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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SUN, 16 JUN 1996 21:11:34 GMT

    New Opening of the "Kosovo Issue" at the Annual

    SANU Assembly

    A STORM OVER A SERENE PARTING

    AIM, Beograd, June 12, 1996

    Annual assemblies of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU) usually proceed routinely, and consequently meet with the same reaction of the public. Judging by all, the assembly held last Friday was an exception in this regard.

    It was Aleksandar Despic, President of the Academy who made this step out of the ordinary by opening the "Kosovo issue" in his introductory speech. Perhaps the opening of this issue, which today - strange as it may sound - is a taboo of a kind in public presentations in Belgrade, was sufficient in itself to attract special attention. But, Despic went much further than that. He gave his speech on "Kosovo issue" a dramatic tone and a radical note to his stands.

    Despic forwarded a thesis that as regards Kosmet, the Serbian nation was "at another historic crossroads" from which there are "two possible ways to the future: one is to insist on territorial integrity of Serbia, which leaves no space for new secession; the other is to accept the Albanian aspirations of creating an independent country by seceding a part of the Serbian territory". He spoke of both roads in greater detail. Especially of the latter. In that regard he drew a conclusion that under specific circumstances talks should be initiated with precisely those who insist on the secession of Kosovo, on a peaceful civilized separation and delineation so as to avoid the repetition of tragic experiences from the recent past".

    What made him draw such a conclusion? It was the current birth rate among the Kosovo Albanians and projections of demographers on numerical ratio between the Serbian and Albanin populations in the first half of the next century. He mostly relied on the study by Branislav Krstic according to which in 2051 the population of Serbia would number ten million and 535 thousand inhabitants, out of which the Serbs and Montenegrins would account for six million and 265 thousand (59.5 percent), while the Albanians for four million and 270 thousand (40.5 percent).

    These figures somewhat darkened the prospects for the President of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences when the Serbian national state is in question: by the middle of the next century the two entities in that state would, according to him (if it remained a united state of the Serbs and Albanians), have approximately the equal number of inhabitants. The ethnical duality, as he said, would be absolutely expressed in lingual, religious and cultural differences. The academician Despic though it necessary to resort to an ethnological characterology of the Kosovo Albanians (on the basis of well known Gauss' theory on "national types") whom as a nation he saw, as he put it, as murderers and drug dealers, then as a patriarchal type of people and also those with "fine intelligence" and highly creative abilities.

    All this lead to the sketching of two solutions to the problem. He presented the advantages of a possible continuation of joint life of the Serbs and Albanians in one state, i.e. Serbia. But, he also pointed to the probable obstacles, primarily in the mentioned "ethnical dualities" on account of which the former Yugoslavia disintegrated too, he pointed out. And precisely to avoid "tragic experience" of that disintegration he opened the possibility of talks on peaceful parting of the Serbs and Kosovo Albanians. He gave precedence to the latter solution, both as regards the time he dedicated to it in his address, as well as the emphasis he laid on it. There was an impression that the first one was presented only for the sake of the latter.

    Be that as it may, this was the first time that the "problem of Kosovo issue" - future life of the Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, as well as in Serbia - was presented to the public in this way. There were some individual combinations similar or even very close to Despic's even earlier, or to be more precise: at the very beginning of the Yugoslav crisis, but never before had they been expressed within institutional frameworks. It was then considered that the disintegration of the third Yugoslavia was a good opportunity to "resolve the problem of Kosovo also in one package". It is no secret in Belgrade intellectual circles that the writer Dobrica Cosic and a group of Academy members and Serbian intellectuals around him, worked on that problem and even drew delineation maps. And even when the public somehow learned of the existence of such a plan for Kosovo, it was, however, never presented as a general platform. Mostly as an idea which was rumoured about.

    And although such reasoning was known to exist, nevertheless such public declaration of Despic was a first-class surprise. Despic came to the helm of the Academy a year earlier after painstaking quibbling within the Academy itself over a possible future man at the helm of this institution, which was to a certain extent burdened by controversies about the provoking of the war and the war itself. He was considered to be a compromise solution for the two opposing political positions in the Academy, as a man of technical sciences who could, perhaps, take the Academy along a different path from that which characterized its most recent work. In any case, to fields outside politics and significant political involvement. However, his first address, quite contrary to the expectations, was coloured by tones from the old practice.

