Ioannis Michaletos
(RIEAS Analyst)


An influential factor in Kosovo apart from the Albanian majority & the Serbian minority is Turkey through the 40,000 strong Turkish community. The first Turkish settlers arrived in Kosovo Metojia after the legendary battle of Kosovo in 1389, and soon became the ruling class of the Province. Its presence nowadays is not more than 1.5% of the population; nevertheless Ankara found a way of entering the Kosovo quagmire and demands a role through the use of the Turkish populous there.

In fact the Turkish side refers to Kosovo as a land of minorities and not only of the Serbian one. Various well-informed forces monitor an increased attention by Turkey and a pressure towards USA to accept a wider role for Turkey in Kosovo. Even though the other minorities  Excluding Serbs- are more numerically: Roma (40,000), Bosniaks (30,000), Gorani (50,000); they dont have the backing of a large state, as Turkey and steadily a third player is emerging in the Kosovo scene. 

The Turkish minority mainly live in Prizren (29%) and Mitrovice (14%). The village of Mamuaa north of Prizren was the only settlement in Kosovo with a Turkish majority, according to the last legal census of 1981. It had 2752 people, with Turks making up around three-quarters of that number.

There are three Turkish political parties in Kosovo:

Turkish Public Front- under the leadership of Sezai Saipi Turkish Democratic Union- under the leadership of Erhan Körolu, centered in Pristina Kosovo Turkish Democratic Party (KTDP) - under the leadership of Mahir Yac1lar, centered in Prizren (the only registered Turkish party of Kosovo) There are also two cultural and artistic Turkish associations in Kosovo: Right Way (Doru Yol) and Truth (Gerçek). The purpose of these two associations is to keep the Turkish culture alive in Kosovo.

Kosovo Turks have their own schools in every educative level. In Prizren, Mamusha, Pristina, Gnjilane, Djakovica and Vucitrin, there are 3 kindergartens, 11 primary schools, 6 colleges and the Pristina University where on the whole 2,532 Turkish students attend lectures. A substantial number of them eventually study in Turkey at a graduate level along with Muslim-Albanian students via scholarships by the Turkish educational system.

Turkey cannot play a fully active role in the region for the time being, but it will most probably demand more say in the Kosovo status when the EU-led force takes place and starts implementing a sort of pre-accession process for this land. Kosovo already has to cope between the demands of the international community for protection of the minorities, the visions of Great Albanian and the perpetual interference by the EU and NATO in the political and economic life of the local community.  Moreover the involvement by Turkey is instinctively met by Greek and Bulgarian demands for further rights in the social and economic developments there.

Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the self-proclaimed independence of Pristina and there are 4 Members of Parliament of Turkish origin in the local government. Also, in the Priznen town a TV station named Yeni Donem was created in 2006 by Turkish developmental aid, whilst other networks such as: Radio Priznen, TV BESA and TV Pro have special programs in the Turkish language.

Further, Turkish newspapers in Kosovo include: Our Voice (Sesimiz), the official newspaper of KTDP, Your Environment (Cevren) since 1973, Avalanche (Cig), Bird (Kus) since 1974, Pearl (Inci).

In parallel the Turkish media in Istanbul and Ankara fully support any initiatives by the Thaci government and downplay the existence of a paradigm between the Kurdish demands for independence and the ones already achieved by the Kosovo-Albanians. The reason from what it seems is the existence of a plan by Turkey to use Kosovo as an example against Greece and Bulgaria and already since February 2008 numerous psychological operations have been made in those countries mainly by the use of the internet and the fabrication of stories aiming at radicalizing the local Muslim communities.

On the other hand, Athens recently proceed into signing a police agreement with Belgrade that calls for the intelligence sharing between the security forces of the two states in the fields of terrorism, organized crime, illegal immigration, narcotics trade and human trafficking. Judging by the fact that the Turkish organized crime has numerous attachments to the Kosovo-Albanian one, this development highlights once more the existence of "Cross-national axis" within the Balkan periphery that are also characterized by the historical and religious affinity, i.e. Muslims vs. Christian Orthodox.

It is more than certain that future developments in the region will revolve in a large extent in the traditional Greek-Turkish confrontation that has since the early '90's expanded in the Southern & Western Balkans. The decision by the Greek government to recognize indirectly the Kosovo passports in early September 2008 was directed, amongst other, into diffusing the Turkish-Kosovo bonds and likewise the overall strategy of Greece should be viewed in relation to this issue.

A sure prediction is that Turkey will assist Kosovo in forming its own Army in the near future and will continue into trying to create an axis streaming from Thrace to Bosnia that will be composed by the existence of sizeable Muslim & Turkish communities that trace back in the Ottoman times. Kosovo presents an excellent base for the installation of strong Turkish intelligence apparatus, albeit the main target is FYROM o which Ankara exerts considerable pressure using a combination of economic and military means. Greece's endeavor on the perennial name issue has a strong Turkish flavor that is being dilated through Kosovo.


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