18/06/2002 - Trepça.net  
 
 
 

Return of refugees and the future of Kosova

 
 
 
 
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
  
By Rogelj Peter
 
The international community (IC) is exerting pressure on Albanians to adopt co-operative stance with regard to return of displaced persons (DP), primarily Serbs. It seems that Albanians are in quandary: on the one hand they cannot ignore demands of IC; while on the other hand they see a danger in the return of Serbs for independence of Kosova. The underlying reason for this kind of reasoning lies in conviction that less Serbs in Kosova mean greater chance for independence and vice versa.
 
This kind of reasoning is wrong. In fact, Albanians should adopt a completely different course: they should promote returns spearheading the whole process with the assistance of the internationals. Far from posing a danger for independent Kosova, the process of return is a pre-condition for realisation of Albanian interests. By obstructing the process of return, Albanians would play into hands of Serbs jeopardising their strategic goals. It can be said without exaggeration: the process of return and integration of minorities should be placed in the first place in order of importance for achieving Albanian goals, before economy, education etc.
 
 
The word “return” from the legal point
 
The meaning of the word “return” can be subject to manipulations, therefore it needs to be explained. Return is connected more with (residential) property than with people. As a result of conflict, some people have been forced to abandon their residential property (homes). These people are called displaced people or refugees. However, according to international law and human rights norms by abandoning their property these people have not lost title to this property. They are still rightful owners of the property they have abandoned, however they cannot enjoy their right to dispose of their property. Their property can be damaged, destroyed or used by other people who don’t possess title deeds thus being illegal users of this property.
 
The word “return” means restitution of residential property (residences and pertaining land) to their legal owners. Therefore, “return” does not mean necessarily permanent physical return of displaced persons to their property. Displaced person can alienate this property by sale or exchange for some other property, it’s not necessary to use it. Of course, the authorities are obliged to create proper conditions for all people under their jurisdiction to enjoy their property. With regard to residential property, enjoying property means that people have right to live in their residences in safety and dignity.
  
Therefore, no honest man can be, in principle, against the return (of abandoned property). The right to dispose of one’s property is one of the fundamental human rights and in fact, the whole theory of human rights have been developed in western civilisation from the need for protection of private property. From the moral and legal point of view, denying the right of return to displaced persons means being in favour of theft. From political point of view, those who oppose return of Serbs are collaborators of Belgrade’s plan for partition of Kosova.
  
Therefore, there should be no dilemma whether Albanian leadership and people should be in favour of return or not. The Kosova’s government set itself as a goal creating a society based along the lines of Western societies. And in the West, the right to private property is undisputable. Therefore, it’s an obligation of Kosova’s government and institutions to give full support the process of return of private residential property to their legal owners, regardless of their ethnic origin, as well as creation of conditions (tolerance, reconciliation, coexistence) that owners can enjoy their property in peace (i.e. to live in their original homes).
 
   
Colonisation as opposed to return from the legal point
 
It’s well known that Belgrade tries to abuse return for the new colonisation of Kosova. Instead of return to their property (i.e. original homes), Belgrade plans to settle displaced people elsewhere in 24 “groups of settlements” (the plan is available at http://www.serbia.sr.gov.yu/coordination_centre/index.html). Like return to one’s home is a basic human right, equally colonisation is a sheer racism and blatant example of discrimination and violation of human rights. From the moral and legal point of view, colonisation is unacceptable since it means distribution free of charge of public property (land or money) only to particular group of people. However, public property must be accessible to all people on equal terms. Giving public property free of charge to some persons, only because of their ethnic origin means racism and violation of human rights of other people being excluded from free distribution of resources in public property. If public-owned resources are to be transferred to private property free of charge (which is illogical from economic point of view) this must be done without discrimination on ethnic and any other grounds.
 
Belgrade can perform its anti-Albanian plan of colonisation only by free of charge privatisation of public-owned Kosova’s land to Serbs (thus discriminating non-Serbs) or/and by using public money of all taxpayers (including Albanians from Presheva Valley) for buying private land and construction of homes for Serb colonists (“returnees”). Public money can be used only for reconstruction of damaged homes or new constructions where homes are destroyed but only on land owned by owner of destroyed home.
  
Belgrade justifies its policy of colonisation on the grounds that there is no safety for Serbs in Albanian-majority settlements, therefore new ethnic pure Serb settlements have to be constructed. This justification cannot be valid. Serbs fearing to return to their homes can freely sell their properties once they repossess them. With this money they can buy land in other part of Kosova when they feel secure. It is not that Serbs may not live in ethnic homogenous settlements. Giving land free of charge or building homes with taxpayers’ money for particular ethnic group is something unacceptable and unfair to other groups. It is understandable why is Belgrade against such voluntary migrations. Because it is highly unlikely that Kosova’s Serb after having sold their property will buy some property in other part of Kosova. It’s almost for certain that he will realise purchase in Serbia.
  
In sum, the word “return” means repossession of abandoned private property by rightful owner. It is a realisation of human right to use and dispose of one’s property. On the other hand, “colonisation” means free of charge and discriminatory transfer of public property to private property to particular group of people. It is a discrimination in favour of people receiving public property and discrimination against people being excluded from the distribution scheme. And Albanians should make clear that like they are going to be in favour of return, they would equally inexorably fight colonisation.
The overall process of return should be based on the following principles:
  • Displaced persons whose (real) property is occupied by other persons (squatters) should be reinstated to their property, while squatters should be evicted.
  • Destroyed houses can be re-constructed only on land owned by displaced persons.
  • Where land owned by displaced persons is already covered by the new buildings, the municipal authorities are obliged to supply free of charge displaced persons with the land of equal size from public-owned land holdings in the same settlement or to offer them some other form of fair compensation.
In this regard, Albanians should prevent intention of Belgrade (presented in the afore-mentined plan) to construct 93 houses in Osojan village. These houses will be apparently built for Serbs who never lived there. The easiest way to prevent colonisation is to deny connection to electric network for every building having been constructed without building permit
 
 
RETURN OF REFUGEES AS A PRE-CONDITION FOR REALISATION OF STRATEGIC ALBANIAN GOALS IN THE REGION
 
Impact of return on the final status of Kosova
 
There are three possible solutions of Kosova’s status:
  • Independent Kosova
  • Non-independent Kosova
  • Independence for one part of Kosova and Belgrade’s rule for another part (partition)
Albanians are too much preoccupied with the independence that they are overlooking the fact that independent Kosova does not mean necessarily Kosova in existing borders. It is very possible that Kosova will be independent but on the reduced territory, which, of course, is not in Albanian interest.
 
In fact, it’s not secret that Belgrade itself has already realised that there are meagre chances to rule the whole Kosova again. The proposals of Belgrade for colonisation can be viewed as a preparing ground for partition of Kosova. Many Serbian leaders are privately advocating partition as a way for solution of Kosova’s conflict. That, of course, mean that these Serbs are not against independence of Kosova in itself – they are against independent Kosova in existing borders but they would not oppose to independent Kosova in reduced territory. That doesn’t mean that Serb threat is over. According to some published maps (like the one of the leading Serb strategist for Kosova’s issues Bratislava Krstic which is outlined at http://www.cdsp.neu.edu/info/students/marko/vreme/vreme96.html), Serbs will be satisfied with at least of 30% of Kosova’s territory, including Albanian-majority areas. They want to carry out population transfer by expelling Albanians from this part of Kosova and settling Serbs from all parts of Kosova there. This would resemble the situation in Cyprus, where Turks as minority had claimed partition and Turkey finally made this a reality in 1974 by occupying 37% of the island, although Turks accounted for only 18% of population.
 
That means that the battle for independent Kosova has probably won while the question of Kosova’s borders is still open. It can be predicted with great likelihood that this will be an issue in the future international conference on the Kosova’s status: the border of the new state of Kosova – will these borders be the same as the current borders or they will be changed and if so, how they will look like.
 
The idea for partition of Kosova could sound attractive for international diplomats since it smacks of compromise between competing Albanian and Serb goals. Albanians would get independent state of Kosova, however they would have to concede on territorial reduction. Serbs would have to accept independent Kosova, however they would be appeased by retaining a part of Kosova. The partition of Kosova would be easily effected since it already exists on the ground – it only needs to be formalised.  
 
Albanians must be aware that it will be much harder to defend integrity of Kosova than to achieve independence of Kosova. IC has not particular obligations to protect integrity of Kosova since by giving it independence it would also not protected integrity of Serbia/Yugoslavia. Therefore, in the next period the main assignment for Albanians will be to defend territorial integrity of Kosova, not to achieve independence. And they will have to put a lot of effort to achieve that goal.
  
Winning international support for integrity of Kosova is of crucial importance for the liberation of Albanians in Eastern Kosova, return of Albanians in their homes in northern Mitrovica and prevention of displacement of those Albanians living on the territories ceded to Serbia in the event of further reduction of Kosova’s territory. At least, partition would confirm the present status quo – Serbia would retain northern Kosova and perhaps some territories in the east of Kosova (around Ranllug).
 
They are wrong those Albanians thinking that IC will give them Eastern Kosova as a compensation for northern Kosova. 1244 Resolution refers only to Kosova and international decision will be made only for the territory of Kosova. Presheva valley is outside of the international decision-making process, it is regarded as internal affair of Serbia. Possible exchange of Eastern Kosova for northern Kosova will result as a part of deal between Kosova and Serbia and it will be not imposed by the internationals. The pre-condition for conclusion of such a deal is securing (territorial) integrity of Kosova. Only by winning international support for independent Kosova in the present borders, Serbia will be forced to give up Presheva valley (a part of it which is situated east of the main A-10 highway and railroad) if they want to retain northern Kosova. Otherwise, Serbia will certainly try to retain northern Kosova without giving Eastern Kosova.
  
