Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Entities Not Division

Nebojsa Covic's Bosnia-style solution to the Kosovo problem
By IWPR staff

Serbia's deputy prime minister, Nebojsa Covic, has called for the creation of Serbian and Albanian entities in Kosovo, as a step towards a final resolution of the UN-administered province's status.

Speaking at the Military Academy in Belgrade on June 28, Covic, the newly-appointed head of the Yugoslav coordination team for Kosovo, stressed that he was not proposing its partition, but a Bosnia-style model in which the two communties would live in separate, self-governing units.

Covic said his proposal was transitional solution, prior to the whole region's integration into the European Union in around twenty years' time.

The following are the highlights of his speech:

"Because of Slobodan Milosevic and his arrogance, Yugoslavia lost any hope of participating in the search for a resolution to the crisis in Kosovo and Metohija. I believe this loss is temporary, however, and that the opportunity to participate will return if our country implements a series of intelligent political and democratic actions.

The situation in Kosovo and Metohija is far from ideal. The Liberation Army of Kosovo (UCK) has changed its name, uniforms and insignia, but everything else about it remains the same: hatred of the Serbs, secessionist ideas and violent conduct.

The concept of the need for a historical reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians, advocated by us here in Belgrade, has been called dangerous in some Albanian circles!

The Hague tribunal has not yet brought any charges against UCK leaders for their numerous and undeniable crimes in Kosovo.

For the sake of their own safety, the UN Mission in Kosovo and KFOR has been careful not to alienate the Albanians. As a result, exiled Serbs and Roma have not returned to their homes in the province.

I have already declared myself against the partition of Kosovo and Metohija because, in any division, many dissatisfied Albanians would remain outside the Albanian part and many dissatisfied Serbs outside the Serbian part. Instead of alleviating tensions, division would fuel them.

For the sake of order and security, the return of the displaced, the protection of the historical rights of the Serbian state and the ethnic rights of Albanians, I propose instead the formation, along the lines of the Bosnia-Herzegovina model, of two entities in the province - one Serbian and one Albanian - with Kosovo and Metohija remaining one legal, integral whole under the auspices of the UN.

The Albanian entity would be protected by the international community and the Kosovo Protection Corps - the Serbian entity by the Yugoslav army and Serbian police, which is not at all contrary to UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

Of course, the cantonal principle of the internal organisation of Kosovo and Metohija could be adopted if political players in the region find the term "canton" more fitting than the term "entity". Nonetheless, the sum of Albanian cantons would comprise an Albanian entity, and the sum of Serbian cantons would represent a Serbian entity.

The creation of the entities is an efficient transitional solution. This interim move opens up the opportunity for the 20 years of peace required for economic revival and state consolidation to occur before the integration and entry of the whole region of South East Europe into the European Union.

Were all the Albanians from Albania, Yugoslavia, Greece and Macedonia now in the "European home" and, similarly, were all Serbs in the four states also members of the European family, they would lose that unpleasant feeling of being dismembered across the region that they have today. The motives for conflict and isolation would disappear.

Unfortunately, only a well-organised and well-off state may enter the EU, and attaining good organisation and high standards is neither an easy nor speedy job.

Today's Yugoslavia is no longer isolated, suspected of ill will, nor accused of wanting to take what belongs to someone else. Today's Yugoslavia obeys the rules of the game. I would say that these changed circumstances definitively qualify it to have a decisive influence upon its own fate.

No one will resolve Yugoslav problems without Yugoslavia! And, I hasten to add: No one will resolve these problems without a democratic Yugoslavia.

I similarly believe that the problems in Kosovo will not be resolved without the will and consent of the majority Albanian population. Since, at this time, there are no direct talks or negotiations between Serbs and Albanians, all that is left for Yugoslav politicians is dialogue with international mediators who, more than once, provided valuable assistance, particularly in the resolution of the crisis in southern Serbia.

As I see it, a resolution to the Kosovo and Metohija crisis could be implemented in three stages. Firstly, a period of diplomatic lobbying in defence of Serbia's historical right to Kosovo and Metohija; secondly direct negotiations between representatives of Serbs and Albanians; and thirdly, final agreement in the presence of the international officials.

Throughout these three distinctive periods, it will be necessary to work on the establishment of inter-ethnic confidence in the province. Serbs and Albanians have a common enemy: poverty. Isn't poverty something they must both combat? I am convinced that this is the common stand that, with the help of the international community, will be adopted by the leaders of both peoples.

There is nothing in the new policy of Serbia or Yugoslavia that cannot be publicly stated and nothing that would not win the support of the democratic world. We have abandoned the old, problematical goals: the unification of all Serbs and the forging of a new Balkan federation will never again be our obsession. We have cast off all such ideas that are achievable only by military means.

We now have to formulate new goals, to publicly declare our interests and to defend them wisely and convincingly right through to making them a reality. Entry into the European Union, for example, is our goal. Appeasement of the situation in Kosovo and Metohija is our goal. Historical reconciliation with the Albanians is our goal.

None of these goals should alarm our neighbours, and no one in the world should frown because of them. Except, of course, for those militant Albanians still dreaming of an ethnically clean state in Kosovo - without Serbs and without Roma. A Kosovo, in fact, with a padlock on the door.

More IWPR's Global Voices