By Fred W. Riggs
As Kosovar refugees return home under the umbrella of an international force, they will confront horrendous difficulties in trying to establish an autonomous democratic regime for the province. Apart from whatever pressures they may experience from Serbs -- in Belgrade and Kosova itself -- they will also be vulnerable to all kinds of international influences (Here I shall use the Albanian spelling of Kosova in preference to the Serbian form, Kosovo).. Among them will be Abanians living outside Kosova -- in diaspora. These will include those still in refugee camps and those that have been moved to other countries. It will also include Albanians living abroad, especially in Albania, but also in Macedonia, Montenegro and elsewhere in Serbia.
Here I will focus on the Kosovar diaspora, drawing on a report that you can find at: <www.iwpr.net> , the Web Site for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting. If you click on "Balkan Crisis Reports" and then go scroll down to issue #35 headed "Controlling the Struggle," that was posted on May 19. The basic facts appear to be still relevant, and I will summarize them here. The main thesis of this report, unfortunately, is that the Kosovar Liberation Army (KLA) is likely to dominate the region's politics at the expense of civilian democratic forces.
1. There are several diaspora locations for Kosova Albanians: Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro (as a Yugoslav republic), and elsewhere in Europe, North America, etc. Those living temporarily in camps are in a kind of"limboland" which they wish to leave as soon as possible, preferably to return home, but some have already moved (temporarily, they hope!) to other countries. If we define diasporans as those "living" outside their homeland, do we not need such an intermediate category for those who are merely "camping" temporarily abroad -- like tourists!
Some Albanians now living abroad are already in diaspora as shown by their willingness to host some of the refugees, perhaps leading them to remain abroad. Moreover, Albanians living in the neighboring countries who have no direct link to Kosova may be viewed as "co-ethnics" insofar as they share a common language and religion.
A parallel might be Jews who have never lived in Israel -- are they not "co-ethnics" with the Israelis in diaspora? (Cf the paper by Lahav and Arian. The status of diasporans in different countries may vary significantly, as illustrated by the Cuban case see Ackerman For the Kosovars, neighboring Albania is a friendly state, although opposition political parties and the government may respond differently to the refugees. Macedonia is less friendly, but open: it has a large Albanian minority represented by the Democratic Party of the Albanians (DPA). The non- Albanian majority fears the refugees will upset the precarious ethnic balance in their country. As for Montenegro, as a Yugoslav Republic it wants to avoid difficulties with the federal regime in Belgrade, and therefore treats the refugees with even greater ambivalence, even though it has a substantial Albanian minority.
2. Internal politics within Kosova, under "ethnic cleansing" by Belgrade, has its own complexities that affect diaspora relationships. Following the abrupt suspension of Kosova's autonomy in 1989, an underground government was "elected" and is today headed by Ibrahim Rugova with Bujar Bukoshi as prime minister. They led the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK)and won underground elections in March 1998, but opposition groups boycotted the process, notably the United Democratic Movement ((LBD) led by Rexhep Qosoj.
Meanwhile the non-violent strategy of Rogova's LDK was challenged by the emergent Kosova Liberation Movement (KLA) led by a group said to be an uneasy alliance between former Nazi collaborators during WWII, and a communist-oriented group associated with the former Albanian Communist regime led by Gen. Enver Hoxha from 1944 until his death in 1985. The KLA recently named Agim Ceku to command its military operations he formerly commanded armed forces in Croatia that had occupied the Krajina, leading to a massive flow of Serbian refugees to Serbia. I have no information about their current status and activities, but they might be interested in settling in Kosova if land vacated by the Albanians can be opened to them but that's only a guess.
3. In Albania itself, the Democratic Party of Albania (PDS) under the leadership of Sali Berisha came to power in parliamentary elections held in 1992, while the former Communist party (PPS), re-named the Socialist Party of Albania (PSS), went into opposition. After a turbulent period, the PSS returned to power in 1997 under the leadership of Rexhep Mejdani, the current president, working with a strong prime minister, Fatos Nano. Berisha and his PDS support Rugova and Bukoshi's LDK, while the Albanian regime supports the KLA. As for Rogova himself, after a period of "house arrest" in Belgrade, he is now seeking support in Europe where Bukoshi is attempting to raise "taxes" from Albanians in diaspora. Their support base in Kosova has obviously diminished perhaps vanished!
4. In Macedonia, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), headed by Arb Xhaferi is a breakaway faction of the older Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP). Xhaferi, who is also a member of the government in Skopje, visited Tirana recently to try to broker an agreement between the government, its Berisha opposition, and the KLA. I don't know where the"elected" underground group headed by Rugova and Berisha stands in this matter, but they may well be ignored.
When and if the Kosovar Albanians are able to return home, with international soldiers on hand, they will have a hard time putting together a viable "democratic" structure as an autonomous region of Serbia while trying also to rebuild their homes and economy. Apart from internal cleavages, they will confront a complex array of diasporic and international groups and organizations -- some of whom may sponsor the Rugova/Berisha group. They will also have to confront not only the Serbian government in Belgrade but also the Serbs already living in Kosova, plus any others who may wish to settle there.
5. In the context of Globalization, it seems clear that no country is an island -- it has never been the case, but as the new millennium opens, every state and nation in the world will be increasingly enmeshed in a global network of forces that affect what they can and cannot do. These forces may promote democratization and self-government, or they may hamper progress toward this goal and reinforce authoritarianism.
Among the external forces, none may be more important than the diaspora communities whose members have an especially strong interest in what happens within their homelands. Global changes involving the availability of information, technology, weapons, goods, and especially transportation facilities to speed the migration of peoples, all tend to increase the weight of diasporas in domestic decision-making processes. The Kosova situation is no exception. It deserve close study not only because it is currently in the spot-light of world attention, but because it illustrates the inherent complexity of forces affecting the creation (or re-creation) of democratic regimes.
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