Marek Antoni Nowitzki - Kosovo's Ombudsperson

Strategy: Expel all Serbs and force them to sell their property

Marek Antoni Nowicki
Serbs Cannot Survive In Kosovo Under Present Conditions

Blic, Belgrade, Serbia, FR Yugoslavia, April 2, 2002

"Almost three years since the intervention of the international community in Kosovo with the goal of preventing a humanitarian catastrophe, today the governments of the countries that have troops in this region must question the achieved results and whether ll ethnic communities in Kosovo have at least remotely similar living conditions and same rights, or whether we've slipped from one catastrophe to another," Marek Antoni Nowicki, Kosovo's ombudsman, says at the beginning of our interview.

BLIC: Could you summarize for us your assessment of the situation in which Serbs live in Kosovo?

NOWICKI: All those who follow the events in Kosovo already know the answer to that question. There is no freedom of movement. Human rights are not respected and are endangered in all their facets. Generally, the situation is becoming increasingly difficult with every new day. Serbs are increasingly shutting themselves off in their enclaves. Many say that there are improvements, but not to the extent that would allow anyone to claim with clear conscience that there is evidence of any tangible changes. The main problem, and everyone is aware of that, is that there is no freedom of movement, there is no freedom in general, private property has been usurped... Serbs are weighing whether to stay or leave, and so far they haven't been told how they can stay in Kosovo. We are far from any semblance of freedom, or at least minimal conditions for decent life. If there are no basic human rights, then we cannot discuss any human rights, and that is why it is necessary not only to change the attitude of the international mission with respect to the problems in Kosovo, but also, and more importantly, the attitude of a narrow circle of ethnic Albanians. They now have power and force. The fate of Kosovo and communities living in it depends on them. However, they are using that power to exert additional pressure on Serbs. One gets the impression that their strategy is to apply pressure with the goal of expelling all Serbs and forcing them to sell their property. We have observed the situation that some traditionally ethnic Serb settlements have been transformed into ethnic Albanian settlements, while the international mission idly stood by. All Serbs, simply, are increasingly leaning towards leaving Kosovo, because they see no perspective in the province, and that is why we must wonder whether the future generations also have to pay together with their parents. Basically, the only accessible activity in the Serb enclaves is farming.

BLIC: Who and how protects Serb property?

NOWICKI: The non-governmental organization HPD - "Habitat" is a big failure. People from Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina are acutely aware of that. As long as that organization exists and continues with its current practices, there is no hope for better life. One must wonder how long people can withstand in Strpce, Pristina, Gracanica, while awaiting "Habitat's" decision, in isolation. If HPD continues to work with current speed, they will need more than 500 years to resolve property rights and relations in Kosovo, and the Serb community cannot wait that long.

That problem obviously must be resolved by the governments that have troops in Kosovo, because the increased number of appeals has been met with the reduction of the employees of the HPD, supposedly because of the lack of funding. I doubt that funding is a problem in this case.

Blic: Your prediction of the status of Serbs in the future of Kosovo?

NOWICKI: With the current structure, the Serb community cannot survive, even if optimal living conditions are to be created for it. The Serb community has been beheaded. They need urgent assistance. There are no educated individuals. There aren't people who could deal on equal footing with ethnic Albanian intellectuals and politicians. Without the return of the intellectuals, even in the conditions of multi-ethnic life in Kosovo, the Serb community would have a subservient position. Ethnic Albanians have succeeded in expelling the Serb elite and that is why it is necessary to as soon as possible define the international community's vision of Kosovo's future. Not only Serbs, but also other non-Albanians must know what the future status of Kosovo will be, and every postponement of that decision will be costly for the future of multi-ethnic Kosovo.