Prishtina [Pristina], 28 October: On Thursday [28 October], the Democratic League of Kosova [Kosovo] [LDK] and the Alliance for the Future of Kosova [AAK] discussed a possible two-party coalition, but they did not succeed in reaching a concrete agreement. Bujar Dugolli, one of the two AAK officials assigned by his party to negotiate possible coalitions with other parties, confirmed that the talks had taken place, but said no agreement was reached. "There is still interest in two-party and three-party coalitions," he said. The LDK also confirmed that the meeting with the AAK was held, but, as its officials put it, "There is nothing official yet." LDK spokesperson Lulzim Zeneli reiterated that everything will be known after the publication of the final results of the 23 October vote. It has been learned that the LDK made a concrete offer of a coalition to the AAK, but the latter replied through a letter in which it listed a number of demands that need to be met if the AAK's involvement in a coalition is desired. Reportedly, one of the key conditions is that the AAK should be given the post of prime minister. Bujar Dugolli said that, besides the LDK, the AAK has also had meetings with other parties, including the PDK [Democratic Party of Kosovo] and the ORA Citizens' List. "There are offers, but nothing is final. The AAK, just like other parties, will wait for the final results of the vote, and I believe serious talks will start next week" Dugolli said.
Meanwhile, the first rifts have emerged in the PDK regarding the share of senior posts if this party becomes part of the government coalition. It has been reported that during a meeting of senior officials of the PDK, it was decided that [PDK chairman] Hashim Thaci would be the only candidate of this party for the post of prime minister if this post is given to the PDK. Likewise, it was decided at that meeting that if the others do not accept the PDK decision about Thaci being prime minister, then the PDK would go into opposition. Sources from this party say that the only person who opposed this PDK variant was the incumbent Kosova prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi, and that he has left Kosova and gone to Turkey as a result of the disagreements in his party. On the other hand, the PDK has denied that a formal decision has been reached about party leader Hashim Thaci being nominated for the post of prime minister.
"The PDK presidency, even though it has been meeting every day, has not yet reached a formal decision on who from our party will be the candidate for prime minister or any other posts," PDK spokeswoman Vlora Citaku said.
She also denied that there had been internal disagreements in the PDK and that Bajram Rexhepi had walked out of a meeting and gone to Turkey as a sign of disapproval of Thaci's candidacy for the post of head of the country's executive body.
According to Citaku, Rexhepi has gone to Turkey to attend the opening of a swimming tournament, and that he had received the invitation in the summer while on a vacation there.
Government spokeswoman Mimoza Kusari-Lila likewise confirmed that Prime Minister Rexhepi had received an invitation for the opening ceremony of a swimming tournament. According to her, the tournament will be held in Antalya, and Rexhepi was invited by the mayor of that town whom he met during his summer vacation.
Novi Sad, 29 October: Former Serbian acting president Natasa Micic has said today that she had known about the 17 mass graves [of Kosovo Albanians] in Serbia.
"I used to bring this up as a problem which needed to be faced. As long as we fail to resolve all these dark aspects of our past we cannot move towards the future. From Srebrenica to Prime Minister Djindjic's assassination, to mass graves, we will not be able to integrate into Europe," Micic told a news conference in Novi Sad.
She added that Serbia must face the dark aspects of its recent history, "not because of international obligations, but because of ourselves".
Kosovo will unfortunately be independent in a year or two at the latest, former Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic has said. Speaking as a guest speaker in Studio B TV's "Intervju" programme, he emphasized that Serbia had missed all its chances to arrive at a more favourable solution, and that even the Serbian government's plan envisaged Kosovo's independence.
[Reporter] Former Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic has assessed that Kosmet [Kosovo-Metohija] should be divided into a Serb part and into an [ethnic] Albanian part. We would be the first country to recognize this, but we need a solution that will put a final line under this, with the lowest possible casualties, Zivkovic said, adding that anything is better than this Golgotha.
