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Crisis 1999
Opinions Archive 1999
Kosovo: the key to the Balkans

By Ferhat Dinosha

"Could Kosovo become a republic?" I was provocatively asked in the summer of 1981, after student demonstrations in Pristina. Then, I responded: "Maybe all of us will one day become toys in the hands of someone much stronger."

I do not wish to stress this as some prophetic virtue of mine. I didn't know then that what is happening to us today would indeed happen, but I knew that after Tito's death Kosovo would end up having excessive rights for some people, while others would be deprived of all rights. I knew that those believing that Kosovo suffered from "excessive rights" had the upper hand and that they would shun no means to alter this state of affairs. But, at the same time, I also knew that those others would do all in their power to fulfill their legitimate rights. Someone more powerful than all of them, in the name of humanity, would have a chance to impose his own rules.

And this is what indeed happened. The dissolution of the former Yugoslavia began in Kosovo. It was initiated by greater Serbian nationalism when Mr. Slobodan Milosevic came to power in Serbia. I was in Pristina at the time when the barrels of Serbian tanks aimed at the provincial parliament building cancelled the autonomy Kosovo had been given in 1974. The Yugoslav Constitution, that had provided this autonomy, would soon find itself trampled by the tracks of those same tanks in other regions of Yugoslavia, leaving behind destroyed towns and hundreds of thousands of casualties, but newly- created states as well.

Now, the tanks are running the final lap, once again in Kosovo. Leaving in their wake a genocide against a people, an organized ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians, and a new Holocaust in Europe, at the doorstep of a new century. But a new Kosovo as well.

Kosovo has never been paid due attention. Kosovo is not only a democratic issue, or a humanitarian one. Kosovo is the national question of the oldest people in the Balkans. Even if there were no historic or scientific facts confirming this, the fact still remains that Albanians account for an overwhelming majority in Kosovo and that this majority has the right to organize its life there.

All those who had turned a deaf ear to the appeals of Kosovo Albanians to resolve the problem through peaceful means were mistaken. The use of government might against Kosovo Albanians has resulted in the use of international might against the Belgrade regime. The killing of the innocent gave birth to the destruction of factories. When today's Neros are left with nothing else to watch, a solution to the problem of Serb-Albanian relations will have to be found at the negotiating table. And since neither side will be content with this temporary solution, the "stick and the carrot" principle of a side stronger that both of them will force us to lay the foundations of our new relationship upon this scorched land.

In this, it should be noted that history has been unjust towards the Albanian land. Albania is the only country in Europe bordering on itself. This has been done by the European powers and its neighbors, after the Ottoman Empire had been forced to withdraw to the Bosphorus.

The most painful and the biggest part of Albanian land beyond the borders of Albania proper is Kosovo. In most recent history it became the most drastic example of the trampling of human and national rights in Europe. But even in poverty and suffering, God was willing to bestow numerous children upon Kosovo Albanians. Despite immigration and colonization projects bringing non-Albanians into Kosovo, the Kosovo Albanians managed to survive and remain an overwhelming majority in the province. As such, on their long and painful path of attaining objective identity, the Kosovo Albanians succeeded in 1974, winning for themselves strong autonomy within the former Yugoslavia, and became its constituent part. But instead of this objective identity becoming even stronger, with the aid of international democracy, Kosovo was left to the mercilessness of the Serbian regime, which revoked the already attained autonomy under this democracy's very nose, only to stage its bloody spectacle throughout the former Yugoslavia, and eventually return and expire in Kosovo.

I believe that the democratic world has now realized it has to tame the Milosevic regime and that in acting so it should be resolute and efficient. I believe it has been realized that Kosovo, as the key to the Balkans, is a significant regional issue and that only a just resolution of this question can provide for the continuation of European integration and respect of democratic rules in international relations. Then, local dictators would no longer be capable of defying world democracy.

Because of the obstinacy of the Milosevic regime, a cleansed Kosovo and a destroyed Serbia will have to sit at the negotiating table. International peace forces at whose core will be NATO countries will have to cure their wounds and sober them up. Under these new circumstances, new mutual relations will have to be established before those forces leave Kosovo. A path for this has been cleared in Rambouillet, further improved by the Group of Eight, and it will probably end in the U.N. Security Council.

In the meanwhile, the criminals will have to face punishment. Justice can be met in no other way, and there is no other way to fill Kosovo with people again and to renew destroyed Serbia. There is no other way to establish new relations in the Balkans, wherein Kosovo will be a fully equal subject with its neighbors and a community of its fully equal inhabitants.

Much will depend on the attitude towards the man who made Bambilands for his own children, and coffins and refugee camps for the children of others.

The Serb nation will have to give birth to its own Willi Brandt to be forgiven both by the Albanians and the democratic world. The Serbs will succeed in this if they choose to remember their Tucovics rather than their Garasanins.

The author is a member of the Montenegrin Legislature for the Democratic Union of Albanians

Source: Beta Press

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