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Danas (BG) Interview with Arben Xhaferi

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  • Snezana Lazovic
    www.ex-yupress.org Interview: Arben Xhaferi, president of Macedonian Democratic Party of Albanians We Do Not Want new Vukovar in Macedonia I remain because I
    Message 1 of 1 , May 19, 2002

      Interview: Arben Xhaferi, president of Macedonian
      Democratic Party of Albanians

      We Do Not Want new Vukovar in Macedonia

      I remain because I want to participate in the
      government that can stop a civil war between
      Macedonians and Albanians. If I leave the government,
      I would clearly demonstrate that the deep chasm
      between the two ethnic communities would create
      tension and a total ethnic war

      by Jelena BJELICA

      Danas, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, May 10, 2001

      "If the Serb authorities changed their virtual policy
      and directed it towards the unification of all the
      territories where Serbs live, it would be very easy to
      resolve the Albanian question," Arben Xhaferi,
      president of the Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSh)
      in Macedonia says.

      Educated in Belgrade and a philosopher by vocation,
      Xhaferi worked for years in Pristina as a journalist,
      only to continue his career in Macedonia as a
      politician. Xhaferi, who suffers from Parkinson's
      disease, is advocating humane and moderate views. His
      political party is in a coalition with the ruling
      Democratic Party for Macedonian Unity (VMRO-DPMNE),
      but in the newly created situation, when the
      declaration of the state of war is "hanging in the
      air", this alliance, after several months of tense
      relations, is on a verge of breaking. In a
      conversation with Danas, conducted in Tetovo, Xhaferi
      talks about the situation which resembles the
      beginning of a civil war.

      "I am still sitting in my office, trying to stop a
      civil war or, more precisely, a war between
      Macedonians and Albanians. There is extreme ethnic
      enmity, which has caused tension between the two
      communities. Finally, the only solution is a political
      one, we must open the way for dialogue, so that the
      local authorities can resolve problems through
      negotiations, rather then by fighting."

      DANAS: Is dialog possible if the UCK is shooting every

      XHAFERI: Mistakes in the conduct of the true dialog
      strengthened the UCK. If we had dialog, no one would
      have taken up weapons to achieve his political goals.
      We have a problem, similar to the crisis that took
      place in other parts of Yugoslavia. We must resolve it
      in a civilized manner - through political dialog.

      Why did the negotiations stop?

      Because it is very difficult to negotiate on the basis
      of soft "ethnic" dialog and because people want to
      protect their previous political positions. Now we
      must transform into a modern society and bring
      European standards here. The mentality is old, we want
      it to be new. Divisions in layers create lack of
      understanding. I think that Macedonia must transform
      her system of values and accept a new democratic and
      European system. That transformation can resolve
      ethnic tensions, provide more rights for everyone and
      liberalize the society.

      What are the demands of the Albanian community in

      Obviously, Albanians in Macedonia feel extremely
      marginalized in the society. One third of the
      population of Macedonia participates in the state
      administration by only three percent. This extreme
      marginalization has provoked frustration in the whole
      Albanian community and, then, that community has lost
      rights it had in the previous system. Then they had
      the right to use the Albanian language even in the
      federal parliament, and now they can't even use it in
      small institutions. Also, they've lost the right to
      use their symbols.

      Will you remain in the coalition with the ruling

      I will, because I want to participate in the
      authorities that can stop a civil war between
      Macedonians and Albanians. If I leave the government,
      I will clearly and openly demonstrate that the deep
      chasm between the two ethnic communities will create
      ethnic tension and a total ethnic war.

      My impression is that the relations between your party
      and the rest of the ruling coalition are less than

      There are some indications that the negotiations
      between us and the Macedonian political parties are
      tense, but we are still working because we want to
      keep an open path for hope in Macedonia. It is easy to
      make big gestures, but it is difficult to maintain
      peace. We must work every day, every minute to keep
      the links between the people in Macedonia alive,
      instead of pushing the problem to the brink of war.

      Therefore, the PDSh will definitely stay in the
      coalition government?

      It depends on whether there will be more victims in
      military actions. We cannot stay in this government
      because we do not want to share responsibility for
      civilian victims in the villages. Everything depends
      on practical moves, rather than on ideological
      decisions. If there are too many bad moves, such as
      for example, unacceptable civilian victims, we will
      not be able to wait for six months for a change in the
      constitution. We won't be able to wait for even six

      Therefore, if the conflict escalates, you'll leave the
      coalition government?


      Will the current situation in the future split
      Macedonia into two entities?

      Experiences from Yugoslavia indicate that every ethnic
      conflict ends with that type of division - separation
      of communities, cities, families. Everything started
      with Yugoslavia, but if we work on integration, we can
      stop further separation.

      Would you care to comment on the claims that the
      Albanian people in Kosovo, Macedonia, in the south of
      Serbia, and Albania is working on the creation of
      Greater Albania?

      I've heard that argument many times, but you must
      understand that Albanians did not cause the break up
      of Yugoslavia. We are divided into four or more parts,
      in Montenegro, Kosovo, Presevo and Macedonia. And none
      of these Albanian issues has been resolved. These are
      still open issues, which creates much frustration
      among Albanians. Albanians demand their rights and if
      they are rebuffed, they will try to find a different
      way to fulfill their demands.

      How will you control the situation if you leave your

      We still control Albanian population. Ninety percent
      of them do not want a war, they want a peaceful
      solution. I represent them. If I stop being able to
      control a majority of Albanians in Macedonia I will
      withdraw, because I won't be able to take
      responsibility for their projects.

