by Svetozar STOJANOVIC
Ahtisaari and his supporters manipulate the word "independence" by suggesting that it doesn't exist without "national independence", while in reality the notion of "autonomy" also implies a significant degree of legislative, executive and judicial ... independence. Also, it should not be forgotten that the offer of "substantial autonomy" by the Serbian side is in full accordance with UNSC Resolution 1244. They neglect to mention that with the loss of sovereignty over Kosovo and Metohija, Serbia looses not only 15 percent of its territory, good part of its population and their land, but also sovereignty over an enormous mining and energy wealth, waterways and drinking water, state owned companies, huge Serbian investments in that province...
Since the assigned standards haven't by any means been achieved in Kosovo and Metohija, therefore a solution, and a generous one, would only be supervised autonomy, and in no way "supervised national independence" as suggested by Ahtisaari's plan.
Ahtisaari points out that by his plan the Serbs would become the most protected national minority in the world, but doesn't want to admit the truth that they would in their own state become the most endangered national minority, and to such a degree that one part of them would be transformed from national majority to national minority, and by force one part of a large territory would be taken from them in order to create another Albanian state.
They behave as the burden of proof is not upon them but on the Serbs who reject the plan. The fact of the matter, of course, is completely the opposite, given that Ahtisaari's plan would violate not only world customs in relations of national majorities and national minorities but also international law (and even morality) that it regulates.
The most important argument [for independence for Kosovo] is the repression of Albanians during Milosevic's rule. However, it is never mentioned that even in the former Communist Yugoslavia, under Tito's rule, when under the mask of autonomy Kosovo had the de facto status of a federal republic with all the necessary authority and even the right to veto all the decisions of the Serbian Parliament - the Albanians nevertheless kept demanding independence through public demonstrations and mass strikes. Moreover, they even resorted to force to achieve their goals. It is interesting to note that the West was silent when their ally Tito suppressed such Albanian actions in blood. It is worth mentioning that in spite of Milosevic's repressive politics, the Kosovo-Metohija Albanians with Rugova as president not only boycotted the official Serbian government but also the entire time had independent parallel government, commerce, education, health services...
Since the "humanitarian catastrophe of the Albanians" is used as justification for the Western attack on our country in 1999 - NATO leaders and officials ought to explain why several years earlier they didn't intervene to block the humanitarian catastrophe of Serbs in Croatia, but on the contrary, they supported the actions of the Croatian government to a considerable extent. (However, one cannot but wonder since when is the separation of territory the preferred method for blocking human rights violations!) It seems the use of force cannot be the distinguishing factor in these two cases, since Albanians also used violence to achieve their goals. Milosevic, in all honesty, practically eliminated autonomy of Kosovo and Metohija; on the other hand, Tudjman downgraded the rights of Serbs in Croatia by depriving them of the status of a constituent people in Croatia.
Anyway, why shouldn't Serbia propose organization of a conference on standards for mutual rights and obligations of national majorities and national minorities? That would give provide a forum for Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Montenegro, to publicly address their own cases and compare them with the example of Kosovo and Metohija.
Now when the "attack" with Ahtisaari's plan has been halted, we face a large and difficult task of recommending a concrete compromise solution. In that context, I wish again to put forward a recommendation what I wrote on December 10, 2004 in Politika. I suggested that Serbia should reorganize itself administratively and territorially, starting from democratic rights of those parts of Kosmet which had Serb and non-Albanian majority (prior to the Albanian-terrorist ethnic cleansing and NATO bombing) to be excluded from that province and directly legally incorporated into Serbia. After such a reorganization, that province with actual autonomy, would be made up of those territories where Albanians were the majority before the mentioned ethnic cleansing and bombing.
Since that would be an internal administrative reform and would not imply changes in international borders, our government would undoubtedly have sovereign and internationally recognized rights to do as much. In that context we should remember that Kosovo-Metohija has several times changed its borders and status (from autonomous region to autonomous province) as a part of Serbia (while Serbia was a part of the former Yugoslavia).
Under these new conditions the stipulation in Resolution 1244 regarding the return of a substantial number of our soldiers and police to Kosmet sounds much more realistic than now. Because in practice they would return only to the region with Serb and non-Albanian majority.
Of course the reduced Albanian majority autonomous province should have a decentralized government and provide much more secure guarantees for the lives and property of Serbs and other non-Albanians, churches, cemeteries and other monuments of Serb-European-World culture, return of refugees, compensation for budgetary, commercial and cultural assistance and investment of the rest of Serbia into that area; repayment of debts,... Regarding the continuing negotiations on Kosmet it would be helpful to include creation of some sort of solid financial, property and other settlement between the Serbian republic and its reduced Autonomous Province.
There, of course, should be a distinction between the ability of our executive authorities, the opposition and finally "the civil society" to react if there is an attempt to enforce upon us an unfavorable solution. One fact is indisputable: executive government doesn't have the right, even if it wanted to, to block and prevent opposition parties and groups, organizations and institutions of "civil society" to react with all the available resources from their non-violent and democratic arsenal, which is what that government doesn't do when protests and actions are directed against it.
Regarding my question directed to some domestic military experts and analysts - how will our country react if again there is massive Albanian violence on Kosovo and Metohija? - the most common answer is that it is the duty of our government to decisively demand cooperation of the international military forces to assist in preventing violence, keeping law and order and punishing the perpetrators. They remind me that our country on its territory has a huge American military base "Bondsteel", that it has an agreement of possible movement of NATO troops from Bosnia through its territory, and also a wider agreement on transit of NATO troops. They add that in Belgrade there is a functioning NATO office for relations with our military. Ultimately, Serbia is a member of the Partnership for Peace, and therefore, according to my collocutors, that implies its duty to help in NATO peace missions. According to UNSC Resolution 1244 Serbia has the right to return a certain number of soldiers and policemen to our autonomous province. In these conversations, of course, we cannot omit the possibility of misunderstanding and incidents in contacts between our and NATO forces. In such context I always remember an important principle that during the Trieste crisis in a reply to the New York Times Tito said "We shall not shoot at our allies from two world wars."
"Ahtisaari-ists" unsuccessfully keep trying to prove that the Kosovo and Metohija case is unique and therefore cannot set a precedent regarding the aspirations and rights of other national minorities in the world. And they don't see that this case is already becoming much more than a precedent - it is a manifestation of the changing global constellation of power and shifting relations of superpowers and their relations with small countries and their national majorities and minorities. Moreover, it is even an indication of a novel "New World Order". It is a test of interests, self-confidence and global standing not only for USA, but also at least two more superpowers, Russia and China. (In that respect it would be it advisable for our country to immediately request an observer status in the so-called Shanghai organization for cooperation.)
The author is a university professor, president of the Serbian-American center in Belgrade and its forum for National strategy based in Kragujevac (Serbia).
Original headline - "Od Ahtisarija ka Ejdeu