Kosovska Mitrovica is a divided town in which both sides push "their music", but continue to live on a "see-saw", all the while explaining the uncertain possible developments in the future.
At this moment, the international armed forces suit both sides. Both among the Serbs and Albanians there are many who are pushing their warrior credentials because they didn't fight in the just ended war and are trying to use several decades old wounds in the relations between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians. The situation in the north of Kosovo, after the end of daily Albanian demonstrations in Mitrovica, has again begun to deteriorate with murders, abductions and armed attacks on Serbs. Albanians are announcing new demonstrations for the end of the week, this time justified by slow steps in the finding of a solution for the use of school buildings.
Serb politicians in Kosovska Mitrovica believe that at this time it is impossible to put together Serb and Albanian students and pupils, at least not during this school year. Possible incidents and violence would destroy the little progress that Albanians and Serbs, with assistance of the International Community, have achieved so far.
A new decree issued by the Civilian Mission of the U.N. specifies that demonstrations and public gatherings of citizens must be reported two days in advance and must be approved by the U.N. administrator in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner.
The announcement of new Albanian demonstrations in Kosovska Mitrovica is the first and true test of the respect for norms introduced by the International Community in the province.
Serbs gathered around the Serb National Council have suspended all contacts with the International Community for the next seven days because of the deteriorating living conditions of the remaining Serbs in the municipalities in the north of the province.
Since the arrival of the international armed forces to Kosovo, between seven and eight thousands of Serbs moved from the southern district of the town to the northern district, on the other bank of the river Ibar. According to estimates given by the Serb political representatives in Kosovska Mitrovica, about 2,000 Albanians also live in the northern district of the town.
"They are safe in the northern district of Mitrovica and do not bother us," members of the Serb National Council from the Kosovska Mitrovica county said for Beta news agency.
However, Serbs from this organization complain that non-Albanians cannot return to their homes in the southern district of Mitrovica.
"It is striking that daily Albanians from the southern district of Mitrovica are crossing in small groups to the northern side of the town; they visit their apartments, trade and draw pensions, while Serbs temporarily accommodated in the northern part of the town cannot do the same in the southern district," says Marko Jaksic, member of the Serb National Council in Kosovska Mitrovica.
About a hundred Albanians from the southern district of Mitrovica cross to the Serb side every day, while none of the Serbs dare cross to the Albanian part of he town.
Serbs from the southern part of the town, the town of Vucitrn and the nearby villages which were attacked by the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army after the end of the war, have moved into most of empty Albanian apartments in the northern part of the town.
Escorted by KFOR troops, owners of these apartments have been visiting their property. Thus, a certain Albanian woman crossed to the northern part of the town a few days ago, escorted by French KFOR troops, and found in her apartment the Serb family Cavic from Vucitrn. The French KFOR troops told the Cavic family to move out of the apartment. The family responded that they would love to do so, as soon as KFOR provides conditions for their return to their two houses and a large apartment in Vucitrn.
That is another example of unsynchronized and absolutely unnatural migration of two peoples in Kosovo.
Serbs see their only chance for survival in Kosovo, under the continuing ferocious attacks of the Albanian extremists, in cantonisation which would return their police, judiciary, local authorities, and what is most important - security. Kosovska Mitrovica and Serbs in other municipalities in the north of Kosovo are the greatest stake in that new territorial organization of the province.
Hence, their continuing concentration on the north bank of the Ibar is the only remaining solution to keep at least the remaining Serb population in Kosovo.
The inhabitants of Leposavic are concerned about the arrival of the Belgian troops and the departure of the French who, as they say here, had good relations with the locals and were respected and assisted by almost all the citizens of Leposavic.
"We hope that the cooperation with the Belgian troops will also be correct. They have been preparing for the arrival of their troops for 15 days already. As far as we in Leposavic are concerned, we will do everything in our power to cooperate, since that is in the interest of the people who live here," says Dragan Jablanovic, the mayor of Leposavic.
The Belgian troops intend to "fortify" the border with Serbia [proper] with a larger number of soldiers and heavy weapons. That is the key of the problem, as Jablanovic stresses, since for the citizens of Leposavic the border with Serbia and Yugoslavia does not exist.