[Zivkovic] I want to be frank in telling the people of Kosovo and all those interested. I think that I have been speaking frankly so far, and all of us should be interested in the fate of the Serbs in Kosovo. I want to say this: that Kosovo will unfortunately be independent in a year or two.
Serbia and the Serbian people have an interest in an independent Kosovo but [a Kosovo] not within its current borders. Rather, this should be a divided Kosovo with an Albanian part which can then become independent. We do not need it, let us be realistic. It is in our interest that we should separate ourselves from this misfortune [Kosovo]. Let them live well, of course. I do not wish bad things to happen to them, nor do I want to speak about them [Kosovo Albanians] as a people or individuals. I do not wish to say anything bad, but this is the end of a sad story.
[Reporter] Zivkovic said that many people did not read the Serbian government's plan for a political solution in Kosmet carefully enough. According to him, this plan envisaged the province's independence because there is an article stipulating that the Kosovo Supreme Court is authorized for certain cases which the Serbia-Montenegro Court is not authorized for. He noted the Serbian [Supreme] Court was never mentioned [in the plan].
Kosovo's election brings a peace settlement no closer
KOSOVO has just held an election, under the watchful eye of its international overlords, and the main winner is the prime minister of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica. That was one of the oddest features of the ballot held on October 23rd in a province whose political future remains wide open, five years after NATO wrested the place from the Serbs.
One of the few uncertainties about the result of the election was how many of the province's 200,000 Serb voters (of whom only half now live in Kosovo) would heed the advice of Mr Kostunica and boycott the poll. In fact, almost all did. In Belgrade, some young wags summed up Serb feelings by staging a parody of the vote. That was good news for Serb nationalists but it may spell trouble for the province, where tension is rising palpably ahead of the final-status talks which are supposed to be starting next summer.
For now, the place remains in a sort of legal no-man's-land. In diplomatic theory, sovereignty over Kosovo is vested in "Serbia and Montenegro", a union of the only two republics of communist Yugoslavia which are still yoked together. In practice, the province is run by the UN, which has been transferring power to local institutions—in other words, to the territory's ethnic-Albanian majority.
For the Albanians, this month's poll changed little: all ethnic-Albanian parties are solidly in favour of independence, and all those representing Kosovo's minority Serbs are solidly against. In the last provincial legislature, the Kosovo Serbs had 22 out of the 120 seats. Now they will have a maximum of ten seats, a quota to which they are entitled as a minority.
But will they take those seats up? Mr Kostunica feels the Serbs should not lend legitimacy to the province's "multinational" governance, because that was torn to shreds by last March's anti-minority violence which chased 4,000 Serbs and Roma from their homes. To participate in Kosovo's institutions would give undeserved credibility to the local Albanian leadership and their claim to be running a multi-ethnic show; that is the argument which Serb nationalists have used.
Whether they stayed away of their own free will or were intimidated, all but 1% of Kosovo's Serbs also eschewed the ballot. For Mr Kostunica, this result was a nice riposte to his main rival, Boris Tadic, the moderate, pro-western president of Serbia, who had appealed to the Kosovo Serbs to go to the polls.
The prime minister needed some good news. In local elections held on September 19th, Mr Tadic's Democratic Party showed it was making a comeback from the doldrums it hit last year. Mr Kostunica's party suffered a drubbing, while the extreme nationalist Radicals also proved they are a force to reckon with.
Apart from point-scoring, does Mr Kostunica have a strategy? He probably wants to forestall talks on Kosovo's final status, because, despite this electoral fillip, he really has no credible proposal for the political future of the territory. At the moment he is pushing for a plan which foresees autonomy for Serbian areas within Kosovo, which would, for now at least, remain under international tutelage.
