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JUNE 23-24, 1995


The Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) is pleased to have co-sponsored aninternational roundtable on "Democratic Processes and Ethnic Relations inYugoslavia", held on June 23-24, 1995, in Belgrade. The event broughttogether a group of noted experts, intellectuals and politicians fromYugoslavia, the United States, and Europe (a list of participants isappended). In a period that has been marked by bitter recriminations andlethal interethnic struggles, the meeting was all the more remarkable forthe unexpectedly constructive and tolerant nature of the discussions amongYugoslav participants from various ethnic groups and political parties. Thisreport summarizes the discussions and debates that took place.

PER's co-sponsors were the Democratic Center, in Belgrade, and the SorosFoundation, Yugoslavia. PER acknowledges with pleasure their cooperation, aswell as the participation of the European and the Balkans InternationalNetwork of Bologna.

The Belgrade meeting was a continuation of PER's efforts to work withpolitical moderates in Serbia-Yugoslavia towards the peaceful resolution ofinterethnic conflicts. In September 1993, PER organized a meeting on thissubject in New York City at the Carnegie Corporation. The proceedings weresummarized in an earlier report, "Interethnic Relations inSerbia/Yugoslavia: Alternatives for the Future." Following that meeting, PERformed an informal Serbian-American consultative group and, in March 1994,sponsored a fact-finding mission to Serbia and Croatia. One of the group'smain recommendations was to organize a discussion of these issues inBelgrade. In January 1995, Robert Hayden of the University of Pittsburgh,who had participated in the fact-finding mission, and Allen Kassof of PERmet in Belgrade with potential participants and found a positive responseacross the political spectrum to the idea of such a meeting. In all theseactivities, a key role has been played by Dusan Janjic, Secretary General ofthe European Movement, Serbia, a distinguished social scientist and experton interethnic relations in the region. Drs. Janjic and Hayden areco-authors of the report that follows.

Many of the perspectives set forth at the Belgrade meeting were quicklyovertaken by the Croatian victory in Krajina and the NATO intervention thatfollowed in Bosnia. The authors faced an unusual challenge in capturing thesubstance of the meeting even while having to view it through the lens ofthe events that followed. The result is a document that provides both asummary of the discussions and some interpretive observations. The readershould bear in mind that the varied and often conflicting opinions that arereflected in this document are those of the conference participants andrapporteurs.

Allen H. Kassof, President
Livia B. Plaks, Executive Director

Princeton, New Jersey
October 1995

The Setting

This report summarizes the discussions at the conference, "DemocraticProcesses and Ethnic Relations in Yugoslavia", held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia,on June 23-24, 1995. In this text, "Yugoslavia" refers to the FederalRepublic of Yugoslavia, composed of Serbia and Montenegro and proclaimed in1992. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which ceased to exist in1992, is referred to as "the former Yugoslavia."

It is important to note that the political situation in the formerYugoslavia has changed dramatically in the months immediately following theconference. In July, Serbian forces took two Muslim "safe areas" in easternBosnia, Srebrenica and Cepa, while in early August Croatia took theSerbian-populated region of the Krajina. In both cases, the residentpopulations were expelled, the Muslims from the Bosnian enclaves and almostall Serbs from Krajina, further undermining the position of "moderates" inany of the formerly Yugoslav republics. Thus, some positions taken byparticipants in June may have been rendered obsolete by the events of Julyand August.

The themes of the conference sessions, and their chairs, were as follows:

Session I: Conditions, principles and mechanisms of stopping the war andtransition towards peace on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and theinfluence of the war on democratic processes and ethnic relations in Serbia/the FR (Chairs: Dr. Dragoljub Micunovic and Dr. Allen Kassof)

Session II: Institutionalization of political pluralism (Chair: Dr. VojislavStanovcic)

Session III: The current situation of interethnic relations, with specificreference to interethnic conflicts, the status and protection of minoritiesand the Serbian-Albanian conflict in Kosovo (Chair: Dr. Dusan Janjic)

Session IV: Views of the Serbian national program and possibilities, agentsand institutions capable of democratic and peaceful management of ethnicconflicts (Chair: Desimir Tosic)

Session V: The influence of the international community and its institutionson democratic processes in Serbia/Yugoslavia, prospects for the developmentof relations between Serbia/Yugoslavia and other parts of the Balkans, andfor the integration of Serbia/Yugoslavia into Europe (Chairs: Dr. StefanoBianchini and Sonja Licht)

Session VI: Ways, possibilities, conditions, ideas and main agents andprospects of democratization in Serbia/Yugoslavia (Chairs: Dr. DragoljubMicunovic and Dr. Allen Kassof)

In two days of intensive, frank and open discussion, many questions wereraised. This report summarizes the debates without identifying individualspeakers.

