Dusan Prorokovic: This formula is, in fact, a framework for negotiations in which the Serbian side will have to make concessions to the Albanian side, and the Albanian side will have to accept something that it has no intention of accepting at this point. In essence this means a great degree of autonomy for the Kosovo Albanians. Perhaps all this would be somewhat like The Republic of Srpska within the framework of Bosnia-Hercegovina. If you ask me what The Republic of Srpska is, it is difficult to give a precise answer from a constitutional and legal aspect. The Republic of Srpska has the characteristics of a confederal unit: it has its own state seal, flag and anthem. In some respects it is also a federal unit because it has its own Ministry of Internal Affairs. At the same time, it has elements of regional or provincial self-government because it does not have primary competencies, for example, in the fiscal system. For all this a term has been found which does not define The Republic of Srpska as an autonomy nor as a federal or confederal unit but as an entity.
Lutfi Haziri: What the Serbian government is proposing is something that Kosovars already had. This formula - more than autonomy, less than independence - existed in the 1974 Constitution and ultimately lead to a tragic situation and to conflict. We will not accept any solution that would return Kosovo under Belgrade's government. After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, we are all on our won. This is also true for Kosovo during the past six years and Belgrade must accept this reality. Independence is the only solution for Kosovo.
Omer Karabeg: So what you are saying is that a status for Kosovo similar to that of The Republic of Srpska is not acceptable to you?
Lutfi Haziri: Absolutely not.
Dusan Prorokovic: The autonomy pf 1974 did not result in tragic consequences. Other things caused the tragedy in Kosovo, among them the armed rebellion of the Albanians, murders and everything else that happened.
However, I would not like to dwell on this. I am afraid that this explicit position on Pristina's part radicalizes the situation in the region and raises tensions. The independence of Kosovo is not only completely unacceptable to Belgrade but would lead to great vacillations in the region, in Macedonia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. If we are responsible politicians, we need to keep in mind the region as a whole, not only our separate and partial interests.
Lutfi Haziri: I assure Mr. Prorokovic and others in Belgrade that this is not the case. The independence of Kosovo is accepted as a reality in the region. Recently I paid a visit to Skoplje. In all the talks I held with the prime minister, ministers and other representatives of the government, it was obvious that Kosovo is no longer viewed as a problem. However, Belgrade still views us as its historical interest. Solutions involving association, federation and confederation which you are now offering us, Mr. Prorokovic, were not acceptable to us ten years ago. The independence of Kosovo will bring stability to the region. The best thing for Belgrade would be to accept political reality and for all of us to move towards European integrations together as a region.
Dusan Prorokovic: I would ask Mr. Haziri whether the fundamental human rights of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija are presently threatened.
Lutfi Haziri: They are threatened to the extent that the rights of other minorities are also threatened. It is true that further work needs to be done in Kosovo on the protection of the rights of minorities and the improvement of living conditions for all minority communities. However, today's position of minorities in Kosovo can in no way be compared with the position of the Albanians ten years ago.
Dusan Prorokovic: Do Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija today need to stage a rebellion in order to protect their human rights? We have to protect the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija so that they are not being killed daily, their freedom of movement is not limited to a two kilometer radius, while they are not able to leave their villages to go their fields and gather their crops.
However, I have to say that Mr. Hazari's attitude has been different from that of the majority of Albanian politicians. I have said several times for the Serbian press and Serbian television that Mr. Haziri did a great thing on March 17. As the mayor of Gnjilane he protected the local Serbs at that time. He prevented the onset of a great pogrom like those that occurred in other part of Kosovo. But to my great regret there are few politicians in Kosovo and Metohija like Mr. Haziri. It seems to me that a part of the Albanian political elite is permanently committed to continuing pressures on the Serbs so that they continue to leave. In the past six years there have been almost a thousand ethically motivated acts of terrorism ranging from smashed windows to torching of houses to various types of mistreatment and humiliation to brutal murders such as the massacre of children who were swimming in the river in Gorazdevac or the murder in Gracanica.
Omer Karabeg: Is direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina regarding the status of Kosovo possible? I see that Kosovo president Rugova has rejected Serbian president's Tadic invitation for direct talks a second time.
Lutfi Haziri: You know the position of Pristina. We will negotiate regarding the status of Kosovo. Independence is reality. We are prepared to immediately commence talks with Belgrade regarding technical problems; however, we will not discuss the status of Kosovo.
Dusan Prorokovic: For me the issue of Serb returns is not a technical but a political problem. Currently there are close to 300,000 refugees and displaced persons in Serbia from Croatia, from Bosnia-Hercegovina, and most of all from Kosovo and Metohija. We have to speed up the return of these people to their homes. However, almost one thousand incidents that have occurred during the past six years for which no perpetrators have been found and investigations were never completed discourage returns. Do you think someone is going to return to the village of Bica after what occurred there on March 17? Do you think that someone will go back to Kosovo and Metohija when people have been without electrical power for no less than six months? This is a political problem and it is an issue that should be discussed by presidents Rugova and Tadic. If Pristina continues to obstinately reject everything coming from Belgrade, Belgrade may begin to act in the same way. Then we'll each insist on our different ways and find ourselves in a situation where a solution will be imposed from outside that will not be agreeable to either Belgrade or Pristina. I think that this is a luxury we can ill afford. We are completely open to negotiations, our state leadership has been loud and clear in making this known to the Serb and the Kosovo public and the global community, and we believe that talks need to commence as soon as possible because every human life in Kosovo is precious to us, whether Serb or Albanian.
