SPC Serbian Church Delegation meets Archbishop Herman (OCA)
SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
COMMUNIQUE MARCH 31, 2005
Serbian Orthodox Church Delegation meets with Archbishop Herman (OCA)
New York, March 31, 2005
The official delegation of the Serbian Orthodox Church visited the seat of the Orthodox Church in America in Syossete near New York City today. The delegation was received by His Beatitude Archbishop Herman and all his bishops, as a meeting of the assembly of bishops had just concluded.
Bishops Grigorije and Teodosije with Archbishop Herman
During the course of a friendly and sincere meeting with the head of the Orthodox Church in America, Bishop Grigorije explained the purpose and goals of the Serbian Orthodox Church delegation and Bishop Teodosije talked about the problems confronting the Church and its faithful on the territory of Kosovo and Metohija.
Archbishop Herman thanked the Serbian Orthodox Church delegation for its visit, conveying his fraternal greetings to His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle. He underscored that Orthodox Serbs remain in the prayers of his clergy and faithful, and wished the delegation much success in the continuation of its visit to the United States.
During its visit to the seat of the Orthodox Church of America, the Serbian Orthodox Church delegation also met briefly with Bishop Nikolai of Alaska, who is a Serb from Herzegovina by origin.
After luncheon with Archbishop Herman and his bishops, the Serbian Orthodox Church delegation then traveled to Washington, where they will be staying for the next several days.
Secretary of the SPC Delegation
KOSOVO RELATED NEWS
INSTITUTE FOR WAR AND PEACE REPORTING - LONDON
Special Report: Is Kosovo Up to Standard?
Unfinished political business, minority rights concerns and economic stagnation feed Albanian anger at apparent inaction on status talks.
By Stacy Sullivan in Pristina and New (BCR No 549, 01-Apr-05)
This summer, Kosovo faces a critical review in the UN standards process that the Albanian majority hopes will pave the way for talks on independence. But will the province meet the conditions necessary for real negotiations to begin?
Despite some signs of progress, underlying political and economic problems facing Kosovo will make it difficult to satisfy the requirements, and to move out of the state of limbo the protectorate has been in for the last six years, neither ruled by Serbia nor independent from it.
Economic depression coupled with signs of growing radical nationalism and hostility toward the UN administration mean that the current status quo may not be tenable for much longer - yet the signs of incipient crisis do not seem to be reflected in the sluggish approach taken by the international community.
SMOOTH EXIT BY HARADINAJ BELIES SMOULDERING PUBLIC ANGER
Several influential policymakers have suggested that recent developments, most recently the manner in which prime minister Ramush Haradinaj resigned and turned himself in to the Hague tribunal to face a war crimes indictment, prove that Kosovos political institutions have matured sufficiently to allow discussions on independence to begin.
In the weeks preceding the Hagues announcement that Haradinaj was wanted for war crimes, local and international officials feared that the indictment might provoke a violent backlash similar to the disturbances of March 2004, when 19 people were killed 11 Albanians and six Serbs - and thousands displaced from their homes in several days of rioting.
The NATO-led peacekeeping mission, KFOR, reinforced its ranks with two additional battalions of troops in anticipation of unrest, but it never came.
The prime minister was praised for submitting to the war crimes courts summons without a murmur.
In a March 11 article for the London paper The Guardian, former British foreign minister Robin Cook said, Haradinaj has done a greater service to Kosovo by encouraging his people to accept the rule of international law than any action he could have taken by staying in office. As a result, Kosovo may now be nearer to international acceptance of eventual independent status.
But Haradinajs smooth exit belies a grassroots sense of anger and frustration among Kosovars that the international community remains unwilling to confront the issue of status and possible independence.
Add to this a stagnant economy, an international administration perceived as arrogant and out of touch, an intransigent local political leadership - and a similarly stubborn administration in Belgrade - growing radicalism on the university campus and in the villages and a heavily armed populace could yet result in renewed violence, especially if talks to resolve Kosovos status do not get underway as planned.
