JUNE 23-24, 1995


The Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) is pleased to have co-sponsored an international roundtable on "Democratic Processes and Ethnic Relations in Yugoslavia", held on June 23-24, 1995, in Belgrade. The event brought together a group of noted experts, intellectuals and politicians from Yugoslavia, the United States, and Europe (a list of participants is appended). In a period that has been marked by bitter recriminations and lethal interethnic struggles, the meeting was all the more remarkable for the unexpectedly constructive and tolerant nature of the discussions among Yugoslav participants from various ethnic groups and political parties. This report summarizes the discussions and debates that took place.

PER's co-sponsors were the Democratic Center, in Belgrade, and the Soros Foundation, Yugoslavia. PER acknowledges with pleasure their cooperation, as well as the participation of the European and the Balkans International Network of Bologna.

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

Many of the perspectives set forth at the Belgrade meeting were quickly overtaken by the Croatian victory in Krajina and the NATO intervention that followed in Bosnia. The authors faced an unusual challenge in capturing the substance of the meeting even while having to view it through the lens of the events that followed. The result is a document that provides both a summary of the discussions and some interpretive observations. The reader should bear in mind that the varied and often conflicting opinions that are reflected in this document are those of the conference participants and rapporteurs.

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

Princeton, New Jersey
October 1995

The Setting

This report summarizes the discussions at the conference, "Democratic Processes and Ethnic Relations in Yugoslavia", held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, on June 23-24, 1995. In this text, "Yugoslavia" refers to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, composed of Serbia and Montenegro and proclaimed in 1992. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which ceased to exist in 1992, is referred to as "the former Yugoslavia."

It is important to note that the political situation in the former Yugoslavia has changed dramatically in the months immediately following the conference. In July, Serbian forces took two Muslim "safe areas" in eastern Bosnia, Srebrenica and Cepa, while in early August Croatia took the Serbian-populated region of the Krajina. In both cases, the resident populations were expelled, the Muslims from the Bosnian enclaves and almost all Serbs from Krajina, further undermining the position of "moderates" in any of the formerly Yugoslav republics. Thus, some positions taken by participants in June may have been rendered obsolete by the events of July and August.

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

Session I: Conditions, principles and mechanisms of stopping the war and transition towards peace on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and the influence 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. Vojislav Stanovcic)

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

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

Session V: The influence of the international community and its institutions on democratic processes in Serbia/Yugoslavia, prospects for the development of relations between Serbia/Yugoslavia and other parts of the Balkans, and for the integration of Serbia/Yugoslavia into Europe (Chairs: Dr. Stefano Bianchini and Sonja Licht)

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

In two days of intensive, frank and open discussion, many questions were raised. This report summarizes the debates without identifying individual speakers.

Causes And Characteristics Of The War On The Territory Of The Former Yugoslavia 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're not capable of producing well, at least we're capable of war." Second, in an effort to avoid democratization, the politics of ethnicity and of citing "foreign threats" were intensified. Thus a strategy of conflict was devised in relation first to the problem of Kosovo and then in regard to the entire world. Third, behind the "delirium of sovereignty" that seized the entire formerly communist world, especially federations, was a revival of the concept of sovereignty as absolute power over subjects. Fourth, even though the principal responsibility for the war lies with the domestic protagonists, and even though none of the republics of the former Yugoslavia and particularly Serbia has clean hands in regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the international community bears considerable responsibility for acquiescing in the imposition of the ethnic principle there, and generally for inconsistent and contradictory political stances towards the former Yugoslavia. There were also comments about unsatisfactory international understanding of the problems.

In the course of discussion it was emphasized that although peace is not everything, nothing can be done without peace, and that in the current circumstances, it is overly ambitious to speak of stopping the war and building peace. It was suggested that it would be more realistic to consider gradual isolation and localization of centers of the war, and most likely a long-term transition towards building peace.

