Speech by Dr. Sanda Raskovic-Ivic

Published on December 13, 2006

Category: Growing International Opposition to Imposed Solution

President of the Coordinating Centre for Kosovo-Metohija for the Government of Serbia

At the outset, I would like to congratulate you, Sir, on your assumption of the presidency of the Council for the month of December. It gives me particular pleasure today to address this body of the world Organization.

Proceeding from a notion that we all share — that the establishment of lasting peace and security is the goal to which all people of goodwill are committed — I would particularly like to emphasize the important role of the Security Council concerning Kosovo and Metohija. Its importance is especially great since many sovereign States view the recent developments in the western Balkans with increasing alarm, owing to certain unrealistic assessments with regard to the future status of Kosovo and Metohija.

Serbia is fully prepared to assume its share of responsibility in the process of successfully resolving of the question of Kosovo and Metohija, on the basis of international law and in line with universally acclaimed democratic values. We are fully confident that the Security Council will make a crucial contribution in the spirit of its previous documents, primarily resolution 1244 (1999) of 10 June 1999, which unambiguously reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country.

It is absolutely clear that only by the systematic, responsible and gradual management of the negotiations on the future status of Kosovo and Metohija will we be able to reach a long-term sustainable solution. Such a solution cannot be achieved in haste and should emerge only through confidence-building, dialogue and negotiations. Otherwise, new complications may arise. Confidence and dialogue are conditions sine qua non for any coexistence. Nervousness, haste and arrogance will not help. They will only drive us further from a solution. We have a saying: "Avoid shortcuts — they might be the wrong way".

However, I must regrettably inform the Council about the cruel reality in Kosovo and Metohija, which testifies to the lack of freedom and security there. From 15 August to 1 December 2006, 75 ethnically motivated attacks were committed, in which 23 persons of Serb nationality were injured. The extremists also targeted members of other communities. The house of Zecir Zurapi, a member of the ethnic Gorany community in the village of Gornja Rapca, was blown up on 1 October 2006. The perpetrators of that terrorist act, like so many others in the past, have not been identified. It is significant, however, that immediately before the attack, Zurapi was involved in plans to have the Gorany students educated in line with the Serbian curriculum. As a result, more than 1,000 students in three schools were not able to attend classes for more than 30 days.

Over the same period, in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, 17 transmitter stations belonging to the Serbian mobile operator Telekom Srbija were put out of operation. This is a virtual criminal act that is taking place before the very eyes of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), because, since 1997, Telekom Srbija has had a valid licence to operate throughout the entire territory of Serbia, and has paid all of its taxes to UNMIK and the Kosovo Provisional Government. That act has further isolated the Serbian population. It should also be pointed out that, in the context of all types of communications, UNMIK has consistently tried, to varying degrees, to extend its mandate, thus violating the sovereignty of Serbia. There are many examples of that in its activities related to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Union of Railways, the International Committee for Railway Transport, the Universal Postal Union and the International Telecommunication Union. All of those activities are aimed at taking away attributes and symbols through international specialized organizations, thus prejudging the final status of Kosovo and Metohija. In that way, preconditions for cooperation and confidence are naturally further undermined.
Furthermore, there have been drastic and selective electricity cuts. Such discrimination reached its apogee in the Serbian communities of central Kosovo and the municipality of Strpce, where one hour of power supply is followed by 10 to 20 hours of blackouts. Add to that the fact that there have been 260 inter-ethnic incidents since 24 October 2005, in which all the victims were Serbs, and the trend becomes more than obvious.

Let me add another sombre detail: even with the assistance of UNMIK, we have not been able to make the Albanian side agree — at least at a declaratory level — to the need to rebuild the houses of Serbs from Badovac village who were expelled in the riots of March 2004. At that time, Serbian houses all over Kosovo were set on fire and destroyed. People were expelled, and some were killed.

