The European Commission said yesterday that European Union (EU) aid to Kosovo would be conditional on clear reform steps by the province's leaders. Kosovo, still formally part of Serbia, is administered overall by the UN, but with temporary institutions of government that have increasing competences. The EU has provided US$2.08 billion in aid since the 1998-99 conflict. Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn yesterday stressed the need for Kosovo's politicians to show commitment to the rule of law, democratic principles, minority rights and economic reforms, and also called on President Ibrahim Rugova to reciprocate the overtures for dialogue with Belgrade that Serbian President Boris Tadic had been making. 'An open and constructive dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is necessary', he said, adding that Serbian leaders had 'stretched out a hand'.
Significance: Earlier, it was Serbia that was unwilling to take part in talks - while former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, now at the Hague tribunal, was still under investigation. Now, however, Albanian politicians appear unwilling, fearful that it will compromise them in the eyes of the electorate. Instead, they prefer to rely on the international community to open talks on final status for Kosovo. However, the EU is making it clear that it wants talks between Belgrade and Pristina as a preliminary to final status talks. Kosovo still has a long way to go to meet the 'standards before status' that the international community has made the key plank of its policy.