interview by Ljubisa POPOVIC
The previous paragraph is French weekly "Le Nouvel Observateur's" comment on the outcome of the November 17 Kosovo elections.
Rada Trajkovic, vice-president of the Serbian Christian Democrats, the only Serb member of the Temporary Administrative Council of Kosovo, and now a representative of the coalition "Povratak" (Return) in the future Kosovo parliament has thereby received a huge personal satisfaction for persistent attempts to prove that Serbs also gain by cooperating instead of trying to spite everyone. Criticized and accused from all sides, for national treason, frequently humiliated by her fellow Serbs because of sitting at the same desk with Thaci, Rugova, and Haradinaj, she is now planning how, in the future Kosovo parlient, under the direct patronage of the international community, to achieve security for Serbs who still live in Kosovo and the return of more than 200,000 of those who were forced to leave the province after June 1999.
NIN: What is the atmosphere in Kosovo and Metohija after November 17? Is there an increase in inter-ethnic tensions?
TRAJKOVIC: On the contrary. It is my impression that tensions have markedly decreased since the November election. As if all of us are somehow relieved. That can be felt everywhere. All those who have had enough of war, killing, arson, looting, and that is definitely an overwhelming majority of Kosovo and Metohija residents, in a way feel that November 17 marks the end of the bloody phase, a nightmare lasting for years. This is the beginning of a new period in which we shall again have to learn how to trust each other, to talk, and to work together for a better future. I do not have illusions that everything bad that has happened to us in the past will disappear overnight, that it will be forgotten who did what crimes to whom. I do not have an illusion that everyone will suddenly accept the new situation and work for peace. New terrorist acts of Albanian extremists after November 17 in some settlements in Kosovo and Metohija indicate that that will not be the case. Similarly, not all Serbs are overjoyed by these developments. Some prefer the atmosphere of hatred, divisions and conflict. There are still many of those who have gotten used to the situation in which chaos and madness prevail.
What if Albanians, as Ibrahim Rugova announced in his first post-election statement, declare independence? It is true that none of the Albanian parties has the necessary majority in the parliament to form a government on its own, but all Albanian parties with representation in the parliament are united in their support for the independence of Kosovo.
Ibrahim Rugova said that because of current political needs of his party, which, as we saw, failed to win absolute majority. This is an act of political marketing, until it becomes clearer what needs to be done. However, regardless of his statements and statements of other Albanian leaders who still haven't given up the idea of independence for Kosovo and Metohija, I am certain that that is, at least at this moment, absolutely impossible. The most important evidence of that are repeated statements of all relevant factors in the international community that they will not allow any discussion about independence, during at least the following three years.
Could Albanians, at least some of them, again turn to violence, a violent fight for independence?
That option should not be totally excluded, although I am convinced that most Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija have had enough of war. Violence could come from smaller, militant groups, which have their own interests for something like that. That will above all be a great concern of the international community, which will continue to have full control of the province. It's up to them to forcefully suppress such behavior, and it's up to us to help them as much as we can in that endeavor. Any future armed activities in Kosovo and Metohija will be viewed as terrorism. And, let me repeat that one more time, our state now has significantly more chance to help us.
What are your expectations of the work in the parliament, keeping in mind that Serbs and Albanians haven't been sitting together in the parliament for years?
Well, I'm sure that parliament sessions will definitely not be boring. The distance is already so large that we'll wage veritable wars in the parliament, but using words, for every full stop, for every comma, in every item on the agenda. That will be an exhausting struggle but, let me repeat, struggle in the parliament. We from the Povratak coalition, I am sure, will do that wisely and with dignity, in a civilized and European manner. It is clear that Albanians have a majority and it will not be hard for them to outvote us. But, there is the civilian administrator of the United Nations who has the right and jurisdiction to annul any decision that is not based on the respect of the rights of all ethnic groups in Kosovo and Metohija and violates the basic principles of the protection of human rights and security of citizens. Our presence in the future parliament of Kosovo and Metohija will give us a chance to publicly, in the parliament, talk about the problems that the Serb nation faces in Kosovo and Metohija, and to publicly propose solutions for certain problems. Until now we haven't had a chance to do that. Given the conditions and circumstances in which the Serb nation has lived over the last two years in Kosovo and Metohija, we now really have much greater chances to resolve some of those problems.
You are one of very few Serb leaders from Kosovo and Metohija who have had a chance to meet Albanian leaders over the last two years. How did you feel when meeting Hashim Thaci, Ramush Haradinaj, Ibrahim Rugova?
Every way but definitely not well. Just imagine sitting at some conference between Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj. That was probably done on purpose by representatives of the international community, but I endured all of that aware that it was in Serb interest to have a representative at those meetings. I had an especially hard time at meetings of the Temporary Administrative Council, especially immediately after the end of the war. Besides being the only Serb representative, I was the only woman at those meetings. The most important thing is to know what you want to achieve and what means are available for that. Representatives of the international community attempted, through informal contacts, joint lunches and dinners, to make friends of us. However, in my opinion, we have no reason for friendship. We need to figure out how to peacefully, in a civilized manner, live next to each other.
Honestly, I found the lack of understanding by a part of Serbs, who accused me of collaborating with Hashim Thaci, much worse than those meetings.
What will be priorities of the coalition Povratak in the Kosovo and Metohija parliament?
Our priorities are the enactment of regulations that will guarantee safety and security of all residents of Kosovo and Metohija; regulations that will allow free movement everywhere in Kosovo and Metohija and guarantee personal safety and inviolability of personal property rights. What is most important for us, and I hope that the international community will support that, is creation of all, including legal conditions for the return of expelled Serbs to Kosovo and Metohija. Of course, we will not forget to keep insisting that the fate of more than 1,200 Serbs abducted after the end of war be resolved. We must fight for the return of everything that has been taken away from us and passing of regulations that will prevent Albanians from buying Serb property and houses under pressure and by blackmail in order to speed up the departure of Serbs. It is necessary to implement regulations for protection of Serbs living in enclaves. Regarding the economy, we also must develop legal rules that will allow everyone to legally live and prosper. A future government of Kosovo and Metohija must be able to strictly apply those regulations.
The public has already been speculating about possible coalitions in the Kosovo and Metohija parliament. Rugova's League for Democracy cannot form a government on its own. The head of the coalition Povratak Dr. Gojko Savic has indirectly offered to Rugova cooperation in the parliament and formation of a joint government. Is that realistic?
I think that at this moment it is not politically wise to speculate about some alleged coalitions. First, we haven't even decided who our representatives in the future parliament will be. We haven't organized as a parliamentary group. Simply, we still haven't really gathered - all of us are aware of how the election campaign went. It is not wise, because we still need to see whether it is to our advantage to form a coalition with a party representing Albanians. We need to think about likely reactions of Kosovo and Metohija Serbs to that because, let me repeat, wounds are still too fresh to easily accept a coalition with those who want to steal a part of our country. We need to wait and see what their plans and goals are. It would not be wise to assist someone else in pursuing their separatist goals. Secondly, even if there is a possibility to form a coalition, we should not place a future coalition partner in a politically sensitive position and thereby make cooperation more difficult. In my opinion, the Serb representatives in the future Kosovo and Metohija parliament should work for their goals and, naturally, always support every proposal of any other group in the parliament that furthers those goals. Therefore, I prefer short-term or partial coalitions, rather than some firm or formal ties. I think that we should pay much more attention to representatives, although few in number, of other non-Albanian communities, because they have identical problems, and then we can form a united front with respect to Albanians.