The Cantonization of Kosovo-Metohija: A Proposal (with map and statistics)



The solution of the Kosovo-Metohija question in a way that would be consistent with the functioning of Serbia as a state, even as the question is internationalized, requires a new approach. The cessation of military conflicts will enable political negotiations and the identification of a mutually acceptable solution which will harmonize both the interests of the state and the interests of the various ethnic communities in Kosovo-Metohija. In light of the fact that international guarantees completely protect the interests of the Albanian minority in Kosovo and Metohija, what is needed now are additional guarantees for the protection of the Serbian population. Likewise, it is extremely important that in Serbian province of Kosovo-Metohija, just as in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in other Balkan countries, a multiethnic and multireligious society is fully preserved. That is particularly consistent with the OSCE's Declaration Regarding the Protection of Minorities.


The model of cantonization is an obvious answer with which, on the one hand, the existing ethnic proportions of the province as well as its multiethnic composition will be preserved, but with distinct rights for cantons with a Serbian majority. The cantons would consist mainly of rural areas, without large cities. In the cities there would be a special, mixed regime of administration. Cantons with a Serbian majority do not necessarily have to, but may, be territorially linked as well. In any case, they could -- if they themselves decide so -- be more closely linked with Serbia. The territories that would be under Albanian administration, which would also be divided into cantons, could, in accordance with a decision by the Albanian ethnic population, receive a somewhat broader autonomous status within Serbia. That solution resembles the multi-layered autonomy that exists in Spain today.


Cantons: To be Created only in Rural Areas


Cantons with a Serbian majority which encompass mainly rural areas (according to new cantonal borders that will be drawn in the near future, not to the existing municipal borders) would also consist of all Serbian monasteries with their properties. Prior to that, all properties that the monasteries owned before the outbreak of war in 1941 would be returned to the monasteries. Therefore, the areas where Serbs form a majority will not be dependent on local Albanian authorities due to gerrymandering. Serbian-majority cantons would encompass around 30 percent of the territory of Kosovo-Metohija.


The first and largest Serbian-majority canton would encompass the area of Ibarski Kolasin, in the borders of the current municipalities of Leposavic, Zubin Potok, and Zvecan, in which there is a clear Serbian majority population.


The second canton would encompass the area between Kosovo Polje and Lipljan with the Serbian villages in that area (Caglavica, Gracanica, Laplje Selo, etc.) The current borders of the municipalities would be modified, making it possible to group together towns and villages with a majority Serbian population, forming one whole.


The third canton would encompass the area between the current municipalities of Kosovska Kamenica, Kosovska Vitina, and Gnjilane where, as in the second canton, marginal modifications of the current municipal borders are required to form one whole.


The fourth canton would encompass Sirinicka Zupa with its capital in Strpce (which today is a separate municipality); to it would probably also be joined Sredacka Zupa, as well as the areas of Opolje and Gora, which are mostly inhabited by Muslim Slavs whose native language is Serbian.


The fifth canton would consist of the Serbian rural areas from Pec to Istok and Klina, where there are a number of territorially linked Serbian villages. The properties of the monasteries of Decani and the Pec Patriarchy would also be adjoined to this canton, including of course all the property that these monasteries owned until the outbreak of war in 1941. Similarly, the properties of all other Serbian monasteries (Gracanica, Devic, Gorioc, Sv. Arhandjeli, Zociste, Banjska, Draganac, Sokolica, etc.), depending on their territorial proximity, would be adjoined to the other cantons.


The cantons with a Serb majority would have their own local administration with Serbian courts and law enforcement. That is the basic precondition to avoid the mass-exodus of the Serbian population from territories which revert to the administrative, judicial, and police administration of another ethnic group, such as in Baranja and Western Srem (the so-called Eastern Slavonia). As it turned out there, to stop the mass exodus of Serbs it was not sufficient for them to be a minority in those administrative organs, since there is no way to prevent the ethnic majority from outvoting the minority. Only a guaranteed Serbian majority in administrative, judicial, and law enforcement structures in cantons with a Serbian majority will guarantee that they continue to live in those predominantly rural areas.

Each cantonal assembly would consist of one chamber. The same would be true for Albanian majority cantons (whose number shall be determined in the future, in compliance with the wishes of the ethnic Albanian population) in the mostly rural areas. Neither Albanian nor Serbian cantons would be without a certain number of citizens of other ethnic backgrounds; the protection of their interests would be guaranteed by equal treatment of minority groups in each canton. In that sense, the cantons of Switzerland provide a good example.


Large Cities: Mixed Administration


In large urban zones there would be a special regime of mixed administration, distinct from that envisaged for the cantons. Mixed, Serbian-Albanian administration would be established in larger cities (Kosovska Mitrovica, Pristina, Gnjilane, Urosevac, Pec, Prizren, Vucitrn, Orahovac), as well as a special form of Kosovo-Metohija autonomy, with mixed administration and parity of representation in the judiciary and law enforcement. Ethnic majority dominance would thus be prevented in urban centers -- dominance which ethnic Albanian abused between 1968 and 1981 in their effort to force Serbs to flee Kosovo and Metohija.