If IC will not impose territorial swap between northern Kosova and Eastern Kosova, how then territorial integrity of Kosova will be secured? The answer lies in the Steiner’s formula – mutual dependence of integration (i.e. integrity of Kosova) and multiethnicity (i.e. respect of minority (Serb) rights). Mr Steiner said lately that partition is not an option – however, he immediately said that Kosova would be multiethnic. The battle for integrity of Kosova (as a pre-condition for the freedom for still enslaved Albanians in Eastern Kosova) will be won or lost at the field of respect of minority (especially Serbs’) rights. Failure of Albanians to uphold rights of minorities will have besides territorial reduction of Kosova and continuation of enslavement of Albanians in Eastern Kosova also other negative long-term consequences for Albanians: difficulties in accessing European integrations and negative impact for the rights of Albanians in Macedonia.
  
In this regard, it can be said that return of Serbs does not endanger independence of Kosova but on the contrary it is a condition for integrity of Kosova and realisation of other Albanian designs in the region. For this reason, Albanians must wholeheartedly support return and integration of all displaced persons. The programme of the Kosova’s government listed eight points – integration of minorities in Kosova’s society (without mentioning the return of displaced persons!) was the last one. In fact, it should have been on the first place. Not for the sake of minorities, but for the sake of Albanians. All other points of the Government’s programme are on a more or less direct way conditional on this point. Namely, IC will have the last say on the fate of Kosova – and the internationals have made clear that the future status of Kosova (whether being the whole or partitioned) will depend on respect of rights of minorities by Albanians. And the way the status of Kosova will be resolved will have profound impact on the position of all Albanians in the region, not only Kosovars.
 
 
The political connection between the process of return and integrity of Kosova
 
NATO intervened in Kosova in 1999 to protect human rights (of Albanian people) in  Kosova. By this intervention and placing Kosova under international protectorate the West made clear that human rights are more important than territorial integrity, in this case the integrity of Serbia/Yugoslavia.
  
The same principle stands also for Kosova. It is not possible to claim integrity of Kosova and to treat various communities in Kosova in a different way. Equal treatment of all Kosovar citizens by Albanian-dominated Kosova’s institutions is a pre-condition for claiming territorial integrity of Kosova. By behaving as if Kosova belongs only to Albanians, Albanians will get a partitioned, reduced and internationally isolated Kosova.
   
From the legal point of view it’s untenable to claim integrity of Kosova while denying Serbs (and other minorities, like Roma) equal rights as Albanians. If Serbs will not be able to enjoy all their rights (and the right to repossess and freely use abandoned private property is a very important human right) on Albanian-dominated territory, a separate territory for them will be created in a part of Kosova where Serbs will be able to enjoy their rights. That means partition of Kosova.
  
This is obvious in the case of Mitrovica. Last week, one NATO diplomat said about Mitrovica: “If Albanians are serious in striving for united Mitrovica, they will have to enable the return of Serbs. By accepting Serb returnees in their midst, Albanians will prove that unification of Mitrovica is not a code for expulsion of Serbs from northern Mitrovica. And no-one will accept unification of Mitrovica if it leads to expulsion of Serbs.” Last year, former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark said about Mitrovica: “The way to claim Mitrovica is to demonstrate hospitality to the Serbs, and that's the hard truth. I know that's a hard truth. I know there are things that are wrong there but that's what has to be done.” Albanians can denounce IC for tolerating parallel structures in northern Kosova.
  
However, they haven’t done their part of obligations (respect of human rights of Serbs) in order that IC can engage seriously to dismantle these parallel structures. Indeed, the situation in Mitrovica is in contravention of 1244 Resolution and Constitutional Framework, which foresee united Kosova and international officials are breaking both documents by tolerating division of Kosova. However, the Constitutional Framework also provides for that “Kosova’s institutions have to take all necessary measures to enable safe return of refugees and displaced persons to Kosova and to fully co-operate with UNHCR and other international and non-governmental organisations in relation to return of refugees and displaced persons”.
  
Albanians will easier demand from the internationals to fulfil their obligations regarding securing integrity of Kosova, when Kosova’s institutions (central and local) deliver their part of responsibilities regarding the return of refugees and displaced persons. And it’s for sure that Mitrovica will stay divided as long as there is no fundamental change in Albanian attitude towards the return of Serbs.
 
  
Demographic connection between the process return and integrity of Kosova
 
There are concerns in Kosova that return of Serbs will lead to creation of new enclaves thus threatening integrity of Kosova. These fears are mostly unfounded. Parallel structures can be established only in Serb-majority settlements. These parallel structures can imperil territorial integrity of Kosova on the long term only in Serb-majority settlements where there is no barrier in the form of geography or (better) Albanian settlement between them and states hostile to Kosova, especially Serbia. However, an overwhelming majority (93.500 out of about 100.000) displaced Serbs come from Albanian-majority settlements, especially towns. And return of these Serbs, can in no way pose a threat to Kosova’s integrity.
 
Here are the villages, where repossession of property would re-establish Serb majority considering that 30% of displaced persons currently living in collective centres in Serbia have expressed they don’t want to return according to the survey made this year by Coordination Centre for Kosovo-Metohija (CCK). 
  
Table 1: Kosova’s settlements with at least 58% of Serbs before the war, now emptied by them
   

village

municipality

pre-war number of Serbs  

Bellopole   Peja   790  
Zgermle Peja   110  
Berkova   Klina   260  
Opraske   Istog 180  
Brestovik   Peja   520
Cereverhe   Peja   200  
Lipe Peja   incl.in Brestovik  
Levoshe   Peja 150  
Sige Peja 220  
Dojnice   Prizren   100
Dvoran Suhareke   230
Skenderaj i Ulet   Prizren 160  
Novak   Prizren   350  
Smac   Prizren 230  
Biqa Klina   320  
Drenovciq   Klina   130  
Paljeva Istog   incl.in Osojane
Polane Istog   100  
Tucep   Istog   240  
Sredske Prizren   260  
Stajkoc   Prizren   incl.in Sredska
Zivinjan Prizren incl.in Sredska  
Mirash i Ri   Ferizaj   60  
Srpskibabush Ferizaj   290  
In total, there are 24 villages where repossession of property would (maybe) re-establish Serb local majority (in addition there are 6 mixed villages where Serb local majority was under 58%). These villages numbered about 5.000 Serbs and they are scattered on nine locations (seven groups and two individual villages). Two of these groups are not completely surrounded by Albanian settlements, however they are separated by high impassable mountain ranges from Montenegro (villages around Brestovik) and Macedonia (villages around Sredske). It’s obvious from the above table that return of displaced Serbs doesn’t present a threat to integrity of Kosova.
  
The opposite is true. The return of displaced Serbs would contribute to integrity of Kosova and strengthen Albanian position. The main Serb argument for partition of Kosova is that Serbs cannot live in a territory under Albanian rule thus being entitled to their own territory. Looking from this point of view, every Serb living among Albanians refutes this claim. More Serbs live in Albanian-majority areas, the weaker is argument for territorial separation and partition of Kosova. For this reason, it is in Albanian interest that substantial numbers of Serbs live in Albanian-majority areas to refute Serb claims that separation is necessary for existence of Serbs in Kosova. Since there are currently too few Serbs in Albanian-majority settlements it is in Albanian interest that the numbers of Serbs in their midst increase through the process of return.
  
  
RETURN AND DEMOGRAPHICS OF KOSOVA
 
Impact of return of Serbs on ethnic geography of Kosova
  
From the viewpoint of preserving territorial integrity of Kosova it would be the most favourable geographic disposition if Serbs were evenly arranged in the the whole Kosova, that is if proportion of Serbs in every settlement would reflect average Kosova-wide proportion of 11%. Concentration of Serbs is not in Albanian interest. However, if concentration takes place it would be the best if all points of Serb concentration were surrounded by Albanian-majority settlements thus being separated from the main Serb areas. And it’s better to have concentration in towns than in villages, since having majority in villages is more important in terms of control of land in some country.
   
The real situation is different from this ideal one. And there were major changes in ethnic geography after the conflict. Here is the disposition of Serbs in settlements in Kosova before and after the war.
   
Table 2: Change of ethnic profile of Kosova’s settlements  
 
municipality   number of settlements

inhabited by Serbs

more than 97% Serbs   from 50% to 97% Serbs Serb minority without Serbs
    1991 2002 1991 2002 1991 2002 1991 2002 1991 2002
Pristina 49 22   11   5   5   3   2   14 4   27   38
Decan   41   20 0 0 0   0   0   20 0 21 41
Gjakova   89   31 0 0 0 0 0 31   0   58   89  
Glogoc   35 1 0   0   0   0   0   1   0   34   35  
Gjilan   58   24   16   10   10   3   2   11 4 34   42  
Dragash 38   1   0   0   0   0   0   1 0   37   38  
Istog   56   44 2   5   1   2   0   37   1   12   54
Kacanik   42   9   0   0   0   0   0   9   0   33   42  
Klina 60   36 0   3 0   0   0 33   0   24   60  
Kamenica   78   43   38 28   28   6 4   9 6   35   40
Fushe Kosova   18   15   5 3   3   2   1 10   1   3   13
Leposavic 71 68   68   67   68   1   0   0   0   3   3
Lipjan   69   31   12   6   6   4 3   21   3 38   57
Malisheva   45   6   0   0   0   1   0   5   0   39 45
Novoberda   11   11   9 6   6 2   1   3 2   0   2  
Obiliq   21   13   5   0   0   3   3   10 2   8   16  
Rahovec   37   10   2   1   1   0   0   9   1   27   35  
Peja   82   53   1 7   1   1   0   45   0   29   81  
Podujeva   79   42   1   1   1   0   0 41 0   37   78  
Prizren   80   25   5   6 1   2   0   17   4   55   75  
Skenderaj   51   9   2   0   0   1   1   8   1   42   49  
Suharreka   46   13   0   0   0   1   0 12   0   33   46  
Shtime   23   7   1   0   0   0   0   7   1   16   22  
Shterpce   16   12   12   7   9   5   3   0   0   4   4  
Mitrovica 50   10 3   0 1   2 1   8   1   40   47  
Ferizaj   51   34   0   1   0   3   0 30 0   17 51  
Viti   43   22   6   3   3   1   0 18 3   21   37  
Vushtrri   67   33   6   3   4   1   0 29   2   34 61       
Zubin Potok   62   61   61   60 61   1   0 0   0   1   1  
Zvecan   35   32   32   31 32 1 0   0 0   3 3  
Kosova 1503 738 298 253 241 46   21 439   36   765   1205
Zvecan   32   32   32   31 32   1   0   0   0   3   3  
Leposavic 68   68   68   67   68 1   0   0   0   3   3  
Zubin Potok 61   61   61   60 61 1   0   0   0   1   1  
"Albanian Kosova"   1342 577   137 95   80 43 21 439   36   758 1198
        
The biggest change is disappearance of Serbs from 440 settlements in Kosova. 19 of them were pure (more than 97%) and 11 majority-Serb settlements. In 5 settlements Serb-majority or plurality became a minority (Fushe Kosova, Viti, Lipjan, Nente Jugoviq, Novoberda). 4 settlements in “Albanian part” became pure Serb (Priluzha in Vushtrri and three villages in Shterpce). There’s obvious tendency towards concentration of Serbs in their majority settlements and ethnic homogenisation of these settlements by reduction of the number of Albanians living there (the most striking example is northern Mitrovica).
 
