The debate follows the publication of an in-depth report from Gracanica,
Gazimestan and Pristina which concluded that the event has become less politicised since Slobodan Milosevic’s infamous attendance of the 600th anniversary in 1989, at which he delivered a fiery nationalistic speach.
Panelists in the debate were Rada Trajkovic, vice-president of Serb National Council; Jelena Bjelica, editor-in-chief of the bi-monthly Kosovo Serb newspaper Gradanski Glasnik; Ylber Hysa, vice-president of ORA, the Albanian opposition party; and Kaqusha Jashari, president of Social Democratic Party of Kosova.
Bjelica said that “the fact that Kostunica does what Milosevic did, visiting Kosovo on [the anniversary of the battle] and saying ‘this is Serb land’ – knowing how many dead and displaced this type of politics has caused – shows that Serbian society hasn’t yet been able to deal with its past”.
Trajkovic said “I feel very uncomfortable that we look at this [anniversary], as something strictly associated with Milosevic and use it to criticise Serb society….What I want to talk about is how little freedom I have today to walk freely in Kosovo as a Serb, enter a shop and speak in Serbian”.
Bjelica responded with a question, “Why is it possible for me as a Serb to live in Pristina and enter a shop without any consequences?
Because I am prepared to say ‘Good day’ in Albanian and you are not.”
Hysa stressed that, despite Kostunica’s visit, the anniversary celebrations this year were more restrained than in previous years, “
Serbs…are looking at this day with more realism and calmness than some years ago.”
Discussing the need for Kosovo communities to commemorate events without antagonising other groups, Hysa said it was very important that Kosovo Albanians celebrate independence in a way that does not resemble a “rowdy booze-up”, so so that it is really experienced as “a moment of freedom rather than as a threat to anyone else”.
The debate was moderated by Jeta Xharra, BIRN Kosovo Director, while the in-depth report was compiled by BIRN’s multi-ethnic investigative team, Krenar Gashi and Tanja Matic.