Cities in these urban zones would, because of that, have bicameral municipal assemblies. The Lower House would represent the will of the people expressed at municipal elections, while the Upper House would be composed of 50 percent Serbs and 50 percent Albanians, where each ethnic group would have the right to veto.

The support of the international community would be of great importance for the implementation of the model of cantonization and mixed administration in large cities. The project of maintaining multiethnic cities would use the cities of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a model, in that it would receive financial credits, with which economic reconstruction and private enterprise would be fostered, as the sound basis for a multiethnic, democratic society. Kosovo-Metohija would remain a province under the jurisdiction of Serbia, and a multiethnic police force would be created as a part of the state police, in order to avoid the possibility that the "Kosovo Liberation Army" will take over police duties and form the basis for the creation of an Albanian military force on an ethnic basis which would certainly exploit the situation of a conflict breaking out in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to fight another war for secession from Serbia and Yugoslavia.


Provincial Administrative Bodies

The Assembly of the Province would consist of representatives from all the cities with mixed administration and all the cantons; it would also be bicameral, where the Upper House, made up based on ethnic parity, would allow mutual veto powers to each ethnic group, in order to avoid outvoting by the majority.

The levels of decision-making would in that case be four-tiered: cantonal, provincial, republic, and federal. The tiered structure would protect human and civil rights of all ethnic groups in Kosovo and Metohija, and would also prevent the change by force of existing borders. The complete ethnic-based split-up of the two conflicting sides would thus be avoided: Serbia would transfer a part of its administrative authority to the Albanian cantons (in the spheres of education, culture, health care, social security, transportation, communications, industry, the protection of cultural monuments, and local judiciary), and authority would remain vested in the state for appellate courts, foreign affairs, customs, police, and the army. Ethnic Albanians would have the right to complete their military training in civilian institutions. Serbian cantons would have the option to vest some of their administrative authority with the central government in Belgrade.


The Authority of Serbia and Guarantees of the International Community

The Parliament of Serbia and the international community would be the guarantors of this Agreement. The cantonal administration of Kosovo and Metohija would be regulated by a special law of the Parliament of Serbia. The Agreement on Cantonization would be in effect for a minimum of 15 to 20 years. The status of the province could be re-evaluated only after that period. At that time, the future generation, which will not be encumbered with the current hostilities and tensions, will be making the decisions, consistent with an atmosphere of broader European integration, democratic institutions, and the efficient protection of human rights.

All regulations of cantonal administration that are proposed by the Assembly of the Province would be approved and voted into law by the Parliament of Serbia. The President of Serbia would have the right to veto in the following spheres: 1) internal and foreign security; 2) in case the Assembly of the Province attempts to assume rights or duties which have not been delegated to it by this Agreement. The President of Serbia would also have the right to act as arbitrator if there is any dispute between the Parliament of Serbia and the Assembly of the Province.

The election of deputies from Kosovo and Metohija for the Parliament of Serbia would be conducted by canton and by city, where each of those territorial units would be separate electoral districts. The principle of affirmative action would be built into the electoral law, so that, for example, there would be at least 10 Serbian deputies from a delegation of 33 deputies from Kosovo-Metohija (a majority of whom would be ethnic Albanians). In European practice, that is an accepted principle of affirmative action.

European experiences indicate that a complex, multi-layered structure of regulating multiethnic provinces or regions is the best way to overcome ethnic tensions caused by contemporary or historical enmities between different national groups or minorities. With the application of those experiences in the southern province of Serbia, there will be conditions for the protection and safeguarding of all ethnic communities there, and at the same time, with the guarantees of the international community, the territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia will be preserved.

Belgrade, September 1998





    Multiethnic Cities Total Population Serbs + Montenegrins Ethnic Albanians Muslims Romanies (Gypsies)
    Gnjilane 35,229 5,644 + 143 25,619 107 2,821
    Istok 4,478 1,312 + 190 2,413 153 377
    Klina 4,512 928 + 262 3,156 37 107
    Kosovska Kamenica 5,386 1,679 + 46 3,333 42 229
    Kosovska Mitrovica 52,866 8,933 + 1,503 32,390 4,082 4,299
    Orahovac 13,134 2,037 + 141 10,515 83 219
    Pec 54,497 3,847 + 7,039 36,660 4,153 2,272
    Pristina 108,083 16,898 + 4,169 75,803 2,504 5,101
    Prizren 61,801 7,709 + 470 39,412 5,144 2,592
    Urosevac 37,659 5,202 + 262 28,365 1,525 1,813
    Vucitrn 20,204 1,046 + 142 17,903 28 947


  1. * Source: Ethnic structure of population of SFR Yugoslavia as of 1981, Volume I, Data by settlements and communes, Federal Statistical Bureau, Belgrade, 1991.


Multiethnic Cities

Albanian Population

Non-Albanian Population







2,413 2,032



3,156 1,534

Kos. Kamenica


3,333 1,996

Kos. Mitrovica


32,390 18,817 



10,515 2,490



36,660 17,311 



75,803 28,672 



39,412 15,915 



28,365 8,702








* Source: Data for Albanian and Non-Albanian population taken from Table 1. Non-Albanian population includes only members of Serbian, Montenegrin, Muslim Slav and Gypsy groups.