Was peace in Kosovo just an illusion?

KFOR units, photo: CTK

The KFOR battalion is not the first Czech involvement in Kosovo after the war. Czech NGOs, such as "The People in Need Foundation" and Adra, participated in restoring local infrastructure and a number of Czechs also took part in United Nations missions. Earlier, Jan Velinger spoke to Martin Dvorak who spent more than two years working in the UN administrative mission in Kosovo.

KFOR units,  photo: CTK
Jan began by asking Mr Dvorak how he viewed the sudden escalation of violence in the Serb province:

"To be honest, I was really surprised when I heard the news about the riots not only in Mitrovica but in the whole of Kosovo. I didn't have any information about the real reasons for this kind of development in Kosovo because it was very quiet for more than two years, calming down step by step even for the return of the Serbs and now without any visible or historical reason it all blows up. I think not only I but also Serbs and Albanians and the KFOR and everyone else here is surprised because this kind of development was not expected. It's difficult to use power against the violence but at the moment no better possibility exists. I'm not sure."

We've already heard reports about churches and mosques being set alight, for example in the divided city of Mitrovica and it seems like a return to the bad old days...

"Yes, it seems like the development has now stopped and is going back two or three years and all the hopes that have been in the country cannot develop any more. We can only hope that the leaders of all sides - Serbs and Albanians - will have enough authority to calm the situation down."

What about the Czech role? On Thursday, the Prime Minister said that the one hundred soldiers who were expected to leave early would be staying on. How do you view the role of the Czech soldiers as part of the KFOR mission?

Martin Dvorak,  photo: Radio Prague
"I heard an interview today with a commander of the Czech troops and he said that they are not specialised enough to calm down violence or riots. They are just trying to assist the specialised forces from Norway and France. On the other hand, I think they could be very helpful because they have a similar language and history to the Serbs but also they are very helpful and much respected by Kosovo Albanians. So, they could serve as a bridge between the two ethnic groups."

Have you yourself been in touch with any of the people who you know from your time working there?

"Yes. I got the first SMS [mobile phone text message] from my former translator last night. He was very sad because of what's happening and continued to send me more information all night long. This morning, we had a long talk and he was really sad and said that for him it's a total mess. He is not the typical representative of the nationalist leaders and I can also say, regarding him and his family and people like him that they don't like this violence and view it as a very bad development. So, there are people who are very sad and prefer the peaceful development."

Some people might charge that the progress that had been made was an illusion and that the only reason why there is peace in Kosovo is because of the thousands of troops that are stationed there. Were they to leave, we would descend into an all-out war. Do you feel that this is the case or is there a true foundation for peace to build on?

"For sure, everyone who is trying to understand the situation in Kosovo has to understand that it's a long-term process. It cannot all be changed within two or three years, it needs several generations. Too much blood has been shed between both ethnic groups and it takes time. It is just a question of everyone who is able to help, to help both sides overcome this difficult time and try to calm the situation down."