Kouchner expects trouble in elections

BRUSSELS, Jul 18, 2000 -- (AFP) UN administrator in Kosovo Bernard Kouchner said Monday he expected trouble in the course of municipal elections in the southern Yugoslav province next October from those "who are not on the side of democracy."

"It's evident there are a lot of people who don't want elections," he told a press conference here before a European Union dinner with leaders of the Serbian opposition, including several mayors of towns and cities in Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro.

These "enemies of democracy will find plenty of pretexts to say it is too soon to hold elections," said Kouchner. "I don't know how you can have democracy without elections," he added.

Among those opposed to elections, he said, are people employed by (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic, but also Serbs who think that security conditions are not yet assured and who want to put pressure to reinforce them."

"We will do our best to better protect you," he said, addressing himself to Kosovo Serbs who have often been the target of ethnic attacks in the year since the end of the NATO air campaign to stop ethnic cleansing by Belgrade against ethnic Albanians.

"Ethnic hatred has deep roots," he said. "I have never seen it disappear in a year. Sometimes it takes generations."

Kouchner hailed the "political courage" of representatives of Serb and Kosovo municipalities for coming to participate in the Brussels meeting, particularly Nenad Radosavljevic, Serb mayor of the northern Kosovo town of Leposavic.

"It's not easy to be a living example of the opening" of the democratic process, said Kouchner, adding that the mayors who had come here were "the future of the region."

Javier Solana, EU foreign policy and security chief and an organizer of the meeting, said the object had been "to mobilize a maximum of support" for the civilian society and opposition municipalities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The working dinner was organized in the framework of the EU strategy for encouraging the democratization of Yugoslavia, said Solana, adding, "the development of contacts with democratically run municipalities will play a crucial role in the perspective of local elections in Serbia and Kosovo."

The mayors of the Serbian towns of Nis, Novi Sad and Pancevo, of the Montenegrin capital Podgorica, and Albanian and Serb representatives of the Kosovo municipal councils of Gnjilane, Suva Reka et Leposavic attended the dinner.

They were joined in solidarity by the mayors of Athens, Barcelona, Bologne, Lille, Dortmund and Constance (Germany), and by representatives of numerous non-governmental organizations.

Original article