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IA-Forum Interview: Mr. Samet Dalipi

November 4, 2004
By Jasen Zubcevik

Samet Dalipi is a Fulbright Scholar at American University, former President of the Vitia Municipal Assembly, and currently a policy officer for Oxfam GB in Prishtina, Kosova/o.

International Affairs Forum: What should the status of Kosova/o be?

Mr. Samet Dalipi: There are two different alternatives for the final status of Kosova/o. The Albanian majority sees Kosova’s independence as something possible to achieve very soon. The Serb minority in Kosova/o is however, expecting for Kosova/o to again be a part of Serbia and Montenegro. Final decision will be made by UNSC if the Prishtina-Belgrade talks fail. I believe that the best decision will be the one that could satisfy the wishes of the majority of the Kosova/o population.

IA-Forum: Would the possible independence of Kosova/o destabilize the region?

Mr. Dalipi: I don’t think it would destabilize the region. Mistakes from the past should be re-analyzed, not repeated. New perspectives for the region should be created, while the past mistakes will be remembered only as a bad experience for both the Albanians and the Serbs. History shows us that Kosova/o as a part of Serbia was not a good solution; it was not a sustainable “marriage.” If all Slavic nations in the Balkans (except the Montenegrians) have their own independent states, why should the Albanians continue to be united with Serbia? Why should Kosova/o be an exception?

The Albanians in Macedonia have shown an interest in building a democratic state, which will offer equal rights to the Macedonians, the Albanians and others. The same interest is for the Albanians in Montenegro. The status of the Serbs in Kosova/o is linked to the status of the Albanians in the Presheva valley. The Serbian and the Kosova/o governments should work together to improve both the rights of the Albanians in the south part of Serbia and the rights of the Serbs in Kosova/o. The eventual partition of Kosova/o could lead to the destabilization of the region. The new Kosova/o government structures will work hard in all aspects of minority integration, human rights, and the return of refugees. The Balkans region has a chance to disconnect from the past stereotypes and start a new era of interdependent Balkan nations as part of European Union.

IA-Forum: What can be done to fight governmental corruption in Kosova/o?

Mr. Dalipi: Usually, the phenomenon of corruption appears in a society as a result of low economic incomes. Kosova/o has a considerable problem with poverty. Kosova/o was always the poorest part of ex-Yugoslavia. Today, the development curve is still declining. Few public enterprises were privatized since Kosova/o become a UN protectorate. No economic investments were made after the war. Salaries are extremely low in comparison to daily expenditures. Given these circumstances, corruption has skyrocketed. Investments in economic development, adopting transparent procurement policies, and implementing strong anti-corruption laws and rules are effective ways to fight corruption.

IA-Forum: What can be done to protect the Serb minority and the Serbian national monuments in Kosova/o?

Mr. Dalipi: The measures to protect the Serbs depend on the attitudes of both communities in Kosova/o. Some steps that might be taken include: developing clear programs on returnees and giving more responsibilities to local structures. Eliminating interference by Belgrade with the Kosovar Serbs and fighting crime are some of the first steps toward protecting the Serbian community in Kosova/o.

All monuments in Kosova/o are first and foremost Kosovar goods. It is the Kosovars interest to protect them, reconstruct them and create attractive projects for visitors and tourism. In the past, many Albanian families took good care of monasteries and they could do this again in the future.

IA-Forum: Why did the violent clashes in mid-March occur? What can the peacekeeping bodies stationed in Kosova/o do to prevent future clashes between the Albanian Majority and the Serb minority in Kosova/o?

Mr. Dalipi: Many factors led to the March events. The Kosova/o population hoped that after the war, there would be both economic and educational improvements in Kosova/o, that opportunities to travel abroad would be realized, that bodies from the mass graves would be identified and returned, and that the role of Belgrade in Kosova/o affairs would be reduced. The people in Kosova/o understood in March that their expectations were misperceptions. The March events culminated with information that three Albanian boys lost their lives in the Iber river in the north part Kosova/o, which is mostly populated by Serbs. The revolt against the Serbian community happened because the Serbs were perceived as the inhibitors of the Kosova/o’s reform. In is important to point out however, that the protests were not only against the Serbs and the internationals but also against the policies of the Kosovar institutions.

With behavior such as during the March events, Albanians may loose sympathy in the eyes of western countries. These events however, reminded the international and the local institutions that they need to work faster in several ways. Reducing unemployment and moving from existing political status-quo towards the final status of Kosova/o will help in creating a better environment for all citizens. The situation cannot be improved with military means.

IA-Forum: What can be done to secure the Kosova/o-Macedonian border and prevent human trafficking, weapons and drugs smuggling?

Mr. Dalipi: Synchronized cooperation between the governments, the police and the military forces in the region could play a decisive role in improving the border’s security. The role of the entire population is also important in this field.

IA-Forum: Many ethnic Macedonians fear that giving more rights and self governance to the ethnic Albanian minority in Macedonia will result in a division of the country and a possible civil war. Are these fears well founded?

Mr. Dalipi: The Albanians in Macedonia are playing very positive and honest roles in the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement. The ethnic Albanians in Macedonia feel that Macedonia is also their state. The Albanians in Macedonia are looking for equality among citizens, and greater opportunities for economic and social mobility. With such equal rights, the Albanians in Macedonia could contribute all their efforts towards building a state for all Macedonian citizens.

IA-Forum: Is the concept of “Great Albania” a myth or a reality?

Mr. Dalipi: The Albanians are aware that “Great Albania” cannot be reached, just as “Great Serbia” or other “Greats” inside the highly mixed Balkan region cannot be reached. But they are convinced that Kosova/o as a state is a logical and historical product of their continuous attempts for freedom against the Serbian policies of discrimination during the last century.

IA-Forum: Do you think that the International Criminal War Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will resolve issues or create new animosities?

Mr. Dalipi: The ICTY sends a good message that genocidal policy against peoples will not be tolerated by democratic states. The judgments of the ICTY are not only against Milosevic, but they are also judgments against policies deeply rooted at the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts and in the aspirations for Serbian hegemony. It will be encouraging if the Serbian government itself makes judiciary processes against those who performed gross human rights violations in the ex-Yugoslav territories.

IA-Forum: Do you have any advice for our readership in the Balkans?

Mr. Dalipi: I would recommend to the IA-Forum readership to listen to each other’s statements and worries. Learn about each other’s cultures, and learn to speak and read each other’s languages. If in the past, the people in the Balkans were divided and experienced conflicts and wars, it is now time for building peace.

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