This tendency towards concentration is even more obvious if we look at the distribution of Serb population in Kosova’s settlements.
   
Table 3: Change of distribution of Serbs in Kosova’s settlements  
 
municipality   Serbs and Montenegrins Serb majority settlements   Serb minority settlements   % living as a local majority
estimate1991 1991   left   stayed 1991 left   stayed 1991 2002  
Kamenica 12850 10500 850 9900 2350   1250 1100 81,7 90,0
Skenderaj   820   250 70 180   570 440   140 30,5 56,3
Kacanik 250   0   0   0   250 250 0   0,0     
Rahovec 4250 1080 460   620   3170 2690 480   25,4   56,4  
Decan   800   0   0   0   800   800 0   0,0   
Gjakova 3250 0   0   0   3250 3250 0   0,0   
Fushe Kosova   9510 9000 5700 3300 510 510   0 94,6 100,0
Podujeva   1450   30   0   30   1420   1420    2,1 100,0
Malisheva   640 250 250   0 390 390 0   39,1   
Klina   5350 1470 1470   0 3880 3880 0   27,5     
Istog   7300   1400 1070   330   5900   5900   0   19,2   100,0
Prizren 11500 1370   1330 40   10130   9950 180 11,9   18,2  
Obiliq   5950   2630 600 2120 3320   2540 780 44,2   73,1  
Gjilan   19560   11050   400   11600 8510   7250   1260 56,5   90,2  
Vushtrri   5800   2580 0   2980   3220 3060   160   44,5   94,9
Pristina   31200   8870 270   9000   22330 21400 930   28,4 90,6  
Peja   14920 3040   2040   1040   11880 11860 20 20,4 98,1
Mitrovica-south 3600 760   310   450   2840   2840 0   21,1   100,0  
Suharreka 3110 220   220   0   2890   2890 0   7,1     
Shtime   1000   0   0   0   1000   980   20   0,0 0,0  
Lipjan 10000 8260   2120   6250   1740   1450   290   82,6   95,6  
Ferizaj   8700   1050   1050 0   7650 7650   0   12,1     
Shterpce   8160 8160   0   9410 0   0   0   100,0   100,0  
Viti   7200   4170   1830 2750 3030   2450   550   57,9   83,3  
Novoberda   2680 2360   1060   1300   320   240 80   88,1   94,2
Dragash   70   0   0   0   70 70 0   0,0     
Glogoc 40   0   0   0   40   40 0   0,0     
"Albanian Kosova"   179960 78500 21100 61300 101460 95450   5990 43,6   91,1
  
Mitrovica-north 7300   0   0   15800 7300   0   0   0,0   100,0
Leposavic 14400 14400   0   16000   0   0   0   100,0   100,0  
Zvecan   7890   7890   0   9000   0 0 0 100,0   100,0  
Zubin Potok   6330   6330   0   7000 0 0 0 100,0   100,0  
"Serbian Kosova" 35920   28620   0   47800 7300 0   0   100,0 100,0
  
Kosova   215880 107120   21100   109100 108760 95450 5990 49,4 94,8
   
While the overall number of Serbs living in Kosova has fallen for more than 100.000 to about 115.000, a geographic redistribution of them has also taken place. The proportion of Serbs living in settlements where they constitute a majority increased from 49,4% to 94,8%. Even in those mixed settlements many live in monoethnic pockets, like in Rahovec, Pristina etc. 
   
From the aspect of preserving territorial integrity of Kosova change in settlement’s pattern (concentration in Serb majority settlements and homogenisation of these settlements) are not favourable. On the one hand, there are more Serbs living in northern part adjacent to Serbia. On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of Serbs are now living in monoethnic settlements as opposed to the situation before the conflict. While 440 settlements remained without a single Serb, and their numbers declined sharply in tens of settlements there are settlements where the number of Serbs increased.
  
The most striking example is northern part of Mitrovica where the number of Serbs has swollen from 7.300 to 15.800, but their number increased also in some enclaves. For example, there are more Serbs living in Ulpiana now than before the war, since many Serbs from Pristina moved there.
 
This geographic redistribution of Serbs is definitely against Albanian interest of preserving integrity of Kosova. It’s in Albanian interest that Serbs are dispersed in as many places as possible forming a local minority wherever possible. Concentration of Serbs plays in hands of those advocating partition of Kosova. They can say: disappearance of Serbs from mixed communities is a proof that Serbs cannot live as a minority among Albanians therefore territorial separation is necessary for survival of Serbs in Kosova. As NATO intervened to prevent cleansing Albanians from Kosova, so is now the obligation of IC to endorse partition of Kosova by creating separate Serb territory to prevent cleansing all Serbs from Kosova.
 
The only way to refute this argument is to restore mixed communities in Albanian-majority settlements again. From this point of view, the return of Serbs is in Albanian interest. Every Serb who returns to their former home in Pristina, Prizren and other Albanian-majority area means a victory of undivided Kosova and a defeat for partition of Kosova. Every Serb who lives in peace among Albanian majority makes argument for partition of Kosova weaker. Therefore, far from opposing Serb return, Albanians should welcome all former neighbours who didn’t commit crimes. There would be strategic reason against Serb return if this return restores Serb local majorities in sensitive points, like the border areas or towns. However, this is not the case. In all three towns (Fushe Kosova, Lipjan and Viti) where Albanians “take the lead” in the numbers, this was achieved in a legal way.
 
That means, ethnic transformation in Albanian favour is a result of property transfers from Serbs to Albanians (sale of Serb residences) and return of displaced (dispossessed) Serbs cannot reverse the existing demographic relations. 
  
Belgrade’s plan for “returns” was designed to entrench ethnic segregation to make a case for partition. The aim of the creation of 24 monoethnic “groups of settlements”  instead of return to original homes is to prevent re-establishment of mixed communities. Serb behaviour in Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H) and northern Mitrovica is significant in this regard. In Republika Srpska (RS), Serb authorities discourage displaced Serbs from return to Federation of B-H. They want to have Serbs concentrated in RS, not dispersed throughout Bosnia to easier achieve partition in the future. In Mitrovica, the former mayor and incumbent Prime minister Bajram Rexhepi invited 20 Serb families to return to southern part of the city (in the zone of confidence) promising eviction of squatters and providing security. However, Serb authorities in the north didn’t allow them to return. It’s not difficult to guess why? They want to have as many Serbs as possible concentrated in northern part of the city to occupy Albanian properties, defend usurped possessions and prepare ground for partition.
  
It’s well known that interests of Belgrade and Albanians are opposite. Since the interest of Belgrade is preventing re-establishment of mixed communities in Albanian-majority settlements through return and establishment of monoethnic settlements through colonisation the Albanian interest should be: full support to return for reviving mixed communities and relentless opposition to colonisation for preventing establishment of monoethnic Serb communities.
  
There’s yet another negative impact of post-war movements of population. Namely, partly as a result of exodus of Non-Albanians an excessive concentration of Albanian population in the cities (above all in Pristina) has taken place. While population in the cities increased excessively, the population in many villages decreased. This is against Albanian interests for two reasons. In terms of control of territory thinnly-populated rural population yields more effect than crammed urban population. Especially it’s necessary to have strategically important border areas (for defence of these areas) and mixed settlements (for securing ethnic preponderance) populated as much as possible. For example, it’s better to have Albanian population in three Albanian villages in Leposaviq municipality than in Mitrovica. It’s better to have the border village of Mucibaba and Albanian villages in Karadak region of Eastern Kosova populated, than to have these people in Gjilan.
 
The second reason is that rural population is more fertile than urban population. Urbanisation leads to decrease of birth rate, which is in agreement with the wishes of Serbs and other Albanian adversaries. Of course, urbanisation is natural process resulting from economic development and cannot be avoided. However, the the pace of urbanisation of Albanian population in Kosova in the last three year was unnatural, since it is in a large part a result of illegal takeover of vacant Serb residences in towns by the rural Albanian population. It’s in Albanian interest that at least those newcomers in towns who are occupying foreign property go back to the villages. This interest is in accordance with another Albanian interest that concentration of Serbs in some enclaves and in the north should be diluted by their dispersed return to pre-war residences.   
 
  
Impact of return on Kosova’s demographics
 
There are manipulations with the number of potential returnees. It’s understandable why Serbs inflate the number of displaced persons and potential returnees. However, it’s less understandable why international agencies like UNHCR (UN High Commission For Refugees) take Belgrade’s figures for granted.
 
