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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kosovo without Serbs is not Kosovo

ARTICLE – In Serbia, Maja Radojcic, 24/04/13

PRISTINA – Ambassador of Great Britain in Pristina Jan Cliff stated on Wednesday that Kosovo without Serbs is not Kosovo, which is why all the displaced need to return, and added that the Belgrade-Pristina agreement opens the door to return of a greater number of the displaced.

Kosovo Minister for Communities and Return Dalibor Jevtic and Cliff signed a memorandum between The Embassy of Great Britain, the Ministry for Communities and Return and DT company as the technical partner in implementation.

Jevtic and Cliff agreed that the agreement reached between Belgrade and Pristina is very important and opens the door to the return of a greater number of the displaced to Kosovo.

Kosovo needs more Serbs, Roma, Ashkalis, Bosniaks and Egyptians, the British diplomat said and added that Kosovo is not Kosovo without Serbs and they need to return to their Kosovo. The government of Great Britain will fiercely back the projects aimed at return, he said.


“There cannot and must not be one justice for the winners and another for the losers.” Dick Marty

I read this article and initially I was pleased that someone in “authority” had actually talked about “displaced persons”.  I agree with the statement made that “Kosovo without Serbs is not Kosovo”.  The Ambassador is implying that there many people who have not returned to Kosovo, however he does not mention why there is reluctance in returning to Kosovo. Why were these people displaced and how did this happen?

“Displaced people” will only return when they feel that they will not be harassed, persecuted or discriminated.  As such, I really do hope that in the words of His Excellency Jan Cliff that “The government of Great Britain will fiercely back the projects.  [Did he really say ‘fiercely’& what are projects?].   Actions speak louder than words, so it remains to be seen if these words get translated into real action by the international community and the Pristina authorities as well. 

Moreover, the Ambassador failed to mention the hundreds of Croats from Letnica, the Gorani and Albanians who also had to flee for their lives, as they were deemed, by their Albanian neighbours, not to be worthy inhabitants in the post-war NATO/ KLA state. It was often the Albanian neighbours who actually instigated the exodus in the first place, encouraged & aided by the ruthless KLA. A number of KLA ex- commanders are the very same leaders; whose government is now calling for them to come back!    In all seriousness, can the Ambassador really give assurances to these people, or are they just empty words? 
The question is how these displaced people get to go back as they are often considered in many Kosovo Albanian circles as the losers. How is the UK, the QUINT, the UN, the EU going to convince these people that they can live in security and in peace, back alongside Albanian neighbours. 

The Ambassador fails to mention the cause of this upheaval.  There was an intense and brutal orgy of violence that took place on NATO’s watch in 1999.  NATO troops on the ground just stood by as hundreds of thousands “displaced people” fled for their lives.  If it wasn’t bad enough in 1999, there was a repeat of this in March 2004, where the international community didn’t even raise a little figure to stop the bloodshed and extreme violent. Instead, the UN and KFOR actually assisted & facilitated the ethnic cleansing, by displacing even more victims.

The exodus of the “displaced people” was accompanied by the subsequent looting,  businesses stolen, destruction of hundreds of Orthodox churches, land & animals stolen, stealing of belongings, and wanton vandalism of cemeteries, monuments, churches as well as illegal occupation of homes.  Given this background, is it no wonder that these “displaced people” do feel safe to return? There is an urgent and strong need to actively transform ‘nice’ words into real tangible action.

The UK mentioned projects as part of the package to get the returnees back to Kosovo. Are there projects dealing with the restitution of stolen land, properties and businesses?  What steps are being made about the reconstruction of the Orthodox churches?  If there aren’t any, then how are these “displaced people” supposed to feel ‘re-integrated’ if there are no structures to support these communities?

There are still episodes of desecration of Serb graves and the destruction of monuments, which does not send an encouraging message to the Serbs. There are too many unexplained, under-investigated ‘incidents’ involving violence, shootings, grenade, arson & physical attacks predominantly against Serbs. The police in Kosovo seem to have no real desire or inclination to solve these crimes. To date, there has been well over 30 serious incidents, involving firearms and explosives that have taken place in northern Kosovo since the beginning of 2013. It seems that there is no “welcome back mat” for Serbs in Kosovo. The underlying message sent out is still loud and clear, “don’t come back and if you do, you won’t feel safe”. Since 2008, KFOR, the UN or EULEX have made no serious attempts to actively decrease the violence & hatred by ensuring that Justice is applied fair and square.  

Although there are tentative steps towards re-integration, it is not clear how the authorities in Pristina will accommodate the non-Albanians amongst the wider Albanian community. There is still continued discrimination, (especially in education), harassment and obstacles put in the way of “returnees”.
On another related subject, Ms Mimoza Kusari-Lila, the Deputy Prime Minister, 'wants good neighbourly relations' with Serbia, (BBC Interview 08/04/13). Fine words…. but how about creating a sustainable conducive environment inside Kosovo, in Pristina and in every town, village & hamlet.  She SHOULD be encouraging all Albanians to be “neighbourly” and help with the integration of Serbs, Roma, Croats, Ashkalis, Bosniaks and Egyptians. Or is this another case of selective hypocrisy? 

How hard is Pristina working to accommodate the returnees, to enable them safely re-build their shattered communities? According to the SETimes, the Pristina government built and fixed 76 houses in 2013 for the returnees throughout Kosovo.  I suppose that this is a start, a weak one, though, given that there are over  estimated 17,600 individuals internally displaced within Kosovo, according to the UN.  This does not include the tens of thousands who had to flee to other countries. More than often, the people are ‘resettled’ in a different location to where they originally lived.

Governmental entities such as the police need to actively recruit & retain personnel from all communities, so that there is fair representation and not just the 10% quota filling.  There is still an intrinsic fear that non-Albanian communities could once more be the target of ethnic violence.  This fear is widely-acknowledged in the Serb and Roma communities and it can only be effectively counteracted if the likes of the UK government ‘fiercely’ ensure safety and fair representation of these communities.

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