Causes And Characteristics Of The War On The Territory Of The FormerYugoslavia And Conditions And Mechanisms For Stopping It

The following causes of the war were cited most frequently:First, the habit of using force and the widespread feeling that "if we'renot capable of producing well, at least we're capable of war."Second, in an effort to avoid democratization, the politics of ethnicity andof citing "foreign threats" were intensified. Thus a strategy of conflictwas devised in relation first to the problem of Kosovo and then in regard tothe entire world.Third, behind the "delirium of sovereignty" that seized the entire formerlycommunist world, especially federations, was a revival of the concept ofsovereignty as absolute power over subjects.Fourth, even though the principal responsibility for the war lies with thedomestic protagonists, and even though none of the republics of the formerYugoslavia and particularly Serbia has clean hands in regard to Bosnia andHerzegovina, the international community bears considerable responsibilityfor acquiescing in the imposition of the ethnic principle there, andgenerally for inconsistent and contradictory political stances towards theformer Yugoslavia. There were also comments about unsatisfactoryinternational understanding of the problems.

In the course of discussion it was emphasized that although peace is noteverything, nothing can be done without peace, and that in the currentcircumstances, it is overly ambitious to speak of stopping the war andbuilding peace. It was suggested that it would be more realistic to considergradual isolation and localization of centers of the war, and most likely along-term transition towards building peace.

Today in Serbia there is increasing rhetoric about stopping the war. Themajority of public opinion agrees that the "peace option" is the onlysolution. There is further development of the anti-war sentiments that fromthe very beginning of the war were conceived by small political groups andsegments of public opinion and that led, in the context of the Vance-Owenplan in 1993, to a turnabout by the chief movers of the levers of power inSerbia. The regime has clearly expressed the wish that the war should end.Thus, today, the most important conditions for establishing consensus amongthe majority that the war should end have been fulfilled. This opens thequestion: Under what conditions would and could the regime fulfill itspromises about achieving peace? To the extent that the opposition supportsthe regime, how can it structure its support to promote the sharing of powerand responsibility. However, the opposition is not capable of taking a jointposition, waging instead constant internecine political battles among itsown members, increasingly by raising the charge of "treason" against thosewho would recognize Bosnia and Croatia, and in regard to economic questions.In the latter context, there is an extremely influential lobby of people whohave become rich and powerful in the course of the war.

One of the most serious obstacles to ending the war is the strong tendencyto define the national interest on an ethnic basis that presupposesterritorial expansion, expressed in the slogan "All [ethnic] Serbs in onestate." This has given rise to a crisis of identity and division in theSerbian body politic. For this reason, in order to achieve the goal ofattaining consensus for stopping the war, it is necessary to arrive at aminimal agreement or compromise about what, exactly, the "national interest"is today.

There are several principles for ending the war that should be adopted onall of the territory of the former Yugoslavia:The first and most basic is that all relevant political actors must acceptthat peace is the supreme concept behind their actions;Second, to turn the nationalist energies that have developed into politicaland economic competition rather than towards further territorial conflictand destruction;Third, to strive towards democratic constitutionalism;Fourth, to respect equality and equal rights.

Other discussions took place concerning the possibility of limiting the warby attempting to establish communications between local populations, such asthe Serbs and Croats of Herzegovina, or between the Serbs in Croatia and theCroatian government. Unfortunately, the expulsion of the majority of Serbsfrom Croatia in August 1995, and the coincident increase of tensions betweenSerbs and Croats in Herzegovina, have made the accomplishment of suchmeasures at least temporarily unlikely. Similarly, the need for theinternational community to take a neutral role in mediating conflicts wasalso stressed. Considering, however, the international failure in thisregard, one recent example being the Croatian military action that expelledthe Serbs from Croatia, neutral international mediation still seems anelusive goal. Finally, an attempt was made during the discussions toenvision a new international conference on the former Yugoslavia, with theaim of establishing conventions for the mutual recognition of the formerlyYugoslav republics and their entering into trade and other agreements, withinternational financial assistance for reconstruction. However, events sincethe Belgrade meeting render this possibility remote. An internationalconference will likely ratify the construction of ethnically basednation-states, defined primarily by opposition to each other.

The discussion did conclude that the most realistic plan would be to try toreconstruct the most essential links between the various formerly Yugoslavrepublics, such as transport, communications and energy grids. Since all ofthese systems are also important to neighboring states, the internationalcommunity is likely to be most interested in restoring these links. Theirrestoration, in turn, may of itself lead to increasing cooperation betweenthese republics.

Ways and Means for the Democratization of Serbia/Yugoslavia

The question of whether the possibility exists for the democratization ofSerbia/Yugoslavia led to two opposing positions.

One view was that since the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was establishedagainst the wishes of an important part of its population (a referenceprimarily to the Albanians of Kosovo) and under conditions that rendered itsestablishment legally dubious, it was difficult to envision theinstitutionalization of political pluralism in the country. Further, itseems possible that the present configuration of Serbia/Yugoslavia is likelyto be changed, both because of opposition from some of its territories andelements of its citizenry, and under the influence of the ethno-territorialrestructuring taking place outside of its borders, in Bosnia andHerzegovina. This position was taken by participants in the discussion who,by their ethnic origins, belong to minority communities inSerbia/Yugoslavia.

The other position was that Serbia is "condemned to democracy," compelled toaccept political arrangements which are now found world-wide and which havethe strength of international charters, pacts, and agreements. On the otherhand, within the scope of these principles, the right of Serbia to developits own relations within its political community must be respected. Theproponents of this position concede that the procedure of establishment ofthe Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was not democratic, but that force wasnot used towards this end, and that no group had a greater right than anyother to comment on those procedures simply on the basis of its ethnicidentity.

A number of circumstances that hinder or prevent democratization inSerbia/Yugoslavia were also pointed out:First, the conditions of wartime;Second, the lack of a stable market economy, and the exceptionally badeconomic situation. For example, in the estimate of economists, the FederalRepublic of Yugoslavia would need growth rates of 4%, the European average,for the next 23 years in order to achieve the same level of development thatwas enjoyed by the former Yugoslavia in 1990;Third, the lack of a powerful and numerous middle class;Fourth, the lack of independent citizen initiatives or associations, and thelack of independent media, scientific and university establishments, an alltoo familiar problem in many transition states;Fifth, the indifference of the public to economic issues, since most of thepopulation is too busy trying to ensure its own day-to-day existence.Further, the citizens now have great antipathy to politics and topoliticians. This common political apathy, coupled with ethnocentrism, hasvery unfavorable consequences in regard to the search for formulas forestablishing democracy.

Despite these obstacles towards democratization, there was wide agreement onseveral points. First, it is time for the problem of citizens to be takenseriously, meaning that each citizen of the state most have equal rights,with no privilege or handicap based on religious, ethnic or national status.This requires that Serbia be constructed as a modern political community,based on the rule of law. While these ideas are already proclaimed in theconstitutions of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in practicemany laws, regulations and government acts are imposed by the might of theregime, without regard for the opinions of political minorities, much lessethnic ones. In practice, there are none of the required institutionalguarantees of the rule of law, such as a division of powers and particularlyan independent judiciary. At the moment the executive branch, and especiallythe President of the Republic, dominates political life.

Many of the problems in the democratization of Serbia are based on the factthat the fall of communism did not mean the displacement of the elite thathad been running the one-party communist state. That elite remains incharge, largely unchanged even in personnel. In a situation in which a newpolitical culture must be established in the country, the continuation inpower of this elite constitutes a powerful hindrance on democratization.

The Explosion Of Ethnicity And Ethnic Conflicts, And The Position AndProtection Of Minorities

The theme of interethnic relations is regarded in Serbia as essentially aquestion of conflict, the elements of which are the dichotomy of, on the onehand, the national unification of the majority ethno-national group and thestability of the community, and on the other the problems of nationalminorities and of human rights. In democratic theory, of course, theseinterests should not be seen as opposed, since the protection of ethnic andpolitical minorities and the guarantee of human rights to all should ensurethe stability of the state, thus the solving the problems of the majoritynation as well as of the minorities. That these interests are now seen asinherently conflictual is definitional of the problems of all of the formerYugoslavia.

In Serbia/Yugoslavia, there is the moral responsibility and politicalnecessity to reject stereotypes and to overcome misunderstandings.Destructive nationalism is largely the product of intellectuals, whose workis then used by politicians to further their own goals. It is thus theresponsibility of intellectuals above all others to assist in creating anatmosphere of greater trust, which is clearly not of itself enough toresolve ethnic conflicts in the present state of tensions, but is still aprerequisite for their solution. A firm belief in this position has guidedthe work of the Serbian-American Consulting Group, and was the basicassumption of the Belgrade Conference.

Since only about 65% of the population of the Federal Republic of Yugoslaviaare ethnic Serbs, the problems of ethnic conflicts are of crucial importanceto Serbia/Yugoslavia. But these problems take different forms, depending inpart on the levels of territorial concentration of minorities and in part onthe impact of actions taken by the international community, many of whichhave been extremely detrimental to the search for mechanisms for themanagement of potential or actual ethno-national conflict.

Discussion on these themes at the conference was thus intense and oftenexhibited fundamentally different orientations among the participants. It isto the credit of all participants, however, that fundamentally opposedpositions were never stated in ways that were confrontational.

The fact of the overwhelming territorial concentration of Albanians inKosovo and that province's location next to Albania and to Albanian-majorityregions of Macedonia makes the problem of Albanian-Serbian relations of adifferent magnitude. It is discussed separately in the next section of thisreport, following a summary of the discussion on the general questions ofethnic relations, ethnic conflicts and the position and protection ofminorities.

The most important minority questions in Serbia/Yugoslavia involve threegroups: the Albanians of Kosovo; the Hungarians of Vojvodina; and the SlavicMuslims of Sandzak, which borders Bosnia and includes parts of both Serbiaand Montenegro. These three situations of ethnic tension, however, are quitedifferent in the nature of the tensions inherent in them, and in the demandsof the minority populations.

