AIM: start

SUN, 01 APR 2001 02:39:30 GMT

Condemnation and Support

AIM Pristina, March 28, 2001

As if by a strange coincidence, the main political leaders of the Kosovo Albanians signed a declaration against violence of their compatriots in the neighbouring Republic of Macedonia on the first anniversary of NATO intervention against Yugoslav military targets. Leaders of victims, who once saw their salvation from the Serbian aggression in the NATO bombs, have now "condemned the aggression" of their compatriots. Ibrahim Rugova President of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo, Hashim Thaqi - President of the Democratic Party of Kosovo and KLA's former political representative, Ramush Hardinaj one of former commanders of that Army and now President of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, have signed a joint declaration "calling upon the extremist groups in Macedonia to lay down arms and peacefully return to their homes".

High EU officials Javier Solana, Foreign Policy and Security Representative, Chris Paten, Commissioner for Development and Economic Reconstruction and Ane Lindt, Swedish Foreign Minister and EU Chairman-in-Office, were also asked to sign this Declaration. After Macedonia, these three high officials visited Kosovo and on that occasion asked the Albanian leader to clearly and unambiguously distance themselves from those who were attempting to defend their political arguments with bombs and bullets. During the talks which lasted only a few hours, the Albanian leaders reiterated their well-known stand that they were "against violence irrespective of the side resorting to it", but this time the usual platitudes were not enough. European leaders demanded public condemnation of the Albanian groups fighting in Macedonia. The local press called the pressure exerted on the Albanian leaders "horrible". Javier Solana, whom the Albanians consider their great friend because of the role he had played during air strikes against Yugoslavia, used that role as an argument to corner the political leaders of Kosovo. "The friend has come to collect his debt" and therefore did not hesitate from reminding the Albanians of all that the West had done for them. His colleague Chris Paten did not feel uncomfortable mentioning the sum of DM 1,5 billion EU had earmarked for Kosovo which, as he said "will have to be explained to the tax payers of the West European countries, parliamentarians and the media".

The European officials explained that they needed to present such a declaration to the EU Summit in Stockholm, Sweden. The Albanian leaders probably never felt more threatened. But, the European officials were explicit. "Your failure to distance yourself from violence will mean the isolation of Kosovo by the international community". This was, perhaps the first time that the Albanian leaders have truly realised that the extraordinary international support for Kosovo and the Albanians has been undermined. Two Albanian leaders agreed to sign the Declaration, while Ramush Hardinaj postponed his signature for the following day. Nevertheless, the Declaration was signed and the only concession that the Albanian leaders have managed to "win" was an additional sentence which demanded of the Macedonian officials to exercise restraint and use political and democratic ways in the resolution of this problem.

If they "saved Kosovo from international isolation" in the first part of the Declaration, in the second the fought to save "face" before the domestic public. After signing that Declaration, they disappeared from public view leaving a "hot potato" of explaining the plebs the reasons for such an act to their party colleagues.

Armed clashes of the Albanian guerrilla in Macedonia were the first Albanian fights that did not succeed in homogenising all Albanians. If the Albanian officials in Tirana kept repeating their complete distancing from the Albanian guerrilla who call themselves the National Liberation Army, Pristina was much more reserved and blamed the Macedonian Government and its refusal to recognise the Albanian nation. The Kosovo leaders condemned violence, but not only of the Albanian guerrilla fighters. Statements of the Western officials that "developments in Macedonia" were extremely detrimental for Kosovo and threats that that conflict was "burying the Albanian dream of self-government" have not yet broken through a "wall of silence", while on the other hand leaders, whom the local critics blame of being behind events, have already had to face protests of Albanian students expressing their support to the National Liberation Army on the streets of Pristina.

Leaders who never set foot in the Students Campus (except for the time when they were students) have already had to face the reaction which they did not dare oppose or support. If with their statements they wanted to refute the claims that "violence was being exported from Kosovo into Macedonia", it seems that they did not have the answer to a question whether crowds of young men enraged by pictures of killed civilians in Tetovo, would be coming from the other side of the border to fight for "their cause". Be that as it may, they condemned violence and by their signatures distanced themselves from the guerrilla and through the local media placed the thesis that they "have saved Kosovo" accusing the Albanians of acting as a destabilising factor in the Balkans. Their party followers and even some media rushed to explain that there was an "international conspiracy to present the Albanians as such" and assessed that the signing of this declaration was a consequence of the "lack of clear stand of the Albanian leaders in Macedonia and those in Tirana".

It seems that someone found an "appropriate" way of letting everyone know that the protests organised in support of the Albanian guerrilla in Macedonia was not a smart thing to do and that their banner which read "Tirana, Pristina, Tetovo and Presevo are one" were no longer the slogan of the day. Nevertheless, according to the local observers something was "saved". The more ironic Albanians claim that, if nothing else, they have saved the Albanians from narcissoid reasoning that they are "the world's favourites". Presumably, the until-yesterday victims have realised that they were gradually sliding into the position of those who had been bombed because they were convinced that "as a stability factor they could freely sacrifice that stability as much as they want".

According to a Western diplomat in Pristina, this time, however, the unresolved Albanian issue has not proved a sufficient argument for legitimising the attacks of armed groups which call themselves the National Liberation Army (whose Albanian acronym coincides with that of the Kosovo Liberation Army - UCK). You cannot keep repeating that argument in every part populated by the Albanians because each such attempt can only cast a shadow on and harm the original one...

AIM Pristina