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Some Modest Suggestions for Positive Steps Towards Solving the Kosovo Conflict

25.2.1995., From the Alexander Langer Foundation Archive. Amsterdam, 25 February 1995
Since at least 1988-89, the conflict in Kosovo has been one of the most important internal triggering devices of the Yugoslavian crisis and could in a not too distant future become the central piece of a much bigger, bloodier and unpredictable regional and international conflict.

All those involved, whether political powers or observers, are aware of this and despite this one continues, as if paralyzed, to skid towards a catastrophe. The situation is not simple and there are no easy solutions. The more a country is considered as holy land, the more difficult it becomes to solve the conflicts which are related to it. One only has to think of Palestine and Israel. All attempts, whether from within or without, must consider the interests and feelings of all those involved.
In addition, the regional context must be considered : the former Yugoslavia, the “new” Albania, the Balkan States, South-Eastern Europe, the former Communist zone of influence, the effects of major historical factors (empires, traditional enmity and cultural differences...). A conflict cannot be solved in one fell swoop and no solution will be entirely satisfactory for all sides (on the contrary: an equitable solution will also have to share out renunciation and dissatisfaction as fairly as possible), no solution can be achieved through force (up to now via “ethnic cleansing”), no solution for the whole region is possible without democratic and peaceful progress (especially in Serbia Montenegro).
Thus, on the basis of experience gained in this and other areas of Europe in which there are national conflicts, some helpful suggestions will be put forward. These suggestions are certainly not aimed at international or internal power politics but rather at the civilian population. This is certainly not the only possible area of negotiation and is probably also not the most decisive today - but is possibly at present the most promising and in all events the most urgent if one wishes to reach a long-lasting peaceful and democratic solution.

Suggestions which could provide progress towards a solution :

a) Support and strengthening, also from outside, of all moderate factors and “bridging elements” in and around the region concerned: moderate political parties or groupings on the Kosovo-Albanian and Serbian side, efforts by the Church (Catholic Albanians could play a positive role), intellectuals and journalists who have contacts in both camps, Albanians living abroad who could exert a moderate and clarifying influence...

b) International pressure for the introduction of basic conditions for a minimum amount of democratic political forces (re-opening of Kosovo-Albanian schools, the media, freedom to organize political parties and trade-unions, generous solution of the problems of the country’s political prisoners, normal granting of passports, etc.).

c) Steps towards a reduction in the military and paramilitary presence, demilitarization, “disarmament”.

d) Promotion of all manner of mutual understanding and cooperation, exchange of information, student exchanges (also abroad) between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians, reciprocal (bilingual?) publication possibilities, seminars, joint projects (social, ecological, scientific and technical, economic).

e) Reliable guarantees that no ethnic cleansing (whether against Albanians or Serbs) will be carried out, assurance of “right of residence” and the same rights for all people living in Kosovo.

f) Development of a mentality of contemporaneity and equality of sides. Promotion of forces giving rise to reciprocal and simultaneous confidence-building measures which satisfy public opinion in both camps and have a positive clarifying effect (of course, reality will have to be taken into consideration: the Albanian side is currently in a very weak political position, this could happen to the Serbian side tomorrow).

g) Promotion of a discrete and extremely cautious outside help: observers, helpers, volunteers, visitors etc. can also play an important role: it is better that they are all employed in “building bridges” than are allowed to act as arbitrators or even “agitateurs”.

h) Explicit, political and moral recognition of non-violence as a democratic attitude and political strategy which is to be encouraged and honoured.

i) Mixed groups (Albanian-Serb), initiatives, newsletters, camps, meetings etc can be of enormous importance.

l) Joint invitations to Serb and Albanian representatives for visits and study trips to European regions where there are ethnic tensions and where positive solutions were developed (e.g. Southern Tirol/Italy, the Basque country/Spain, Switzerland...).

Of course it is not a foregone conclusion that positive steps taken by the civilian population will automatically lead to the elimination of potential conflict and that the chances for satisfactory democratic solutions will be guaranteed. However, a layer of democrats, willing to embark on dialogue, would be promoted and reinforced in both camps. This must be considered as an essential prerequisite for any positive progress.
Thus, official and non-official international organizations ought to be set up immediately. One ought also to be quite willing to pay for this. Steps can be taken at a certain level without any prior agreement on the goals to be reached or on the solutions for the most sensitive and most disputed questions.

From the Alexander Langer Foundation Archive
Amsterdam, 25 February 1995

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