Lutfi Haziri: Absolutely, a person's life is worth more than anything else. Generally speaking, I would like to tell you that the majority of those connected with murders and incidents have been arrested. Some Serbs have also been arrested for murdering Serbs, while for more than a year it had been believed that these were probably ethnically motivated murders. We need to negotiate; negotiations and dialogue will bring a solution. The sooner the better, as far as we are concerned. We started with missing persons and the results were immediate. I think that at this point what is most important is for Serb representatives in Kosovo to take their places in the government and parliament of Kosovo. For example, Mr. Slavisa Petkovic [a Serb] is the minister for returns. Belgrade should reach an agreement with him as soon as possible regarding the return of Serbs to Kosovo as well as other political problems.
Dusan Prorokovic: I would like to ask Mr. Haziri a question. Have the people who organized and conducted the murder of children in Gorazdevac in August 2003 been arrested?
Lutfi Haziri: Well, I really would not like to see our conversation here transformed into a conversation between the judge and the accused. A Serb was behind the incident in Crnica near Gnjilane, which is considered to be one of the most serious in the past two years. It was not ethnically motivated. As far as the tragedy in Gorazdevac is concerned, the police is conducting an investigation.
Omer Karabeg: It would appear that the international community is increasingly favoring the independence of Kosovo. First the International Crisis Group and recently the International Commission for the Balkans expressed support for the independence of Kosovo. How do you interpret this?
Dusan Prorokovic: I wouldn't call that the international community. I would simply call it two non-governmental organizations. In these organizations there are plenty of politicians who were involved in the destruction of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The position of official diplomatic representatives, first and foremost, the Contact Group and the five permanent members of the Security Council, is to seek a compromise.
Lutfi Haziri: The International Crisis Group and the International Commission for the Balkans are not ordinary non-governmental organizations. Mr. Prorokovic is well aware of the political weight they carry.
Dusan Prorokovic: Nevertheless, they are non-governmental organizations that do not reflect the position of the international community. I'll cite a recent example. In the most recent report of the International Commission for the Balkans it is stated that Serbia and Montenegro should be dissolved in order to form two independent countries. However, one month ago we made certain changes to parts of the Constitutional Charter of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro, and the European Union and Mr. Javier Solana, practically became guarantors of the survival of state union. The European Union has made it clear that it has a stake in every future referendum in Montenegro or Serbia, and that it will not allow a simple majority to divide the country. The situation is similar with regard to the independence of Kosovo. Of course, there are lobby groups that are actively promoting an independent Kosovo but I believe that the position of official diplomatic representatives is significantly different in this respect. And the most recent talks with the Contact Group and the last session of the United Nations Security Council bear this out.
I would also like to remind of the Badinter Commission document of 1992 which became the basis for the proclamation of independence of several countries - first Slovenia, then Croatia and Macedonia and finally Bosnia-Hercegovina - within their Yugoslav borders. This document clearly and unambiguously states that the borders of the former socialist republics of SFRY are inviolable and internationally recognized. If Kosovo becomes independent, this principle will be violated because one border will be violated, the Serbian one, and the question will immediately be posed whether the other borders can be changed as well which would lead to great instability in the region. I believe that this is another reason why Kosovo cannot become independent.
Lutfi Haziri: Kosovo had its status and its borders within the former Yugoslavia. We are not asking for a change in borders, we are asking for independence as a former autonomous province and to become an independent country within those borders.
Dusan Prorokovic: I would like to ask Mr. Haziri a question that I have not gotten an answer to from a single Albanian politician. Taking into account that Albanian politicians have been talking about an independent Kosovo to their electorate for the past decade, who is going to assume political responsibility if Kosovo does not gain independence?
Lutfi Haziri: The Albanian people have been fighting for their rights and independence for a century, not for ten years or five years, and that is why your question is irrelevant. I could ask you the same question differently posed - who will bear the consequences in Belgrade if Kosovo becomes independent.
Dusan Prorokovic: The story about Goran Svilanovic is his personal problem. The filing of complaints in court is a part of the political battle. After all, even his own party, which gave him a seat in the Serbian Assembly, has distanced itself from his opinion. Of course, no one should be prosecuted for his opinion and I personally strongly condemned this.
Lutfi Haziri: The problem is that Serbs from Kosovo did not participate in the elections because of pressure from Belgrade. Prime Minister Kostunica called on them to boycott the elections. As the minister for local self-government, I called on the Serb representatives to participate in the decentralization process and they have been a part of that process for a year now, even though the newspapers I read say they are not.