PER report: Albanians and Their Neighbors: Unfinished Business

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Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2000 14:17:05 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: PER report: Albanians and Their Neighbors: Unfinished Business

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PER report: Albanians and Their Neighbors: Unfinished

Budapest, Hungary, April 7-8, 2000 

Table of contents 

Note on Terminology 
The Issues 
The European Context 
The Political Status of Kosovo 
Is a Multlethnic Kosovo Possible? 
Next Steps 
Albania and Albanians 
Carpe Diem 
List of Participants 
Other PER Publications 


On April 7 and 8, 2000, senior Albanian politicians from Albania,
Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro met with leaders of the democratic
opposition in Serbia and leaders of the Kosovar Serb community; other
political leaders from Macedonia and Montenegro; and representatives
from Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, the United States, the
Council of Europe, the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, the
OSCE, the European Union, NATO, and the United Nations. 

This unprecedented meeting, which was held in Budapest, Hungary,
marked the start of a major initiative by the Project on Ethnic
Relations on "Albanians and Their Neighbors." It is aimed at
maintaining a region-wide, high-level dialogue on the most explosive
ethnic-political issue in Europe today. This report captures and
records the main theme of this opening discussion: the conflicting
hopes and fears of diverse ethnic communities during a period of rapid
and often violent change in the Balkans. 

Three issues dominated the meeting: the current and future status of
Kosovo and its impact on the politics of the region; interethnic
arrange-ments in Montenegro and Macedonia and the relations of
Albanians with the majority populations in those republics; and
whether Albanian leaders in the region aspire to the creation of a
"Greater Albania." 

The Kosovo issue reflected the sharpest divisions. Kosovar Albanian
leaders were unanimous in their support for separation from Serbia and
Yugoslavia and for full sovereignty and independence; they asserted
that only such clear action could bring stability to the region. Most
neighbors (including the participants from Albania) and
representatives of the international community were either opposed to
any change of borders, or were reserved about making any decision in
the foreseeable future. They were particularly concerned about the
implications of border changes for such countries as Macedonia, for
the democratic movement in Yugoslavia, and for the status of

Albanians in Montenegro and Macedonia currently participate in their
respective governing coalitions, but demands by the Albanians for
"special status" have raised serious questions about the stability of
these arrangements, and serious dialogue on the interethnic issue has
so far been lacking. Failure to arrange mutually satisfactory
compromises would have very serious consequences for the continued
survival of Macedonia and would greatly complicate the already
dangerous confrontation between Serbia and Montenegro. While the
Albanian leaders rejected any notion of a "Greater Albania," they
defended the legitimacy of building active ties among all the Albanian
populations of the region and of fostering new structures for
political cooperation across borders. 

The discussions revealed that, acute as the Kosovo crisis may be, it
is only the most dramatic manifestation of a deeper regional problem:
the uncertainty about how Albanians and their neighbors will
accommodate to changing demographic and political realities. All
participants agreed, however, that one of the major obstacles to peace
in the Balkans is the presence of the Milosevic regime. They were
unanimous in insisting that there could be no lasting solution to
interethnic conflicts in the Balkans until Milosevic has once and for
all disappeared from the political scene. It is also important to note
that, although some of the opposition leaders from Serbia decided not
to attend, three out of the four major opposition alliances did send
leading representatives. 

At the time of the meeting, Hungary was co-chair of the Stability Pact
for South Eastern Europe working table on democratization and human
rights, making Budapest a particularly appropriate venue for the
meeting. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance and generosity of
the government of Hungary, particularly Zsolt Nemeth, State Secretary
in the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his staff for
assuring the security of the site and for warmly welcoming the

Ferenc Melykuti, director of PER's Budapest office, played an
indispensable role in preparing for the meeting and in its efficient

Professor Susan L. Woodward, who was also a participant in the
meet-ing, prepared this report, which was edited by Robert A.
Feldmesser, PER's senior editor, and Alex N. Grigor'ev, PER program
officer, who was also a participant. 

PER takes full responsibility for the report, which has not been
reviewed by the participants. 

Alien H. Kassof, President 
Livia Flaks, Executive Director 
Princeton, New Jersey 
August 2000 

The Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) was founded in 1991 in
anticipation of the serious interethnic conflicts that were to erupt
following the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe and
the former Soviet Union. PER conducts programs of high-level
intervention and dialogue and serves as a neutral mediator in several
major disputes the region. PER also conducts programs of training,
education, and research at international, national, and community

PER is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, with
additional funding from the Starr Foundation, the William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the
Council of Europe.

Individuals and institutions wishing to receive PER publications
should write to:

Project on Ethnic Relations
15 Chambers Street
Princeton, New Jersey 08542-3707, USA
Telephone: (609) 683-5666
Fax: (609) 683-5888

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