As for the return of expelled and internally displaced persons, I would like to recall that, from 1999 to date, as many as 250,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have not been in a position to return to Kosovo and Metohija. According to our data, 2 per cent have returned; according to UNMIK, the figure is 5 per cent. Major demographic and migratory shifts have taken place in Kosovo and Metohija. The population in Pristina, the capital, has increased threefold, and it is currently estimated at 600,000. There are no more than some 100 Serbs in Pristina. Before 1999, there were about 40,000 Serbs in Pristina.

As far as Serbian religious monuments, cultural heritage and religious freedoms are concerned, Albanians pay lip service to their protection. Serbian shrines are in fact looted and desecrated on a daily basis. The church of the Holy Shroud in the village of Babin Most near Obilic and the church of Saint Petka in Gojbulja, in the municipality of Vucitrn, were broken into and ransacked. The orchards of the Devic monastery, in the village of Lausa in the municipality of Srbica, were completely destroyed, even though they were guarded by KFOR and the Kosovo Protection Service police after having been set on fire in March 2004.

Illegal construction close to cultural sites within the proposed protected zones is rampant. At the end of September, large-scale construction was begun in the vicinity of the monument honouring the mediaeval Serbian Kosovo heroes in Gazimestan, near Pristina. During the same period, in the neighbourhood of the village of Velika Hoca — a village that has 13 churches dating from the twelfth to the fifteenth century — an industrial facility is being built. There are plans to build a large hotel close to Gorioc monastery. These so-called construction activities naturally give rise to serious concern, since they are being carried out in close proximity to religious and cultural sites, which, in the negotiations on the future status of the province, should be granted the status of protected zones where urbanization and industrial construction are not allowed.

Those activities are obviously a deliberate attempt to prevent the preservation of the cultural and environmental integrity of the sites. The Government of Serbia and all the members of the Contact Group are insisting on that, making the negotiations on cultural heritage one of their priorities.

It should also be pointed out that attempts are being made by the Provisional Institutions of Self- Government to revise history and to delete all traces of Serb existence in Kosovo and Metohija. One of the most flagrant instances of quasi-historical propaganda by the provisional Ministry of Culture of Kosovo took place in May 2005 in Paris. The Minister of Culture, Astrit Haracia, tried to distribute in the UNESCO building a pamphlet entitled Monuments of Kosova. The publication makes no mention whatsoever of the Serbian contribution to the heritage of Kosovo and Metohija. That publication outraged the participants and UNESCO officials. Its distribution was stopped by Søren Jessen-Petersen, who was head of UNMIK at the time, at the explicit request of our Minister for Foreign Affairs. Regrettably, the Provisional Ministry of Culture of Kosovo, even after that unfortunate incident a year and a half ago, has continued to promote more or less the same ideas in a different form. On its web site, www.visitkosova.com, a one-sided historical version is presented stating that Kosovo and Metohija has been exclusively the land of the Albanians since earliest history.

The role of UNMIK is, unfortunately, giving rise to concern. Although it is unambiguously defined in all documents as a United Nations transitional administration with a clear mandate, it often assumes the role of a condominium by seeking to create a State for Albanians. Almost as a rule, UNMIK has adopted a sympathetic attitude and ignored Albanian extremism.

I would like to recall that Ambassador Kai Eide, in his comprehensive review of the situation in Kosovo, emphasized that, along with the process of seeking a solution concerning the future status of Kosovo and Metohija, it is crucially important to continue with the standards implementation as the only way forward. Ambassador Eide also pointed out other very important and substantial problems.

Unfortunately, for the time being, there are no serious signs that anyone is willing to recognize at least some of those perfectly adequate and constructive recommendations. The Special Envoy of the Secretary- General, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, said a fortnight ago that compromise was impossible and stupid. That statement cast a shadow on the constructive efforts being made, especially given that compromise is one of the important principles endorsed by the Contact Group at its meeting in January 2006.

