Page 957 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 957

The replacement of the “standards before status” strat- egy with the latest notion of “status and standards” brought barely any improvements to the life of Serbs and other non- -albanian ethnic groups in Kosovo and Metohija. although the provisional Kosovo Government pledged financial sup- port in the reconstruction of destroyed Serb homes and holy places, very few Serbs who fled from the albanian ri- oters in March 2004 have returned to their homes. On the other hand, the return process for iDPs from central Serbia and Montenegro has generally stalled with the exception of a few hundred returnees in isolated villages, primarily in the western part of Kosovo.
The main concern of Kosovo Serbs remains security because the March riots that turned into a pogrom seri- ously disillusioned the Serbs from believing that the inter- national peacekeepers and albanian-controlled Kosovo institutions would give them any protection in the event of renewed acts of ethnically motivated violence. although the number of incidents since March 2004 has significant- ly decreased, with ocassional random killings and attacks, in practice the safety situation for Kosovo Serbs has not been improved. Many hopes of Kosovo Serbs have been shattered forever, while local Kosovo authorities have do- ne little, if anything, to win their confidence. Kosovo Serbs oriented themselves more toward Belgrade and parallel structures, particularly after the decision of Serb represen- tatives in the Kosovo Parliament to withdraw from these institutions after the 2004 riots.
Negotiations on the future status of Kosovo during 2006 have brought the issue of standards into focus again. The Serbian side insisted that not even a minimum of standards had been achieved, while the Kosovo representatives pledged full protection for Serbs only if Kosovo was granted inde- pendence. Many Kosovo Serbs interpreted this offer as blackmail, particularly after some Kosovo leaders warned that anything but independence would surely trigger a new series of ethnic violence.
at the same time, the Kosovo Serb community has re- mained disorganized as ever. in the last seven years Koso- vo Serbs failed to create credible political organizations which would fully articulate legitimate interests of all the factions of Kosovo Serbs in front of homogenized Kosovo albanians and the international community. The local branches of the political parties simply continue the poli- cies of their Belgrade-based party leaders, which in many instances fail to understand the everyday problems of Ko- sovo Serbs and to provide them with satisfactory assistance. The system of parallel institutions in the Kosovo Serb en- claves did provide employment for one part of Kosovo Serbs and enabled hundreds of families to survive in their ghet- tos. it also retained a certain level of institutional links with Serbia, crucial to their survival. isolation and discourage- ment are the result of previously failed efforts to articulate their needs through the albanian-dominated Kosovo in- stitutions despite all difficulties and the overwhelming dis-
Kosovo and Metohija
crimination which became an albanian practice in treat- ing all the problems concerning the Kosovo Serb commu- nity. The decision to boycott Kosovo parliamentary elec- tions in 2004 additionally isolated the Serbian community and widened the gap between the communities. True, the Serbs had many reasons to boycott the institutions which failed to prevent or stop the March riots, but neither did their choice to remain out of the institutions bring any con- crete benefit. Many laws were passed without any Serbian participation and to their detriment, which is now very hard to remedy. Many Kosovo Serbs feel that their willing- ness to take part in the building of multiethnic institutions along the lines stipulated by UNSCR 1244 has only been exploited in order to give false legitimacy to the institu- tions which in reality remain under complete control of Kosovo albanians and have become tools of institutional repression.
Let us take a brief look at the situation surrounding the implementation of standards now that the UN Security Council is expected to come out with a new resolution on Kosovo which will pave the way either for its independence or for a new series of negotiations whose dynamics will depend on the implementation of standards. Kosovo Serbs logically conclude that if Kosovo albanians have failed to implement the basic standards under the UN protectorate, it is quite unlikely that they will do so if Kosovo is granted independence.
Returns: internally Displaced Persons (iDPs)
The safe and secure environment for a sustainable return has never been fully implemented for Kosovo Serbs and other minorities given that more than 220,000 Serbs and other non-albanians remain in displacement. UNHCR has reported 16,000 returns since 1999, but only 5,000–6,000 of these are Serbs. at the same time, hundreds of Serbs have left Kosovo, many of them the Serbs displaced after the March 2004 riots. The urban return has been little more than symbolic. at the moment, the major Kosovo cities remain without their pre-war Serb population.
Priština 30,070 86 Peć 12,000 5 Gnjilane area 25,000 15 Uroševac 5,300 0 Prizren 8,300 31
While the return process has been more or less stalled, many of the remaining Serbs, Goranies, Turks and Roma are thinking of leaving under the present conditions, and claiming that they will be forced to leave eventually should Kosovo gain independence.
Relatively successful return processes have been achieved in the Peć, istok and Klina municipalities, primarily to vil-

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