In Kosovo, as mentioned above, ethnic Albanians form an overwhelmingmajority in a region that is adjacent to Albania and to Albanian-majorityareas of Macedonia. For this reason, demands of the leaders of Albanians inKosovo frequently seem to imply to some the separation of the region fromSerbia, either de jure through independence or de facto through "autonomy"amounting to independence. "Autonomy" in regard to the Albanians thusimplies an immediate threat to the territorial integrity ofSerbia/Yugoslavia.

The Hungarians of the Vojvodina, on the other hand, are a minority in theprovince as a whole, though they do form local majorities. There are noserious demands for the secession of the province from Yugoslavia or for itsaccession to Hungary. Instead, the Hungarians of the Vojvodina are concernedprimarily with the need to protect their cultural identity, includingschooling in their own language and freedom of religion, and protectionagainst discrimination. Demands by the Hungarians for "autonomy" concerncultural rights and local political self-rule.

The Muslims of Sandzak raise different problems. Unlike the Albanians andHungarians, these people speak the same language as the majority Serbs, butlike the other minorities, they perceive themselves as part of the "nationalbeing" of a neighboring state, in this case, the Muslims of Bosnia. Sincethere are no language issues involved, the problems of protecting thisminority revolve around ensuring freedom of religion and protection againstdiscrimination. Unfortunately, however, the relations of the Sandzak Muslimsto Serbs and Serbia is under the strong influence of the hostilities betweenMuslims and Serbs in Bosnia. Thus what might seem like a situation analogousto that of the Hungarians of Vojvodina and even less complicated comes toresemble that of the Albanians of Kosovo: even local political and cultural"autonomy" could be seen as threatening the integrity of Serbia andMontenegro, both elements of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

It is unfortunate that the attitude of the international community in regardto the former Yugoslavia and to other socialist "federations" may havebrought into question the entire concept of federalism as the basis of aviable state. Federalism, with its mixtures of both local and centralauthority, seems one of the most suitable frameworks yet developed forstructuring relations in a multi-ethnic society. Yet the internationalcommunity accepted the view of the EC's "arbitration committee," theBadinter Committee, that secession from a federation that produced armedconflict meant that the federation was dissolved, with recognition to begranted to the seceding units as successor states and withdrawn from thefederation itself. With this precedent squarely before them, politiciansthroughout the former Yugoslavia reject the concept of federalism asinherently threatening to the stability and integrity of the state. Thus"autonomy" or any other form of decentralization of authority is alsoextremely suspect to political leaders, since it requires a division ofpowers that implies federalism.

Further, the problems of minorities throughout the former Yugoslavia havebeen intensified by the destruction of that state, in which no nation formeda majority, into classic nation-states, in which the "nation," ethnicallydefined, is sovereign in its own state. This political redefinition meansthat groups such as Hungarians or Albanians who were minorities in theformer Yugoslavia have seen their status erode in the new states, while eachnew republic contains groups (Serbs in Croatia, Croats in Serbia, Muslims inCroatia and Serbia) that were not considered "minorities" in the formerYugoslavia but are now perceived as alien to the body politic in each of thenew states.

In this situation, the Hungarians have been the most adept minority in termsof accommodating themselves to the realities of power in Serbia/Yugoslavia,perhaps because they had always accepted their position as a minority.Ethnic Hungarian parties have been active in the political life ofVojvodina, thus attaining elected representation in all levels of electedassembly in Vojvodina and Serbia/Yugoslavia, from local and provincialassemblies to that of the republic and federation. Ethnic Hungarianpolitical parties control local government in ten counties in northernVojvodina, where Hungarians form local majorities. Thus the Hungarians maybe seen as a classic ethnic minority.

At the same time, the Hungarians in Serbia may have been served very badlyby the international community's betrayal of its own professed ideals of theprotection of minorities in some of the Yugoslav successor republics. At theJune conference, ethnic Hungarian political figures from Vojvodinarepeatedly drew a parallel between their own position and that of the Serbsin Croatia, arguing that Serb demands for autonomy in Croatia were analogousto their own demands for autonomy in Serbia. The international acquiescencein the expulsion of most of the Serbs from Croatia, particularly theexpulsion of almost all Serbs from the Krajina region in August 1995, makesthis comparison unfortunate and inappropriate. It also provides additionalammunition to those political forces in Serbia that are hostile tominorities.

The position of the Muslims is complicated by the problem of identity: theexistence of a Muslim nation is rejected by many Serbs and Croats. Since theMuslims were recognized as a constituent nation of Yugoslavia, as opposed tosimply a religious minority, only in the late 1960s, this identity questionis rooted in recent history. The likely outcome of the Bosnian war seems infact to have provided the resolution of this problem, since the "RepublikaSrpska" and the "Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosna" are premised on theexclusion of Muslims from the Serb and Croat nations, respectively. At thesame time, recognition of the Muslims as a separate nation, as opposed tobeing "Serbs of Muslim faith," raises all of the problems of autonomymentioned above. Since the Sandzak is adjacent to Bosnia, some Muslimpoliticians in both Bosnia and in the Sandzak itself have spoken of a desireto annex the region to Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the expulsion of theMuslims from eastern Bosnia, however, this option, if it ever had been seenas realistic by any party, no longer is so. The result is that the SandzakMuslims will have to reconcile their status as a minority within Serbia thatdoes form a strong local majority, but in a manner analogous to theHungarians of Vojvodina rather than to the Albanians of Kosovo.

