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

Kosovo Serbs Provoke Albanian Wrath

Kosovo Albanians are furious with what they regard as the Serbian community's half-hearted commitment to the province's interim government.
By Llazar Semini

Kosovo Albanian leader, Hashim Thaci, has pull his Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, out of the province's joint administration after Serb representatives agreed to rejoin the institution only on a limited basis.


Thaci, the former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, said the PDK had withdrawn from the Interim Administrative Council to "reflect" on the June 29 'Understanding' between the Serb National Council and the UNMIK chief, Bernard Kouchner, which paved the way for the SNC's return to the institution for three months as observers.


The 'Understanding' makes several recommendations to improve the lot of the province's beleaguered Serbian minority.


Kosovo's Albanian leaders have criticised the limited scale of Serb involvement as insincere and have called for full participation. They want the Kosovo Serbs to acknowledge they are part of Kosovo, and to break links with Serbia.


It is as yet unclear what Thaci's PDK wishes to achieve by freezing co-operation with the joint administration. But the UNMIK-SNC agreement has provided a pretext for Albanian politicians to give vent to several complaints against the international administration.


Top of the list appears to be a sense among Albanian politicians that they are still not considered serious players in the post-war decision-making processes.


The UN Security Council's decision to invite only Kosovo Serb representatives to a meeting in New York was seen as clear evidence of this. The invitation was interpreted as a warning to Albanian leaders to get their house in order and quash extremist violence against the Serb minority.


The overall reaction from Albanians in the province was extremely negative. While Hague Tribunal investigators are busy unearthing the remains of Albanian victims of Serbian violence, the impression created by the June 29 'Understanding' among the Albanian population is one of the UN "spoiling the Serbs".


"The international community in Kosovo is making a grave mistake by equalising Belgrade's ethnic cleansing with the individual crimes being committed against Serbs now," said Jakup Krasniqi, a senior figure in the PDK.


Albanians also fear the agreement presents another setback for their independence ambitions.


A month ago, Kouchner hinted his Kosovo co-existence policy was failing and that ethnic enclaves may be the favoured option in the short term. The June 29 agreement allows for the setting up of local government offices in Serb enclaves. Some Albanian leaders see in this a first step towards the division of the province.


"[UN] Resolution 1244 is against segregation and against any form of parallel institutions at any level," said Krasniqi.


UNMIK spokeswoman, Nadia Younes, tried to calm the situation on Monday saying the proposed enclave offices would be UNMIK-led, temporary and not linked with Belgrade. They would operate until the local elections scheduled for next autumn, she said, after which they would provide the basis for municipal government.


Albanian critics, however, point to Mitrovice, Leposavic and Zubin Potok municipalities, where the local authorities are not dependant on UNMIK and continue to have direct links with the Belgrade government.


Thaci's decision to freeze relations with joint administration has highlighted the differences between Kosovo's two principal Albanian political parties - the PDK and Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK.


With the exception of the LDK, all Albanian political parties jumped on Thaci's bandwagon, condemning the June 29 agreement. Only Rugova's party has remained silent on the issue.


PDK officials drew some lurid conclusions, claiming Kouchner had secured the Rugova's "silent approval". Krasniqi called for "clear positioning on this vital national problem," adding the PDK would be seeking to unify the Albanian political response.


In the meantime, a delegation from the European Union, Britain and the United States have met Thaci but failed to secure his party's return to the Interim Council.


Llazar Semini is IWPR's Kosova Project Manager in Pristina.