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

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

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

Other discussions took place concerning the possibility of limiting the war by attempting to establish communications between local populations, such as the Serbs and Croats of Herzegovina, or between the Serbs in Croatia and the Croatian government. Unfortunately, the expulsion of the majority of Serbs from Croatia in August 1995, and the coincident increase of tensions between Serbs and Croats in Herzegovina, have made the accomplishment of such measures at least temporarily unlikely. Similarly, the need for the international community to take a neutral role in mediating conflicts was also stressed. Considering, however, the international failure in this regard, one recent example being the Croatian military action that expelled the Serbs from Croatia, neutral international mediation still seems an elusive goal. Finally, an attempt was made during the discussions to envision a new international conference on the former Yugoslavia, with the aim of establishing conventions for the mutual recognition of the formerly Yugoslav republics and their entering into trade and other agreements, with international financial assistance for reconstruction. However, events since the Belgrade meeting render this possibility remote. An international conference will likely ratify the construction of ethnically based nation-states, defined primarily by opposition to each other.

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

Ways and Means for the Democratization of Serbia/Yugoslavia

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

One view was that since the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was established against the wishes of an important part of its population (a reference primarily to the Albanians of Kosovo) and under conditions that rendered its establishment legally dubious, it was difficult to envision the institutionalization of political pluralism in the country. Further, it seems possible that the present configuration of Serbia/Yugoslavia is likely to be changed, both because of opposition from some of its territories and elements of its citizenry, and under the influence of the ethno-territorial restructuring taking place outside of its borders, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This position was taken by participants in the discussion who, by their ethnic origins, belong to minority communities in Serbia/Yugoslavia.

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

A number of circumstances that hinder or prevent democratization in Serbia/Yugoslavia were also pointed out: First, the conditions of wartime; Second, the lack of a stable market economy, and the exceptionally bad economic situation. For example, in the estimate of economists, the Federal Republic 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 that was 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 the lack of independent media, scientific and university establishments, an all too familiar problem in many transition states; Fifth, the indifference of the public to economic issues, since most of the population is too busy trying to ensure its own day-to-day existence. Further, the citizens now have great antipathy to politics and to politicians. This common political apathy, coupled with ethnocentrism, has very unfavorable consequences in regard to the search for formulas for establishing democracy.

Despite these obstacles towards democratization, there was wide agreement on several points. First, it is time for the problem of citizens to be taken seriously, 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 the constitutions of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in practice many laws, regulations and government acts are imposed by the might of the regime, without regard for the opinions of political minorities, much less ethnic ones. In practice, there are none of the required institutional guarantees of the rule of law, such as a division of powers and particularly an independent judiciary. At the moment the executive branch, and especially the President of the Republic, dominates political life.

Many of the problems in the democratization of Serbia are based on the fact that the fall of communism did not mean the displacement of the elite that had been running the one-party communist state. That elite remains in charge, largely unchanged even in personnel. In a situation in which a new political culture must be established in the country, the continuation in power of this elite constitutes a powerful hindrance on democratization.

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

The theme of interethnic relations is regarded in Serbia as essentially a question of conflict, the elements of which are the dichotomy of, on the one hand, the national unification of the majority ethno-national group and the stability of the community, and on the other the problems of national minorities and of human rights. In democratic theory, of course, these interests should not be seen as opposed, since the protection of ethnic and political minorities and the guarantee of human rights to all should ensure the stability of the state, thus the solving the problems of the majority nation as well as of the minorities. That these interests are now seen as inherently conflictual is definitional of the problems of all of the former Yugoslavia.

In Serbia/Yugoslavia, there is the moral responsibility and political necessity to reject stereotypes and to overcome misunderstandings. Destructive nationalism is largely the product of intellectuals, whose work is then used by politicians to further their own goals. It is thus the responsibility of intellectuals above all others to assist in creating an atmosphere of greater trust, which is clearly not of itself enough to resolve ethnic conflicts in the present state of tensions, but is still a prerequisite for their solution. A firm belief in this position has guided the work of the Serbian-American Consulting Group, and was the basic assumption of the Belgrade Conference.