But the plan is unworkable. It foresees Serbs displaced from Kosovo being moved to majority ethnic-Albanian areas where they would live in new settlements, and even new towns. Once these areas have been "Serbianised", then boundaries could be redrawn to link them up to other Serbian areas. Albanians reject this, seeing in it a bid to fix Kosovo's demography before splitting the province.
Meanwhile, the Kosovo Serbs have no legitimate representatives to speak on their behalf; their future is more precarious than ever. With no serious Serbian interlocutors ready to engage in talks, some Albanians may say it is time to dig up their guns; and now they may target not only Serbs, but western troops or international bureaucrats.
Will the Serbs break the logjam by accepting that Kosovo is lost? Dobrica Cosic, a respected ex-president of Yugoslavia, wrote recently that the current generation of Serbs should not pay for the loss of Kosovo by previous ones. The influential Belgrade newspaper, Politika, has said something similar. But such voices are marginal; as a result, ordinary Serbs still find that their future is yoked to a place where most have no wish to go.
ACCORDING TO UNNAMED SOURCES, THE AGREEMENT HAS BEEN REACHED BETWEEN THE PDK, AAK, ORA AND SOME OTHER MINORITY PARTIES TO CREATE THE NEW KOSOVA GOVERNMENT. THIS WILL LEAVE LDK OUT OF ANY GOVERNMENTAL POSTS. THIS STORY IS STILL DEVELOPING...
The Central Election Commission and the OSCE announced on Monday the preliminary results for the 2004 Assembly elections. The OSCE head of mission Pascal Fieschi said that the preliminary results would have very little changes from the final results.
The election results are as follows: LDK 45.3%, PDK 28.6%, AAK 8.2%, ORA 6.2%, PSHDK 1.81%, KDTP 1.38%, PD 1%.
Kosova Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi asked today UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] chief Soren Jessen-Petersen to allow the establishment of temporary telephony code for Kosova [Kosovo] and transformation of the Banking and Payment Authority (BPK) into a central bank with a right to emit securities.
Mimoza Kusari, spokesperson for the government, confirmed this request today after the regular meeting of the government.
She said that the temporary code ensures Kosova up to 300 million euros, namely half of this year's budget. According to Kusari, by being transformed into a central bank, the BPK would be allowed to emit securities.
As for the telephony code, Kusari said that UNMIK chief Jessen-Petersen did not reject the request and pledged to get "the go-ahead" of UN Office in New York.
"It has remained in the SRSG's [Special Representative of the Secretary General] hand to discuss it with UN senior officials in New York but according to Jessen-Petersen there is also a possibility to get a telephony interim code for Kosova until the final status is resolved," said Kusari
Due to the unresolved status, Kosova has neither its telephonic nor its bank code. It is currently using a temporarily mobile telephony code of Monaco and an old land line telephony code of Serbia, which cost millions of euros to Kosova.
Kusari said that the PM has also requested the SRSG Jessen-Petersen to sign into effect the Law on Census. According to her, the SRSG has promised to sign it after establishing of institutions.
The two Serb citizens' lists that ran in the Kosova [Kosovo] general election have different positions regarding participation in the Kosova institutions. In this way, the representatives of the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija [SLKM] have said that they would not take the reserved seats in the Kosova Assembly. One of the candidates of this list, Dragisa Krstovic, said that he had decided not to join the parliament. He added that the representatives of the SLKM were going to have a meeting with Serbian President Boris Tadic to discuss further actions.
Meanwhile, the second Serb party that ran in the general election, the Civic Initiative of Serbia, according to its chairman Slavisa Petkovic, will take the reserved seats in the Kosova Assembly. He does not see the refusal of the Serb population to vote in the general election as a genuine position of this population, but as a result of pressure that was exercised by certain groups of fellow Serbs to prevent people from voting.
"They have used the most brutal methods, which only Hitler used to get to power. This means that people have been threatened even with murder if they dared to go out and vote. They have been threatened with losing their jobs, too. Therefore, the Serbs were frightened and did not dare go out and vote," Petkovic said.
