Surroi: 'Stopping The Trend Of War'

The prospect of a sudden agreement is all but unimaginable and Kosovo Albanians are trying to adjust psychologically and practically to a radical shift from war to peace.

Surroi: 'Stopping The Trend Of War'

The prospect of a sudden agreement is all but unimaginable and Kosovo Albanians are trying to adjust psychologically and practically to a radical shift from war to peace.

Friday, 12 March, 1999

IWPR: Bob Dole thinks this is the best deal the Kosovo Albanians can get. Do you agree?

Surroi: I do, in these particular circumstances. For Pristina, the biggest problem is the sudden impact of peace - stopping the whole trend of war. The Kosova Albanians need to fully demilitarise, so a nascent guerrilla force that has grown out of proportion now has to write itself off. On the political side, the agreement leaves Kosova within an undemocratic environment--trying to build a democratic society within an undemocratic environment.

IWPR: Are you saying simply that it does not give independence?

Surroi: It's not not giving independence, but in the nature of compromise... Whatever solution was found would have to leave some say for Belgrade. It's not a question that the compromise is bad. It is that the side within the compromise is bad.

IWPR: Are you talking about aspects of the political settlement or specifically if this current Belgrade operates those levers?

Surroi: Well, for example, leave all the politics aside and just go to monetary policy. You have a government that because of the nature of its power has been totally irresponsible. Monetary policy has been one of the levers by which it has continued to preserve a communist-run state. Suddenly we are trying to create a Kosovar democratic society with a Belgrade monetary policy. Those two don't go together. It will be a continuous source of conflict, and there will be a disentanglement from the Yugoslav system.

IWPR: So why is signature so difficult? Is it really only a matter of the men with the guns coming down from the hills?

Surroi: That is part of the story. We are talking about a society that has been having a very long conflict. It created its collective mental mechanisms, of defence, an entrenchment that this crisis will go on forever. Suddenly you have the possibility of an immediate peace, something that was totally unheard of in December. The possibility of having 30,000 NATO troops is on the table. It is the most dramatic change that this society can have, and it is understandable, at least to me, that parts if the society are psychologically not ready to get over that immediately. It was obviously not good that the agreement wasn't signed at Rambouillet. But we have had two weeks of testing support. We now have a majority, a very critical majority of support, which is actually willing to engage. The two weeks and this whole creating of a single voice gives the chance of not having splinter groups, of not dividing the society on questions of peace and war.

IWPR: Are there reasons that some wish to keep pushing, risky and dangerous as that might be--holding out for more?

Surroi: I don't think there should be. It's both a tactical and a strategic mistake to continue reopening the agreement. It would go to our benefit to actually sign it today. And I think it will be signed. The KLA has authorised Hashim Thaci to sign, which is a very serious step forward. I would very much like it to happen this week . . .

IWPR: It is within that pause that the question of an actual signature still lingers.

Surroi: The biggest obstacles and doubts have been overcome. It's now a tactical question.

IWPR: Another way to address that is: how much confidence is there in the Western commitment, particularly to pressure Belgrade. Why sign if you aren't confident the West is going to deliver its side of the deal?

Surroi: There has not been a commitment as serious as this one. This is a partnership game, and you have to put a certain degree of confidence beforehand. We cannot invent another West: it's what it is now and we have to deal with it on that basis.

IWPR: How do you envisage the protectorate?

Surroi: We will have a fragile initial nine-month period between the entering into force of the agreement and elections. The most important thing will be establishing the trend, which will be military security and the departure of Serbian troops, confidence-building measures. The trend will also be growth inside Kosova--training for police, preparing for elections, opening up the economy, and basically the ability of people to walk freely around here.

IWPR: In the earliest articles you wrote for IWPR, you spoke, even in those difficult times, about the need to institutionalise and democratise Kosovo Albanian politics. How will that now occur?

Surroi: That is the core of the agreement, and it will have an enormous psychological impact on all organised political life. For the first time, politicians will have to deal with the question of their own state, which is more or less to be built here. How do you deal with it economically, how do you deal with civil liberties, how do you react as somebody who is responsible now to a constituency? They will not be able to put the debate into the high clouds of independence.

IWPR: Will the KLA and the holdout group within it transform?

Surroi: The KLA is heterogeneous by definition as a guerrilla force. Many people inside it are peasants protecting their villages. Many are students who have gone to fight for an ideal. Some of them are former political activists and they can return to politics. We will be seeing a gradual reintegration of the KLA into its original composition, to the roles people played in society. Definitely the thought of self-defence will not be eradicated from here. We have to think creatively how to integrate that basic thought into practical areas: police, military education for those people who think they are soldiers no matter what, and other notions within the context of the agreement.

IWPR: Is there going to be a role for Kosovo Serbs?

Surroi: I think so. There are two advantages for Kosovar Serbs. One will be much higher economic benefits. The intensity of money being pumped in here will create a new dynamic which the Serbs will feel. The second is that they, and other people in a minority, will be part of a mechanism, unique in Europe, for positive discrimination that over-represents them and gives them a strong voice in structuring the new life. It is to the advantage of the Serbs to try to incorporate themselves into this agreement and try to benefit. We will be seeing dramatically shifting attitudes here, and after a year, the cousins from Serbia will actually envy the development in Kosova.

IWPR: In restrospect then, was the non-violent approach championed by Ibrahim Rugova and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) a mistake?

Surroi: No, it was necessary. First, if we had gone to war in 1991-92, we would have seen a much bigger destruction. The peace approach prevented this place from flaring up earlier when it was totally unprepared. Second, it prepared an atmosphere through which we will be opting for an evolutionary not a revolutionary change. Third, it prepared the world to deal with this issue. Ten years ago, nobody would have cared what kind of agreement was set up here as long as you could patch something up quite rapidly. Now, after the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, the world has understood a bit better the dynamic of ethnic conflict, the dynamic especially of this place and the former Yugoslavia in general. And now independence is seen as one of the future options-not only by isolated individuals but also within think tanks and certain foreign ministries.

IWPR: What is the nightmare scenario?

Surroi: The worst outcome would be everyone walking away from the notion of a peace deal. But this not highly likely. In the interim there could be a need to impose peace, one way or another, militarily. But if that happens, it is obviously going to cause many victims, and ultimately we will reach the point we got to at Rambouillet. We will still have to be within that framework.

IWPR: Isn't that just Milosevic's ultimate card?

Surroi: We are close to the stage at which Western intervention is irreversible. The costs of not intervening are much, much higher--not because of Kosova but because of NATO and fundamental issues about the role of the West in the future.

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