With assistance of our colleagues from TV S in Pristina we tested the functioning of phone links between this town and Belgrade. We could still dial numbers in Pristina from Belgrade by dialing the old area code 038. This area code should be used from Belgrade and the rest of Serbia when dialing numbers in Pristina. However, if someone wants to dial from Pristina, Belgrade can be reached both as before, by dialing area code 011, and by dialing the exit code 578 and then 11.
The goal of the project for the cantonization of Kosovo and Metohija is to preserve multi-ethnic Kosovo and Metohija. I prepared the initial plan in September 1998. Serbia should have implemented the plan at the time, since it would have harmonized contradictory interests of Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, in the way that would not have placed anyone in an inferior position.
It should be emphasized that unlike in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia, where all three nations speak the same language, share similar cultures and have a tradition of mixed marriages, all of that is absent in Kosovo and Metohija. The rift between these two communities is total and barriers are not only in language, religion and civilization, but also include different concepts of society and conflicting interpretations of history.
Because of that, the cantonization is the only solution which secures that multi-ethnic Kosovo will be preserved and prevents, both in the short and long term, ethnic cleansing - explains Dr. Dusan T. Batakovic, the author of the cantonization proposal and the advisor of the Serb Orthodox Church.
Glas: What is different in your modified cantonization proposal?
DB: Now, when based on a U.N. resolution and with the agreement of the Serbian Parliament, Kosovo has come under an international administration, the plan has to be revised and updated in accordance with the new situation. Because of that, the new proposal does not specify status of the cantons, but concentrates on the security issues, which are the matter of life and death for the Serbs in Kosovo, their survival or departure from that territory.
Although the Kosovo Serbs believed that the state would be able to protect them to the end, it turned out the the regime has cruelly cheated them and left them to their own devices. Facing cruel reality of the new situation, they are today in increasing numbers supporters of the cantonization model and we are at the threshold of a sort of consensus among Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija that cantonization is the last obstacle to ethnic cleansing.
It should be emphasized that the cantonization has in the meantime been implemented spontaneously. Namely, those Serbs who were seeking shelter before the violent Albanian attacks, and did not want to leave for Serbia proper, chose to move to those zones where Serbs are in majority. Thus, a certain number of Serbs from Pristina moved to neighboring villages, while the same happened to Serbs, for example, from Prizren, some of whom found shelter in Strpce and Brezovica.
A similar process has taken place in the north of Kosovo and Metohija, where many Serbs found security in the territory north from Kosovska Mitrovica. Out of five cantons, envisaged in the initial plan, only one, in Metohija, between Pec and Istok, does not exist any more, since it was destroyed in the first wave of Albanian violence. There is one more canton, between Kosovska Kamenica, Novo Brdo and Vitina, where a dense concentration of Serbs is for now evident.
Glas: How would the local authorities in cantons function?
DB: It is crucial that Serbs in these large enclaves are efficiently protected and that a mixed administration consisting of Serbs and U.N. representatives is established there. If today everywhere in Kosovo where Albanians are in majority there are authorities appointed by "KLA", it makes sense that Serbs should establish some sort of temporary security zones where they are in majority. These zones would be protected by KFOR and administered jointly by local Serbs and UNMiK, led by Bernard Kouchner. There is no more important issue currently in Kosovo than that of the protection of Serbs and other non-Albanian communities. Every attempt to postpone the solution to this problem amounts to collusion in systematic ethnic cleansing.
Temporary security zones, which would have many elements of the cantonal system, should also include all large Serb churches and monasteries and their property. The security of these sites would also be guaranteed by KFOR troops. At this moment, for example, if it wasn't for the KFOR soldiers in front of the monasteries of Pecka Patrijarsija and Decani, these sacred sites would have been by now burned and destroyed, since they are in Albanian majority territory.
If monasteries and churches are in such danger (more than 80 unprotected churches have been destroyed so far) than it is easy to understand the danger faced by every Serb from Kosmet as an individual.
These cantons, or temporary security zones, would establish conditions for the return of Serbs to Kosovo and Metohija. However, the problem of protection of Serbs in multiethnic towns and cities would remain open and a solution would have to be agreed with U.N. representatives.
Only in that way Serbs will be able to avoid the trap set by the Kosovo Albanians: on the one hand there is Hashim Thaqi who with brutal persecution does everything to make sure that the number of Serbs is reduced below five percent of population; then, "liberal" Veton Surroi would step in to "generously present" Serbs with rights suitable for ethnic minorities.