The future status of Kosova [Kosovo] should be independence observed by the European Union, said Member of the European [MEP] Parliament Doris Pack.
This could be independence observed by the European Union, said Doris Pack. At this time we are all heading towards the European Union and therefore I believe that, perhaps for a more or less interim period, we should assign a powerful observer mission to a, more or less, independent Kosova, she said. Ms Pack said this after her return from Kosova where she was an observer of the parliamentary elections which, she said, were organised in an excellent manner. Despite the Serb boycott, the elections were fair and free. I believe that the elections were organised in an excellent manner, something I cannot say about other places in the region, said MEP Doris Pack. Ms Pack headed the European Parliament delegation that observed the election process in Kosova.
According to the British government, the West is changing its policy on the unresolved status of the UN-administrated province of Kosovo. Two years ago, the UN created a set of benchmarks to be fulfilled by local authorities, the so-called “standards” dealing with security, minority rights, democracy, and law and order, as a precondition for beginning talks on the province’s final status, which will take the shape either of independence or of broad autonomy within Serbia and Montenegro. Denis MacShane, Britain’s minister for Europe, said on Monday that the standards policy was changing and that the time for tackling Kosovo’s status was drawing nearer. “A year ago, we talked about standards before status. Today, we are talking about standards and status […] In London and in other European capitals we want the solution to come from here and not to be imposed from outside. Time is running out,” he said. However, British officials now say that Kosovo’s status can no longer be delayed. In a message to authorities in Belgrade, MacShane pressed for dialog between Belgrade and Pristina after meeting with Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, just two days after parliamentary elections in Kosovo. Last December, the international community attempted to initiate technical talks between the two parties in order to prepare them for final status talks, but so far, those efforts have failed. “With each rejection of direct dialog between Pristina and Belgrade, between Serbs and Albanians, the question of final status becomes more urgent in the international agenda,” MacShane said at a press conference before leaving for Kosovo. The UN has said it will evaluate achievements on the standards of democracy and multi-ethnicity in Kosovo by mid-2005. According to MacShane, the international community would step up efforts to find a solution to the Kosovo question, regardless of the Serb boycott of Saturday's parliamentary elections. Britain is an influential EU member that has much sway in the international community in terms of policy on the Balkans, and particularly on Kosovo. EU diplomats told ISN Security Watch that the largest EU member states and the US had already agreed to positively assess the achieving of the standards next year and to clear the way for status talks. They said that changing the timetable was a direct result of Western fears of a repeat of the March violence in Kosovo, as Albanian majority frustrations over the status quo and the poor economic situation increase. But diplomats cautioned that the EU-US consensus must have the agreement of Russia and China, two important UN Security Council members. The Russian government has argued against independence for Kosovo. (By Ekrem Krasniqi in Brussels)
Saturday – The Hague Tribunal has denied being involved in a search for former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic in an army compound in the plush Belgrade suburb of Topcider.
Belgrade has been awash with rumours this week that a mysterious shooting incident in the compound was linked to the fugitive, with daily Kurir claiming that it had been searched by military police and international investigators just days earlier.
Two young army sentries were shot dead in the so-far unexplained attack at the Topcider base, which includes private residences used by senior army officers.
The rumour mill went into overdrive, claiming that the two sentries shot this week had to die because they had seen an elusive war crimes suspect who is not supposed to be in the country.
Florence Hartmann, the press representative for Hague Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, was unequivocal today in her denial of any Hague involvement.
“I don’t know what your security forces are doing, you’ll have to ask them that, but Hague investigators have not been in that facility. The Serbian authorities have told us that they are searching for General Ratko Mladic, but we have no information about whether on the day of the accident there was any kind of search operation going on for any fugitive,” Hartmann told Belgrade daily Blic.
Pressed on the issue of whether The Hague had been told that Mladic was hiding in an underground army facility in Topcider, Hartmann replied that the tribunal would not talk about addresses until after Mladic is arrested.
