The main Albanian political parties have a single objective for Kosovo after the elections on November 17th: independence.
The political projects of the main Albanian parties have a common thread, to take Kosovo out of the sphere of Belgrade’s influence after the election. However, there will be no unilateral declaration of independence; the ground will be prepared to prove that the Albanians can manage the province’s affairs with competence without the support of the Yugoslav Federation.
The United Nations mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), an international protectorate since June 1999, has not forbidden the Albanian parties from making independence the central theme of their campaign and refuses to become involved in a final statute for the province.
A free hand given to the Albanians will have obvious consequences, because Belgrade considers Kosovo an integral part of Yugoslav territory.
Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of the largest Albanian party, the Democratic League of Kosovo, stated in the first political rally of his campaign that the main objective of his party is “to work towards the formal recognition of the independence of Kosovo."
The elections on November 17th will elect a provisory government and a 120-place legislative assembly. There will be 20 places reserved for minorities. The assembly will elect a president of Kosovo. Wide powers of autonomy will be given to the province, which will remain under the control of the UNO.
At the municipal elections in October 2000, Rugova’s DLK obtained 58% of the vote. Second was the democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK), of Hashim Thaci, the former military leader of the UCK. Third was the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, led by former UCK political chief and area commander Ramush Haradinaj.
The campaign by the Serbian population has not yet started. The only party enrolled for the election, the Coalition for Return, has not yet presented its candidates. However, whether or not the Serbs are present in the electoral process, it should be remembered that Kosovo is the heart of the Serbian nation. An old Serbian adage reads “Without Kosovo there can be no Serbia."
St. Vitas’ Day, 1389, the battle of Kosovo Polye (Field of Blackbirds) marks the beginning of the Serbian nation, the spirit of togetherness that saw the Serbian peoples unite against the Turkish invader. This was the spark that ignited the spirit of Serbia. The fact that there are 2,400 Serbian orthodox religious sites and monuments in the province proves that Kosovo is the cradle of the Serbian psyche. Ninety percent of place names in Kosovo are of Serbian origin.
The political geography of this region is much more complex than meets the eye. Kofi Annan may be the Nobel peace Prizewinner, justly, but to form a United Nations protectorate in such a volatile area seems to be totally misguided. Westerners are drawing lines on maps again. Probably, most readers will know the name Kosovo but “Kosovo and Metohija” is the correct name of the province. Metohija (after the Greek Metohion, Monastic estates) is the Western part of the province of Kosovo.
Taking away Kosovo from the Serb nation is like surgically removing the vital organs of any living organism.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL