Mon, May 20 2013
THIS was the question being asked by filmmaker Lode Desmet and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) at the Balkan premier of their documentary about Kosovo.
Present at the screening at The Red House Centre for Culture and Debate, Sofia, to provide commentary and respond to questions were the award-winning director Lode Desmet, and from the BIRN team: Gordana Igric, editorial and development director, Kosovo country director Jeta Xharra, and Bulgarian country director Albena Shkodrova.
Question and answer sessions were moderated by TV host Georgi Koritarov.
The event took place on January 27 in the run-up to the start of final status negotiation talks on Kosovo. These had been scheduled to start on January 25, but were postponed due to the death of Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova. The Kosovo Albanian leader died of lung cancer on January 21.
The status negotiation talks hope to find a solution to the ongoing conflict surrounding the autonomy of the Kosovo. Kosovo is legally a part of Serbia-Montenegro. It has a population of about two million, about 90 per cent of which is Kosovo Albanian, the majority of the remainder being Kosovo Serbs, plus some Roma and Ashkali.
The ethnic Albanian majority want independence. Ethnic Serbs, supported by Belgrade, insist Serbia maintains sovereignty over Kosovo.
Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) since the end of the 1998-99 conflict when Nato-led troops drove out the forces of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian president. Security is still present in the form of the Nato-led Kosovo Force (KFOR).
The area to the north of the Ibar River is inhabited mainly by the Serb minority. The Kosovoska Mitrovica divides the Serbian and Albanian areas.
The worst outbreak of violence since the 1999 conflict started in the Mitrovica district in March 2004, resulting in what a UN official described as Kosovo's Kristallnacht. According to NATO admiral Gregory Johnson, the violence verged on ethnic cleansing of the Serbs by the Albanians.
In November last year, Kofi Annan named Martti Ahtisaari UN emissary for Kosovo to lead status negotiations. The former Finnish president has experience in negotiations in this part of the world - as EU envoy in 1999 he negotiated with Slobodan Milosevic to accept Nato's terms and withdraw forces from Kosovo.
The UN plan calls for ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbs, together with Belgrade, to negotiate on key issues including local government decentralisation and the protection of minority rights.
The UN's approach is supported by the Contact Group which consists of the US, Russia, the UK, France, Germany and Italy. Among the problems that plague Kosovo today, the Contact Group listed freedom of movement, links between local communities in Serbia and in Kosovo, the issue of missing persons and protection for religious communities and sites.
At this key moment in time, Has Anyone Got a Plan? looks at the dilemmas, questions, hopes, beliefs and fears of those affected by the outcome of the talks. Made over a period of three months, starting last October, it features interviews with local and international political figures including the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana, senior US state official Nicholas Burns, Serbian president Boris Tadic and Kosovo's prime minister Bajram Kosumi, as well as with local people from Kosovo, Serbia and neighbouring countries.
Snapshots from the documentary:
An elderly Kosovo Albanian woman stands in a barren field. "They took everything!". She gestures angrily with her walking stick as her young grandson looks on.
"There was a holocaust - of Serbs," a young Kosovo Serb woman says from the tiny window of her cigarette kiosk.
"Will independence bring improvements to infrastructure and a stop to organised crime and corruption?" a Kosovo Albanian gynaeocologist asks.
A teenage girl says there are only nine teenagers left her village. "I don't have a real friend left in the world."
A Serb radical says he is not interested in losing territory for EU membership. "Travel to Romania and Bulgaria - is it any better there?" he asks.
"The radicals won't win," says another Serb. "Our policy should be to resolve the problem, not say we've inherited it."
A political analyst talks of fears of psychological games.
"Identity is sometimes on the other side of rationality," another commentator says.
So, does anyone have a plan? It seems not, at least, not a collective one anyway. This is hardly surprising given the long history of conflict in the region.
Xharra described the situation as similar to a stand-off at a football match.
"Everyone's a potential killer, it depends how much you provoke them," she said. She spoke of a "victim culture", in which each side thinks that they have suffered the most. Most Serbs, like the shopkeeper in the documentary, say that Serbs are the victims, that their rights have not been respected; most Albanians say they lived for 10 years under Milosevic and that it is their rights that were not respected.
The film is not about prescribing a solution, but communicating people's fears, personal dramas and experiences. It is "not an analysis, but an experience," said Desmet.
"No one had asked the normal people what they thought before," said Xharra.
It is also about trying to break stereotypes and promote dialogue. "We tried to get politicians to debate who don't usually talk and tried to pose real political questions," said Gordana.
One can only hope it will also serve as a precursor to opening up dialogue and constructive debate in the upcoming status negotiations.
*Has Anyone Got a Plan? was financed by the Swiss ministry of foreign affairs.
A shortened version of the 85-minute documentary will be broadcast later this month on national channel bTV.
The Bulgarian Investigative reporting Network is a localised project of the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting and was founded in April 2004. For more information go to:www.birn.eu.com.
The Red House Centre for Culture and Debate: www.redhouse-sofia.org
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