This is a crunch year for Kosovo as its international mentors set about reviewing how successful it has been in meeting the set of standards the United Nations has laid down as preconditions for talks on final status. Among the most important criteria are the extent to which the rights of Serbs and other minorities are respected, democratic institutions operate, there is a viable economy, and rule of law is followed.
Most experts agree that Kosovo has little chance of meeting the standards set out in a detailed 120-page UN document.
I dont think there is anyone who thinks Kosovo is going to meet the standards, said a United States diplomat involved in the Balkans. Its just not going to happen.
The diplomat said it is not solely the fault of Kosovos political leaders that they would fall short of what was required. Responsibility for running Kosovo is divided between the provisional government and UNMIK, and although the local leadership has not performed as well as hoped, the UN has also failed to live up to its end of the bargain.
TALKS WITH BELGRADE COULD RESUME
Haradinajs departure from the political scene brought a modicum of hope that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina could be re-started.
Until last month, Belgrade refused to meet with Albanian leaders in protest at Haradinajs appointment as prime minister. The former KLA commander had been charged with war crimes in Serbian courts long before the UN indictment was issued.
The day after Haradinaj resigned, Serbias government agreed to meet some of Kosovos leaders to discuss the fate of each others missing persons.
Yet Haradinaj, who by all accounts was a dynamic, hard-working and effective leader, managed to do more to accommodate the Serb minority than any other Albanian politician had done, pushing through a controversial pilot project granting limited autonomy to a Serb-dominated area near Pristina.
The irony of his indictment is that Kosovo has made more progress under him on key standards such as minority rights and condition for the return of Serb refugees than in the previous five years, said Robin Cook.
KOSOVO ADMINISTRATION STILL LAGGING ON ETHNIC RIGHTS
Respect for minority rights is one of the key conditions Kosovo has to meet in order for status talks to take place.
But few would argue that the Albanian leadership has done enough to foster tolerance of Serb and other minorities, to facilitate their return to the province, or to guarantee their safety, let alone make them feel at ease.
Cyrillic street signs have all but disappeared in Kosovo, and the few that remain are often covered in derogatory graffiti. Outside the enclaves, the Serbian language is not heard.
Memorials and statues of soldiers of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, dominate intersections in nearly every town.
In 2004, Albanians in the Kosovo Assembly arranged to have nationalistic murals painted in the foyer, which resulted in a predictable boycott by Serb members of the legislature.
The sports stadium in downtown Pristina is draped with an enormous portrait of Adem Jashari, the man many Albanians view as the chief martyr of their independence struggle. Serbs, however, regard him as a terrorist.
Jasharis home, site of the gruesome massacre that transformed the KLA from an obscure force of rural militants with little popular support into a full-fledged insurgency, has been turned into a museum and virtual shrine. Albanian pupils are taken there on school trips and exposed to propaganda about the Jasharis heroic struggle to free Kosovo from Serb oppression.
There has been little discussion in the Albanian media about abuses committed by the KLA during the war, and little public acknowledgement that Serbs and other minorities have been victimised since the conflict ended.
In a poll published in December by the Kosovo-based Institute for Development Research, RIINVEST, one-third of respondents in Pristina said they opposed the right of refugees to return to Kosovo.
Graffiti proclaiming No return for Serbs is prevalent across the province.
In the absence of high-profile Albanian voices advocating Serb rights, or any serious discussion of Albanian crimes against Serbs, its not surprising that few Serbs have returned to live in Kosovo and that those who remain harbour fears for their safety.
SERBS RETAIN SENSE OF VULNERABILITY
In western Kosovo, Serb enclaves are still guarded by NATO troops and harassment is still commonplace.
Even in the area around Gjilan, where relations are said to be better than elsewhere in the protectorate, in part because the region was spared much of the fighting and destruction, tensions are blatantly apparent.
Serbs and Albanians have separate outdoor markets, with the former allocated a tiny space in an alleyway far from contact with any of Gjilans Albanian population.
There are only about 20 Serbs left in this town, said one disgruntled man standing next to a lone stand of wilted vegetables. The space we get is smaller than the bathroom in my house. But if we went to the Albanian market, wed be beaten up.