“At the moment I would not like to give you details. But I’m not ruling out that Mladic may be hiding in exactly that part of Belgrade,” she added.
Shoferi i autobusit të nxënësve kosovarë nuk është fajtor për aksidentin e ndodhur në Fushë Arrëz pasi sipas hetimeve të grupit të ekspertëve të policisë rrugore dhe prokurorisë, shkak i përplasjes që solli më pas tragjedinë ka qenë shpejtësia e shoferit të "Mercedesit".
Rritet në 16 numri i viktimave të aksidentit tragjik që ndoshi dje në fshatin Gjegjan të Shqipërisë. Drejtori i Spitalit Ushtarak të Tiranës Bajram Begaj, ka konfirmuar se gjatë natës ka humbur jetën edhe një maturant tjetër i plagosur gjatë aksidentit, Mifail Morina, i cili nuk u mbijetoi dot plagëve të marra. (RTK)
If Brussels aims to replace the United Nations in the protectorate, it will have to consolidate and streamline its presence there first.
By Markus Bickel in Pristina (BCR No 521, 14-Oct-04)
The European Union is keen to take over from the United Nations in Kosovo, but some EU officials warn that a Brussels-led administration may be as bureaucratic and cumbersome as the current UN one.
The protectorate’s October parliamentary elections, and Kosovo in general, featured high on the agenda at the EU Foreign Ministers' meeting in Luxemburg on October 11.
This followed the recommendations of Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, who recently criticised the UN Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, and concluded that a restructuring of the body was “unavoidable”.
Eide's report suggested the EU should become the main player in Kosovo in the near future. In the chapter entitled "A view to the future: a new division of labour", his report said, "With the end of resolution 1244... Kosovo will probably be governed from Pristina with the EU assuming the international lead role."
Eide was tasked by the UN to investigate the ethnic violence in Kosovo in mid-March, which left at least 19 people dead and forced 4,000 Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians from their homes.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asked Eide to recommend a way forward for Kosovo, governed as an international protectorate in accordance with UN resolution 1244, following the end of the NATO bombing campaign in June 1999.
Christina Gallach, spokesperson for the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, agrees that Brussels looks interested in gaining a higher profile. She told IWPR this week there was "an immediate need to bring forth the EU presence in Kosovo".
But it still remains unclear what this expanded presence will mean on the ground.
The EU has already been active at various levels in Pristina over the last four years. It works at the heart of UNMIK, where German diplomat Niklaus Graf Lambsdorff heads Pillar Four, the department responsible for reconstruction and economic development.
Besides that, Solana appointed his own special envoy for Kosovo, Fernando Gentilini of Italy, following the March violence.
At the beginning of September, Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, EC, opened another EU office in Pristina, headed by another Italian, Giorgio Mamberto, further raising the number of top-level EU diplomats in Kosovo.
The former EU special envoy for Kosovo, Wolfgang Petritsch, who headed the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo between 1999 and 2002, sees the institution as a role model for Kosovo.
"Looking at the difficult period after resolving the status question, Brussels should begin with the Europeanisation of the UN mission right away," Petrisch said.
"In the end, the same criteria count in Kosovo as in Bosnia and Serbia. If we want to find a solution, Brussels must make concrete offers concerning admission into the EU."
Reinhard Priebe, director for the Western Balkans in the External Relations Directorate-General of the EC, agrees with this position.
"Since Kosovo is part of Europe, there is no doubt we have to give it a European perspective - and take over more responsibility there," he said.
At the same time, Erhard Busek, Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, says the EU is likely to administer Kosovo better than the UN.
"The EU is the right player to lead the international mission in Pristina," he told IWPR. "Unlike the UN, it has experience in administrating transition states."
Doris Pack, head of the EU parliamentary delegation for South Eastern Europe, has demanded the more or less immediate replacement by the EU of the UNMIK structure.
