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Austrian Nobel laureate declared “person non grata” in Kosovo over support for support for Milosevich

Wednesday, 11 December, 2019 - 17:51

The Kosovan government has said that Nobel literature laureate Peter Handke is not welcome in Kosovo, as the row over the Austrian writer’s award continues to provoke anger and controversy.

Kosovo’s foreign minister, Behgjet Pacolli, tweeted on Wednesday: “I have decided to declare Peter Handke as persona non grata in Kosovo because of the support he gave to Milosevic and his genocidal policies … He and the Nobel prize showed disrespect to the victims of genocide.”

The award given to the Austrian author by the Swedish Academy on Tuesday has revived the wounds in the former Yugoslavia where he is accused of revisionism in relation to the crimes committed by the Serb forces during the wars that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia. 

Sarajevo was subjected to a 43-month siege by Bosnian-Serbian nationalist forces armed by Slobodan Milosevic, during the 1992-1995 war in the wake of Bosnia’s separation from Yugoslavia.

About 11,000 people died during the siege and more than 100,000 over the course of the war.

Peter Handke was criticised for attending and delivering a speech at the funeral of Slobadan Milosevic, who died in 2006 while awaiting trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Previously, Handke had written a travelogue about Serbia in which he portrayed it as being among the victims of the Yugoslav Wars and accused the Western media of misrepresenting the causes and consequences of the war.

The ambassadors of Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia and Northern Macedonia, all of whom were part of the Yugoslav federation, all boycotted the ceremony in Stockholm in which Handke received the Nobel prize.

During the Bosnian conflict, the author “supported the regime led by the criminal Slobodan Milosevic” and “repeatedly denied the genocide of Srebrenica”, in which 8000 Muslims, men and adolescents, were killed by Bosnian Serb forces, the Bosnian parliament said in a statement.

Handke, 76, was recognised for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience,” the Academy said when the award was announced in October.

But a 58,000-strong petition called for the award to be revoked.

And as dignitaries arrived in limousines for the awards ceremony, about a dozen protesters waved placards with slogans such as “No Nobel for Fake News”, the BBC reported

Handke defended his position regarding Serbia in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit in late November, saying:

“Not one word I have written about Yugoslavia can be denounced, not a single one. It’s literature,” adding that the “reporting about Serbia was monotone and one-sided.”



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