Anyone can see that organized crime, human trafficking and corruption are rampant in Kosovo and Metohija. The drug and arms trade and smuggling provide a lifeline for the criminal and terrorist business, before the very eyes of the international community, the police and the military. Mafia-style Albanian clans are currently flourishing. The most recent and alarming incident occurred 10 days ago, when an Albanian terrorist paramilitary formation in Kosovo and Metohija began to intercept vehicles, asking for identification papers and intimidating passengers. Also, several days ago, on 8 December, barely a few minutes before a train was scheduled to arrive, unidentified terrorists blew up railway tracks in the vicinity of Mijalic village, in the municipality of Vucitrn. The only passengers in the train were Serbs, who travel regularly from Priluzje, Plemetine and Zvecan on this line. The blowing up of the tracks was yet another horrific terrorist attack against the Serbs.

Difficult as it may be, the situation and the events in Kosovo and Metohija should be looked at in a realistic, responsible and objective fashion. Any precipitous solution would cost the region, the province itself and the international community dearly; instead of achieving a sustainable solution, they would have to deal with an even more difficult and complex situation in Kosovo and Metohija. A hasty solution would set a precedent that would open up a Pandora’s box.

I must emphasize once again here that the entire strategy adopted by the Albanian side in the past actually boils down to not engaging in the status negotiations. The Kosovo Albanians are idly waiting to be given yet another Albanian State in the Balkans within the internationally recognized borders of Serbia. From the point of view of the interests of the international community at large, such an outcome is unacceptable; we cannot but take into account the facts.

I would like to stress that the solution has to be a compromise reached in the interests of peace and lasting stability. It has to be sought, on an agreed basis, by the two negotiating parties — Serbian and Albanian. Belgrade, the Government of Serbia and the Serbs of Kosovo in particular are seeking to reach an agreement that guarantees a durable solution with respect to their coexistence in a modern, democratic and decentralized State.
The Serbian side therefore sees the solution to the Kosovo problem as based on the implementation of the principles and specific solutions contained in the platform of the Serbian negotiating team on the future status of Kosovo and Metohija. It remains the best way to resolve the current horrific situation in the province. A different outcome would create unlawfulness, and unlawfulness breeds more unlawfulness.

The international community should support, and demonstrate such support by its deeds, its commitment to a stable and safe region. That can be achieved only by taking steps to introduce the rule of law, punish criminals and terrorists, and create the security and other conditions necessary to a normal and dignified life. A life of dignity is not only defined by the fundamental documents of international law, but is also embodied in European standards recognizing the respect of human rights and freedoms.

Of course, my country relies primarily on the law — domestic law, international law, democratic principles, agreements and treaties — but first and foremost on the inviolable principle of justice. We firmly believe that there is a way out of this situation. A sustainable solution can be based only on giving up extreme demands and embracing a rational approach and compromise. In practice, that means substantial autonomy for Kosovo — the kind of autonomy that no European or other State has granted to their region so far. It is there that, despite the obvious difficulties, there is manoeuvring space for agreement and compromise. There is manoeuvring space to find a solution. The talks held so far have not borne fruit, largely due to the lack of engagement and the insufficient number of meetings. We propose that the Vienna talks be immediately resumed in order to define modalities for the broadest possible autonomy of Kosovo Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija, with the participation of the European Union. The talks should be intensive so as to enable us to obtain results soon.

The threat of violence that is being heard more or less openly from the Albanian side cannot be accepted as a rational argument. Perhaps today violence is a consequence of a conjuncture, but a conjuncture is a variable. Constants are always better than variables, and, in this instance, a constant means dialogue, compromise and rejection of the use of violence.

Serbia voiced its position on Kosovo and Metohija just a month and a half ago in a fully legitimate and very powerful fashion. More than half of registered voters with the right to vote opted in favour of the new Constitution of Serbia. Its preamble incorporates the fundamental principles of international law, the Charter of the United Nations and Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). That constitutional provision has been practically based on the Charter of the United Nations, on which this body which I have the honour to address today is also based. By adopting the Constitution of their country in a referendum, an absolute majority of the citizens of Serbia reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of the inviolability of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of democratic States and to the inviolability of the borders of the Republic of Serbia, and thus to the United Nations and the Security Council.

Transcript and full record of proceedings can be found at: http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=S/PV.5588&Lang=E

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