YUGOSLAVIA, SERBIA AND KOSOVO HISTORY part III
The question of revision of the constitutional-legal position of Serbs was set anew immediately after the demonstrations in spring 1981. However, that initiative did not find the understanding of the other constituents of the Yugoslav Federation, whose consent was necessary. Redefining the position of the regions had become a condition of survival for the political leadership of Serbia which bore the brunt of the unsatisfied public. At the 18th meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist League of Serbia (December 24 – 26, 1981) it was publicly spoken about the tendency of the “separation of provinces from the Republic as entireties”, the disintegration of Serbia, the necessity of confronting the “beyond the Constitution” independency of Kosovo and Metohija, and the increasingly expressed feeling among the Serbs that it was only they who did not have their constituted state. Attempts to make Serbia “function” as a unique Republic were fruitless. Several years later (November 23 – 24, 1984) the political leadership of Serbia was forced to inform the leadership of the Communist League of Yugoslavia that the solution of the issue of the disintegration of Serbia could not be prolonged any longer. It was estimated that it wasn’t only a question of the separation of the Provinces from Serbia but the process of dismantling Yugoslavia which moved ahead.
Parallel with the unsuccessful efforts of Serbia to redefine its constitutional-legal position, the process of the political, economic and cultural “closing” of Kosovo and its “moving out” from the framework of Yugoslavia was continued without interruption. Struggle for power in the Republics was followed by a parallel process of growing nationalist dissatisfactions and conflicts. In Kosovo and Metohija, this was demonstrated by strengthened pressures of Albanian nationalists against Serbs and Montenegrins in the aim of their emigration. Murders, incendiary, physical attacks, and raping became more frequent. The mobilization of national energies was in accordance with the tendency of creating independent national states. The activity of illegal organizations of groups (“Group of Marxists-Leninists from Kosovo”, “Communist-Marxist-Leninist Party of Albanians in Yugoslavia”…) which gathered Albanians was strengthened to that end. Their ultra left ideological profile changed over time and gained the dogmatism of the extreme political right. The target of new terrorism was the Yugoslav People’s Army, the police, and employees of state institutions. Terror was equally directed towards Albanians who were exposed to economic blackmail, physical molesting, and national “disciplining”. Necessary societal reforms had to wait for some other time.
The crisis in Serbia had several focuses. The failure of the constitutional-legal definition of the Republic stimulated widespread dissatisfaction among the Serbian people. The Kosovo crisis and exodus of Serbs that it caused represented an “ethnic menace” and provoked a Serbian reaction. Leeway for solving the Kosovo problem was narrowed to extreme limits. Frustration about the possible dismantling of Yugoslavia and disappointment in the state for whose genesis and maintenance the Serbs made many sacrifices gave birth to a utopian idea of the Serbian state. Requests for defining the national programs were connected to this. At numerous meetings new “national programs” started to be presented. The feeling of distrust towards other Republics was stated in the frequently mentioned phrase “anti-Serb coalition”.
Under such circumstances, after Slobodan Milošević’s visit to Kosovo Polje on April 24, 1987 the Serbian issue was “opened”. This happened independently of Milošević who was caught in it as party official and transformed him into the “leader of people” in one night. His connection with wide masses of people was established outside of fixed institutions. The inclination that Milošević gained with part of the military leadership, among province party officials, elements of the old regime, guards of the myth of Tito, adherents of the “anti-bureaucratic revolution”, personnel who supported a “firmer course” in solving the existing problems in the relations of the Republic and the provinces, contributed to the defeat of reform forces. Meetings, gatherings, demonstrations, called “happenings of the people”, in 1988 and the spring of 1989, gathered millions of people. The dismissing of the leadership of Kosovo and Metohija on November 17, 1988 was especially dramatic. Massive demonstrations of Albanians culminated with a miners’ strike at and the closing of the Stari trg mine. Media support of Albanian strikers came from Ljubljana (gathering in Cankarjev dom on February 27, 1989), from where a message was almost farcically sent that in Stari trg “AVNOJ’s Yugoslavia” was defended. The reaction of Belgrade was reflected in a call to boycott Slovenian goods in Serbia.
