by Dr. Radoslav STOJANOVIC
This year that book was translated into Albanian and published in Pristina. Within the promotion of the book a round table discussion was organized in Pristina and several of participants in the program Most from Belgrade and Pristina were invited to participate. "Delegations" from Belgrade and Pristina mostly included scientists and journalists and a few politicians (from Belgrade: Dr. Radoslav Stojanovic, Dr. Borivoje Kuzmanovic, Dr. Stevan Lilic, Dr. Dusan Janjic, and writer Vladimir Arsenijevic). On the "Serb side" there were politicians Dr. Rada Trajkovic, Oliver Ivanovic, and Momcilo Trajkovic. The international community was represented by Susan Manuel and her collaborators.
The round table discussion was supposed to demonstrate that dialog was possible and was the best path towards a solution for Kosovo and Metohija and the region.
In order to initiate dialog, it is necessary to first establish some rules. Above all, it is necessary to find out whether the will to resolve problems through dialog exists. If both sides in the dialog firmly stick to their views, which initially provoked the conflict, then dialog turns into a public fight and must be interrupted. If there is good will, then the platform for the dialog should avoid views that reflect the conflict situation. Above all, it is necessary that both sides refrain from discussing historical background of the crisis as in that case different approaches cannot be avoided. At least, we must accept the fact that history is not an exact science, like physics or chemistry and that different interpretations are inevitable. If there is the will to find a solution for the conflict through dialog then in the dialog the two sides cannot insist on the views that initially led to the conflict.
If dialog was to make any sense, it is necessary that participants be sufficiently competent for the issues included in the agenda. Otherwise, we'd have the dialog of the deaf.
What was the agenda of this dialog? These were not talks between political authorities but an academic dialog. Therefore, the basis for the agenda was supposed to focus on the topics mentioned in twenty six interviews included in the book "Dialog on the Powder Keg".
The participants on the Serb side did not find it difficult to notice that since 1994, when Most started, ethnic Albanian participants in the program almost unanimously advocated independence of Kosovo and Metohija. If that were the first topic on the agenda, the Serb side would find that unacceptable. That would be the end of talks, or the point at which an outside mediator would have to join the dialog. Since this was a dialog of participants who did not have the authority to discuss the future status of Kosovo and Metohija, the talks went freely, without any consequences for the current situation. The current situation in Kosovo and Metohija is such that even a "mediator" with heavy weaponry is unable to bring two sides in the conflict to their senses and induce them to reach a mutually acceptable solution through negotiations. Albanians incessantly talk about evil inflicted on them by "Serbs" between 1912 and "liberation" in June 1999. The "liberation" came with NATO, so that such talk easily baits the Serb side, prompts anti-western outbursts and leads to worsening of already miserable situation of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija.
That miserable situation becomes obvious after the first encounter with Dr. Rada Trajkovic on her arrival to hotel "Grand" where the discussion took place. Namely, Dr. Trajkovic arrived escorted by two UNMiK policeman, one of them British, the other American! The discussion took place in one of the five meeting halls of the hotel, while all the time six UNMiK policemen armed by automatic weapons kept guard in front of the hall entrance. Given the "suitable" equipment carried by our guards, it was rather scary to leave the hall to go to the bathroom, for example. We were instructed not to go outside and to speak English, and under no circumstances Serbian language, if we have to go out! About 180 Serbs live in Pristina, all of them in one apartment building, surrounded by barbed wire and in presence of KFOR armored troop carriers. They live under virtual house arrest, and go shopping for food with armed escort.
This miserable situation for Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija was underlined in our dialog with views about "need to punish Serbia" or presentations of lists of evil inflicted on Albanians by Serbs during the last century. Our attempt to accept that ethnic Albanians had destroyed over one hundred Serb churches, but that previously Serbs had destroyed many mosques was rejected outright. Instead of mutual condemnation of mutually committed crimes, that could lead to fruitful dialog, the Serb side responded by impressive lists of evil inflicted in the past and present on the Serbs by ethnic Albanians. Such "open" dialog was welcomed by madam Diba, Radio Free Europe director in Prague, and greeted by silence by Susan Manuel. However, the participants should be commended for remaining civil during the debate.
For me personally that was a ray of hope for the future that still hasn't started in Kosovo and Metohija. I would especially like to emphasize that in the direct conversations during the brakes for lunch or dinner we had professional conversations with colleagues from Pristina and even discussed cooperation in graduate studies between the universities in Pristina and Belgrade.
I think that I had a chance to note differences between face to face dialog and public, taped, discussion. I prefer not to draw any conclusions from that. That fact may offer hope that some future talks may be more successful. However, if we conclude this dialog with the statement of one of ethnic Albanian participants that the return of expelled Serbs will be only possible once the fate of all missing Albanians becomes known, optimism wanes. This reasoning behind the aforementioned statement is that the Albanian population is fearful that torture recalled from Milosevic regime may be repeated. If that is true, and even if it isn't, Serbs must try to make sure that today neither friends nor enemies recognize in their behavior elements of Milosevic's arrogance, xenophobia and violence.
The author is a professor of international law