An elderly Serb manning the vegetable stand, 78-year-old Velibor Zivkovic just shook his head. I live here in town. I never touched anyone and nobody ever touched me until March , he said.
Zivkovic was at the market when the rioting spread to Gjilan. He was surrounded by a mob and pushed around before he was rescued by his Albanian neighbour, Feti Xhemaili, who sheltered him in his house for a couple of days.
As riots spread through the city, crowds broke the windows of Zivkovics house and kicked in his door. Municipal authorities repaired his windows and got him a new door and although he says he hasnt been bothered since, Zivkovic is clearly uncomfortable.
His son left Kosovo and resettled in Serbia, boarding up his house, which is situated a couple of doors down from Zivkovics. Children passing by on their way to school often pound on his door and yell insults at him. I wish their teachers would tell them not to do this, he said.
A few kilometres outside Gjilan, in the village of Kamenica, relations seem more relaxed. The marketplace is multi-ethnic, and Serbs, Albanians and people from other groups regularly visit each others shops.
At Café Zuca, which is Serb-owned, a group consisting of two Albanian men, a Serb and a Roma, sat drinking beer together during their lunch break from the Arbana mini-market, alternating between Serbian and Albanian.
But even Kamenicas tolerance was shaken during the March riots.
Sinisha Milenkovic, a priest whose Orthodox church was surrounded by an angry crowd, said the police did nothing to help him.
They were on the mobs side, he said. They directed their spotlights on Serb property to show the mob where to go.
LOCAL SERB LEADERS FAIL TO ENGAGE
Serb leaders in Kosovo must also bear some responsibility for the lack of reconciliation.
Belgrade supports parallel structures in the Serb enclaves and provides financial support to Kosovo Serbs, draining them of any incentive to participate in the Pristina government.
The strategy adopted by the Serbs appears to be to opt out of top-tier political processes; this was seen when the community boycotted the October 2004 elections to the Kosovo Assembly.
Serb representatives in the Kosovo government have consistently refused to participate in the working groups established to implement the UN standards. Instead, local Serb authorities have continued to insist on that Kosovo be divided into separate entities, along the lines of those created by the Dayton agreement for Bosnia.
The two sides remain as far apart as they always have been regarding Kosovos future status. According to numerous RIINVEST polls, 85 per cent of Albanians questioned said they favoured an independent Kosovo. The remaining 15 per cent said they preferred unification with Albania. None wanted autonomy within Serbia.
Among Kosovo Serbs, all wanted Kosovo to remain a part of Serbia.
Six years after independence, the snail-like pace of progress towards substantive talks on the legal status of Kosovo is increasingly poorly received on the ground.
Albanians are especially impatient of UNMIK, which they perceive as standing in the way of their independence claims. As they begin to view the international presence as an obstacle rather than saviour, there are fears that some may decide renewed violence is the best way to drive their own agenda forward.
In the last week of March alone, a hand grenade was lobbed at a UN vehicle, an anti-tank mine was found underneath another, there was a blast outside UN headquarters in Pristina, and shots were fired at the UNs satellite dish.
Kai Vittrup, the Danish head of the 3,000-strong UN police force in Kosovo, said he thought the attacks were intended as a warning to the internationals as to what might happen if they do not press ahead with status talks with greater urgency.
More radical elements such as students and war veterans are a particular concern.
Faik Fazliu, president of the Society of War Invalids, an organisation that has been instrumental in demonstrations against Hague indictments of former KLA members, acknowledges that he would like the international community to pull out.
We are grateful for the international assistance, but now they must leave. We want to reach our goals, he told IWPR in a recent interview. Kosovars dont trust UNMIK.
On the ground in Kosovo, UN officials say they can sense the hostility. The Albanians are turning against us. They are fed up and they are really starting to lose their patience with UNMIK, said a German police officer serving with the UN force.
The abundance of weapons available to any would-be insurgent is a major worry. It is estimated that more than 300,000 small arms remain in the hands of Kosovo Albanians. In 2003, the UN launched a month-long disarmament campaign, offering money and an amnesty to anyone who turned in a gun. The plan was to take tens of thousands of arms out of circulation, but only 155 were surrendered.