According to UNHCR there were 202.243 displaced persons from Kosova in Serbia, 29.658 in Montenegro and 3.368 in Macedonia as of 1 January 2002. By ethnicity the figures look as follows: 176.805 Serbs and Montenegrins, about 31.000 Roma, around 9.500 Muslims, 1.700 Egyptians, 1.600 Albanians and 14.500 Non-declared and others. These figures differ markedly from the last census carried out by Belgrade’s authorities in 1991. According to this census, ethnic breakdown of Kosova and its municipalities was as follows:
 
Table 4: Ethnic composition of Kosova and its municipalities:  
 
  Population 1991 Albanians %   Serbs   %   Roma   %   Muslims % others %  
Pristina   199654 154990   77,6 30805 15,4   6706 3,4   3427   1,7   3726 1,9
Fushe Kosova   35570 20142 56,6 9478   26,6   3473   9,8   1678 4,7   799   2,2  
Obiliq   31627   20971 66,3 5911 18,7   3956 12,5   347   1,1   442   1,4
Novoberda 4611   1845   40,0 2680   58,1 47   1,0 11   0,2 28   0,6
Decan 49000 47669   97,3 791   1,6 174   0,4 248 0,5 118 0,2
Dragash   39435 22802   57,8 70   0,2   0   0,0 16112 40,9 451   1,1  
Gjakova   115097 106868   92,9 3211 2,8   2750   2,4   331 0,3   1937 1,7
Glogoc   53279   53208 99,9   41 0,1 6   0,0 19   0,0   5   0,0  
Gjilan 103675   79357 76,5 19525   18,8 3477 3,4   167   0,2 1149 1,1
Istog 57261   43910   76,7 7270 12,7 1346 2,4 4070 7,1 665   1,2
Kacanik 38010 37368 98,3 243 0,6 307 0,8 75 0,2 17   0,0  
Klina 51051 42543 83,3 5325 10,4   1278 2,5 281 0,6 1624 3,2
Kamenica 52152   38096 73,0 12820 24,6 986 1,9 83   0,2   167 0,3
Mitrovica   104885   82837   79,0   10698 10,2 4851 4,6   5205 5,0 1294 1,2
Zubin Potok   8479 2079 24,5 6326 74,6 0   0,0 20 0,2 54   0,6
Zvecan   10030 1934 19,3   7882 78,6 14   0,1 85 0,8 115 1,1  
Leposaviq 16395 951 5,8   14388   87,8 194   1,2 770   4,7 92   0,6
Lipjan 69451   53730 77,4 9985 14,4 1673 2,4   892   1,3 3171 4,6
Rahovec 65080 60002 92,2 4232 6,5   330 0,5 212 0,3 304   0,5
Peja   127796 96441 75,5 14775 11,6 4442   3,5 9875   7,7 2263   1,8  
Podujeva   92946   91005   97,9   1438 1,5   387 0,4 89   0,1   27   0,0
Prizren 178723 135657   75,9 11371 6,4   4161 2,3 19260 10,8   8274 4,6
Skenderaj 55471 54437 98,1 812 1,5   133 0,2   49   0,1   40 0,1
Suharreka 61304   57924   94,5   3102 5,1   166 0,3 37 0,1 75 0,1
Shtime   23506 21716 92,4   988   4,2   265   1,1 410 1,7 127   0,5  
Ferizaj   113668 100144 88,1 8627 7,6   2068   1,8 1810 1,6 1019   0,9
Shterpce 12712   4300   33,8 8155 64,2 74   0,6 16   0,1   167 1,3  
Viti   57290 45078   78,7 7180   12,5 373   0,7   94 0,2 4565   8,0
Vushtrri   80644 71354 88,5 5791 7,2   2108 2,6   516 0,6   875 1,1
Malisheva 47395 46715 98,6 635   1,3   0   0,0 0   0,0 45 0,1  
Kosova 1956197 1596073   81,6 214555 11,0 45745 2,3   66189 3,4   33635 1,7  
  
Presheva 38943 34992   89,9   3213 8,3 505   1,3 118   0,3   115   0,3
Bujanoc   49238   29588 60,1   14704 29,9 4408 9,0   133 0,3   405   0,8
Medvegja   13368   3832   28,7   9205   68,9   119   0,9   16   0,1   196 1,5
Eastern Kosova 101549 68412   67,4   27122 26,7 5032   5,0 267 0,3   716   0,7  
    
The figure of Albanians is only approximation, because of Albanian boycott. Figures for Serbs include also 20.365 Montenegrins. In the category of “Others” there were 10.833 Turks (the most in Prizren, 7.226), 8.781 Egyptians (mostly in Peja, Klina and Istog), 8.062 Croats (in Viti 4.331 and Lipjan 2.914), 3.457 “Yugoslavs”, etc. Among Muslims are not only Slav-speakers but also many Albanian-speaking (probably mostly Ashkaelia, who wasn’t recognised as a separate group).
 
While the UNHCR’s figures for Non-Serb DP look credible, the figures for Serbs are clearly exaggerated. According to objective estimates (based on last year figures of registered Serbs for elections) there are about 115.000 Serbs still living in Kosova. Even if natural increase augmented the number of Serbs to 225.000 in 1999, the difference is still 110.000. However, in this figure are included also those having sold property since 1999 and those not having own property in Kosova (like military personnel, police and administration coming from Serbia). Also, there were more than 3.000 Serbs included who actually didn’t live in Kosova but abroad yet they have residencies in Kosova. Maybe UNHCR included among Kosova’s DP also Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia having been colonised in Kosova, which is unacceptable. Be that as it may, Albanians should demand explanation from the UNHCR on how it came to the figure of 176.000 displaced Kosova’s Serbs in Serbia and Montenegro.
 
 
Relation between repossession of property and permanent return – experiences from Bosnia-Herzegovina
 
It’s for certain that a large numbers of displaced Serbs won’t return permanently. Namely, repossession of residential property doesn’t mean necessarily permanent use of this property, that is permanent living in Kosova. Many Serbs want to repossess property only to sell it to earn money for permanent existence in Serbia. Experiences from Bosnia in this regard are significant. The process of repossession of property there is not restoring the pre-war ethnic composition, but it is mostly confirming the new ethnic composition resulting from ethnic cleansing. Here are the figures for implementation of property rights and return of displaced persons in Bosnia for the first three months this year:
 
Table 5: Dynamics of returns and repossessions of properties in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the first quarter 2002  

entity  

repossessions of property  

returns of displaced persons

ratio between repossessions and returns  

Federation of B-H   8.122   12.367   1,52
Republika Srpska   5.596 6.264   1,12
Brcko District   554   1.613   2,91  
Bosnia-Herzegovina   14.272 20.244   1,42  
    
    
Considering that average size of the household in B-H was 3,64 persons according to 1991 census it’s clear that implementation of property laws doesn’t result in permanent return of displaced persons to their pre-war properties but to transfer of these properties through sales and exchanges. For example, it’s a common occurrence that Bosniak having repossessed his pre-war home in Banja Luka (capital of Republika Srpska) exchanges it with the home of Serb who repossessed it in Sarajevo. In this way, the process of ethnic homogenisation effected during the war is getting legal ground. This process will undoubtedly have also political consequences for the fate of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
 
This process explains why Serbs from Republika Srpska are intensively implementing property laws by restitution of property rights to legal Non-Serb owners. Serbs first massively drove Non-Serbs out from their territory. A man would expect that they will never allow refugees to come back. But not. They are restituting property rights to displaced Non-Serbs no less intensively than in Federation B-H, considering the amount of all property claims. Serbs have finally realised that by giving back Non-Serbs their property, these persons in most cases simply transfer property to Serbs by sale or exchange. The life for Non-Serbs in RS is difficult.
    
Although there are relatively few security-related incidents, Non-Serbs in RS are facing widespread discrimination. Therefore it’s not surprisingly that a majority of displaced Non-Serbs filed claims for repossession of property only to make money of their property and secure permanent life in Federation B-H. In this way, property remains mostly in hands of Serbs, however Serb ownership has now legal justification. As a result, ethnic structure resulting from ethnic cleansing remains mostly intact. The more important, from the Serb point of view, is that ethnic composition of inhabitants of RS is becoming equal to ethnic composition of owners of residencies in RS. That is of crucial importance for Serb goal – secession of Republika Srpska to Serbia. When the process of restoring property rights will be finished (according to the present dynamics this will happen after two years), the new ethnic composition favourable for Serbs will be legally confirmed. And when this happens, Serbs will much easier defend their secessionist plans before the international community.
 
Bosniaks have different motives for restitution of property rights to Non-Bosniaks in territory under their control. It’s in their interest that as many Serbs (and Croats) as possible return to Bosniak territory. In this way, territorial concentration of Serbs is diluting. It’s in Bosniak interest that Bosnia-Herzegovina remains undivided state. And Bosniaks are aware that this goal will be easier to achieve if all three peoples are dispersed throughout B-H, not concentrated in some parts of the country. This explains why Bosniaks wasn’t expelling other peoples during the war from the territory under their control. And this also explains why Bosniaks show the most willingness to accept Non-Bosniak returnees to their territory. In short, while the Serbs are restoring property rights in RS expecting that returnees will immediately transfer repossessed property to Serbs, the Bosniaks are restoring property rights with the aim that returnees stay permanently in their homes.
 
How can these experiences from Bosnia be applied in Kosova? Kosovar Albanians are in position of both Bosnian Serbs and Bosniaks. On the one hand, their goal is independence of Kosova, which is similar to Serb goal in RS. In this regard, it would be in Albanian interest that displaced Serbs repossess their property only to transfer it to Albanians by sale (but not by exchange!). But, as we said there is a great (about 80%) possibility that at least part of Kosova will become independent. Therefore, the main pre-occupation of Albanians in the next period should not be independence but territorial integrity of Kosova.
  
In this regard, the position of Kosova Albanians is similar to position of Bosniaks in B-H. Like Bosniaks welcome Serb returnees in their midst to dilute territorial concentration of Serbs in RS, equally should Albanians welcome return of displaced Serbs to Albanian-majority areas to undermine arguments for partition of Kosova. For example, there are 8.500 displaced Serbs occupying Albanian residences in northern Mitrovica. These Serbs has come from Pristina, southern Mitrovica, Vushtrri, Istog, Prizren, Peja and other Albanian-majority settlements. From the standpoint of Albanian goal of undivided Kosova it would be far better if these Serbs were living in their original homes than that are occupying Albanian residences thus barring Albanian owners from return and preparing ground for partition of Kosova. Therefore it’s in Albanian interest that these Serbs return. However, they won’t return without being accepted by Albanians. From Mitrovica’s case it’s very easier to conclude that those Albanians who oppose to Serb returns are doing disservice to Albanian interests and they are doing service Belgrade’s agenda of partition of Kosova. Unintentionally, they are collaborators of Belgrade’s regime.
 
