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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

    FRI, 05 DEC 1997 10:31:18 GMT

    Political Dosage of Violence in Kosovo

    ARMED CONFLICT OR DIALOGUE?

    "The third incident in the past three days" is most frequently mentioned in reports of journalists from Kosovo and Metohija on the eve of the November "day of the Republic". Are they just incidents or are the recent developments turning into something much more serious and how many more "incidents" are needed and how many more days in a row in order to be treated as the beginning of an armed rebellion? Are the dosed violence and repression getting out of hand of political leaders?

    AIM Belgrade, 28 November, 1997

    These are just a few of the questions imposed on one after the latest armed conflicts of the police and armed Kosovo Albanians. Whether they are terrorists, members of the Liberation Army of Kosovo or "freebooters", it is quite irrelevant in relation to consequences which may result from their conflicts with the police. Indeed, frequent conflicts may cause a spark which will fall further away than expected by those who are creating it and the fire once started could quickly spread all around Kosovo and Metohije, but would not remain within its borders.

    The authorities in Serbia certainly would not, for the sake of probably another unsuccessful presidentional election, further strain relations in order to snatch way the "patriotic" baton from Seselj and risk further escalation of the conflict? Will this be just a warning that the problem of Kosovo must be taken more seriously and with more responsibility?

    These are the two roads the authorities in Serbia and FR Yugoslavia have come up against. Which one they will choose depends on the evaluation what they will gain if they take one, and what if they take the other. The way things stand now, the dilemma refers to what may bring about consolidation of the authorities - straining of relations, that is, betting on instrumentalized nationalism and rapprochement with Seselj's Radicals, or moderation of the hard core stands and readiness for an efficacious dialogue within limits set by the international community.

    It seems that the authorities in Belgrade would rather take the latter road, but whether this latter road, apart from being in the interest of the state, is in the interest of the party and interest of preservation of power, is the matter of evaluation of the very top of the party and state leadership. In fact, it is the question of whether the pro-European, modern faction within the regime will prevail over the hardcore, xenophobic faction which is ready to do anything to protect its own distorted image of national interests.

    So far, Milosevic has manifested resoluteness in using force and verbal readiness for dialogue and cooperativeness with the international community. He is now expected not to allow the force get out of hand and to finally put his money where his mouth is and finally really become cooperative with the "international community" and open an efficacious dialogue with Kosovo Albanians. That would at the same time be a way for him to regain the role of the "peacemaker" and create the image of a man who is an alternative to Seselj and the guarantor of stability in the region.

    Apart from terrorism and students' protests of Kosovo Albanians, the international community is also pointing out to a dialogue, but it is also appealing and demanding that resolution of the problem of Kosovo be initiated, offering normalization of relations and full return into international institutions and organizations, but at the same time threatening with isolation if cooperativeness fails to be manifested. The presence of the NATO in the neighbourhood can also serve as a sign-post towards dialogue.

    The French-German initiative might not essentially be a novelty, as presidential candidate Milutinovic said, but it certainly is a new, who knows which in the row, attempt to call the political protagonists in this space to reason. This initiative does not offer ready-made solutions, but it does provide a broad general framework into which a political compromise can be fitted. This framework can even be changed if a compromise is achieved. It is essential that resolution of problems in Kosovo and Metohija begins; it is not expected that the problem of Kosovo can be solved once and for all.

    Contrary to the regime in Belgrade which is suspected of wishing to consolidate its power by escalation of conflicts, leaders of Kosovo Albanians could use the escalation of the conflict for completely the opposite political goals - strengthening of the secessionist movements but also for corroboration of the argument that joint life is impossible and that independence of Kosovo is the minimum they can accept.

    Contrary to what the international community suggests - right to self-determination within unchanged borders and especially contrary to what the Serbian authorities are ready to do, leaders of Kosovo Albanians interpret and advocate the principle of the right to self-determination in its extremist form as the right to secession.

    Drastic violation of human rights, brutal violence and repression or rather oppression - are one of the reasons which could be accepted in international diplomatic circles but especially in public as justified for favouring radical political demands such as secession. The Albanian leaders in Kosovo know this and use it for creating the image of victims of Serbian repression with unselfish assistance of Serbian authorities.

    The other reason or pretext for radical political demands could be disturbance of regional stability or proof that the existing state framework cannot guarantee stability in the region and that support of a new independent state could enable stability of the region which is considered to be extremely important in the international community.

    Such calculations which rely on dosing of Albanian nationalism and violence are not at all less dangerous than the extremist Serbian ones. Such calculations can very easily get out of hand and bring about escalation of conflicts which ultimately can lead to a new war which would be very difficult to localize.

    The present situation in Kosovo resembles the one in southern Tyrolia in the beginning of the sixties when after escalation of the conflict, initial de-escalation measures were introduced, that is, when Italian minister of internal affairs nominated a parliamentary commission to investigate the problem and submit proposals for its resolution to the government. That is when Italy directly negotiated with the minority in southern Tyrolia for the first time and the "Commission of Nineteen" (11 Italians, 7 southern Tyroleans and 1 Ladine) initiated the process which was completed 31 years later by adoption of the declaration on resolving of the conflict.

    Of course, there are quite different examples from our immediate neighbourhood and very immediate past when the wish to achieve political goals quickly and radically led to war conflicts and suffering. The political leaders should draw a lesson from it.

    Zoran Lutovac

    (AIM)