Women's peace platform for negotiations on the status of Kosovo

According to the research conducted by the Belgrade “Strategic marketing” in July 2006, nearly one third (32%) of the citizens of Serbia of legal age consider that the independence of Kosovo, however undesirable it may seem, is the only realistic solution regarding the status of this province. Last year, 18% of the citizens of Serbia shared this opinion. Only 6% of the citizens opted for the integration of Serbia and Kosovo. Last year, 8% thought so. One in five citizens of Serbia is in favor of the idea of the division of Kosovo, an idea that took precedence with official Belgrade several months ago and that is itself nearly one hundred years old. Such results show that the citizens of Serbia are maturing faster than its leadership and that they are being more realistic. In a research conducted by the international institutions in Kosovo in January 2006, 88% of the Kosovo citizens who participated in the survey thought that the best solution for this territory is independence within its present borders, whereas 8% wish for a union with Albania. Only 9% of the population would be ready to take up arms against the free will of the Kosovo citizens.

Both researches show that the gap between the aspirations of the citizens and the political will expressed at the Vienna negotiations that started on 24th June, is smaller in Kosovo than in Serbia. The break-away of Montenegro from the state community with Serbia has strengthened the Serbian aspirations toward Kosovo. Losing two parts of “one’s territory” within a year would be unbearable from a Greater Serbia point of view. Belgrade deems that the territory of Kosovo ought to compensate the “loss” of Montenegro.

That is at the core of Belgrade’s intransigence at the Vienna talks on the status of Kosovo. Territory is what counts for Belgrade, and not the people. This is the reason why Belgrade seeks as many Serbian communities in Kosovo as it can get, in the hope that they could follow the example of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina in creating a compact Serbian territory, which would develop into a state-building capacity and thus, in a tacit way, obtain the division of Kosovo into the Serbian part and the rest.

The saddest part of all are the divides among the Serbs who live in Kosovo. They are torn between Belgrade, Mitrovica and Prishtina. At the Vienna talks, the Kosovo Serbs mistakenly allowed Belgrade and Serbian refugees from Kosovo, now living in Serbia, who are put forward by Belgrade to speak in their name. The same happened with the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. Mitrovica today is the replica of Pale and Knin 15 years ago.

The Belgrade negotiating team in Vienna has to this day upheld the thesis that the Kosovo Serbs are part of an over-encompassing, omni-Serbian national corpus. Identically, the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia were being told that only the Sava and Drina rivers divided them from their “celestial mother nation”. We saw how that ended. The Serbian illusions were washed away by the blood-stained waters of the Drina, Ibar and Sava. Today, different people are in power in Belgrade, and yet, their reasoning is the same.

Owing to the foresighted policy of Slobodan Milosevic, that did not see any farther than The Hague, the Serbs have become a minority in their own country, be it called Croatia, Bosnia or Kosovo. Nowadays, Belgrade seeks special status and special protection for the Serbs in Kosovo, although it claims that they are not a minority. At the same time, it demands the status of “a constitutional people” for them. According to international standards, “a minority” is made up of at least 15% of the population living in a particular territory. There are not so many Serbs in Kosovo. There are not even half as many of them, which would make them eligible for the status of “a constitutional people”. Belgrade does not care what will happen with the Romany people, the Gorans and the Bosnians, some of whom also found refuge in Serbia in 1999 and wish to go back to Kosovo.

UN Security Council Resolution 1244 in 1999 did not define the final status of Kosovo. The international community wants to solve the status of Kosovo as a pressing matter, until the end of 2006. This will probably take place at the UN Security Council session on 15th November. The functioning of the state institutions and maintaining peace and order in Kosovo has cost the world 2.5 billion dollars per year ever since 1999.

The international community has assumed three starting points in the negotiations: There will be no going back to the situation prior to the NATO intervention, there will be no annexation of Kosovo to another state and there will be no division of Kosovo.

The regime that succeeded Milosevic attempted to get support for the century old variant of dividing Kosovo into a part inhabited by Serbs and another part inhabited by Albanians. The world did not allow this to happen because it would have, once again, meant “ethnic cleansing” that had been at the root and also a consequence of the wars in the area of the former SFRY. In turn, Belgrade offered Prishtina and the world a new formula for Kosovo: “more than autonomy, less than independence”. Now, it has renounced even to “political autonomy” for the Serbs. It will settle merely for their cultural and social autonomy. I think that Belgrade will make no more concessions and that the Kosovo knot will be untangled very soon, with the UN slashing it through.

There are about 130,000 Serbs living in Kosovo today. Belgrade does not allow them to participate in the parliamentary and political life of the province. The only dissonant voice on this matter comes from president Boris Tadic, who called on the Serbs to participate in the latest parliamentary elections in Kosovo. A Serb politician from Kosovo, who voiced the same appeal, was beaten up in 2004 in Belgrade. “The non-Albanians” are granted 20 parliamentary seats in the 120 - member Kosovo parliament, whereas the Serbs get half this number. Not a single seat has been filled. The government of Kosovo consists of eleven ministers and the only Serb minister has left it.

In conclusion, let me say this: there are no rational reasons whatsoever for Kosovo to remain under the jurisdiction of Serbia. There are only the politicians’ motives to retain Kosovo, be it at least until the next elections in Serbia, which are due in 2007.

After Suva Reka, Dubrava, Račko, Velika and Mala Kruša, Izbica, Padalište, Stankovac and secondary graves of Albanians throughout Serbia, there are no moral reasons for that, either.

Our women's platform for peace negotiations on the status of Kosovo, in our opinion, should explicitly state that human rights, and women's rights in particular, refer to the quality of life of individuals that are above territories and boundaries. The right to self-determination, for us women, comprises being in control over our own lives, our bodies and minds; the right to integrity and autonomy (economic, political, moral, emotional, sexual), as civil society activists, as feminists and pacifists, we support the right to self-determination, which comprises a higher degree of freedom and rights for all the citizens. We support the right to self-determination that rejects all kinds of ethnic homogenization and exclusion; we decissively pledge for the separation of the church from the state. The right to self-determination must not jeopardize any other previously acquired right. Common Law that jeopardises women's rights the most must not be restored in the name of preservation of the “national” or “cultural identity”.

- Human rights, and women's rights in particular, are above state sovereignity – all forms of violence against women have to be sanctioned, both in the private and in the public sphere;

- The security of people is above the security of states – human security comprises complete cooperation with The Hague Tribunal, the punishmnet of all individuals who committed war crimes in the area of the former Yugoslavia;

- We place priority on our demand that all those who committed crimes in our name be held accountable, and all the others in turn;

- It is our right and our duty to participate in peace processes and to make an impact on peace negotiations, because as women, we pay the highest price of war, militarism and all forms of violence; we demand from all the relevant instances of the international community to consider women's human rights as a key international issue and to recognize and respect us as subjects of peace.

During the peace negotiations on the status of Kosovo, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 “Women, Peace, Security “ was not respected, while only one woman of ultra-nationalistic orientation, who cannot represent Serbia, let alone its civil society, is part of the Serbian delegation. Furthermore, women's peace initiatives have not been taken into into consideration, in particular the platform of the Women's Peace Coalition consisting of the Women's Network of Kosovo and Women in Black from Serbia. This is very important for us and we will therefore insist that our initiatives be acknowledged by the relevant instances of the international community and by the domestic negotiating teams. Thank you.

Prepared by Tamara Kaliterna
in cooperation with Snezana Tabacki

Struga, August 2006.

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