-state (in this case Serbia-Kosovo) conflicts. One should recall here the fate of the Croatian Serbs, who were stripped of their constituent status in 1991 when it seemed (though this was never proved) that they were opposed to the majority’s decision to make Croatia an independent state. The Croatian Serbs were unfortunate in being ‘aided’ by Serbia, which in fact used them as a pawn in its drive for regional supremacy. It is far better for the Kosovo Serbs for their reality to be recognised for what it is - that they are a minority in an overwhelmingly Albanian land - and for their rights to be ensured on that basis. The worst thing that can happen to them is to be perceived by the Albanian majority as an obdurate obstacle to the realisation of Kosovo’s full independence. The LDP’s proposal to make ‘our’ religious sites and cultural monuments extra-territorial would, if implemented, only encourage the Albanian majority to view their Serb neighbours as a political problem rather than as fellow citizens. Churches in any case belong to their congregations, and cultural monuments to the land in which they lie.
In the last instance the rights of minorities can be safeguarded only by the good will of the majority. It is up to the Albanians to ensure the well-being of their Serb fellow citizens: their dominance imposes not only rights, but also responsibilities. One is made vividly aware of this truth when following the debate here in Great Britain on the problems - some real and some imagined - posed by its Muslim populations.