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

Discussion on these themes at the conference was thus intense and often exhibited fundamentally different orientations among the participants. It is to the credit of all participants, however, that fundamentally opposed positions were never stated in ways that were confrontational.

The fact of the overwhelming territorial concentration of Albanians in Kosovo and that province's location next to Albania and to Albanian-majority regions of Macedonia makes the problem of Albanian-Serbian relations of a different magnitude. It is discussed separately in the next section of this report, following a summary of the discussion on the general questions of ethnic relations, ethnic conflicts and the position and protection of minorities.

The most important minority questions in Serbia/Yugoslavia involve three groups: the Albanians of Kosovo; the Hungarians of Vojvodina; and the Slavic Muslims of Sandzak, which borders Bosnia and includes parts of both Serbia and Montenegro. These three situations of ethnic tension, however, are quite different in the nature of the tensions inherent in them, and in the demands of the minority populations.

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

The Hungarians of the Vojvodina, on the other hand, are a minority in the province as a whole, though they do form local majorities. There are no serious demands for the secession of the province from Yugoslavia or for its accession to Hungary. Instead, the Hungarians of the Vojvodina are concerned primarily with the need to protect their cultural identity, including schooling in their own language and freedom of religion, and protection against discrimination. Demands by the Hungarians for "autonomy" concern cultural rights and local political self-rule.

The Muslims of Sandzak raise different problems. Unlike the Albanians and Hungarians, these people speak the same language as the majority Serbs, but like the other minorities, they perceive themselves as part of the "national being" of a neighboring state, in this case, the Muslims of Bosnia. Since there are no language issues involved, the problems of protecting this minority revolve around ensuring freedom of religion and protection against discrimination. Unfortunately, however, the relations of the Sandzak Muslims to Serbs and Serbia is under the strong influence of the hostilities between Muslims and Serbs in Bosnia. Thus what might seem like a situation analogous to that of the Hungarians of Vojvodina and even less complicated comes to resemble that of the Albanians of Kosovo: even local political and cultural "autonomy" could be seen as threatening the integrity of Serbia and Montenegro, both elements of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

It is unfortunate that the attitude of the international community in regard to the former Yugoslavia and to other socialist "federations" may have brought into question the entire concept of federalism as the basis of a viable state. Federalism, with its mixtures of both local and central authority, seems one of the most suitable frameworks yet developed for structuring relations in a multi-ethnic society. Yet the international community accepted the view of the EC's "arbitration committee," the Badinter Committee, that secession from a federation that produced armed conflict meant that the federation was dissolved, with recognition to be granted to the seceding units as successor states and withdrawn from the federation itself. With this precedent squarely before them, politicians throughout the former Yugoslavia reject the concept of federalism as inherently threatening to the stability and integrity of the state. Thus "autonomy" or any other form of decentralization of authority is also extremely suspect to political leaders, since it requires a division of powers that implies federalism.

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

In this situation, the Hungarians have been the most adept minority in terms of 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 of Vojvodina, thus attaining elected representation in all levels of elected assembly in Vojvodina and Serbia/Yugoslavia, from local and provincial assemblies to that of the republic and federation. Ethnic Hungarian political parties control local government in ten counties in northern Vojvodina, where Hungarians form local majorities. Thus the Hungarians may be seen as a classic ethnic minority.

At the same time, the Hungarians in Serbia may have been served very badly by the international community's betrayal of its own professed ideals of the protection of minorities in some of the Yugoslav successor republics. At the June conference, ethnic Hungarian political figures from Vojvodina repeatedly drew a parallel between their own position and that of the Serbs in Croatia, arguing that Serb demands for autonomy in Croatia were analogous to their own demands for autonomy in Serbia. The international acquiescence in the expulsion of most of the Serbs from Croatia, particularly the expulsion of almost all Serbs from the Krajina region in August 1995, makes this comparison unfortunate and inappropriate. It also provides additional ammunition to those political forces in Serbia that are hostile to minorities.