Other national minorities (Bulgarians, Slovaks, Ruthenians, Romanians,Turks, Romas and others) are not so concentrated territorially or soorganized politically to have much impact on political life inSerbia/Yugoslavia, and their problems are therefore marginalized. At thesame time, the regime has made an effort to form "parallel" minorityorganizations charged with the task of demonstrating that in Serbia,minority rights are protected to the highest international standard.

Minority questions are made even more difficult by the attitude of theregime. Many laws have been passed that have as their goal the protection ofprotecting the majority population in Serbia, particularly the Serbs inKosovo. Several examples of such laws are the following:

A law on limiting the sale of real estate that is supposed to help preventthe emigration of Serbs from Kosovo. However, the effects of this law havespread to the Sandzak and Vojvodina, in other words, to all cases realestate transactions of people who are not ethnic Serbs. The result is aspread of corruption. An Albanian in Kosovo who wishes to sell as house, ora Hungarian in Vojvodina, or a Muslim in Sandzak, must apply for a licenseto do so, and there are thousands of such applications. While the waitingperiod for such a license is from one to five years, the use of "alternativechannels" can bring much quicker results.

The first electoral law, in 1990, facilitated the election to parliament oflegitimate representatives of minorities. Changes in the law, however, havemade this more difficult, and some minority members of parliament areregarded as puppets of the regime. (A similar situation in regard to theCroatian parliament was reported to the March 1994 PER fact-finding missionby Serbs in Croatia.)

No overall law on minorities has yet been passed. A proposal for such a law,drawn up for the Milan Panic government in 1993 by renowned experts inminority rights, was never acted upon.

In summary, all minorities in Serbia/Yugoslavia, and elsewhere in the formerYugoslavia, face problems ranging from the majoritarian attitudes of rulingparties through discrimination on individual and group levels, efforts topromote assimilation, and ultimately and most tragically, attempts to changethe demographic profiles of certain regions.

General Considerations For Alleviating Ethnic Problems

Many participants stressed that, since the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia isa multinational, multicultural, multireligious and multi-ethnic entity,there can be no peace or stability in the country unless ethnic problems areaddressed. They can be addressed in part at the level of protection of therights of the individual citizen, but they must also be protected throughrecognition of the rights of minorities groups.

A number of universal principles can be found in international law, such aslanguage rights, religious freedom and the right to free expression ofethnic or national identity, although there is little agreement on how theyare to be interpreted and applied . Still, while there are no bindinginternational legal frameworks for this purpose, there is a strongdisposition towards the protection of minority rights.

First, if a state respects human rights and does not discriminate againstminorities, the problem of minority rights is greatly attenuated. Further,there are many examples in the world of the proportional representation ofminorities in legislative bodies, and even of "affirmative action" in favorof them. Such measures encourage members of minorities to be loyal to thestate granting such protections, although they are at the same time subjectto manipulation by political figures from the majority population, in orderto gain majoritarian support. Such backlash movements against existingregimes of protection of minorities dominated politics in many of theYugoslav republics in the years leading up to the collapse of the formerYugoslavia.

A separate set of problems arises in situations where the minoritypopulation at the level of the state forms a strong local majority,especially where the locality in question is adjacent to the nation-state ofthe local majority. In such situations, recognition of collective rights isoften thought to lead to demands for "autonomy" that are actually a coverfor secession. In such a situation, international insistence on themaintenance of the territorial status quo are crucial, with the proviso thatborders may be changed by agreement.

In regard to this last point, however, several participants expressed theview that the international community's decision in 1991/92 to recognize theinternal borders of the republics within Yugoslavia as suddenlyinternational frontiers was a destabilizing precedent. With this decision,as with the concomitant Badinter decision that violent secession from afederation dissolves the federal state, any grant of local autonomy can beseen as providing the basis for international recognition of the autonomousregion as a separate state. Such a process is currently being giveninternational sanction in the case of Bosnian and Herzegovina, where the"Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosna," supposedly within the framework of theCroat-Muslim "federation" within the framework of the internationallyrecognized Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is de facto independent ofboth the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Bosnia andHerzegovina, and de facto incorporated into the Republic of Croatia. Severalethnic Serb participants saw such a process as dangerous to the continuedinclusion of Kosovo in Serbia while several Albanian participants saw thesame possibility as a favorable one. The recognition of the "RepublikaSrpska" as a (con)federal unit within a Bosnian (con)federation, analogousto the Croatian entity follows the same formula. It is possible, in fact, tosee this process of the creation first of new internal borders and thenrecognition of such borders as international frontiers as permitting thechange of borders under the guise of doing nothing of the sort. Whether thispossibility is a force for minimizing conflict or provoking it, however,remains to be seen.

