by Miroslav Filipovic
The international community has clearly defined the state-legal and factual situation, the basic and most important aspect of which is that everything in Kosovo is totally independent from Belgrade. This situation, it is clear, will be the starting-point for negotiations in which the Serbians will try somehow to smuggle their state institutions into Kosovo’s political and public life, while the Kosovars try to free themselves from dependence and from the international community, given that they are already independent from Serbia. Can we treat the existing situation as a minimum for the Kosovo side and a maximum for the Serbian side, or not? Is it realistic to think that after the conclusion of the negotiations Kosovo will be more dependent on the international community and especially on Serbia than it is now at the start of the negotiations? And, on the other hand, will Belgrade at the end of the negotiations be more involved with and in Kosovo than it is today, when no one bothers to ask it anything at all?
I pose these questions apropos the theory according to which the negotiations between Belgrade and Prishtina should be conducted and completed in a sprit of compromise. Is such a compromise possible, and if so what would be its nature? What, according to this theory, would the Kosovar side have to give up and what the Serbian side? Which existing competencies enjoyed by Kosovo would [special representative] Petersen be able to transfer to Belgrade after the negotiations, and to which further concession to Prishtina would Belgrade be able to agree? How can one talk about compromise, when the negotiations are being initiated because the current situation is untenable, since Kosovo simply cannot function in this manner? This is why I do not believe in the sincerity and knowledge of the people who speak about compromise. In my view, it is a cover for their true intentions, since the negotiations will proceed in an atmosphere of heavy pressure, blackmail and threats, exerted above all upon the Serbian side. Not because it is Serbian, but because it must accept changes and sign up to them. The Kosovo side need only promise to be good and considerate towards the Serb minority.
For some time now there has been talk in Belgrade that one of our [Serbian] representatives during his recent stay at the most important capital in the world was invited to a very high office where he was informed of the decision of the international community. According to this decision, Serbia will get nothing in or from Kosovo, except the possibility of protecting its legitimate rights and the rights of its citizens and Church. If it accepts this, it will in one way or another be given several tens of billions of dollars. If it refuses the offer, it will still gain nothing in and from Kosovo, but it will also not get a penny.
No Serbian plan
Serbian politicians will not find it easy. Serbia has no plan for Kosovo, not even a wrong plan. The one they have been trying to adopt will not amount to a plan either. They do not have one, not because Serbians do not know how to produce one, but because it is impossible to produce any plan given the aim they have set themselves and the chances of realising it. This is why, when Serbian politicians speak about Kosovo and the negotiations, they appear miserable, confused and embarrassed. This is why the political moves they make from time to time appear like the moves of ignorant and desperate people addressing a domestic public, or moves that the politicians believe will strengthen them in power. The suffering, blood and tears of the Kosovo Serbs are of no interest to the ‘strategists’ in Nemanja Street. A flagrant example is the government’s behaviour in regard to the Kosovo Serb population’s recent trouble caused by having their electricity cut off. It is least important here that they were cut off because they had not paid their bill, which is an everyday phenomenon in Serbia. If it really wanted to solve this problem besetting the Kosovo Serb population, the Serbian government would have paid their debts and the electricity would be back. Instead of this it urged them to protest and block roads. Having brought them to the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe and exodus, it then broadcast their sufferings as pre-election advertising spots.
I do not know whether this is really hard to understand, or whether it is hard to grasp only for Serb clero-nationalists imbued with the myth of a chosen celestial people, which can profit only by being in a permanent state of war. Even the birds in the bush know full well that those trying to work out a strategy or plan for returning Kosovo to Serbian jurisdiction are nothing but fools who are undertaking a mission impossible with Serbian citizens paying the bill. Those who believe they can find an ally anywhere in the world are even greater fools. The sooner the Serbian government realises that Kosovo is a lost territory, rather than fantasising about recovering it, the sooner will Belgrade be able to concentrate on its sole role: to do what it can for the Kosovo Serbs. Serbia has numerous legitimate interests here which no one questions, including the resolution of eventual conflicts over private and state property, the status of Serb historical monuments and religious objects, the issue of Kosovo’s international debt, and so on. One may expect that it will be necessary to discuss the formation of a commission for the inheritance and division of property, as happened in regard to other members of the former Yugoslavia. Instead of this, the clero-nationalists still shout that Kosovo is ours and we will not surrender it - just as their grandfathers refused to give up Salonica and their fathers Trieste.
The story about compromise is nothing but a sop for TV news digests. There is no compromise, just as it may happen that there will be no negotiations. The world will impose a solution, which will most likely lie between Kosovo’s present-day status and full independence, and Serbia will get a big fat carrot. Those who think otherwise do not know how great fear and plenty of money can influence men. This will most likely happen at the beginning of spring, and by the start of the summer Kosovo and Serbia will endorse a plan which by the year’s end will be implemented by Kofi Anan. There will be no compromise in the sense of ‘more than - less than’. The self-satisfaction of the international community has for a long time created policy in Kosovo. All the while black clouds were gathering behind the curtain of apparent peace. The potential for renewed violence is very real. As far as the world is concerned, after a few different and good years, the bad boys who wish to shift rivers and mountains about to suit themselves are once again in possession of Belgrade. Many people on all sides have had enough of a phoney and unproductive peace, of corrupt and sterile police and other power structures, and of endlessly persistent and patient Western politicians. The international community for this reason must decide whether to take control of events, or to allow another dirty and bloody Balkan wave to wash over them. As things are, it seems that a decision has been made.
But they don’t know us!
Is there a winning combination, a ray of hope for our clero-nationalists? Believe it or not, they think there is. Because what awaits Serb nationalists in and around Kosovo is unpalatable. By contrast with the Albanians, who benefit from peace, a gradual improvement of everyday life and independence, nationalist Belgrade would benefit most from a war between armed Albanians and international forces. That would be proof positive that ‘the wild and uncivilised Albanians’ have not reached the necessary standards, and would certainly bury for a while all the hopes for independence nurtured by the Albanian population. It is difficult to imagine, of course, that the Albanians would be so childish. But not that someone other than them could set of a new spiral of violence. Is this not what happened, after all, first in Croatia, then in Bosnia, and then indeed in Kosovo too? Is it not the case that on those occasions the action was preceded by a dirty media campaign, and a daily ‘bombardment’ of statements made by important and competent people that ‘Kosovo will explode again’, that a holy war for ‘the noble cross and golden freedom’ awaits us, and that we must unite and forget such unimportant things as freedom, bread or jobs.
For Serbs, regardless of where they live, the best resolution of the situation would be for the Serbian government to establish the best possible relationship with the Kosovo government, because the latter is the only factor that can solve the problems besetting the Kosovo Serbs, regardless of where they live. Instead of doing this, our prime minister and his assistants have been doing everything to make their life more difficult. Serbian and Kosovo Serb citizens have unfortunately different aims from those of the Serbian government. The citizens aspire to peace, the government to a small controlled war. The wish of the citizens is to see Serbs being peacefully included in the Kosovo administration, that of the government is to ‘tout’ their sufferings on television and in the press. The citizens desire a prosperous society, the government an empty quasi-patriotism of the poor, which it thinks will help it win elections, even though this means leaving hundreds of thousands of children on the brink of hunger. The aim of the citizens is to travel freely in the world, learn languages and IT; that of the government is for various semi-literate churchmen to hold Serb children on church school benches or in a corner kneeling on maize grain, and to beat them on Saturdays. The citizens aspire to an open, modern and sunny state, the government to seeing Serbia confined to an reactionary Orthodox collectivist monarchy, in which nothing would stand between God and a family’s male head except the king, and in which order would be kept by armed para-church zealot formations. The desire of citizens is to live in a state that forbids and punishes murder; that of the government is to hide all those indicted for murder by a court acting in the name of humanity and, if it has to, to send them off to prison as if on a wedding trip. And finally, the aim of older Serbs is to play with their grandchildren and tend their fruit trees in fertile Š umadija; that of the government is to use their grandchildren to liberate Đakovica from the Albanians, just as it tried to liberate Varaždin from the Croats and Travnik from the Bosniaks.
In this whole situation the Kosovo Albanians are neither naive nor innocent. Due to the terrible crimes committed against them and the many stupidities on which Belgrade has been insisting for years, they still enjoy the warm shelter of victim status. Were it not for this, were it not for the fact that nationalist Belgrade daily offers them an alibi, pretext and reason for their faults, they would find it difficult to justify them before their mentors.
The interest and the aim of the Kosovo Albanians is nevertheless very clear. They want independence and know well that they will get it, provided they can show above all that they can protect the life and property of the Serbs minority. The Albanians are those who stand most to lose from the least possible attack on the Serbs. This is why wise analysts do not seek within the province those responsible for any eventual new unrest in Kosovo, but further to the north, watching carefully the Serbian government’s ‘working groups’ in Brzeć and Raška.
As a result, as the sand runs out of the glass and a new year emerges, Serbia lives in a state of expectation of the New Year, new news and new actions, believing that nothing good will come their way. The people suffers, whispers, and defends itself - if only with stories expressing its vague yet indestructible desire for justice, for a better life and for better times.
Translated from Helsinška povelja, November-December 2005. The author, correspondent in Kraljevo (Serbia) of the Belgrade daily Danas and of Agence France Presse, was arrested in May 2000 and sentenced by a military court in Niš to seven years imprisonment for ‘espionage and spreading false information’, but was pardoned and released after the fall of Milošević.