Under the flurry of Serbian nationalist dissatisfaction and fierce pressure of the regime the Kosovo Parliament voted distrust on March 23, 1989. The idea of establishing Republic control over the provinces, which crucially stimulated the homogenization of opinions, could be realized. By constitutional amendments to the Constitution from 1974, made on March 1989, in the limits of Republic jurisdiction Serbia regained sovereignty and statehood on the whole territory of the Republic. The Provinces were deprived of the possibility to veto constitutional changes in Serbia. The amendments were passed in the Parliament of Kosovo under great pressure. The whole event provoked big demonstrations with street riots in which arms were used (22 demonstrators and 2 policemen were killed). The state was forced to introduce extraordinary measures on the territory of Kosovo and Metohija. The army took to the streets in several Kosovo cities in the beginning of February 1990. In conflicts between demonstrators and police 27 Albanians were killed and 54 wounded. Not long before that an affair had broken out about the alleged poisoning of Albanian children which was skillfully used for propagandist purposes. After the withdrawal of Slovenian and Croatian policemen (April 1990), the Police Department of Serbia undertook all works of state and public security in Kosovo and Metohija. The Albanian political leaders used the following months for the massive gathering of compatriots and forming of political parties and organizations. Their political strategy developed in two directions. Not accepting the new reality was used for total exclusion from the legal, political and later educational and economic life of Serbia, the complete neglecting of Serbian organs of authorities and state institutions (on all levels), the forming of a parallel state (with political institutions, school system, social insurance and in the end a machinery of violence). The second direction of work was exhausted in attempts to internationalize the “Kosovo issue”; lobby for the “Albanian matter”; “buy” people from the spheres of politics, diplomacy, media and the economy; offer “good services” to intelligence services of the most influential countries in the world; form a criminal underground (drugs, people trafficking); and become economically powerful enough to finance the expensive project of the secession of Kosovo. The “parallel” state of Albanians gained its basic contours in 1990. Secret parliamentary elections were held in which the Democratic Union of Kosovo won, the “Republic of Kosovo” was proclaimed, and as the president of that “phantom state” Ibrahim Rugova was elected, the so-called “Kačanik Constitution” was proclaimed, and the government and other institutions established. The Kosovo issue was internationalized.
The Constitution of Serbia on September 26, 1990 defined, at least in the normative sense, the territory of the Republic as unique and inalienable. The Provinces gained the form of “territorial autonomies”. The prerogatives of power were returned to the Serbian Parliament and the government. The participation of Provinces in bringing vital decisions was significantly narrowed. The constituent and legislative authority of the Provinces was annulled. Instead of the Constitution, the Bylaws became the highest legal acts of the Provinces. By cited actions, nevertheless, Albanian separatism was not defeated but only removed from state institutions and the public sphere into institutions of a “parallel Albanian state” which functioned beyond the existing positive legislation.
The policy of confrontation with the “international community” was perilously shown at the end of the last decade of the 20th Century and in the example of Kosovo and Metohija. The position that the Province composed an integral part of Serbia and as such represented an “internal matter” that Serbia should solve without interference from abroad with mediators, proved unbearable and erroneous. The “Kosovo issue” grew from a political into an armed conflict in March 1998. Attempts to neutralize Albanian terrorist groups in the area of Drenica resulted in massive armed conflict in the villages of Likošani and Prekazi from March 2 – 5, 1989, in which the terrorist group of Adem Yashari was liquidated. Hence the war for Kosovo started in which, besides Serbs and Albanians, the foreign factor was included from the first moment. In this way the crisis had an international character, which most directly determined its final outcome.
The protégé of the West was the Liberation Army of Kosovo (UCK or Serbian OVK) – a well organized military group with wide support and political impact on the Albanian masses, bases in North Albania, fanatic combat composition having trained at training centers in the West (NATO, the secret services of Western countries, and the USA), and expressive terrorist methods of action. The West by implementing double standards, on the one hand, condemned Serbia permanently because of its “excessive” and “unselected” usage of military force and, on the other hand, stimulated and encouraged the UCK to persist in their intentions. The USA came out with the purpose to “protect the people of Kosovo” from the repression of the “Serbian regime”. Under their influence the OUN Security Council adopted the “Resolution” (No. 1199) in September 1998 in which it expressed “concern because of the intensification of struggles in Kosovo”, turned attention to the “existence” of about 230,000 expelled Albanians, proclaimed FR Yugoslavia as a country that “threatened peace and security in the region” and onto which Chapter VII of the UN Charter could be implemented. The internationalization of the “Kosovo crisis”, which was no longer an “internal issue” but a world problem that endangered “peace and security”, marked at the same time the possibility of military intervention of the West under the pretext of imposing order.