The point was also made that, while international principles are important,much depends on political leadership and the willingness and ability ofleaders to negotiate. No resolution of minority problems was thought to bepossible except through negotiation between governments and the legitimaterepresentatives of national minorities. The matter of attitude andwillingness of the government to negotiate is particularly important atpresent, because those in power in all of the republics of the formerYugoslavia see minority rights as concessions to minorities rather than asrecognition of the rights of minorities as a guarantee of social stabilityand thus the stability of the state. When, as in Serbia at present, thequestion of cultural autonomy and local self-administration is complicatedby issues of control over territory and thus the integrity of the state, itis difficult indeed to find compromise positions. This is the key element ofthe problem of Kosovo. Again, events since the conference, especially theinternational acceptance of the expulsion of the Serbs from Croatia,undercuts efforts to promote dialogue rather than force as the way toresolve minority problems.

In the course of discussion on this topic, some participants proposedseveral principles to guide the resolution of minority problems inSerbia/Yugoslavia. First, the rights of minorities must be recognized andrespected, specifically in regard to education, culture, media and freedomto use one's native language. Further, the political subjectivity of theminority population should be recognized through assurance of the right ofthe minority to elect its own representatives to parliamentary bodies. Athird principle is that some territories in which a minority populationforms a local majority should be granted special status, with some forms oflocal governmental autonomy. (The subject of minority rights and localautonomy is, of course, hotly debated elsewhere in the region, for examplein the confrontations between the Hungarian minorities and the governmentsin Slovakia and Romania. However, in the Yugoslav context the idea seems tobe somewhat less controversial--even if its application is not.

At the same time that these rights are granted to minorities, it should alsobe stressed that a request for autonomy is of itself an acknowledgment ofthe sovereignty of the state. Autonomy is a limited form ofquasi-sovereignty within a sovereign state, and is thus a compromise thatrespects the integrity of the larger state while still affording minoritycontrol over areas of life that are crucial to the maintenance of theminority's national identity. Thus a request for autonomy acknowledgesresponsibility to respect the legitimate interests of the state whilegaining state authority for minority management of some elements of its ownaffairs at the local level.

Kosovo And Serbian-Albanian Relations In Yugoslavia

Discussion on the theme of Kosovo revolved around one central, crucialquestion: Is the Federal republic of Yugoslavia a structure in which it ispossible to resolve the conflict between Serbs and Albanians in theprovince? As was the case in regard to the question of democratization, twoopposing positions were presented.

One position was that there is no possibility to resolve the problem ofKosovo within the framework of the Federal republic of Yugoslavia. Thisposition was based on the following arguments: that the present Yugoslaviawas proclaimed against the will of the Albanians who are its citizens; thatrelations between Kosovo and Serbia are based only on force, not principle;and that at the time when the Federal republic of Yugoslavia was proclaimed,Kosovo was under martial law and its legitimate parliament was forciblyprevented from meeting, under authority arrogated by the Serbian parliamentunto itself and without consent of the citizens of Kosovo or theirlegitimate representatives. Further, the Serbian parliament had then passeda number of laws that discriminate against Albanians, such as the Law onLabor Relations in Extraordinary Circumstances, The Law on Education inKosovo, the Law on Public Information [media], the Law on the formation ofPublic Enterprises and a whole list of other laws and decisions of theSerbian government. It was further argued that the process of disintegrationof the former Yugoslavia was not yet completed and that the current bordersof the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are thus not final ones.

The other position held that all of the former Yugoslavia had beenstructured by force, not just Kosovo. Resistance had been staged in allparts of the country, but whereas demonstrations in 1968 in Serbia weredemanding democracy, those in the same year in Kosovo demanded the status ofan Albanian-majority republic for Kosovo. The law referring to "exceptionalconditions" was passed because the conditions really were exceptional, inthat from 1968 through 1983/84 (when the Republic of Serbia exerted greaterauthority in Kosovo) and even later, conditions were such that non-Albaniansleft in large numbers, leading to the "Albanization" of Kosovo. From thisposition, the overwhelming Albanian majority in Kosovo is thus the result ofa campaign to drive out non-Albanians.

The question of the ethnic Albanians within Serbia/Yugoslavia is thusexceptionally complicated. The vast majority of Albanians in Kosovo desireindependence or at least a very large measure of autonomy. Considering theethnic composition of the population of Kosovo, territorial autonomy forthat province would mean de facto Albanian ethnic autonomy from Serbia, andit is an open question as to whether such a condition would really satisfyAlbanian political ambitions. The question becomes even more complicatedwhen it is realized that the Albanians of Kosovo have refused what could bean important role in Serbian politics that they would have were they toadopt the same political tactics as the Vojvodina Hungarians. That is, ifthe Albanians were to participate in elections for the Serbian parliament,their overwhelming demographic majority in Kosovo would lead to the electionof perhaps 25 members of the Serbian parliament, or 10% of the total seats.Such a large block of legislators could swing the balance of power in therepublican legislature. It was noted that ethnic Albanians have used suchtactics to good measure in the neighboring republic of Macedonia, whereAlbanians form more than a quarter of the total population of the republic,and majorities like those in Kosovo in western Macedonia.