The position of the Muslims is complicated by the problem of identity: the existence of a Muslim nation is rejected by many Serbs and Croats. Since the Muslims were recognized as a constituent nation of Yugoslavia, as opposed to simply a religious minority, only in the late 1960s, this identity question is rooted in recent history. The likely outcome of the Bosnian war seems in fact to have provided the resolution of this problem, since the "Republika Srpska" and the "Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosna" are premised on the exclusion of Muslims from the Serb and Croat nations, respectively. At the same time, recognition of the Muslims as a separate nation, as opposed to being "Serbs of Muslim faith," raises all of the problems of autonomy mentioned above. Since the Sandzak is adjacent to Bosnia, some Muslim politicians in both Bosnia and in the Sandzak itself have spoken of a desire to annex the region to Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the expulsion of the Muslims from eastern Bosnia, however, this option, if it ever had been seen as realistic by any party, no longer is so. The result is that the Sandzak Muslims will have to reconcile their status as a minority within Serbia that does form a strong local majority, but in a manner analogous to the Hungarians 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 so organized politically to have much impact on political life in Serbia/Yugoslavia, and their problems are therefore marginalized. At the same time, the regime has made an effort to form "parallel" minority organizations 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 the regime. Many laws have been passed that have as their goal the protection of protecting the majority population in Serbia, particularly the Serbs in Kosovo. Several examples of such laws are the following:

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

The first electoral law, in 1990, facilitated the election to parliament of legitimate representatives of minorities. Changes in the law, however, have made this more difficult, and some minority members of parliament are regarded as puppets of the regime. (A similar situation in regard to the Croatian parliament was reported to the March 1994 PER fact-finding mission by 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 in minority rights, was never acted upon.

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

General Considerations For Alleviating Ethnic Problems

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

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

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

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

In regard to this last point, however, several participants expressed the view that the international community's decision in 1991/92 to recognize the internal borders of the republics within Yugoslavia as suddenly international frontiers was a destabilizing precedent. With this decision, as with the concomitant Badinter decision that violent secession from a federation dissolves the federal state, any grant of local autonomy can be seen as providing the basis for international recognition of the autonomous region as a separate state. Such a process is currently being given international sanction in the case of Bosnian and Herzegovina, where the "Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosna," supposedly within the framework of the Croat-Muslim "federation" within the framework of the internationally recognized Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is de facto independent of both the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and de facto incorporated into the Republic of Croatia. Several ethnic Serb participants saw such a process as dangerous to the continued inclusion of Kosovo in Serbia while several Albanian participants saw the same possibility as a favorable one. The recognition of the "Republika Srpska" as a (con)federal unit within a Bosnian (con)federation, analogous to the Croatian entity follows the same formula. It is possible, in fact, to see this process of the creation first of new internal borders and then recognition of such borders as international frontiers as permitting the change of borders under the guise of doing nothing of the sort. Whether this possibility 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 of leaders to negotiate. No resolution of minority problems was thought to be possible except through negotiation between governments and the legitimate representatives of national minorities. The matter of attitude and willingness of the government to negotiate is particularly important at present, because those in power in all of the republics of the former Yugoslavia see minority rights as concessions to minorities rather than as recognition of the rights of minorities as a guarantee of social stability and thus the stability of the state. When, as in Serbia at present, the question of cultural autonomy and local self-administration is complicated by issues of control over territory and thus the integrity of the state, it is difficult indeed to find compromise positions. This is the key element of the problem of Kosovo. Again, events since the conference, especially the international acceptance of the expulsion of the Serbs from Croatia, undercuts efforts to promote dialogue rather than force as the way to resolve minority problems.

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

At the same time that these rights are granted to minorities, it should also be stressed that a request for autonomy is of itself an acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the state. Autonomy is a limited form of quasi-sovereignty within a sovereign state, and is thus a compromise that respects the integrity of the larger state while still affording minority control over areas of life that are crucial to the maintenance of the minority's national identity. Thus a request for autonomy acknowledges responsibility to respect the legitimate interests of the state while gaining state authority for minority management of some elements of its own affairs at the local level.