"The UN is not capable of doing the job," Pack told IWPR.
Pack added that Brussels should consider establishing an EU protectorate in Kosovo, as it would "simplify the process towards EU-membership and could give the Serbs a fair chance to participate in the Kosovo institutions".
Apart from the danger of ruffling feathers in the UN, calls for an expanded EU role in Kosovo have not met universal approval among local politicians, however.
Hashim Thaci, head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, says the United States should have the leading role, not Europe.
"Until a decision on final status has been made, there should not be a change in the structure of the international administration," Thaci said.
Some EU officials also admit privately there is no guarantee that a Brussels-led administration would be less bureaucratic and cumbersome than the current UN one.
One EU diplomat in Pristina told IWPR it might well be worse, "It is ridiculous to replace the existing UN bureaucracy with an EU administration, because the structures in Brussels are even more confusing than those in New York."
The diplomat pointed to the well-known rivalries that dog Brussels, pitting different administrative structures, such as the EC, the Council of Ministers and the member states, against one another.
"Whereas in Washington you know which telephone number to call if you want to talk to the president, it is unclear inside the EU who really holds power," the official added.
The current dispersal of EU officials in Pristina has, in the eyes of some observers, led to the creation of competing and overlapping competencies. It has also not been clarified why Prodi felt the need to establish a special envoy for the EC when the EU was already so well represented in Kosovo.
Eide's report urged the EU "to consolidate its various presences in Kosovo into a more coherent and streamlined structure".
Until that process of consolidation takes place, it may be hard for Brussels to assume the commanding role in Kosovo that some of its supporters now seem to be seeking.
Markus Bickel is a Balkans correspondent for Austria Press Agency and the Berlin-based Der Tagesspiegel.
An election that will matter for next year's talks on Kosovo's future
THE people of Kosovo are gearing up to vote. Although this has been a UN protectorate since the end of Serbian rule in 1999, some powers have been devolved back to elected politicians. The province's October 23rd poll matters because talks are likely to begin next year on its final status. More than 90% of its population is ethnic Albanian. Overwhelmingly, they want nothing less than full independence.
Nothing spectacular is expected to change on the Albanian side as a result of the elections. But who might the Albanians talk to, first in Kosovo's parliament and then in the final-status negotiations themselves? After the attacks on Serbs and other minorities last March by Albanian extremists, Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia's prime minister, his government and the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church all called on Kosovo Serbs to boycott the October 23rd poll. But Boris Tadic, Serbia's president, has called on them to vote. The Serbs have ten constitutionally guaranteed seats in Kosovo's parliament, but these deputies will have little credibility if the turnout is low.
Mr Kostunica is pushing a plan drawn up by his aides to create autonomous Serbian enclaves in Kosovo. The plan also suggests that some of the 220,000 Kosovo Serbs now displaced in Serbia should return to Kosovo, to live in new towns that link to areas where Serbs live now. But this echo of Israel's settlements in the West Bank seems unlikely to come about. One reason, suggests a report by the European Stability Initiative, a Berlin-based think-tank, is that there are not 220,000 displaced people in Serbia. Their research points to only 65,000, many of whom have sold their properties and have no intention of returning. The ESI also suggests that more Serbs remain in Kosovo than was thought. By examining school registers, the researchers calculate that there are 128,000 Serbs in the province.
Many Serbs think that Kosovo should be partitioned, with the mostly Serb-inhabited north joining Serbia. They argue that most Kosovo Serbs live there, so few would lose their homes by such a division. But this is wrong, says the ESI report. Two-thirds of Serbs actually live in the south, in rural areas. And most do not live in neat enclaves that could easily become Serbian autonomous areas. Similar research is now needed on how many Albanians live in Kosovo, a figure that varies between 1.5m and 2.2m. Without reliable data it is hard to make plans for health and education, let alone for elections or for an independent state.