If it is borne in mind that ethnic Albanians elected to the Serbianparliament under such conditions would oppose the current regime, it isnoteworthy that members of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia called forthe Albanians to enter into the parliamentary contests in Serbia.

Albanian participants in the conference responded to such arguments bysaying that participation in the electoral process in Serbia wouldconstitute an acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the Serbian/Yugoslavstates. These participants said that they could not accept the legitimacy ofa structure of systematic discrimination, which they claim is prevalent inSerbia.

In spite of the essential opposition of these positions, all sidesacknowledge that there are still some factors that may make a peacefulresolution of the problem possible. Thus, although there has been and stillis strong repression in Kosovo, and ethnic tensions are high, open warfarehas not broken out, a fortunate circumstance for which the Albanianleadership deserves credit. Further, the Albanian political leadership hasnot permitted opposition to the Serbian regime and its agents to beexpressed as hostility to ordinary Serbs who remain in Kosovo.

Symptomatic of the tensions in regard to the Albanian minority in Serbia wasa discussion of the question of loyalty to the state, not only as legalobligation but as psychological possibility. Under current politicalconditions, it is clearly not easy for ethnic Albanians to feel or manifestloyalty to what they perceive as an ethnic Serbian state. The suggestion wasmade, however, that it would be easier for ethnic Albanians, and for thatmatter for members of other minorities, to respect laws that were publishedin their own language, as used to be the case in the former Yugoslavia.

There was general agreement that without the attainment of a democraticsolution for resolving the problem of Kosovo, the further democratization ofYugoslavia is not possible. It was also agreed that Kosovo is a region inwhich human rights are violated massively, and that a joint platform ofrespect of human rights must be one of the basic preconditions fordiscussions about Kosovo and Serbian-Albanian relations.

The roundtable was able to reach general agreement on a position that thereshould be an objective analysis of the problem of political and other formsof repression in Kosovo. Further, there was also general agreement that theSerbian authorities and representatives of the Kosovo Albanians shouldinitiate direct discussions without preconditions and on all topics. Takingsuch a step would require concessions from both sides, since both haveplaced preconditions on the initiation of discussions.

It was also suggested that for the problems of Kosovo to be resolved, theSerbian authorities must recognize that all approaches to the problem untilnow have failed, from minimizing the problem to attempts to portray it inmisleading ways.

At the conclusion of the conference, Albanian participants and somebelonging to the ruling party in Serbia expressed interest in resumingdiscussions, if not yet negotiation of specific issues.

Views Of The Serbian National Program

It is clear that some forms of a program for Serbia and for Serbs exist, asnumerous general formulations and demands by various political parties andgroups. It is also clear that these ideas are not well developed and couldhardly be said to form any consistent set of concepts or programs. It couldeven be said that there are two basic patterns of thought, one embodying apremodern theory of nation and its state, the other an attempt to leadSerbia to modernize, to establish a minimal, liberal state. These models aremutually inconsistent, and it is necessary for the governing political elitein Serbia to define itself, and thus the identity of the state.

Several points that would have to be part of the formulation of anydemocratic national program were discussed. The most important is that in anethnically mixed region such as Serbia, it is essential that nationalminorities have very wide autonomy. This would require, in turn, abandonmentof demagoguery based on exploiting the ethnic question, not only amongSerbs, but on the part of all ethnic groups. Finally, the importance of theSerbian national problem should be internationally recognized. The presentinternational isolation of Serbs and Serbia is extremely damaging for theprospects of building any form of democracy in the country.

Influences Of The International Community And Prospects For BalkansIntegration Into Europe

This part of the conference made manifest certain differences in regard tothe role of the international community in resolving the Yugoslav crisis.While some participants stressed that Europe would insist on the maintenanceof certain standards of behavior, it was pointed out by others that, first,it was odd that Europe was demanding more of the least developed countrieson the continent than many western countries were able or willing to achievethemselves. Secondly, it was noted that the effects of sanctions and otherefforts to isolate some of the republics of the former Yugoslavia workedtotally against the establishment of conditions that would facilitate ethnicpeace in the region. Finally, when it was noted by some Europeanparticipants that Croatia was scheduled for integration into Europe whileSerbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania were to remain the"black hole of Europe," other participants responded that Europe therebybetrays its supposed principles, since there is no principled reason whyCroatia should be granted more favorable treatment than Macedonia.

In any event, many would argue that, whatever may have been said at theroundtable about European standards of democracy and ethnic tolerance, theyseem to have been exposed as empty rhetoric by the willingness of theinternational community to accept the completion of the ethnic cleansing ofmost of eastern Bosnia by Serbian forces one month later, and the ethniccleansing of the Krajina region by Croat forces three weeks later. If anyprinciples guide the actions of the international community in regard to theformer Yugoslavia, they seem now to be only those of geopolitics between thelarger powers.