Kosovo And Serbian-Albanian Relations In Yugoslavia

Discussion on the theme of Kosovo revolved around one central, crucial question: Is the Federal republic of Yugoslavia a structure in which it is possible to resolve the conflict between Serbs and Albanians in the province? As was the case in regard to the question of democratization, two opposing positions were presented.

One position was that there is no possibility to resolve the problem of Kosovo within the framework of the Federal republic of Yugoslavia. This position was based on the following arguments: that the present Yugoslavia was proclaimed against the will of the Albanians who are its citizens; that relations 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 forcibly prevented from meeting, under authority arrogated by the Serbian parliament unto itself and without consent of the citizens of Kosovo or their legitimate representatives. Further, the Serbian parliament had then passed a number of laws that discriminate against Albanians, such as the Law on Labor Relations in Extraordinary Circumstances, The Law on Education in Kosovo, the Law on Public Information [media], the Law on the formation of Public Enterprises and a whole list of other laws and decisions of the Serbian government. It was further argued that the process of disintegration of the former Yugoslavia was not yet completed and that the current borders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are thus not final ones.

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

The question of the ethnic Albanians within Serbia/Yugoslavia is thus exceptionally complicated. The vast majority of Albanians in Kosovo desire independence or at least a very large measure of autonomy. Considering the ethnic composition of the population of Kosovo, territorial autonomy for that province would mean de facto Albanian ethnic autonomy from Serbia, and it is an open question as to whether such a condition would really satisfy Albanian political ambitions. The question becomes even more complicated when it is realized that the Albanians of Kosovo have refused what could be an important role in Serbian politics that they would have were they to adopt the same political tactics as the Vojvodina Hungarians. That is, if the Albanians were to participate in elections for the Serbian parliament, their overwhelming demographic majority in Kosovo would lead to the election of 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 the republican legislature. It was noted that ethnic Albanians have used such tactics to good measure in the neighboring republic of Macedonia, where Albanians 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 Serbian parliament under such conditions would oppose the current regime, it is noteworthy that members of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia called for the Albanians to enter into the parliamentary contests in Serbia.

Albanian participants in the conference responded to such arguments by saying that participation in the electoral process in Serbia would constitute an acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the Serbian/Yugoslav states. These participants said that they could not accept the legitimacy of a structure of systematic discrimination, which they claim is prevalent in Serbia.

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

Symptomatic of the tensions in regard to the Albanian minority in Serbia was a discussion of the question of loyalty to the state, not only as legal obligation but as psychological possibility. Under current political conditions, it is clearly not easy for ethnic Albanians to feel or manifest loyalty to what they perceive as an ethnic Serbian state. The suggestion was made, however, that it would be easier for ethnic Albanians, and for that matter for members of other minorities, to respect laws that were published in their own language, as used to be the case in the former Yugoslavia.

There was general agreement that without the attainment of a democratic solution for resolving the problem of Kosovo, the further democratization of Yugoslavia is not possible. It was also agreed that Kosovo is a region in which human rights are violated massively, and that a joint platform of respect of human rights must be one of the basic preconditions for discussions about Kosovo and Serbian-Albanian relations.

The roundtable was able to reach general agreement on a position that there should be an objective analysis of the problem of political and other forms of repression in Kosovo. Further, there was also general agreement that the Serbian authorities and representatives of the Kosovo Albanians should initiate direct discussions without preconditions and on all topics. Taking such a step would require concessions from both sides, since both have placed preconditions on the initiation of discussions.

It was also suggested that for the problems of Kosovo to be resolved, the Serbian authorities must recognize that all approaches to the problem until now have failed, from minimizing the problem to attempts to portray it in misleading ways.

At the conclusion of the conference, Albanian participants and some belonging to the ruling party in Serbia expressed interest in resuming discussions, 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, as numerous general formulations and demands by various political parties and groups. It is also clear that these ideas are not well developed and could hardly be said to form any consistent set of concepts or programs. It could even be said that there are two basic patterns of thought, one embodying a premodern theory of nation and its state, the other an attempt to lead Serbia to modernize, to establish a minimal, liberal state. These models are mutually inconsistent, and it is necessary for the governing political elite in Serbia to define itself, and thus the identity of the state.