When UNMIK arrived in 1999 to administer the protectorate, it had a fourfold mandate: to set up a civil administration, build a police force and judiciary, establish democratic institutions and oversee economic reconstruction.
On the last of these issues, progress has been particularly disappointing. Even though Kosovo has experienced positive growth rates typical of post-conflict economies, most of that is attributable to injections of foreign assistance unsustainable in the longer term - rather than domestic production, where the outlook remains gloomy.
The substantial agricultural sector tends to amount to little more than subsistence farming, and there is little sign it will succeed in replacing obsolete technologies and methods to compete in an increasingly tough, internationalised market.
The bulk of private-sector economic activity is focused instead in the service sector, for example cafes and small shops, plus cross-border trading (and a lot of smuggling).
To kickstart the economy, it was generally agreed early on that factories, the bigger farms, mines and other enterprises, most of which were state-owned, needed to be privatised.
But denationalising assets in a place whose very existence is in contention proved difficult. As a result, manufacturing and other industrial-scale activities are moribund.
For 18 months, lawyers argued over the legality of privatisation, with many claiming that the UN had no authority to take possession of Kosovos enterprises since its territorial status was not resolved. The Serbian state, meanwhile, asserted its right to the same assets on the ground that there had been no formal change to its borders.
Eventually, UNMIK created a body to make privatisation happen, the Kosovo Trust Agency, KTA, and delegated oversight of the process to the European Union.
A year and a half after the UN arrived, the KTA finally began work. Responsible for privatising 500 state-owned enterprises with potential debts to the Yugoslav authorities, the KTA had a considerable task in front of it.
It quickly organised a first public auction of several enterprises. Although the properties were not worth much, they did find buyers, mostly well-to-do Albanians in the diaspora who were keen to invest in their homeland.
But each time the KTA found a buyer, Belgrade challenged the sale, claiming that Serbia was the rightful owner. The resulting ownership disputes were referred to a special legal chamber consisting of local and international judges. However, in the two years since the chamber was created, it has only rendered one decision, leaving privatisation more or less at a standstill.
Worse was to come, when a Romanian national who claimed to be the rightful owner of a factory that had been sold off filed a law suit against the KTA in a New York court. Although the case fizzled out, it terrified KTA officials, who feared they might be held personally liable in future lawsuits.
They soon suspended privatisation altogether, claiming that they could not move forward until Kosovos final status was determined.
Eight months later, after numerous legal battles, bickering between the EU and the United States office in Pristina, and allegations of nepotism within the KTA, the process resumed, though still at a snails pace.
The UN could have simply taken control of everything in Kosovo and dealt with it. Instead, they created the KTA and handed it off to the EU. Now the whole process has been hijacked by lawyers and isnt going anywhere, said one disgruntled official at the KTA.
KTAs inability to get state-owned enterprises - or SOEs, as they are known - off its hands has had tremendous ripple affects for the economy a whole. First, the SOEs account for about half of the total real estate in the protectorate, meaning none of it can be developed.
Second, the SOEs include the electricity utilities, which in their current state of near-collapse are unable to maintain a steady electricity supply. Power cuts are almost daily occurrences across virtually the entire territory, creating serious obstructions to business activity.
These practical and legal impediments, taken together, make it well-nigh impossible to attract significant foreign investment.
Florin Krasniqi, an Albanian businessman who runs a construction company in Brooklyn, New York, and is trying to build a multi-million dollar hydroelectric power plant in Decan, is one of the many frustrated investors. It took me two years of navigating the UN bureaucracy to almost get a contract to build the plant, Krasniqi said during an investment conference in New York last year.
POOR PROSPECTS FOR INCOME GENERATION
It is clear that neither the manufacturing capacity of the SOEs, nor subsistence farming or low-intensity service industries, is in a position to soak up a growing labour pool. Kosovos demographics are against it: it has the youngest population in Europe, providing a constant expansion in the available labour. The result is an unemployment rate estimated at nearly 60 per cent, although some of these people are clearly working in the grey economy.
