Albanian students stopped from entering university

May 8, 1998

Serbian police prevented Albanian students entering the University of Pristina in Kosova last week despite an agreement to end their exclusion.

The Serbs had tried to rehabilitate their damaged international image following a police crackdown on alleged ethnic-Albanian terrorists in early March by promising to implement the Sant' Egidio accords.

The accords, signed in August 1996, were gradually to reestablish Albanian-taught education at all levels of the state system.

The authorities promised to permit Albanian-taught courses in three faculties of the University of Pristina from the end of April. Which faculties was not spelled out - an omission which gave rise to a new dispute.

The Albanians wanted three top-ranking faculties: philology, philosophy and mathematics/natural sciences. But the Serbs were prepared to let them only have the three smallest faculties - art and physical education in Pristina, and the faculty of metallurgy at the university's Mitrovica campus.

To exacerbate the situation, the Sant' Egidio Foundation seems to support the limited official concession and is said to have even proposed it. In August 1996, the foundation brokered the deal aimed at a phased return of Albanian students to the lecture halls from which they have been excluded for the past six years.

The foundation is an official organ of the Vatican. Since the traditional faiths of the Kosovar Albanians are Islam and Roman Catholicism, while the Serbs are Orthodox, it adds extra bitterness to Kosovar Albanians' grievances to see a Catholic foundation apparently backing the Serbian case.

"Are we going to see genuine efforts to insure that Albanian students attend classes normally?" asked the Kosova Daily Record, which is published by the main political organisations of the Kosovar Albanians, the Democratic League of Kosovo, "or only tactics to boost the image of the Serbian regime, namely by its alleged willingness to comply with its obligations regarding Kosovo.

"If the proposal said to be shared by both the Serbian side and the Sant' Egidio community prevails, then the latter seems to be the case. Regrettably!"

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