Several points that would have to be part of the formulation of any democratic national program were discussed. The most important is that in an ethnically mixed region such as Serbia, it is essential that national minorities have very wide autonomy. This would require, in turn, abandonment of demagoguery based on exploiting the ethnic question, not only among Serbs, but on the part of all ethnic groups. Finally, the importance of the Serbian national problem should be internationally recognized. The present international isolation of Serbs and Serbia is extremely damaging for the prospects of building any form of democracy in the country.

Influences Of The International Community And Prospects For Balkans Integration Into Europe

This part of the conference made manifest certain differences in regard to the role of the international community in resolving the Yugoslav crisis. While some participants stressed that Europe would insist on the maintenance of certain standards of behavior, it was pointed out by others that, first, it was odd that Europe was demanding more of the least developed countries on the continent than many western countries were able or willing to achieve themselves. Secondly, it was noted that the effects of sanctions and other efforts to isolate some of the republics of the former Yugoslavia worked totally against the establishment of conditions that would facilitate ethnic peace in the region. Finally, when it was noted by some European participants that Croatia was scheduled for integration into Europe while Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania were to remain the "black hole of Europe," other participants responded that Europe thereby betrays its supposed principles, since there is no principled reason why Croatia should be granted more favorable treatment than Macedonia.

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

Follow-Up To The Roundtable

Two extremely important points were developed in the course of the two days of the roundtable. First, confronting the realities of the situation facing all in Serbia/Yugoslavia, representatives of all relevant political parties recognized the absolute necessity of retreating from the current nationalistic approaches to ethnic problems. Second, a strong willingness was expressed to begin step-by-step discussions and negotiations over concrete problems in ethnic relations.

The roundtable also represented the beginnings of a process of democratic and peaceful discourse on questions of ethnic relations. The roundtable was actually the first such occasion since the unsuccessful discussions on election laws in 1991 in which members of all parliamentary political parties, both the ruling party and the opposition, plus representatives of the Albanian, Hungarian and Muslim minorities took part. It was also the first occasion since the formation of the ethnic Albanian parties that their representatives and those of the ruling and opposition parties in Serbia met publicly. These facts show the basic good will of all parties and their recognition that dialogue is not only necessary, but possible.

There was strong general agreement for the proposition that a solution for the Serbian-Albanian conflict must be sought immediately, with the active participation of the regime and of the Albanian party, which requires change in the basic positions of both sides. Such a resolution must be based on a realistic recognition of the legitimate interests of both sides. Towards this end, it was agreed during discussions between the representative of the ruling party (Mr. Goran Percevic, SPS) and of the most influential Albanian party (Dr. Fehmet Agani, Democratic League of Kosovo) as well as representatives of PER, EBIN and the European Parliament, to begin discussions in the Fall of 1995. These discussions are envisioned as free and frank exchanges of opinions, aimed at facilitating the beginnings of political negotiations over the solution of concrete questions, beginning with the problem of schooling and official use of the Albanian language in Kosovo.

These results--the open participation of representatives of all Serbian parliamentary political parties and of the major ethnic minorities in such a public meeting, plus the agreement in principle to begin serious discussions between the ruling party in Serbia and the most influential Albanian party--indicate that the international roundtable made a significant contribution to a change in the political climate that can produce real progress on the problem of minorities in Serbia, particularly centering on Kosovo.



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

Ilija Djukic, president, Committee on International Relations, Democratic Party

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 Party of 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 Former Yugoslavia, 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 Balkans International Network, Bologna, Italy

Prof. Michel Foucher, director general, Observatoire Europeen de Geopolitique, 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 Organization for the Security and Cooperation for Europe, Bonn, Germany


Branka Andjelkovic, journalist, NIN, Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Robert Benjamin, staff, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, 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