Copyrighted material


by Vesna Peric Zimonjic

to Monitor coverage of Kosovo War

(IPS) BELGRADE -- The southern Serbian province of Kosovo is preparing to proclaim independence to become the newest state to emerge from former Yugoslavia.

This looks like the last of the process of disintegration of former Yugoslavia. That disintegration began with the wars in 1991 leading to the separation of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, the quiet departure of Macedonia in 1992, and then the referendum that brought independence for Montenegro in 2006.

The Kosovan move now is drawing bitter reactions in official Belgrade. In Kosovo, on the other hand, concerts and festivals are being planned in capital Pristina and in other towns, alongside a first parliament session as independent nation.

The precise date for proclamation of independence is expected to be announced after final consultations with the U.S. and the European Union (EU).

The EU is preparing a Kosovo mission, named EULEX, to help ethnic Albanians on the road to independence by deploying some 2,000 personnel, mainly police and judicial experts.

The Serbian government issued a sharp statement Thursday saying it "annuls in advance" a proclamation of independence for Kosovo.

"This is our historical decision," Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told reporters Thursday afternoon. "This annuls the acts and actions of the interim government of Kosovo that proclaim unilateral independence, because they violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia."

Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo and its territorial integrity "was guaranteed by the Serbian constitution, the UN Charter, UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and international law," said a government statement issued earlier in the day.

"These acts and actions represent the violent and unilateral secession of a part of the territory of Serbia, and are therefore null and void," the statement added.

The Serbian government has asked for an urgent session of the United Nations (UN) Security Council at which the "illegal act of proclamation of unilateral independence of Kosovo province would be immediately annulled, in accordance with the UN Charter and UN Security Council Resolution 1244."

UN Resolution 1244 represents the grounds on which the UN took over administration of Kosovo in June 1999, after the NATO air campaign drove Serbian security forces out of Kosovo. Serbian troops had cracked down brutally on an armed rebellion by ethnic Albanians. The two million population of Kosovo is largely ethnic Albanian.

Kostunica has not said what Serbia's next steps would be, but withdrawal of Serbian ambassadors from EU countries that recognize Kosovo for "consultations" in Belgrade is expected to be the first. Kostunica has insisted that "action plans" will follow, but so far the government has not said what they might be.

Kostunica had earlier asked a 100,000 strong Serb community "to stay in Kosovo, with the right not to recognize the unilateral illegal acts" of the Kosovan government. But much of this seems pompous rhetoric aimed at keeping an emotional public quiet.

"This all comes too late and is in vain," international law professor Vojin Dimitrijevic commented on Belgrade Radio B92. "Opportunities were missed and time was wasted for proper talks, and now the government is trying to save what cannot be saved. Kosovo was lost to Serbia in 1999."

Serbia was involved in the UN-sponsored negotiations over Kosovo that began more than two years ago. Its delegation continued to insist on "broad autonomy" for Kosovo -- not independence.

"The official stand on Kosovo was only talk of sacred Serbian territory, with no respect for the people there -- ethnic Albanians," Belgrade University professor Ljubisa Rajic wrote in his column in the daily Politika.

But much of the media has been silent on Kosovo, as it was before the 1999 NATO air attacks. The government of Slobodan Milosevic then simply stopped media saying that the bombing was imminent. Many people were caught unawares when the bombing began Mar. 24, 1999.

"The public was widely led to believe that Kosovo cannot simply go away," analyst Jovo Bakic told Radio B92. "It was an underestimation of the sober minds of people; now they have to face the reality."

But as a proclamation of independence nears, ultranationalist hate speech is finding increased voice in pro-government media. "A part of Serbian territory is being illegally torn away," said Tomislav Nikolic, ultranationalist leader from the Serbian Radical Party. "This calls for a state of emergency."

"That amounts to nonsense," constitutional expert Zoran Ivosevic told IPS. "The new Serbian Constitution adopted in 2006 does not prevision any such thing. The old era is over."

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Albion Monitor   February 15, 2008   (

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