by Dusan JANJIC
On the other hand, violence is one of the basic characteristics of life in Kosovo, especially in relation to Serbs and other ethnic and political minorities. In addition, the threat of Albanian extremism to regional stability and security has not been fully considered. There is a high risk of extremist activity and violence in Macedonia, the aim being to "remake" that country into a "bi-ethnic federation." The pan-Albanian ethno-nationalistic movement is behind that threat. The opening of talks on the future status of Kosovo intensified preparations by all interested parties and raised their expectations and fears. That was confirmed by the example of the Political Platform of Locl Councilors - Albanians of the Presevo Valley (the municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja), adopted on January 4, 2006. A sense of threat comes from the part of the platform that states that "until the status of Albanians in this valley is resolved correctly, the entire region will be a constant crisis hotspot and an obstacle to Euro-Atlantic integration."
The emergence of the OVK [Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA; UCK in Albanian] in Tuzi (Podgorica) in October 2006 raises new questions and trepidation concerning the persistence of the Albanians' efforts to achieve "unified ethnic territory" in the western Balkans and to destabilize Montenegro.
The unwillingness or inability to marginalize that movement is an indication of the alarming absence of democratic capacities in the Albanian community, which provokes suspicion and fear among neighbors. Of course, that suspicion is kept alive and occasionally strengthened by other ethnic nationalisms, especially the Serb nationalism. Moreover, it is widely believed by the Serbian and Macedonian public, and also among Albanians themselves, that some groups of Albanian extremists and paramilitary organizations have been enjoying NATO support since the time of NATO support for UCK. It is also firmly believed that the UCK leadership is linked to the organized crime and drug trafficking network.
It is in Serbia's interest that Kosovo be stable. It would be dangerous for the entire Balkan region, but especially for Serbia, if Kosovo were to continue to develop into a sort of "Balkan Afghanistan." In that case, Kosovo would principally pose a threat in terms of the transfer of terrorism and organized crime, forcing Serbia to expend huge amounts on its military and police, on maintaining security.
Serbia should also demonstrate its interest in Kosovo's stability through concrete initiatives and activities. It would be best for that to come in the form of a "security package" that would be discussed within the process of defining the future status of Kosovo. Thus far, no such attempts have been made.
The "security package" should embrace the following premises:
The EU, the United States, and NATO should be the main factors of international influence in the Balkans, with a strong international presence and commitment led by the EU and the United States continuing most likely until the end of the next decade; the gradual elimination of ad hoc institutions such as UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo], the Stability Pact, and others, consolidation of the EU stabilization and association process, and the transfer of responsibilities to local leaders and communities; support for highly diverse forms of cooperation in the subregion, one possibility being the establishment of a Club of Shared Responsibility for Security in the Western Balkans, which would coordinate joint actions by Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and international and local authorities in Kosovo, NATO, and the EU in confronting security threats (organized crime, political extremism, and terrorism).
In the western Balkans today, there is no risk of a significant number of Muslims supporting Islamic extremists, but that does not mean that they do not exist. A few days spent in Southern Mitrovica or Pec in Kosovo, or in Novi Pazar in Sandzak, will be enough to sense the influence of the Wahhabi movement. The activities of some Islamic organizations in Bosnia and Kosovo could become extremely dangerous to security because those organizations promote radical Islam, which is irreconcilable with democratic societies and multiethnic environments. Under circumstances of limited support, those groups could become attractive to a populace traumatized by fighting. Hence the need to carefully track the activities of Islamic organizations in Bosnia and Kosovo, especially those linked to terrorist networks.
The author is the coordinator of the Forum for ethnic relations
Original headline - "Opasnost od nasilja"