Fifteen years after Kosovo’s autonomy under Serbia was revoked, Kosovo is still seeking its independence. Ilir Dugolli, a top policy advisor to the prime minister of Kosovo, spoke about the region’s unique situation to over 25 students at a Trumbull College Master’s Tea Thursday.
Since he was a student activist in the 1990s, Ilir Dugolli has played a major role in Kosovo as it works toward its ultimate goal of independence. Dugolli said it is of paramount importance for Kosovo to decide its status — either as a region of Serbia or as an independent state.
In the early 1990s, Dugolli led protests, contesting former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s decision to revoke Kosovo’s autonomy under Serbia. Throughout the 1990s, he fought for the cultural rights of the Albanian majority. In 2002 Dugolli began teaching policy training sessions to Kosovo lawmakers affiliated with different political parties.
Dugolli said he always wanted to be a normal student and had no intentions of becoming so politically involved.
“As a student I focused on my studies and nothing else — but I found that I was trying to lead a normal life in a very abnormal situation,” Dugolli said. “It was my attempt to escape a reality that was suffocating me.”
After the revocation of Kosovo’s autonomy, Dugolli said the Albanian majority was persecuted and the education of Albanians was forced to take place illegally underground. In response, Dugolli participated in and later organized protests to normalize the education system, a goal he described as “vague.”
A decade later, after the Kosovo Liberation Army radicalized the conflict, Dugolli said he looked back on his protests as the “last chance for a peaceful solution in that state.”
He said the situation turned violent when in 1995 leaders of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia signed the Dayton Accords in Paris, ending the Balkan civil war. It was disillusioning to realize that Kosovo’s conflicts were not being considered in the greater civil war, he said.
The failure of civil disobedience resulted in Kosovo’s current standing as an international protectorate, Dugolli said, in which the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union have all established their presence on the ground, politically and militarily.
The current situation in Kosovo depends on balancing the interests of the Albanian and Serb populations, he said.
“There needs to be a solution that meets the desires of the overwhelming majority but at the same time guarantees happiness for the Serb minority,” Dugolli said.
Dugolli said international organizations have not been able to erase existing hostilities between the Albanians and the Serb minority in Kosovo. While organizations like NATO are freezing disputes, it is more important for his country to declare its status.
“How are you supposed to expect people to reconcile without the common glue of citizenship that unites them in a new state?” Dugolli said.
Dugolli said that hopefully Kosovo’s political status will be defined by next year.
Students who attended the Master’s Tea said they were drawn to Dugolli’s talk because they found Kosovo’s status as an international protectorate especially interesting.
“I’m pretty interested in the international element,” Alexander Lee ’06 said. “The international community is collectively ruling a nation.”
Avi Acharya ’06 said he was also intrigued by the extent of world involvement in Kosovo.
“I was interested in how the U.N., E.U. and NATO are working together in this region because all three of them have a very strong military presence in Kosovo,” Acharya said.