3Former paramilitary organisations have used the recent arrests of Albanians in the region to warn countries of possible retaliation.
By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina — 18/05/12
Commanders of the Albanian paramilitary organisation Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac Liberation Army (UCPMB) in Kosovo in 2000. [Reuters]
Former Albanian paramilitaries issued warnings they will re-group if arrests of Albanians in the region continue, triggering speculation that they may undertake activities in response to the arrests.
Eight Albanians were arrested in Serbia on May 4th on war crimes charges as well as illegal possession of weapons, in addition to 20 others in Macedonia in connection with the murder of five Macedonian civilians near Skopje in April.
„Two hands for a head, we say. There is no other option,“ Jonuz Musliu, former political chief of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (UCPMB), told SETimes.
Musliu said a peaceful solution is preferable, but there is no will in Belgrade for one. „[Belgrade] remains the same and seeks to resolve problems with the use of force.“
Albanian leaders in the Presevo Valley said their biggest concern is the warning by Interior Minister Ivica Dacic that the police actions will continue.
„The latest arrest was a message by the Serbian government that each Albanian in Presevo Valley is a potential terrorist and subject to arrest,“ Bujanovac Mayor Shaip Kamberi told SETimes.
Kamberi said Serbia’s goal is to destabilise the region, spread fear to make Albanians migrate and thus cause demographic changes that way.
But Vladimir Vukcevic, head of Serbia’s war crimes prosecution, explained that authorities have been investigating war crimes against civilians in the Presevo Valley committed in 2001.
„The arrests were part of an ongoing investigation,“ Vukcevic said.
In Macedonia, Xhezair „Commandant Hoxha“ Shaqiri of the National Liberation Army (UCK) — an offshoot of the Kosovo Liberation Army — said the organisation’s former commanders met to consider re-mobilising the troops „in case the provocations continue.“
Macedonian analysts said the two sets of arrests should not be put in the same basket, and doing so betrays an agenda to involve Macedonia in Kosovo-Serbia relations by both countries.
„The problem that fuels the situation is the unsolved status of northern Kosovo. It appears there are attempts to maintain control over Kosovo by destabilising the region. We hear louder calls for Greater Albania or Greater Kosovo from extremist groups,“ Pavle Trajanov, former internal affairs minister, told SETimes.
Trajanov added that Macedonia is showing it has the political and security capacity to maintain stability, but must continue to invest in good relations with its neighbours.
There is no reason to think the former Albanian guerrillas will regroup in the two countries solely on account of the most recent events, according to Valbona Zeneli, national security professor at the George C. Marshall European Centre for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
„True, these kinds of events risk fuelling the situation. Any eventual escalation of tensions threatens the security and the peace in the region; damages the need for a normal relationship between Serbia and Kosovo; negatively affects the continuation of technical talks and, more importantly, the implementation of the recent achieved agreements,“ Zeneli told SETimes.
Zeneli said the Albanians in Macedonia should be a factor of stability and their political structures acted wisely in condemning the murders of the five civilians and in committing to bring perpetrators to justice, regardless of ethnicity.
„They have contributed and should continue to act as responsible citizens of Macedonia, for the prosperity of the country and its integration into the Euro-Atlantic institutions,“ Zeneli said.
The bad economic situation and level of organised crime exacerbate ethnic-based instability, argues Marko Milosevic, a researcher at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy.
„Various criminal groups are using this [security] gap for their own interests, and Kosovo represents a safe haven for most of those groups — Albanians from Macedonia and Serbia, along with Serbian criminals in north Kosovo,“ Milosevic told SETimes.
Preventive measures by the international community — the US, EU, OSCE — and regional co-operation, both to solve old issues and look forward to the future, are necessary for the stability and security of the region, Zeneli said.