      You represent a political threat to the radical
      elements - I am referring to Ali Ahmeti, the political
      representative of the UCK. If you withdraw, will that
      be the end of political dialog?

      That is the fate of politicians. We are not working in
      good conditions. I know of threats and challenges, but
      I want to remain within the political framework, to
      continue with negotiations.

      The Macedonian government spokesperson claims that the
      UCK is using civilians as live shields, while you talk
      about victims?

      That is the same type of thinking as in relation to
      Grozni and Vukovar. We do not want another Vukovar in
      Macedonia, we want to find a civilized response to
      threats. It is impossible to fight guerrillas by
      threatening civilians. A professional army must be
      well-trained so that it can fight the rebels. You
      cannot allow them to fight the civilians, because
      civilians are victims in this case.

      The international community, including [U.S. Secretary
      of State] Colin Powell, stated last week that
      guerillas are a terrorist organization. Why is the
      wider Albanian community not exerting stronger
      pressure for further negotiations?

      You seem to imply that the problem is in vocabulary,
      but this is not a semantic problem. We have a chasm
      between our two communities. The question is how to
      resolve the problem. We are offering dialog, and it
      still hasn't started and that is the problem... Not in
      the choice of words.

      What are your specific demands?

      We define our rights in three categories. The first
      category is the unalienable right of Albanians from
      the previous system, the second is democracy and the
      third human rights. At all three levels solutions are
      still lacking. We are trying to create democracy by
      consensus. We do not want to threaten the state unity
      and integrity. We are seeking a mechanism that will
      create equal human rights and will implement decision
      making by consensus. You must take into account the
      problem of the concept of the Macedonian state - it is
      ethnocentric right now. You must look at the heart of
      the problem, and that is how to live together.

      But, isn't it true that Albanians and Macedonians
      lived together until the extremists raised tensions?

      I'd like to correct your formulation. They did not
      live together, but in the same state leading parallel
      lives. We face serious ethnic divisions. Ethnically
      mixed marriages are less than one percent of all
      marriages. There was a lot of tension in the past as
      well. We had a chance to stop violence in the
      nineties. Now the crisis has reached its peak. Ethnic
      divisions in the Balkans are the problem.

      There were claims that other players are also involved
      in this conflict?

      I refuse to discuss conspiracy theories, claims that
      some external enemies are stoking tensions. We have
      our own problems and I want to resolve them. There are
      two principles in the international law - the right to
      freedom and the right to the integrity of the state.
      The first right is important because no one can deny
      the right to freedom, and the second right is of
      technical nature for the protection of the state. We
      must find a solution between those two rights.

      Do you think that that is the basis of the current
      conflict between the two sides?

      Absolutely, but we are the third side of the problem.
      We do not accept armed struggle as a way to resolve
      the problem. We only accept a peaceful solution, which
      will create a healthy state.

      Do you accept the project of the Southeastern Europe
      Stability Pact?

      Above all, there are two issues regarding the
      development of the Balkans - the Serb and Albanian
      issue and after that integration. We cannot integrate
      until we resolve the problem of self-determination of
      nations that live here.

      Currently, there is an international protectorate in
      Kosovo. Could a similar solution work in north-western
      Macedonia as well?

      A protectorate exists because Albanians have a
      problem. Albanians do not cause trouble, they have
      trouble with the Balkans. They are divided into four
      or more parts, have problems with democracy and human
      rights. They are extremely marginalized in the new
      societies and there is a tendency in the region to
      create ethnic states from multi-ethnic societies.
      Albanians, who live in different parts of the region,
      only react to that tendency.

      In 1998 you insisted that the Macedonian Army leave
      the border region of Macedonia, as their presence was
      irritating the Albanians who live there?

      That is a wrong perception, I never insisted on that.
      Also, the Macedonian Army never pulled back from those
      positions, it was there all the time. You cannot
      resolve a problem by force. I think that as far as
      weapons smuggling is concerned, there are big arms
      producers who are involved. For example, the Serb arms
      industry, as well as Russians and Bulgarians and
      others. Albanians do not produce arms - just as they
      do not organize illegal selling of weapons.

      Are you claiming that Albanians are not involved in
      weapons smuggling?

      I think that Kosovo and Macedonian Albanians are not.

      In that case, where does the UCK get its arms?

      Arms come from all over, from the countries that
      produce weapons.

      Are you then saying that some Western countries are
      trying to destabilize this region because of their own

      No, that is another conspiracy theory. I think that
      the break up of the country known as Yugoslavia is the
      problem. The problem is how to regulate mutual
      relations after the break up. This is a historical
      question. We must find a solution and figure out how
      to negotiate after the break up.

      You've stated in an earlier interview that you're
      prepared for a long race, but it seems other wanted to
      sprint. Are you doing anything about these sprinters?

      As I said, I am a marathon runner - a long distance
      runner. I know that after every armed clash we must
      have a dialog. But there are individuals who are
      impatient to change their position. I refuse that
      logic and continue on my path.

      Are you in the position to influence a quick change of
      the constitution?

      Constitutions are not a Bible, some are written by
      smart, some by stupid individuals. We can easily
      change it to protect the lives of our citizens.

      Why don't you insist on the immediate change of the

      Because we must change the mentality of the people -
      there is a lot of xenophobia in this region.

      Will the Stoel's university, which you managed to
      establish with Soros' assistance, and which will, if I
      am not mistaken, start working next year, change that

      A university can change mentality, but cannot resolve
      problems. It can give better cultural and civilized
      background, but only in some near future.

      Then, it seems those sprinters will beat you to the
      finish line?

      Even if they do, that will be an illegal victory!
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