In October 1998 the action of the Serb security forces on liquidating Albanian terrorists was labeled in Washington, New York and London as a “large humanitarian catastrophe”. In the dramatic atmosphere filled with the threat of bombardment, an agreement between Slobodan Milošević and special American envoy for the Balkans Richard Holbrooke was concluded on October 13, 1998, according to which the following were predicted: a noticeable decrease of Serb military effectives in Kosovo and Metohija, the imposition of zone flight control; the establishment of numerous verification missions of the OSCE for supervision of the circumstances on the spot. The Agreement for some time prevented direct confrontation with the NATO Pact, hindered military destruction of the UCK and enabled it to make it through the winter, get armed, dig up tens of kilometers of trenches, and carry out the recruitment of new members. By “means of diplomacy” and with the support of the “international community” in late autumn 1998 and the winter months of 1999 a political solution to the problem was sought. In the prime of these efforts an armed conflict occurred in which 45 persons of Albanian nationality were killed in the village of Račak on January 15, 1999. The Head of the observatory mission, American ambassador William Walker, not accidentally called the events in Račak, before conducting investigation, a “massacre” and “crime against humanity”. Such qualifications initiated requests for a final clash with the “terrifying bestialities” of Serbia.
The UCK had a strategic initiative from the first day. It determined the objectives, time and intensity of conflicts and critically influenced the permanent escalation of violence. From the beginning, relying on and instructed by the West, the UCK provoked the clash in Račak which then “decisively influenced” the course of the USA and NATO policy towards Yugoslavia. Negotiations in the palace of Rambouillet (begun on February 6, 1999) did not result in a peaceful solution to the crisis nor did it solve the future status of Kosovo and Metohija. The Serbian side was ready to accept a high degree of autonomy for Kosovo but did not agree with: the possibility of holding a referendum which would solve the issue of its’ future status; the request that NATO Pact troops enter the Province (28,000 soldiers); especially the position that “NATO personnel, enjoy together with their vehicles, ships, aircraft and equipment free and unlimited passage and unhindered access throughout FR Yugoslavia…”. Undoubtedly one part of the political and military structures of the West even before Rambouillet made the decision on armed intervention in Yugoslavia. Consequently a “paper” appeared in the negotiations (Annex B to the military part of Peace Agreement) about which it was known for sure that it would not be accepted. Rejection of the peace plan “made” room for military intervention.
Air strikes against Yugoslavia started on March 24, 1999 and lasted for 78 days. The operation “Merciful Angel” was justified by “humanitarian reasons”, and was carried out without the consent of the OUN. The air strikes were followed by synchronized actions of the UCK. Under the influence of the armed action of the Yugoslav army and police, and NATO bombardments, around 800,000 Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija evaded the directive to initiate a “humanitarian catastrophe”. And while the air strikes lasted, the public and secret diplomacy strived to find a way out of the crisis. The peace plan was brought to Belgrade by an envoy of Russian president Victor Chernomyrdin and Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. The plan predicted: a retreat of all Yugoslav military, police and paramilitary units from Kosovo within seven days; an international presence personified by NATO in Kosovo with the aim of keeping security for all and the return of refugees; the establishment of OUN provisional administration that would provide “essential autonomy” in Kosovo within the framework of FR Yugoslavia; a political process that would ensure autonomy; the demilitarization of the UCK. The Agreement was accepted by the Serbian authorities on June 3, 1999.
The challenges of the 1990s, among which the crisis in Kosovo and Metohija is distinguished by its severe and dramatic nature moved Serbia from the type of society and civilization standards that it had longed for throughout history.
After the NATO bombardment (March 24, – June 10, 1999) and signing the Military-Technical Agreement in Kumanovo (June 9, 1999), responsibility for the events in Kosovo and Metohija was taken over by forces of the International Mission (KFOR, under the command of the NATO Pact and UMNIK, OUN civil mission). The balance of their “care” of the population of Kosovo and Metohija and building of a multi-ethnic, multicultural and humane society limited to the four year period 1999 – 2003 is as follows: between 230,000 and 250,000 displaced Serbs (two thirds of their former number); around 130,000 Serbs who live in isolated enclaves (ghettoes) without basic human rights (right for life, freedom of movement, right to work, free usage of language…); 6,842 attacks against the Serbs with 1,218 killed, 1,374 wounded and injured and 1,150 kidnapped Serbs. The balance of three-day violence against the Serbs that began on March 17, 2004 was the expulsion of 4,000 Serbs, burning of 420 houses, destruction of 35 monasteries and churches of which some were from the 16th Century, and murder of 24 persons.