    Second was the moment of surprise within the Academy itself. Some so called Serbian national projects, which were recently either initiated within the Academy, or prepared by groups of academicians, went down the drain. That is why it was thought only natural that the Academy would remain passive in that respect, or at least act more cautiously because of its own bad experiences. But not a chance! Despite all, it drives at full speed, maintaining the same style of avant-gardism and exclusivism when the so called major national subjects are in question.

    Although we found out that he gave his speech to some of his colleagues academicians to read before the assembly, for the majority of those present at the assembly this was nevertheless a bolt from the blue. Maybe that was the reason for rather half-hearted reactions of the Academy members who took the floor at the assembly. They shared Despic's concern, but for most part not his opinion that this was the time to publicly speak on this subject.

    Before some of his acquaintances Despic predicted that his presentation would not arouse a storm among the public. Nevertheless, just to be on the safe side, he hastily left for summer vacation after the assembly so as to get away from the public eye. Naturally, the public reacted to his speech as a first-class provocation. The question asked in the lobbies was to what extent was Dobrica Cosic involved. There has been no answer till today, either from the speaker, nor from Cosic. What is more, Cosic refused to answer the calls of journalists.

    However, the first question everyone asked was: was this authentic Despic's inspiration or was everything "arranged in high places"? There is no clear answer here either. It is indicative that the academicians considered close to the "Serbian court", i.e. the Serbian President Milosevic, did not give their support to Despic. The official media (e.g.the state television) did not mention the assembly, let alone the address. An associate of Milosevic's in an informal conversation advised that the conclusion whether official Belgrade is behind Despic could be drawn from Milosevic's stands presented in an interview to the German weekly "Spiegel". Judging by the interview Despic played on his own. In "Spiegel" Milosevic firmly stated that Kosovo was an inalienable part of Serbia, and that the local Albanians enjoy the greatest possible human and civil rights.

    There are also other indications of reservations regarding Despic's presentation. The academicians Kosta Mihajlovic, Milosevic's advisor, stated that "this was not the time for such proposals" as "there was no sense in creating an Albanian state, ethnically clean and homogenous, at the same time disregarding the fact that there were as many Serbs outside the Yugoslav borders".

    Dusan Mihajlovic, leader of the New Democracy, a coalition partner of socialists in the Serbian government, stated that he did not share the views of the President of the Academy. Moreover, he thought them to be outdated and an expression of a concept according to which relations between states and nations exist only over the walls and borders, and not across open borders, for example. The LC-Movement for Yugoslavia also condemned Despic's move.

    From the reactions of the Serbian opposition parties it could be concluded that they thought Despic had been given a sign from high places. Desimir Tosic, previously Vice-President of the Democratic Party, now a member of the Micunovic' Democratic Center, said precisely that, but also welcomed Despic's ideas. Tosic went even further to make combinations with some details and techniques of possible talks between the Serbs and Albanians on peaceful separation. If the Serbs were to make such a gesture, they would score important points with the international community, in whose eyes they needed to rehabilitate themselves after some grave defeats, stated Tosic. Some, like Borislav Pelevic from Arkan's Party of the Serbian Union harshly condemned Despic's presentation, calling it as riotous and treasonous.

    However, the Serbian political circles in Kosovo reacted much more dramatically. Momcilo Trajkovic and Dusan Ristic, leaders of the Serbian Resistance Movement from Kosovo Polje criticized both the "words of the Academy" and "the silence of the state" considering them to be the two poles of one and the same, irresponsible relation of Serbia towards its integral part. Still, although there is no official confirmation from the Milosevic's cabinet, they are expecting him in Kosovo on June 22 after the letter they have sent last month.

    Some other Serbian political groups in Kosovo also negatively assess the Milosevic-Kinkel agreement on the return of 120 thousand Albanians - asylum seekers and the opening of the American Information Center in Pristina which, according to them, together with Despic's speech created a rather negative context. There are rumours that all that has happened created a psychosis of a new, or better said, last migration of the Serbs from Kosovo, but it is not easy to verify the truthfulness of these rumours.

    Some Belgrade media gave rather envious space to the reactions of the leaders of the Kosovo Albanians. In essence these reactions are rather positive. For the moment the only positive international reaction was the one from the Albanian Embassy in Belgrade. Namely, the Embassy asked the Academy for a copy of Despic's speech, referring to it as a "declaration" in its request.

    (AIM) Radivoj Cveticanin