Household incomes are at a sustainable level only thanks to remittances from the far-flung and successful Albanian diaspora.
The lack of employment prospect has a direct contributory effect on the protectorates social and political dynamics.
Economic problems were undoubtedly an aggravating factor in the violence that gripped the province in March 2004.
Father Milenkovic, the priest whose church and home in of Kamenica were damaged by an angry mob, blames the dire economic situation more than intolerance. If the young people who participated in the riots had jobs, they would have remained calm and this wouldnt have happened, he said, as he gave IWPR journalists a tour of his church.
Glogovac, known to the Albanians as Drenas, a mining town situated in Kosovos heartland, not far from the Drenica region where the KLA first took shape, illustrates how profoundly Kosovo has been affected by the economic stagnation.
Before the war, some 2,000 families in the Drenac municipality earned their living from the Feronikili mine just outside town. The town also had a garment factory and a poultry farm.
In the conflict, about 85 per cent of the houses in Drenac were destroyed, as was the mine, the factory and the farm either burned by Serb forces or bombed by NATO.
Most of the homes have since been rebuilt, and in anticipation of the mine and other enterprises being rebuilt, a giant shopping complex called Qendra Zejtare has been erected in the centre of town.
The Feronikili mining complex was put up for auction by the KTA last September, but has yet to be taken over by anyone, so it remains closed.
With no mining or other major concerns operating, the shopping centre has been a flop. Most of the shops are still unoccupied, and the few that are open do not get much custom because prices are too high for the locals. The malls owner was reported to be struggling financially, in part because he had to pay taxes on a building generates little income.
Over the road from the shiny shopping complex, a family of five lives in the squalor of what used to be someones garage, with no electricity, no water supply, and no means to pay for the drugs to treat their sick baby.
The KTA official says that given the economic context, the demands placed on Kosovo are unattainable.
Its an absurd situation, he said. To talk about Albanians having to meet standards like rebuilding churches that were destroyed in the March riots when there is 70 per cent [sic] unemployment, and when they cant vote for the officials in charge of economic development, is absurd.
DIPLOMATIC ENGAGEMENT NEEDED
Experts agree that the only way to avoid another outbreak of violence in the protectorate which would likely be directed against UNMIK is to reinvigorate the lackadaisical diplomacy that has thus far been brought to bear.
It made sense in 1999 to delay the decision about Kosovos future status, but for the past six years, nobody has dared address the question, said an American diplomat who has been involved in Balkans policy for the past decade.
The UN appears unlikely to take the lead role. The new head of UNMIK, Soren Jessen-Petersen, has proved an effective leader, but there are years of inaction to make up.
Proposals to introduce another senior post at the UN itself to oversee Kosovo affairs have stalled repeatedly.
Last month, the Washington Post called on US president George Bush to appoint a special US envoy to catalyse the process. But securing Washingtons attention, let alone engagement, at a time when America is preoccupied with events in Iraq is proving difficult.
US policy makers say they are looking to the EU to take the diplomatic lead in Kosovo.
That may be not be a desirable outcome for Kosovos Albanians, because policymakers in Washington have shown themselves to be more inclined to granting Kosovo independence than their European counterparts, who have resisted even mentioning the word.
In the US, the attitude is that its not fair to hold Kosovo Albanians responsible for things they cant control, said the American diplomat. Basically, we think Kosovo should be waved through to engage in status talks even though its going fall short on the UN standards.
The diplomat, who did not want to be named, added that it was time stop trying to seek Belgrades acquiescence over Kosovo, The fact is, the Serbs are never going to agree to let Kosovo go, so what we need to do is minimise their obstruction.
The Europeans dont see it that way. In Europe, Kosovos independence is far from a forgone conclusion. Nobody will say in Europe that Kosovo will be independent, said an EU representative in Washington, who also asked to remain anonymous.
One thing is clear: the UN, the Americans or the EU have to take the initiative, because if they dont, the task will once again fall to the men with the guns.
Stacy Sullivan is Senior Editor with IWPR, based in New York. IWPR contributor Camilla Algerheim contributed to this report from Kosovo.