The issue of return/repossession of property won’t be possible to avoid. They are very wrong those thinking that by exodus of a part of Serbs in 1999, they get rid of these Serbs for good. Indeed, these Serbs are not physically present in Kosova, but their title deeds to property in Kosova are still valid by IC. IC has enforced the civilised norm that property rights are not extinct by involuntary displacement of some person. This is a basic difference from the old habit that defeat in the battle means deprivation of home and property. Many in the Balkans, including in Kosova, are not aware of this fundamental change enforced by IC. And all displaced  persons having title deeds are still regarded by IC as citizens of Kosova, regardless whether they are physically present in Kosova or not. Therefore, changes in ethnic composition of inhabitants resulted from involuntary displacement are not valid by IC which will have the last say on the future of Kosova. Only valid are those movements of population (and resulting demographic changes) which are accompanied by transfer of property rights.
 
Therefore, if Albanians want that IC takes into account the smallest possible number of Kosova’s Serbs at deciding on Kosova’s status it is necessary to enable repossession of property for displaced Serbs. Only when displaced Serbs retake their property, they will be able to legally transfer it to Albanians by sale. And only those Kosova’s Serbs who will transfer their residential title deeds to Albanians will be erased from the list of Kosova’s citizens elligible to decide on Kosova’s future.
 
Therefore, those Albanians who oppose restitution of property to displaced Serbs (i.e. return of Serbs) are working against Albanian interests since they keep the valid number of Kosova’s Serbs (by IC) higher as it would be the case if Serbs could repossess their property. Of course, it’s not necessary that all Serbs sell their property after repossessing it. They can sell it, however Albanians should not encourage or even force them to do so. As it was said, it’s not only a total number of Serbs in Kosova what matters. For refuting Belgrade’s claims for partition it is useful to have Serbs dispersed throughout Kosova. It’s better to have higher number of Serbs in Kosova with considerable proportion of them living in Albanian-majority areas thus proving that common life is possible and that partition is not necessary than to have smaller number of Serbs in Kosova but all of them concentrated in Serb-majority areas.  
  
It’s for certain that a large numbers of displaced Serbs (probably a majority of them ) don’t want to return permanently. There are three categories of displaced Serbs:
  • those having their own residences in Serbia (about 20%)
  • those inhabiting with their relatives or renting homes
  • those placed in collective centres (12.900)
This year a survey was made among Serbs placed in collective centres about their willingness for return. 70-75% of them expressed the will to return provided that certain conditions (security, services) are fulfilled. However, the interest for return is the biggest in this group since they are living in miserable conditions. It can be expected that few of those owning residences will return. Those inhabiting with their relatives are probably somewhere in the midst, regarding willingness for return.
 
In sum, from demographic aspect it’s in the interest of Albanians that all Serbs have opportunity to repossess their property and return to their homes. Sales of repossessed property will create Kosova’s ethnic map altered in Albanian favour legally valid for the internationals. Permanent returns of those Serbs not selling their property will diminish geographic concentration of Serbs, making in this way defence of Kosova’s territorial integrity and opposition to partition easier.
  
In fact, Serbs are those who should fear the restitution of residential property rights. As we saw earlier, restitution of residential property rights cannot restore Serb majority except in some tiny villages separated from the rest of Serb-held territory. As such, Serbs won’t gain any political profit (in terms of control of territory) by repossession of property, even if all displaced Serbs permanently return. On the other hand, repossession of property by displaced Albanians in northern Mitrovica (coupled with eviction of illegal Serb users of this property) will re-establish Albanian majority in northern Mitrovica thus enabling unification of the city.
 
 
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RETURN AND INTEGRATION PROCESS
 
Obligations of Kosova’s leaders and institutions in the field of return and integration
 
Recently, a deputy chief of SRSG Charles Brayshaw said that Kosova was at the crossroad: one path leads to partition and international isolation; other path leads to integration within Kosova and integration into European mainstream. He means the following: attitude of Kosova’s institutions towards property rights will determine Kosova’s future. Will these institutions respect right on private property of Kosova’s citizens? That means, will these institutions enable repossession of property by rightful owners? Will these institutions enable enjoyment of private property in safety and dignity without discrimination? This is a precondition for the rule of law. Given the legacy of past, this won’t be easy and it doesn’t belongs only in domain of law. Even the best laws are not sufficient to create legal and personal security. Proper social conditions (coexistence and tolerance) needs also to be created. It’s easier to compile legal framework fair for all, than to create tolerant environment where these laws can be fully implemented. However, IC deems Kosova’s leaders and opinion-makers responsible to send message of tolerance and reconciliation to the people.
  
In this regard, the attitude of IC towards Kosova’s leaders is significant. It can be noticed that the internationals prefer to make business with the Prime minister Rexhepi, although the President Rugova has more important position. For example, Mr Rexhepi has been invited to Washington to meet Secretary of State Collin Powell; U.S. Assistant of Secretary of State For Euro-Asian Affairs Elisabeth Jones met Mr Rexhepi but not Mr Rugova; U.S. Envoy for Balkans James Holmes met last week Mr Rexhepi ignoring Mr Rugova etc. By ignoring Mr Rugova the internationals are sending a message to him that he is falling short of their expectations. It’s not difficult to guess why.
 
Mr Rugova as the most influential leader is not carrying positive message of tolerance to the people. Mr Rexhepi has made numerous gestures in this direction: he declared on many occasions full support to return of all displaced persons and their integration in Kosova’s society; he visited Serb villages and religious sites etc. In other words, he wants to be Prime Minister in service to all inhabitants of Kosova, not only to Albanians. Mr Rugova has not done anything similar. He incessantly repeats that Kosova is already independent (it is not), it only needs formal recognition although the internationals have said in many occasions that final status is something that will be discussed later. In the next period, Albanian leaders should do their best that decision on final status will be favourable for Albanian people. And the internationals have also said that this decision will largely depend on the position of minorities in Kosova. Therefore it is an obligation of all leaders and opinion-makers to focus their attention and efforts in this direction.
 
It’s known that entire Serb strategy in Kosova is based on expectation that Albanians won’t respect human rights of minorities. Nebojsa Covic said for BBC on 24 September last year: “Provisional, mainly ethnic Albanian, administration created after elections will have a limited period for testing its behaviour towards minorities: will it protect the minorities or will it continue with discrimination and ethnic cleansing? We expect that the latter will happen, therefore it's necessary that Serbs and other non-Albanians through the parallel institutions linked to Serbia get enough security and confidence.” Rada Trajkovic said for Belgrade's daily Danas on the 6 October: “In the next three years (the term of the recently elected Assembly, my remark) democratic government in Belgrade will consolidate and became a real partner of the international community.
 
Albanian leaders won't stop killings, driving out and harassment of Serbs and world will realise they are unable for self-rule.” When Mr Rexhepi visited Serb Patriarchy in Peja on Orthodox Easter this year, Mr Covic dismissed this act as a “political marketing.” It’s not difficult to guess why he was unhappy. By tolerant attitude towards Serbs, Albanians are destroying Belgrade’s agenda in Kosova. Covic’s reaction is a sign for Albanians how they should act – they need to undertake as many similar acts of “political marketing” as possible. Mr Covic would like to see incidents and attacks on Serbs, since only in such circumstances his plans in Kosova can succeed.
  
In this regard, it is an excellent proposal of General Ceku that KPC provides protection for Serb monastery of Devic. This proposal should be extended in a way that KPC provides protection also for the Serb returnees. For example, in the villages of Sredske (Prizren) and Brestovik (Peja) KPC should take responsibility for security of Serb returnees. In this way, several goals are achieved at one stroke:
  • The strong message would be sent to Albanians how they should behave towards the Serbs. Unfair treatment of Serbs at the hands of Albanians plays into hands of Belgrade. Therefore, all Albanians who behave in this way are collaborators of Belgrade and enemies of Albanian cause.
  • Reputation of KPC (and all other Albanians) in the eyes of the internationals would increase. This is important because many internationals have doubts about this organisation.
  • This is an opportunity that KPC takes over more tasks, becoming more important organisation. Protection of vulnerable minorities would be first step towards assuming law-enforcement responsibilities.
  • This is useful to prevent Serb provocations. Since it is in the interest of Belgrade that Kosova’s Serbs are being attacked, it is very possible that Belgrade itself would orchestrate such attacks for gaining political advantage. Of course, Albanians will be considered perpetrators for every such act. But if Albanians themselves take responsibility for protection of vulnerable minorities such accusation would be groundless.
  • This is useful to prevent Serb provocations. Since it is in the interest of Belgrade that Kosova’s Serbs are being attacked, it is very possible that Belgrade itself would orchestrate such attacks for gaining political advantage. Of course, Albanians will be considered perpetrators for every such act. But if Albanians themselves take responsibility for protection of vulnerable minorities such accusation would be groundless.
  • Albanian position will be stronger, since Serbs will be put into dependence upon Albanians at the field of security.  This would be major step towards integration of Serbs in Kosova’s society and huge deal to plans for partition of Kosova.
  • An additional pressure will be exerted on Serbs in Mitrovica to do the same. Albanians can afford to protect the Serb returnees since Serb returns wouldn’t put integrity of Kosova at stake. On the other hand, bridge watchers in Mitrovica cannot protect Albanian returnees since return of Albanians in northern Mitrovica would bring Serb control of northern Mitrovica an end. In this way, Serb won’t be able anymore to justify the existence of this formation.
In short, since Belgrade wants Albanians to be aggressive towards Serbs, Albanians should adopt completely different course – they should exert restraint towards the Serbs. This is not easy, but this is the way to harm the plans of Belgrade in Kosova and to promote the Albanian interests in Kosova and the region. And Albanian leaders and institutions should give the example to the people how they should behave.
 
