Hundreds of students are returning to the University of Pristina, now unofficially in Albanian hands, hoping to enrol for the new academic year. But impatience is growing as western agencies insist that the university cannot reopen without agreement from official agencies, writes Monica Llamazares in Pristina.
Despite bureaucratic delays, inside the university's ravaged faculties, academics and students are fixing doors, shelves and chairs and sifting through the documents and books in preparation for a return to business.
The United Nations civil administration envisages the reconstruction of a multi-ethnic university, but the Yugoslav federal government wants parallel Albanian and Serbian universities. The university has been divided since 1991 when Belgrade ousted Albanian-speaking academics.
Bujar Dugolli, president of the Pristina student union, said: "We have waited a long time to return to what is rightfully our university. We have been denied entry to the university buildings by the Yugoslav government for nearly nine years - it would be senseless for the UN and K-for to start doing the same thing now."
Zejnel Kelmendi, the university's chancellor, said: "We are facing a new and hopeful situation. We have the opportunity to rebuild our institutions and give our youth the education they deserve."
But Elmar Pilch of the World University Service, who has attended a series of meetings between Albanians, Serbs and the international agencies, complained:
"Both delegations are being treated equally with the aim of dividing the power structures of the university that way, but the truth is that we do not have any figures for Serbian students or professors remaining in Pristina."
Vice-rector Ahmed Geca, who unsuccessfully sought a dialogue with Serb academics, said: "We are committed to an open university where all Kosovo's communities are represented."
The Belgrade-appointed rectors' delegation, which met the UN and K-for this month, was led by a former Yugoslav federal science minister and comprised a number of political, non-academic, officials. Their insistence on two separate universities and refusal to meet the Albanians did not sit well with western officials.
Talks between the Albanian academics and the international administrators had a much higher degree of success. Peter Buckland, UN chairman of the joint commission for education in Kosovo, said: "The Albanian delegation is cooperating and appears to be committed to the creation of a multi-ethnic university. Our aims are to build bridges between the two communities, but it is an enormous and daunting task."
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