Sofia Declaration released by Institute.
On December 17, a delegation of democratically oriented Kosovo Serbs, led by Bishop Artemije and Serb National Council leader Momcilo Trajkovic, will release a declaration calling for an end to all violence and the beginning of a dialogue between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians. The result of a special three-day meeting held in Sofia, Bulgaria, under the auspices of the United States Institute of Peace, the declaration underlines the delegation's commitment to equal rights under the rule of law for all people of Kosovo, including freedom of movement and the right to return home.
Expressing regret for and condemning ethnically motivated violence and crimes, the declaration calls for:
- A complete accounting of missing persons and equity in the distribution of medical and humanitarian assistance.
- The arrest, trial, and imprisonment of those responsible for interethnic violence before and after the NATO intervention, which could include prosecution by the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.
- Better representation of Serbs and others in the UN-created police force as well as open and independent Serb-language media not controlled by Belgrade.
The declaration also urges Kosovo Serbs to remain in and return to Kosovo, which, according to members of the delegation, "Should remain undivided, with local self-government, within a decentralized political system."
The meeting was organized by U.S. Institute of Peace Balkans Director Daniel Serwer and chaired by Mercy Corps official Landrum Bolling, with assistance from David Steele of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Ambassador John Menzies attended as a State Department observer.
The U.S. Institute of Peace is a non-partisan, independent organization created and funded by the U.S. Congress to promote prevention and resolution of international conflicts. Since 1995, the Institute's Balkans Initiative has played an important role in creating a forum for discussion among government and non-government experts to assist in building consensus on key issues in the Balkans.
Balkans Director Daniel Serwer will be available for further background, questions, and comments regarding the recent meeting in Sofia. To schedule a one-on-one media interview please contact Burt Edwards at (202) 429-3878.
Background on the Balkans Initiative
The Institute's objective with the Balkans Initiative is to help policymakers formulate policy strategies that engage the entire Balkan region in securing a foundation the growth of democratic institutions, and create a forum for discussion among government and non-government experts to assist in building consensus on key issues in the Balkans. To help implement such a regional strategy, the Institute is working with practitioners to construct security, economic, and democratic political arrangements that foster peace and security for the region -- absent the presence of outside forces.
The Institute meets these objectives by using the four elements of its mission -- policy-relevant analysis, education and training, facilitation and public education. Working with policy makers and regional leaders, the Institute emphasizes sustainable and practical outcomes by:
- Encouraging policy consideration of issues extending beyond peace implementation, such as democratization and the development of a civil society;
- Identifying ways and creating opportunities for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the leaders to assume responsibility for the peace process; and
- Exploring prospects for the entire region to cooperate in building a just, stable and prosperous environment for all its citizens.
The Balkans Initiative is a natural extension of the Institute's long-standing work in post-conflict societies. The Initiative draws from "lessons learned" from past conflicts and settlements to guide policymakers and practitioners in constructing sustainable peace agreements through reconciliation, power sharing, and a strengthened civil society that protects human rights. Early in its assessment of the requirements to establish the peace process, the Institute recognized that few other organizations were working with the segments of society that were the most critical to the reconciliation process--justice officials and religious leaders and communities. Providing assistance and research to these segments are key components of the Balkans Initiative. Its long-term program investment in the region has won the confidence of these disparate communities and has produced inspiring results. Also important is the Initiative's Washington-based project--the Balkans Working Group which convenes policymakers and international practitioners working in Bosnia to discuss how to enhance and extend implementation of the accords.
Other Special Emphases
Advancing the Rule of Law - The Institute's Rule of Law Initiative is working in conjunction with the Balkans Initiative and with a variety of justice officials on a number of justice and reconciliation issues, including war crimes accountability, establishing protection for trial witnesses, more effective police screening procedures, and the development of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Institute has taken the lead in shaping a proposal for a single Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Bosnia and Herzegovina, recognizing the importance for victims to have a forum in which to tell their stories and where a common history of the war can be documented.
Training Public Security Officials - The Institute since 1998, has provided training to public security officials involved in efforts to rebuild Bosnia-Herzegovina. These seminars focus on the principles of community policing in a democratic society. The Institute is cooperating closely with the Departments of State and Justice along with the UN in these continuing programs.
Sofia Workshop Participants
His Grace Bishop Artemije, Bishop of Raska-Prizren and President, Serb National Council
Mr. Momcilo Trajkovic, Serb National Council, President, Executive Board, Kosovo and Metohija
Dr. Vuko Antonijevic, Serb National Council, President, Mitrovica area
Prof. Dr. Dusan T. Batakovic, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade
Vlada Dimic, Serb National Council, Executive Board, Pristina
Dr. Milan Ivanovic, Serb National Council, Executive Board , Mitrovica
Dr. Marko Jaksic, Serb National Council, Executive Board, Mitrovica
Fr. Justin Jezdic, Archdeacon
Stojan Jovanovic, Serb National Council, Director, Information Center
Nenad Kojic, Serb National Council, Executive Board, Gnjilane area
Zoran Lutovac, Institute of Social Sciences, Belgrade
Randjel Nojkic, Serb National Council, Executive Board, Kosovo and Metohija
Slava Ristic, Serb National Council
Dr. Predrag Simic, Advisor to the President of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Belgrade
Prof. Gligorije Stojanovic, Serb National Council, Executive Board, Pristina
Dr. Rada Trajkovic, Serb National Council, Executive Board, Pristina area.
Dr. Josif Vasic, Serb National Council, Gnjilane
Dragan Velic, Serb National Council, Pristina
Mr. Aleksander Vidojevic, Advisor to Bishop Artemije