Follow-Up To The Roundtable

Two extremely important points were developed in the course of the two daysof the roundtable. First, confronting the realities of the situation facingall in Serbia/Yugoslavia, representatives of all relevant political partiesrecognized the absolute necessity of retreating from the currentnationalistic approaches to ethnic problems. Second, a strong willingnesswas expressed to begin step-by-step discussions and negotiations overconcrete problems in ethnic relations.

The roundtable also represented the beginnings of a process of democraticand peaceful discourse on questions of ethnic relations. The roundtable wasactually the first such occasion since the unsuccessful discussions onelection laws in 1991 in which members of all parliamentary politicalparties, both the ruling party and the opposition, plus representatives ofthe Albanian, Hungarian and Muslim minorities took part. It was also thefirst occasion since the formation of the ethnic Albanian parties that theirrepresentatives and those of the ruling and opposition parties in Serbia metpublicly. These facts show the basic good will of all parties and theirrecognition that dialogue is not only necessary, but possible.

There was strong general agreement for the proposition that a solution forthe Serbian-Albanian conflict must be sought immediately, with the activeparticipation of the regime and of the Albanian party, which requires changein the basic positions of both sides. Such a resolution must be based on arealistic recognition of the legitimate interests of both sides. Towardsthis end, it was agreed during discussions between the representative of theruling party (Mr. Goran Percevic, SPS) and of the most influential Albanianparty (Dr. Fehmet Agani, Democratic League of Kosovo) as well asrepresentatives of PER, EBIN and the European Parliament, to begindiscussions in the Fall of 1995. These discussions are envisioned as freeand frank exchanges of opinions, aimed at facilitating the beginnings ofpolitical negotiations over the solution of concrete questions, beginningwith the problem of schooling and official use of the Albanian language inKosovo.

These results--the open participation of representatives of all Serbianparliamentary political parties and of the major ethnic minorities in such apublic meeting, plus the agreement in principle to begin serious discussionsbetween the ruling party in Serbia and the most influential Albanianparty--indicate that the international roundtable made a significantcontribution to a change in the political climate that can produce realprogress on the problem of minorities in Serbia, particularly centering onKosovo.




Dr. Milan Bozic, advisor to the president, Serbian Renewal Movement

Ilija Djukic, president, Committee on International Relations, DemocraticParty

Tahir Hasanovic, secretary general, New Democracy

Dr. Dusan Janjic, coordinator, Forum on Ethnic Relations

Sonja Licht, president, Soros Fund Yugoslavia

Prof. Milos Macura, member, Serbian Academy of Science

Prof. Dragoljub Micunovic, president, Democratic Center Foundation

Goran Percevic, vice-president, Socialist party of Serbia

Dr. Vesna Pesic, president, Civil Alliance of Serbia

Dr. Ranko Pelkovic, editor in chief, International Policy

Prof. Dragoljub Popvic, member of the executive committee, Democratic Partyof Russia

Prof. Vojislav Stanovcic, member, Serbian Academy of Science and Art

Prof. Svetozar Stojanovic, member, Institute for Social Sciences

Mirko Tepavac, president, Eurropean movement in Serbia

Desimir Tosic, writer and parlimentary deputy

Slobodan Vuckovic, attorney at law


Prof. Ljubisa Mitrovic, University of Nis


Dr. Fehmi Agani, vice-president, Democratic League of Kosovo

Dr. Veton Suroi, writer

Behlul Beqaj, journalist


Mahmut Memic, attorney at law

Rasim Llajic, president, Democratic Party Action


Prof. Momcilo Grubac, vice-president, Reform Democratic Party of Vojvodina

Prof. Dejan Janca, Law School, University of Novi Sad

Pal Sandor, vice-president, Democratic Union of Vojvodina Hungarians

Laslo Vegel, writer


Jozef Kasa, vice-president, Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians


Geert Ahrens, deputy co-chair, International Conference of the FormerYugoslavia, Geneva, Switzerland

Harry Barnes, director, Conflict Resolution Center and Human Rights Center,Carter Presidential Center, Atlanta, U.S.A.

Prof. Stefano Bianchini, central coordinator, Europe and the BalkansInternational Network, Bologna, Italy

Prof. Michel Foucher, director general, Observatoire Europeen deGeopolitique, Lyons, France

Prof. Robert Hayden, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, U.S.A.

Renzo Imbeni, vice-president, European Parliament, Bologna, Italy

Dr. Allen H. Kassof, president, Project on Ethnic Relations, Princeton,U.S.A.

Bertrand de Largentaye, principal administrator, European Commission,Brussels, Belgium

Livia B. Plaks, executive director, Project on Ethnic Relations, Princeton,U.S.A.

Prof. Paul Shoup, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, U.S.A.

Willy Wiemmer, vice-president, Parliamentary Assembly of the Organizationfor the Security and Cooperation for Europe, Bonn, Germany


Branka Andjelkovic, journalist, NIN, Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Robert Benjamin, staff, National Democratic Institute for InternationalAffairs, Washington, U.S.A.

Marie-Janine Calic, political and policy analyst, Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Milan Milosevic, journalist, Vreme, Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Jens Sorensen, Section for Democracy and Human Rights, SIDA, Stockholm,Sweden