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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, 30 MAR 1997 22:09:11 GMT

    BALKANIA - TO BE OR NOT TO BE

    AIM Pristina, March 27, 1997

    The idea on the Balkan union of peoples and states represents a relatively new preoccupation of the present Albanian movement. During the last year, in the form of a newspaper poll, it was often present in the Albanian public. But, the Albanian leadership and its frontman, Ibrahim Rugova, always rejected that idea claiming that it was transcended with the disintegration of the SFRY or because it represent a nostalgic remnant of the worker - communist heritage.

    The idea of the union with Kosovo and the Albanians as equal subjects was present in the important Albanian political - legal declarations until the constitution of the FRY, April 1992, i.e. definite disintegration of the SFRY. However, those preoccupations were linked to the possible prospects for re-establishing the SFRY.

    That was more or less the first stage of the idea on union. The second began immediately after that, but in a totally different legal - political context, which was considered to represent the most desirable development for the Kosovo Albanians after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Thus, since such development of the situation was most likely, an atmosphere was created in which every possibility of the joint life of the Albanians and Serbs, even with the equal status of the former (the status of a Republic within the FRY), not to mention as a national minority (with any form of autonomy within Serbia) was out of the question. After so many negative experiences with the Serbs and Serbia, it was not difficult for them to reject all public debates in that sense. Therefore, even rare proposals of a public discussion on these aspects of the problem, as well as individual ideas on a compromise or an optimum solution of the status of Kosovo, as a Republic within the FRY, were unequivocally rejected.

    In that way, with intensive propaganda, the Albanian public was kept apart from the actors it had to face: the Serbs and Serbia. That kind of propaganda is still present, but for some time now is not so dominant as it used to be. Early last year and in a number of public appearances, Adem Demaci openly advocated joint life of the Albanians, Serbs and Montenegrins in an association or confederation which would include Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro as equal state entities.

    According to him, this would be a way to avoid a major Albanian - Serbian, and probably broader, bloodshed on account of the Albanian issue in this part of the Balkans and to observe the requests of the international community for the state borders not to be changed by force, as well as to overcome problems of the historic lagging behind of the Albanians in politically and legally resolving their position and relations with the neighbouring nations. According to Demaci, the Kosovo Albanians would thereby give up their demands for a full state independence, and leave the aspirations, of their union with Albania, to a historic course of the Balkan and European integrations. Demaci recently published the integral project on how the proposed Balkan confederation - Balkania, might look like. The weak point of this, same as many other similar documents, is the method of its implementation. Namely, there is the question which was raised much earlier: why should Serbia and Montenegro accept the idea of a union of states, in other words will the Kosovo Albanians accept it.

    Negative experience with Serbia have persistently deepened aspirations of Kosovo Albanians towards independence. Thus, liberation from the Serbian rule has become theirs "to be or not to be".

    Perhaps, for this reason this compromise would not be so bad for the Albanians as it defines Kosovo outside the direct Serbian rule. In contrast, any solution which would define Kosovo within Serbian boundaries, Albanians would "accept" only in a way in which they "have accepted" the present situation, in other words, as a forcibly imposed solution.

    There is an impression that Demaci's idea on confederation does not enjoy much public support among the Albanians. In a conversation with journalists last year, he said that he realized that he "was in the minority". But he thought that it was better to do something that might prove realistic, than, as he had put it, to insist on unrealistic maximalism and not lift a hand until a possible solution was imposed by others, which for that reason alone, could not be favourable either for the Albanians, or possibly for others. This shows that the idea on the Balkan community is directly linked to his strategy of primarily, self-reliance and moderate demands, but also of radical methods for their implementation.

    By raising the question of a union with other nations, Demaci could not avoid political criticism from all corners. More or less openly, he is practically accused of national treason because he has abandoned the idea on the independent state of Kosovo, i.e. because he is promoting the proposed forms of joint life with Serbs and Montenegrins. On the other hand, in a partially disguised and mostly undercover manner, he is accused of, allegedly, aiming at provoking armed conflicts with the Serbs and Serbia. Considering the wishes of the Albanians, no matter how realistic they might be - to break as soon as possible with the Serbian rule and its recent war horrors - these forms of propaganda coupled with other fabrications, hamper the breakthrough of Demaci's ideas among the Albanian population. It is interesting that in recent months Demaci has become the main target of the official Serbian media within the framework of the usual propaganda directed against the Albanian movement. But, still, Demaci remains an important figure on the Albanian political scene. In Kosovo, no one else would have politically survived such accusations.

    After the publication of the project on the Balkan confederation, some thinks that there could be a schism within the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo (PPK). As it could be noticed, at least up till now, there was nothing to indicate such course of events. The Vice President and party press officer, Bajram Kosumi, said for the AIM: "Demaci's project has not yet been considered in the competent party bodies, but I hope that it will be accepted. We are not using this idea for maneuvering on either internal or external plane. If you carefully read the basic documents of the Albanian movement, you shall see that Demaci's ideas do not depart from the fundamental political - legal orientation of the Kosovo Albanians. We are working on the practical implementation of what we have opted for and are committed to "... said Kosumi in connection with various doubts which have appeared after the publication of Demaci's project. It should be added that late last year Demaci joined and took the helm of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo. Everyone knew of his ideas and no one expected him to give them up, at least not until the Kosovo situation remained on its present course.

    Some analysts think that, perhaps, there is no essential difference between Rugova's advocating the independent and neutral Kosovo, open towards Serbia and Albania, and Demaci's idea on confederation. They make the simplified public presentations and rivalry, but also confrontations within the Albanian movement itself, opposed and irreconcilable. That was also the tone of first reactions from the Information Center of Kosovo, which is close to the Democratic Alliance. Inter alia, the editorial estimates that this project is contrary to all hitherto Albanian activities aimed at wining Kosovo's independence, that it denies and ignores, as it is stated, the democratic order achieved within the Albanian society in Kosovo and calls the leadership of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo to declare its stand in this regard. Indirectly, stands of other Albanian parties, which have until now supported Adem Demaci, is also demanded.

    Thus, Fehmi Agani from the Democratic Alliance thinks that Serbia would prefer more independent Kosovo than confederalization of Montenegro. The Democratic-Christian Party is of the opinion that this is Demaci's personal project which deviates from the orientation of this party which is in favour of independent republic of Kosovo. UNIKOMB thinks that no one, including Demaci, has the right to put the Kosovo Albanians in a joint state with two nations which are hostile towards Albanians.

    At first glance it could be said that the Kosovo Albanians, i.e. their political representatives are behaving as if the solution of Kosovo issue is just around the corner and that the realization of their aspirations and ideas does not depend on others. If it possible to say, the Albanian projects on open borders or the linking of nations and states have more prospects within a broader circle of those interested in such ideas, of which there are already some signs. If such ideas are omnipresent among the Kosovo Albanians and if it is estimated that it is of vital interest for them, how will they manage to persuade the others that inherited and momentary narrow-mindedness and mistrust should be overcome, if they are unable to do that in their own ranks?

    (AIM Pristina) Feim REXHEPI