Kosovo still divided; more bodies unearthed

Kosovo’s Albanian-led interim regime has issued a “Plan B” for administrative decentralization following the recent rejection of the original pilot project by local Serb leaders. Kosovo’s minister for local self-government, Lutfi Haziri, said Serb objections had been taken into account, compromising on the boundaries of internal districts. The government gave Serb political leaders until Aug. 10 to say whether they will accept the revised plan. If they reject it, the government will revert to its original pilot project. But Oliver Ivanovic, a leader of the Serbian Lists for Kosovo and Metohija, said that Serb representatives do not recognize any deadline for reaching their decision. (RFE/RL Newsline, Aug. 10) Kosovo’s government is under international pressure to do more for minority rights and democracy before a decision on whether “final status” talks can start this year. A major issue is decentralising power to Serbs, who live in enclaves guarded by NATO-led peacekeepers. (Reuters, Aug. 10)

Meanwhile, Serbian authorities in Belgrade are returning the bodies of 84 ethnic Albanians killed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war—the largest single return of war dead in the province. The bodies, exhumed from a mass grave on the grounds of a police training center just outside Belgrade, will be handed over to their families and UN officials in the border area of Merdare, 25 miles north of Kosovo’s provincial capital, Pristina.

The remains are believed to be those of ethnic Albanian civilians killed by Serb forces during the war and removed from Kosovo in an apparent cover-up attempt by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Authorities in Serbia said that, out of 836 bodies of Kosovo Albanians found in mass graves in Serbia, 566 had been identified and nearly 500 returned to their families. The remaining 270 bodies are expected to be identified by the end of the year. Families in Kosovo have repeatedly demanded that all the war dead exhumed be returned immediately. Nearly 3,000 people remain still listed as missing. An international team is conducting DNA analysis from bone samples to match remains with the relatives of missing people. (AP, Aug. 10, via Kosova Report)

See our last report on the still-simmering Balkan crisis.

  1. Privatization
    Meanwhile, as the Serbs and Albanians remain at odds over the borders of their cantons, Kosovo’s mineral and industrial resources are slipping into private foreign hands. The UN administrators of the province have approved the sale of the Ferronikeli nickel smelting complex to Swiss-based International Mineral Resources, a company with mining assets in the Balkans, Central Asia and Africa. A steel mill, rubber plant and flour mill have also recently been privatized. (FT, Aug. 11)

    1. That’s called Economic development.
      What other way do you expect for jobs to come to Kosovo, fall out of the sky?
      The Swiss company is bying a burnt out shell of a company and they have to invest Millions of Dollars to bring it back up to speed. Then they will exploit the mines and kick start the Kosovo economy.
      This is how it happens all over the world, why would you expect Kosovo to be any different?

      1. That’s called stealing your resources.
        I don’t expect Kosovo to be any different. Just because it is happening all over the world doesn’t make it any less sad. Perhaps the Swiss will kick-start Kosovo’s economy, but you will be working for foreign bosses, and real national sovereignty will be that much more difficult to achieve.

        I’m not saying I have any easy answers. But I’ll also point out that a part of the reason the factory is a burned-out shell is that it got bombed by NATO. This is then used as a mandate for privatization. Maybe there is something to the conspiracy theory that the bombing was really about destroying the last remnants of Yugoslav socialism.

  2. To all the leftists against the NATO bombing!
    This is what was happening in Kosovo before NATO intervened. Serbia was making dead bodies out of the Albanians. And now, 6 years after, they still have our bodies.
    Is this what antiwar is about. It’s OK to kill innocent people, but it is wrong to intervene when you have the power on the basis of “international law”. Where was international law when the Albanians were getting killed?

    1. NATO made the situation worse
      Ylber, there were 200,000 Albanian refugess displaced from their homes in Kosovo before the bombing. There were 800,000 after. The bombing only prompted Milosevic to dramatically escalate the “ethnic cleansing.” Perhaps that was even its intent. And the bombing killed plenty of innocent people too (Serb and Albanian alike). I don’t see how you can condemn the “cleansing” without condemning the bombing. I seem to be about the only person in the world who takes this position, but it strikes me as the only logical and consistent one.

      What were the alternatives? The international community could have recognized Ibrahim Rugova’s parallel government (something it still hasn’t done). If this had happened early enough, the 1999 Kosovo crisis could have been avoided altogether, perhaps. A very similar situation in East Timor was resolved without military intervention, no? And East Timor has acheived independence today, while Kosovo hasn’t…