Timing of return in connection to deciding on Kosova’s final status
 
Most Albanians (notably President Rugova) want Kosova’s final status to be resolved as soon as possible. They are mistaken. Raising the issue of Kosova’s status now would almost certainly result in partition of Kosova. Kosova would be independent, yet without northern and probably eastern part. This is not in Albanian interest, so it’s necessary to postpone deciding on Kosova’s status. However, Albanian position in the future will depend on their attitude towards minorities. Therefore, postponement of deciding on Kosova’s status won’t make Albanian position stronger without essential improvement of the situation of minorities.
 
On the other hand, Serbs want postponement of deciding on Kosova’s status. Reasons for that are as follows: they expect that Albanian political standing in the world will be weaker owing to violation of minority rights and opposition to Serb return while Serbian international position will be stronger. And secondly, they want to create facts on the ground through “decentralisation“ (that is by legalisation of parallel structures) and colonisation of these areas masked by return.
 
The final assessment whether Albanian treatment of minorities is adequate or not will be made by the international community. For now, this assessment is negative. According to the last Report on the situation of minorities in Kosova made by OSCE and UNHCR and published on 22 May this year, only position of Turks meets international human rights norms. Position of other minorities has improved, however it still falls short of expectation of IC. In such situation, Albanians wouldn’t be able to defend territorial integrity of Kosova. Since Serbs have not satisfactory living conditions in Albanian-majority areas, the separate territory for Serbs would be established in part of Kosova where Serbs would be able to enjoy all their rights. That means partition. It’s true that position of Albanians in northern Mitrovica is also harshly criticised in this Report.
 
However, Albanians are those who advocate integrity of Kosova thus being expected to do their best to respect rights of minorities. Serbs would be satisfied with a part of Kosova, so IC doesn’t set them so high demands regarding minority rights. 
  
Therefore, the main task of Kosova’s institutions in the next period is to create proper living conditions for minorities compatible with international human rights standards to eliminate mistreatment of minorities as the reason for territorial separation as a safeguard against discrimination and other human rights violations. Besides assessment of the situation on the ground, the last Report on the situation of minorities includes also many recommendations what has to be done to improve the situation. These recommendations should be implemented (in co-operation with the internationals) wherever possible. Only in this way, integrity of Kosova can be defended. To this end, it’s necessary that Albanians in institutions (from leaders to ordinary clerks) treat all inhabitants of Kosova as equals. Kosova’s institutions should serve all Kosovars in impartial way. Every discrimination in favour of Albanians will ultimately make harm to Albanians. Every discrimination against others (in particular Serbs) will benefit Belgrade. Namely, discrimination makes out a case for partition and creation of territory where Serbs won’t be subject to discrimination.
 
In this regard, it would be great if the separate Kosovar identity, distinct from Albanian identity, would be created. A part of this peculiar Kosovar identity should be also symbols, like flag, anthem etc. Albanians have their national flag, however this cannot be the flag of Kosova.
 
It’s in utmost Albanian interest that all property claims of displaced persons are resolved before deciding on Kosova’s status. The burden of unresolved property claims (that is, non-return of displaced persons) would seriously undermine Albanian position in negotiations on the final status making opposition to partition of Kosova untenable. Therefore, the process of return/repossession of property should be speed-up. The sooner this process is concluded, the better for Albanians. International position of Albanians will be much stronger when title to Kosova’s residential (and other) properties is clarified. This should be a priority for the provisional institutions of self-government.
 
How can this be achieved? In the first place, Kosova’s assembly should adopt a resolution as an expression of political will (similar to the recent resolution on territorial integrity of Kosova) that would uphold the universal right of all Kosova’s citizens to repossess and free dispose of their abandoned property. On the other hand, this resolution should also reject all attempts for manipulation with the return process for colonisation purposes. All people who are illegally using foreign property should be given a clear message that they will have to abandon it. This resolution should also commit all Kosova’s institutions at all levels (central and municipal) to adopt all necessary measures in co-operation with UNMIK to facilitate repossession of all abandoned property by the 10 June 2004 (fifth anniversary of 1244 Resolution) and to create conditions (safety, education, health, public services, etc.) that returnees can enjoy their property, that is live in Kosova.
Such expression of political will of Kosova’s assembly is necessary from many reasons:
  • It would send a clear message to the international community (IC) that Albanians are committed to respect of human right to use and dispose of one’s private property. In this way, international position of Albanians would be strengthened.  
      
  • It would send a message to the whole Kosova Albanian people, that return is a national policy, therefore opposition to it presents an anti-national act.  
      
  • It would prevent Belgrade from capitalising the issue of return for its political goals. When Kosova’s Assembly adopts a resolution in favour of returns with concrete time frame for the repossession of property, Belgrade will not be able anymore to accuse Albanians of obstruction of return of refugees. 
       
Why 10 June 2004 should be set as a deadline for resolution of all property claims and winding up the process of return? There are several reasons for that.
  
In the first place, it’s necessary to conclude the process of return which is necessary to clarify property title in Kosova before IC starts to discuss final status of Kosova. It’s possible (although not necessary) that final status of Kosova will be decided in 2004. There are several reasons for that:
  • Bush Administration made statements that it wants to withdraw from the Balkans in this term of office that expires in 20 January 2005. Before it withdraws U.S. troops from the Balkans, the issue of Kosova’s status must be resolved.
      
  • The mandate of the new High Representative of the international community in Bosnia-Herzegovina Paddie Ashdown will expire in 27 May 2004. It was said that he is the last international administrator in Bosnia. According to the current dynamics of resolving property claims, all displaced persons will repossess their property in the next two years. When this happens, the most important provision of Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), Annex 7 about the return of refugees will be realised.  Since Bosnia won’t be self-sustaining state, a revision of DPA will be necessary. It’s very possible that revision of DPA and resolution of the Kosova’s status will take place at the same time.
      
  • Even if Kosova’s status won’t be resolved in 2004 it is necessary to have all residential property claims resolved  by then to prevent Belgrade’s manipulations with the number of Kosova’s Serbs. It is known that nearly 99.000 people eligible to vote in the last year’s Kosova’s elections were registered in Serbia, which is clearly an inflated figure, given the official figures from the 1991 census. Therefore it’s necessary to prevent the registration of displaced persons in Serbia (and Montenegro) for the 2004 general elections which are due to be held in the autumn that year. This can be done only if the process of return is finished by the summer that year, when there will be a voters’ registration. When all holders of title deeds for residential property will repossess their properties, there will be no displaced persons anymore and thus no need for voters’ registration outside Kosova and no possibility for manipulations with the number of Kosova’s Serbs. Only restitution of property will make possible to determine the new ethnic map of Kosova, which will be recognised by IC. It’s for certain that this new map will be different from those from the last census in 1991 in Albanian favour. The process of repossession of property won’t increase the number of Serbs significantly, since it is clear that majority of displaced Serbs only want to sell their property not to permanently use it. 
      
  • Expeditious resolution of property claims is necessary for unification of Mitrovica. Continuation of status quo in Mitrovica increases the danger that the city will be permanently divided. However, there will be no progress towards unification of the city, as long as the real process of return starts in Albanian-majority areas. It’s necessary that significant number of Serbs return to Pristina and other cities without problems to refute pretext for division of Mitrovica – insecurity of Serbs. When a significant number of Serbs repossess their property (and use it) in Albanian-majority areas, two messages will be sent: first, displaced Serbs currently living in Mitrovica can return to their original residences in other parts of Kosova; and secondly, return of Albanians in their homes in northern Mitrovica won’t endanger existence of Serbs living there. When the significant numbers of Serbs return to Albanian-majority areas, Albanians will be able to exert pressure on IC to exert pressure on Belgrade to make possible the return of Albanians there. It would be good if significant number of Serbs would return to Albanian-majority cities by May next year. This is important since FRY wants to join the NATO’s Partnership For Peace Programme. According to the schedule, this will not happen before the June next year. And this offers a leverage for NATO to condition FRY’s membership on dismantling parallel structures in Mitrovica. However, NATO won’t exert any pressure on FRY without the progress in the return of Serbs in other parts of Kosova. Therefore, it’s in Albanian interest that return of Serbs to urban areas gains momentum as soon as possible. They are wrong those Albanians who condition return of Serbs with the simultaneous return of Albanians in northern Mitrovica. Such approach will make division in Mitrovica permanent. Unlike Serbs, Albanians are interested for united Kosova, therefore they must take the first step regarding return.
Is the 10 June 2004 realistic deadline for resolution of all property claims?
 
From the technical aspect (that means processing of property claims, eviction of squatters and reinstatement of rightful owners to their properties) it is realistic and achievable. Here we can compare the situation in Kosova with those in Bosnia-Herzegovina (available at http://www.ohr.int/plip/).
  
As of 30 April 2002 there were 255.237 claims for restitution of property in B-H (141.139 in Federation B-H, 107.222 in RS and 6.876 in Brcko District). Out of them, 125.272 cases have been already resolved and homes returned to their owners (75.934 in Federation, 45.798 in RS and 3.540 in Brcko) which means that 129.965 cases are still pending. These claims refer only to residences occupied by squatters, not to destroyed or vacant residences. During 2001 there were nearly 49.000 repossessions of property, but only about 74.000 minority returns. In the first quarter of this year there were 14.272 repossessions and 20.272 permanent returns. Figures about the implementation of property laws in Bosnia are available at:  
  
In Kosova, the overall caseload of potential claims for restitution of property is much smaller than in Bosnia.
   
