Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Kosovo: Serbs Wait for Change

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Kosovo: Serbs Wait for Change

Article excerpt

Drenko Todorovic takes short steps through empty days wringing what novelty he can from a hundred-yard walk between home, shop and a local shebeen where he plays cards with the six or so people in Gorazdevac who still speak to him. He's been labelled a traitor in pamphlets nailed to telegraph poles and pushed under doors. His crime--compromise.

Earlier this year, as United Nations plans for the future of Kosovo began to firm up into what was likely to be some kind of independence from Serbia, and the domination of political life by the province's Albanian majority, Todorovic joined a young party that advocated Serb participation in Kosovo's parliament.

"I don't want Kosovo to get independence--but if it does, then we Serbs must take part in the politics. If we don't, then we won't have a voice and we'll be unheard, second-class citizens," he told me. "But Belgrade is blocking us. Belgrade is abusing us and keeping us from looking to the future."

Under plans drawn up by Martti Ahtisaari for the UN, after 18 months of fruitless negotiations between Kosovar Albanians and the Serb government, Kosovo is supposed to get independence under a temporary EU-appointed "viceroy". It will be carved off from the Republic of Serbia, and its Serbian population guaranteed a huge degree of autonomy--including the right to continue to receive funding from Belgrade.

Serb schools will continue to run; so will the healthcare system. Municipalities will be able to choose their police chiefs. Some 45 cultural sites (mostly Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries), will be declared protected zones guarded by foreign troops. The UN's diplomats appear to have come up with a plan that offers Kosovo's minority ethnic groups a good chance of survival.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But after eight years of international rule, and [euro]5.5bn spent on Kosovo's 1.9 million inhabitants, one key ingredient for a peaceful future is missing--reconciliation.

What is offered instead comes vividly to life on a map. The Serb municipalities show up like ink splotches. Ethnic Albanian Kosovars and Kosovo's Serbs face what, during apartheid, was called "separate development". The dozen or more Serb enclaves mirror apartheid's "homelands".

To qualify as a municipality, a village or town will need 5,000 residents, with 75 per cent coming from a non-Albanian ethnic group, according to Ahtisaari's proposal. Gorazdevac, Todorovic's home town, has only about 700 Serb families. It could get subsumed into an Albanian-run area.

Todorovic, 30, and his fellow villagers don't dare leave their enclave even today. "We're probably safe, but we might not be," he explained, pointing to a memorial to two teenage boys murdered four years ago, allegedly by Kosovar Albanian gunmen.

Three Serb children from outlying villages are "bussed" each way in an ancient Lada Niva to attend Gorazdevac's high school. …

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