Budapest - Difficult balance for the Albanians


SAT, 29 APR 2000

Tirana, 22 April, 2000 - The meeting organised in Budapest by the project for ethnic relations on the topic “The Albanians in the New Millenium” was the first opportunity after the war in Kosovo for Albanian politicians from Tirana, Pristina and Skopje to sit down around one table. But even more important than that, for the first time after the war Albanian politicians sat down at the same table with representatives of Serbian opposition and the Serb minority from Kosovo.

In Budapest, politicians from Tirana, Nano – president of the Socialist Party, and Milo – foreign minister, re-established contact with Rugova who has not visited Tirana for almost three years. They also had separate meetings with Thaci, Surroi and Arben Xhaferi. The only politician from Tirana who was absent from Budapest was the leader of Democrats Berisha.

The meeting in Budapest which is considered by the organisers to have been successful, seems to have been the most difficult for the politicians from Tirana. Nano and Milo were forced to manoeuvre in the narrow space between the demand for independence of the Albanians from Kosovo and the rejection of such a possibility by the international community. This might have been the main reason for diplomatic rejection of the invitation to participate at the meeting in Budapest by the leader of Albania’s opposition Sali Berisha who stresses independence of Kosovo and “national treachery” of its opponents as the main arguments against them.

It is clear that if representatives of the official Tirana would side with the stands of the international community concerning the future of Kosovo which are based on the concepts of unchangable borders and the opposition to independence of Kosovo, they would risk the danger of coping with the erection of a very high wall between Tirana and the community of the Albanians who live outside the political borders of Albania.

On the contrary, if politicians from Tirana supported the aspirations of members of their ethnicity on the other side of the border for independent Kosovo they would risk losing support of the world which is of vital importance for Albania. This is undoubtedly linked to the fact that every signal of support of Tirana to aspirations of the Albanians from Kosovo for independence bears the risk to activate a chain reaction in all regions where the Albanians live.

President of the Socialist Party Fatos Nano and foreign minister Paskal Milo have tried to find the middle in the effort to preserve the balance between the demand of Kosovo Albanians and the known stand of the international community towards the issue of Kosovo. Without stating explicitly any stand concerning the status of Kosovo, foreign minister of Albania stressed the necessity of implementing UN Resolution 1244, but at the same time declared his view in favour of the necessity of its modification in the future. In this way he made it clear to Thaci, Rugova and other Albanians who were in Budapest that by “modification” of Resolution 1244 he meant the idea of independence of Kosovo although by mentioning this Resolution he also wished to show that he was not against the decisions of the international institutions about Kosovo either.

However, representatives of Kosovo Albanians, Rugova, Thaci and Surroi resolutely defended the thesis on independence of Kosovo as the only solution which would stabilise the whole region. “Let us work on creation of political institutions of Kosovo and then we will organise an international conference on Kosovo where the right of the Albanians to decide on their own will be recognised”, said Thaci at the meeting in Budapest. It is clear that the forthcoming elections in Kosovo scheduled for autumn were the reason why Thaci, Rugova and the others have never made an even minimum deviation from their idea about independence of Kosovo, at least not publicly. Had they done it, they would certainly lose these elections. As the result, the statement of Albania’s foreign minister Milo in connection with modification of Resolution 1244 was insufficient to create the conviction among Kosovo leaders that “official Tirana supports their demand for the establishment of independent state of Kosovo”. Moreover, they are afraid of the fact that after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic any modification of the mentioned Resolution could favour the Serbian party, if for no other reason in order to show that the international community “was not against the Serbian people and Serbia”, but only against Milosevic and his cronies.

As part of the effort to preserve the “equal distance” between Kosovo Albanians and the international community, Nano and Milo insisted on the idea of “regional and European integration” within which the problem of Kosovo should definitely be solved looking upon “independent Kosovo” as an integrated region into the European family. “Even independent Kosovo today or tomorrow will be part of the region integrated into the European family”, said Milo. It is self-understood that the process of regional integration cannot proceed without democratised Serbia. Numerous analysts often link the future of Kosovo to democratisation of Serbia. Of course, a democratic Serbia might be given more access to Kosovo by the international community than the current Milosevic’s regime. This is the reason which urges Kosovo Albanians to hurry with the realisation of the idea on independence. Thaci seems to be resolute in this sense stating that “independence of Kosovo shall not be a victim of the democratisation process of Serbia”. According to Thaci, “the process of winning independence of Kosovo is faster and more significant than democratisation of Serbia”.

On the other hand, always within the framework of the effort to be move along the same line with the international community but without stirring up discontent among Kosovo Albanians, the latest possibility of a solution presented at the meeting in Budapest was the idea of president of the Socialist Party Fatos Nano on creation of an all-Albanian political forum for stability and integration. In his presentation of the idea on such a forum Nano stressed that “more than six million Albanians in the region of the Balkans instead of the war wish peace, instead of changing borders wish integration” and that “the most stable and the most democratic solution of the Albanian issue is the one through the process of the Stability Pact”. With this proposal, the politician from Tirana perhaps wished to clarify to the international community the potential the Albanians represent in the Stability Pact, including their role in its implementation.

However, the success of such an initiative presented by Nano seems hardly possible, because of the very fact that the idea on independence of Kosovo would be predominant in the activities of this forum which would gather Albanian parties wherever they may be. That is why Nano or others who will want to give priority to integration and regional democratisation will be faced with the idea of “independent Kosovo” which will be insisted on not only by representatives of Albanian parties from Kosovo but also by political forces which do not belong to Kosovo. In fact, one of the known Albanian leaders, president of Democratic Party of the Albanians in Macedonia, Arben Xhaferi in Budapest declared himself in favour of independence of Kosovo. For his part Berisha does not shrink either from repeating that the only solution of the question of Kosovo is its independence.

The idea about an all-Albanian forum presented in Budapest by Nano caused concern among other participants, and not only among representatives of the Serbs from Kosovo and Serbian opposition. They expressed certain concern which is present in media, political and diplomatic circles that “NATO operation against Yugoslavia last year created danger of establishment of greater Albania”. A representative of Italy, for instance, considers Nano’s initiative “a modern form of nationalism”.

Original article