Table 6: Estimate of potential residential property claims by Non-Albanian displaced persons (DP)  
 
municipality   Serbs     RAE   Muslims   potential claims   population   inhabitants/ claim  
  DP households   DP households   DP   households      
Kamenica 1400 378 700 117       495   52152   105,3  
Skenderaj   510   138 200 33         171 55471   324,1  
Kacanik   250   68   250 42        109   38010   348,0  
Rahovec   3150   851 200   33       885 65080 73,6  
Decan 800   216 150   25        241 49000   203,1  
Gjakova   3250   878   700 117      995   115097   115,7  
Fushe Kosova   3360 908   3000 500       1408 35570   25,3
Podujeva   1420   384   200 33         417   92946 222,8
Malisheva   640   173   0   0         173   47395 274,0
Klina 5350 1446 2000 333            1779 51051   28,7  
Istog   6880   1859   1000 167   3000 667   2693   57261 21,3
Prizren 11180 3022 1000   167 2500 556 3744   178723   47,7  
Obiliq   2440 659   4000 667           1326   31627   23,8  
Gjilan   3940 1065 3500 583        1648 103675   62,9  
Vushtrri   3060 827   3200 533       1360   80644   59,3  
Pristina 17920 4843   7000 1167 1000 222 6232   199654   32,0  
Peja   13860 3746 4000   667 4500   1000   5413   127796 23,6
Mitrovica-south 3400   919   5000   833   1500 333   2086   84000   40,3  
Suharreka   3110 841 100 17       857 61304   71,5  
Shtime   980 265 400   67         332   23506   70,9  
Lipjan 2070   559 800   133         693   69451 100,2  
Ferizaj   8700 2351 1500   250       2601   113668 43,7
Shterpce                                         
Viti   3280   886 200   33        920 57290 62,3  
Novoberda   1300   351 0   0            351   4611 13,1
Dragash   70   19 0 0 200 44 63   39435   622,4  
Glogoc 40   11 0   0         11   53279   4928,3
"Albanian Kosova" 102360 27665 39100 6517   12700 2822   37004   1887696 51,0  
  
Estimation of the number of households was made on presumption that average size of Serb household is 3,7 persons (according to UN Survey of Kosova population made in 1999/2000), average size of Muslim household 4,5 persons and of Roma/Ashkaelia/Egyptian  household 6 persons (average size of Albanian household was 5,9 persons in 1999/2000).
 
The overall figure of 37.004 potential claims (sum of estimated displaced households) is a maximal possible one, based on unrealistic presumption that every household owns its residence. In addition, it disregards demolished and unoccupied residences, mostly in rural areas. There are also state-owned residences (so-called service apartments for the members of Yugoslav Army, Police and administration and apartments of notorious YU-Programme for colonisation of Kosova), whose former users (not owners!) have not right to reclaim them. If we leave out these cases, it can be said that there will be 30.000 claims for repossession of Non-Albanian property at most. This accounts for about 63 inhabitants of Kosova per claim.
 
In Bosnia, we have 17 inhabitants per claim (4.370.000 inhabitants and 255.000 claims). In Federation 18 (2.580.000 inhabitants and 141.000 claims), in RS 16 (1.700.000 inhabitants and 107.000 claims) and in Brcko less than 13 inhabitants per claim (87.000 inhabitants and nearly 7.000 claims). By the implementation rate of those in RS in the first quarter of this year, it would take up to 15 months to resolve all property claims in the part of Kosova under Albanian control. It has to be taken into account that eviction of squatters in Bosnia is more painful process since squatters are mostly displaced persons whose homes are occupied in the area under control of other ethnic group. In many cases, eviction makes squatters homeless. As opposed to Bosnia, in Kosova there are only up to 2.500 Albanian families whose homes are occupied in Serb-controlled parts of Kosova.
 
Therefore from the technical point of view, 10 June 2004 as a deadline for resolving all property claims can be met. In the next few months prior to local elections, all mechanisms for gathering and processing property claims (HPD and HPCC) should be fully operational, while evictions and repossessions of property should start immediately after the local elections. Fortunately, the legal framework for restitution of property rights already exists (UNMIK Regulations 1999/23 and 2000/60), however agencies charged with implementation of property rights (HPD and HPCC) are seriously understaffed due to lack of resources. Allocating necessary resources should be absolute priority for the Kosova’s government and assembly. Besides that, Kosova needs a modern property law adapted to the market economy. Parallel to the process of repossession of property the modern cadastral system should be built. It’s in Albanian interest that every inch of land has its undisputed owner and that cadastre contains all property records of land and immovables before the resolution of Kosova’s status. In this way, Serb propaganda that 50-70% of Kosova’s land is owned by Serbs will be effectively refuted. The presence of internationals makes possible to build a transparent land management system which no one will be able to dispute.
 
The obstacles to repossession of property/ return of refugees are not of technical, legal or financial nature but the psychological ones. Here is the big responsibility of leaders and opinion-makers to prepare ground that people will accept former neighbours. Every attack or violent act against returnees will make harm to Albanian cause in the international arena, while Serbs will benefit from it. Therefore, all those Albanians still perpetrating violent acts against the others are working for Belgrade and it is primarily in Albanian interest to adopt energetic measures to prevent such acts including rigorous punishments for perpetrators.
 
 
Return and unification of Mitrovica
 
Mitrovica is divided city as a result of Serb majority in northern part. However, this majority is a result of ethnic cleansing. While the Serbs constitute a majority of current inhabitants, Albanians constitute a majority of holders of title deeds to residential property in the north of the city.
 
Due to inactivity Albanians missed the opportunity to take control of northern part in June 1999 (when Serbian army, police and a majority of civilian population left) and return there in that time. When this opportunity was lost, it became obvious that the return of Albanians there would be linked to the return of displaced Serbs to other parts of Kosova.
  
IC has made clear that Albanians must first start to accept displaced Serbs before it will take any measure in direction of unification of the city. Albanians should accept this, however they must demand from IC not to legalise the present parallel structures, for example by granting northern Mitrovica status of municipality.
Kosova’s government presented a plan of unification of Mitrovica. International Crisis Group (ICG) also prepared a report on the situation there. Both proposals have two flaws.

In the first place, both proposals envisaged return of displaced persons as the last phase of reintegration. In fact this should be the first phase. The return of displaced Albanians to the north and return of displaced Serbs from there to the other parts of Kosova should precede integration of administration and public services.
 
The second flaw was that the process of reintegration of Mitrovica is separated from similar developments in the rest of Kosova. Without creation of conditions for Serb return and normal life in the rest of Kosova, there will be no Albanian return to northern Mitrovica, which is a condition for unification of Mitrovica.
 
Of course, it’s for certain that Serbs will obstruct return of Albanians to northern Mitrovica even after significant number of Serb return in the other areas gains momentum. However, repatriation of displaced Serbs to Albanian environment is not irreversible process. It is very important that substantial number of Serbs repossess their property and live in safety in Pristina and other Albanian-majority areas even before Albanians start to return to northern Mitrovica. This is necessary for two reasons:
  • to demonstrate the whole world that Serb minority can enjoy their human rights in Albanian areas thus removing the fear that return of Albanians to northern Mitrovica would result in displacement of Serbs which is reason why IC has been blocking return of Albanians to northern Mitrovica since the end of the war. One thing should be clear: as long as significant number of displaced Serbs don’t return to their homes in Pristina and live there in safety freely using their language and exercising human rights according the international standards, the internationals won’t do anything to reunite Mitrovica and to help return Albanians there.
      
  • once significant members of Serbs return, Albanians will be able to use their continuing residence as a bargaining chip for pressuring IC to start reuniting Mitrovica. Instead of insisting on simultaneous return of Albanians in northern Mitrovica and Serbs in other parts of Kosova, Albanians should strike the following deal with the internationals: after Albanians accept a considerable numbers of Serb returnees providing them a decent life conditions, IC will start reintegration of Mitrovica and the process of return of Albanians there. Failure on the part of IC to fulfil its part of the deal will reverse the whole process of the normalisation of life for Serbs in other parts of Kosova. Here’s a difference between the situation in northern Mitrovica and other parts of Kosova: when a significant number of Albanians return to northern Mitrovica, Serbs as a minority there won’t be able to reverse this process. On the other hand, Albanians in other parts of Kosova can always make life for Serbs (no matter how many of them return) unbearable making them leave their homes again. In this way, Serb returnees can be used as a sort of hostages and their well being in Albanian-dominated environment as a leverage for exerting pressure on IC to realise Albanian interests in northern Mitrovica.
Albanian leadership should pay attention that Albanians who repossess their property in northern Mitrovica won’t exchange their property with Serbs from other parts of Kosova. This widespread phenomenon from Bosnia should not be repeated in Kosova. For example, it should be prevented that displaced Albanian from northern Mitrovica currently living in Pristina exchanges his home for the home of displaced Serb from Pristina currently living in northern Mitrovica. If that happens on a massive scale, Serbs will remain a majority in northern Mitrovica. Before the Albanian return to northern Mitrovica starts (this will not be soon), authorities should prepare measures to prevent such scenario. Fortunately, the proximity of southern Mitrovica and services there makes possible to avoid the repetition of situation from Bosnia.
 
In the meantime, it’s a duty of authorities to accommodate displaced people from Mitrovica in residences of displaced Serbs. Those squatters whose homes are not occupied, especially from the rural areas should be evicted to make room for displaced people from northern Mitrovica . It’s unforgivable that these people have to pay rent in rented homes. In this way, they are induced to sell their property to Serbs to earn money for living or to emigrate from Kosova. It’s in utmost national interest that displaced persons from northern Mitrovica stay in Kosova to be able to repossess their property and that after repossessing it don’t transfer it to Serbs by exchange or sale.
 
 
SOME OTHER OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE RETURN OF SERBS
 
Return of Serbs would endanger Kosova’s security
 
This objection is similar to those of endangering Kosova’s territorial integrity. This objection would hold true if Serbs return near vulnerable borders of Kosova. But except for few isolated villages near Peja and in Zhupa Valley near Prizren this is not the case. And even in those very few cases, there are safeguards (impassable mountains, proximity of Albanian settlements) that significantly reduce the danger.
Far for endangering Kosova’s security, return of displaced Serbs would greatly enhance security of Kosova. There are two reasons for that.
 
In the first place, Serbs who return in places surrounded by Albanians won’t be used by Belgrade for possible aggression on Kosova. On the other hand, displaced Kosova Serbs living in Serbia will be first mobilised against Kosova since other Serbs show much smaller interest to risk their life for reconquest of Kosova. Therefore, Serbs who return to Pristina or Prizren (for example) is lost for Belgrade.
 
In the second place, Serb living among Albanians will provide powerful deterrent to Serbian aggression on Kosova. Such an aggression would put these Serbs at risk. All Serbs encircled by Albanians are potential hostages and living shield. In the wars in former Yugoslavia, Serbs had often evacuated their civilians from the cities before they launched an all-out assault on them (in Vukovar, Zadar, Petrinja in Croatia and Bihac and Kupres in Bosnia). Last year, Kosova Serb leaders (Rada Trajkovic for example) warned against pre-mature military action against UCPMB in Eastern Kosova since they feared Albanian retaliation against Kosova Serbs. That’s why Serbs had been waiting for six months on getting NATO’s approval. Of course, Albanians should draw a lesson from these experiences: in the event of looming aggression from Serbia they should prevent evacuation of Kosova Serbs to Serbia.
 
 
If displaced Serbs return, paramilitaries and other criminals will be also among returnees
 
From the legal aspect, even criminals have a right to repossess their property in Kosova. There’s no provision in criminal code that provides for expropriation as a punishment for crime. There are other kinds of punishments (jail, fines etc).
  
There’s no collective guilt and everybody is presumed innocent as long as his guilt is proved by court. Therefore, displaced Serbs cannot be denied return only because some among them have committed crimes. The issues of repossession of property and war crimes are two different things.
  
It’s not likely that people with criminal past will return among their former neighbours. And these people now, in the absence of Serb army and police in Kosova, don’t pose a particular threat for security of Kosovars.  However, there’s one legitimate point in the story of criminals among returnees. Namely, this is yet another reason for transparency in return process. Municipal authorities must know who returns to their territory. This is yet another argument against relocation/colonisation and “decentralisation” as a pre-requisite for it. It is possible that “groups of settlements” for Serb colonists/returnees will indeed become safe heavens for criminals. And Albanian side should use this argument against “decentralisation”. 
 
 
Serbs cannot return until the fate of missing persons is resolved
 
These are two different things. The fate of the missing won’t be resolved simply by refusing to allow displaced persons to repossess their property in Kosova. This is objection based on emotions, not on rational considerations.
 
 
LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF THE  RETURN
 
Effects of return of Serbs on the Kosova’s security
 
As in the short term, so also in the long term the presence of significant, yet dispersed Serb community in Kosova can serve as a deterrent to possible Serb aggression.
  
It’s not impossible, that after gaining independence, Kosova and Albanians as a whole, will have big problems with Macedonians. Even a war is not excluded. In this event, it’s necessary that Serbia remains neutral. And there are bigger chances that Serbia will remain neutral if considerable numbers of Serbs remain in independent Kosova. In that case, it’s less likely that Belgrade will interfere out of concern for the fate of Kosova’s Serbs. In terms of security (short-term and long-term as well) Albanians should be happy of the return and presence of Serbs in their midst, since these Serbs are “living shield” against potential threats from Serbia. More Serbs are living in Kosova, the firmer is that “shield”.
 
 
Economic effects of the return of Serbs
 
Many examples from the world show that multilingual states are wealthier than neighbouring monolingual states. Here are some of them:
  • trilingual Switzerland (German-French-Italian) has higher GDP per capita than neighbouring Germany, France and Italy.
  • bilingual Luxemburg (German-French) is wealthier than Germany or France.
  • bilingual Belgium (Dutch-French) is more developed than Netherlands or France
  • Singapore with four official languages is among the most developed countries in the world
Multi-lingual states are more competitive in external trade. Well-being of some country today depends on its inclusion in the world trade, it depends on its ability to sell their products and services to other countries. And countries whose population speak more languages can easier communicate with other countries and make money from export.
 
In Kosova’s case it’s in Albanian interest that considerable number of Serb-speakers stay in independent Kosova. In that case, it’s for certain that Kosova will earn more money from export in Serbia and from Serb tourists and shoppers than in the case of complete departure of Serbs. Kosova’s Serbs would bridge the linguistic gap between Serbia and Kosova being instrumental in fostering trade between Kosova and Serbia thus making the whole Kosova wealthier.
 
Mr Adem Demaci said recently in Presheva that the aim of Albanians is to create such state of Kosova where a Serb would feel better than in Serbia. It is not clear whether he has spoken in his own name or in the name of Kosova, but his words are not exaggeration. In civilised countries, being a member of linguistic minority means having a comparative advantage in society. Namely, knowing a language of majority in itself doesn’t give applicant advantage in job market. In contrast, employers prefer to hire bilingual workers, and members of minorities are bilingual as a rule.
  
Albanians should use these arguments to refute claims of anti-Albanian circles that they want to drive out all Serbs from Kosova. In normal conditions (independence) presence of Serb minority would be asset for Kosova,  not source of problems.
 
 
Other minorities
 
Return of other minorities (Roma, Muslims, Egyptians, Ashkaelia) would be beneficial for demographic reasons. Demographic situation of some people depends on natural movements (births and deaths), migrations and assimilations. Some people can lose their members by assimilation of them into other people(s) or it can increase its numbers by assimilating other peoples.
 
In Kosova, Albanians can assimilate members of the afore-mentioned minorities. This is long-term process, however in some generations this process can be brought to end. If Albanians enable full integration of these minorities in Kosova’s society they will make them Albanians in some generations. 
 
Many peoples in the world have become numerous by assimilating members of other peoples. For example, a large numbers of Serbs have Walachs as ancestors. Arabs were once small people in the southern part of Arabian Peninsula. Through the process of Islamisation they assimilated many Semitic and Hamitic peoples in the Middle East and northern Africa.
 
There’s an example from Israel, how it should be dealt with people who want to integrate into mainstream society. According to Israeli Constitution all people declaring themselves Jews have a right to settle in Israel. In 1991, some ten thousands black-skinned Falachas from Ethiopia wanted to immigrate to Israel. Some orthodox Jews objected to that on the ground that Falachas are not true Jews.
 
Nevertheless, Israeli government allowed them to settle in Israel. The underlying logic behind that decision was: even if they are not pure Jews, we will make them such. Today, all Israelis acknowledge that this was a right decision. Israel who badly needs manpower in their struggle with the Arabs, has got 37.000 new loyal citizens and defenders of Israel. Falachas are particularly useful for Israel since their birth rate far exceeds the average birth rate of Jewish population in Israel.
  
Albanians will make a mistake if they simply reject Non-Serb minorities. From the human rights perspective these people have every right to repossess and use their property, i.e. to live in Kosova. By intelligent policy of integration these people will be gradually becoming Albanians. It’s not necessary to perform forced assimilation. Assimilation is the highest level of integration of minority community into mainstream society and in Kosova’s case this process can run even faster, considering that many of these minorities are already speaking Albanian language.
 
 
CONSEQUENCES OF OBSTRUCTION OF RETURN PROCESS
 
The most evident consequence will be partition of Kosova. Since denying the right to return is equal than confiscation of residential property (=theft), a part of territory  will be take away from Kosova where Serbs will be able to enjoy their right. Kosova won’t get any compensation in return.
 
The second consequence is perpetuation of slavery for Albanians in Presheva Valley. Their fate directly depends on respect of minority rights in Kosova. If minority rights are respected in Kosova, territorial integrity of Kosova can be defended. In this case, Serbia will be forced to give up part of Presheva Valley east of the A-10 highway in exchange for three northern municipalities.
  
The third consequence is international isolation of Kosova. Right to private property is enshrined in the core of Western civilisation. Preventing legal owner to dispose of his/her property (i.e. to return if he/she is displaced) is an attack on this civilisation. This will have grave consequences not only for Kosova’s status since the West will have the main say on the future of Kosova but also international position of reduced independent Kosova.
 
The fourth consequence is non-return and deprivation of property of Albanians from northern Mitrovica.
  
The fifth consequence refers to the position of Albanians in Macedonia. As it is known the position of Macedonian Albanians is defined by Ohrid Agreement. This agreement was concluded as a result of  international mediation. However, this agreement has not satisfied all Albanian aspirations (there is still no parity between official use of Macedonian and Albanian language neither fully public funded Albanian-language university). And it’s for certain that Macedonian Albanians won’t enlist any international support for furthering their status in the event that Kosova’s Albanians fall short of international expectations in the domain of minority rights. And without international support it will be very difficult, almost impossible to extract additional concessions from the Macedonian side.
  
On the other hand, if Kosova Albanians fulfil international expectations regarding respect of minority rights, there is almost certainly that all demands of Albanians in Macedonia will be met. For example, the internationals will probably demand that Serb language retain official status in independent Kosova as well as that high education in Serb language is funded by state. In that case, Albanian will also become official language in Macedonia, while university in Albanian language will be funded by state. Therefore, those denying basic human right to return are also denying expansion of Albanian rights in Macedonia.
  
The sixth consequence will be lost of reputation of Albanians in the world. Owing to NATO intervention, Albanian refugees have been able to return to their homes. The West will not find a justification for Albanian opposition to return of refugees who belong to other peoples. Kosova’s Albanians have lost much of moral credit they had gained as a victim of Milosevic’s oppression in the last three years for mistreatment of minorities. Cooperation in the return process is an opportunity to upgrade the image of Albanians in the world.
 
 
CONCLUSION
 
There are many reasons why Albanians should support and spearhead the process of return of all displaced persons in Kosova and no reason why Albanians should oppose to that process. The process of return poses no threat for Kosova. All rational reasons speak in favour of return of displaced persons.
  
All arguments against return are based on emotions. Such reaction is understandable from people who suffered at the hands of Serb regime. However, political decisions by leaders cannot be based on emotions but on strategic considerations. To base political decisions having long-term effects on emotions is like driving under influence of alcohol, only that reckless driving imperils only persons in the car while emotional decision-making in politics puts the fate of the whole nation at stake.
 
The return/restitution of property is an issue where expectations of internationals and Albanian interests  go hand in hand. And Albanians should not miss this opportunity for establishing true partnership with the international community from which they will have great benefits in the future.

 

 

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