Monday, May 02, 2005

Kosovo president hopes for speedy EU, US recognition of independence

Text of report Gertraud Illmeier entitled "Rugova: The time for hatred is over in Kosovo", published by the Austrian newspaper Die Presse on 30 April

[Illmeier] Your standpoint until now has been that the EU and the United States should directly recognize the independence of Kosovo. Will you not have to modify this standpoint? After all, the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) says that the UN Security Council has the last word on the future of Kosovo as a state.

[Rugova] No, I will not modify it. I insist on the direct recognition of Kosovo by the EU and the United States. That would bring stability to this part of Europe and to the society of Kosovo. The independence of Kosovo will stabilize Macedonia, where there is a numerically large Albanian community, as well as Albania, Montenegro and even Serbia.

The international community first wants to evaluate whether we are meeting all the necessary standards and only then deal with the question of the future status of Kosovo. We will not hinder our international partners in this but I insist on the rapid recognition of independence, because that is the better alternative.

[Illmeier] An important think tank, the International Commission for the Balkans, recently presented a highly acclaimed model solution. It foresees a four-step plan that is supposed to bring independence to Kosovo in a few years. What do you think of it?

[Rugova] I think that the direct recognition of independence is a better and healthier option. This phased access only complicates the matter. We have already been in the temporary status phase for six years. If the status of Kosovo is to remain open in negotiations for the time being, this would only give our neighbours the opportunity for manipulation.

[Illmeier] There have been signals, however, from different sides, including from the United States, Russia and the most important EU states, that the immediate independence of Kosovo may more likely be ruled out.

[Rugova] I insist on it, however, and am working for this. The progress that we have made in Kosovo has received international recognition.

It is now a matter of recognizing the independence. This also has practical meaning for us, because without it we have no access to international financial institutions and cannot establish diplomatic representations abroad.

We are now in a phase in which we are concentrating on internal development in Kosovo. The time of hatred is past.

[Illmeier] Kosovo's political parties have not yet agreed on a common platform for the negotiations on the future of the province. Who should now lead the Kosovo delegation in the status talks?

[Rugova] In Kosovo, it is like it is everywhere else: We have a government and an opposition, which naturally criticizes the government. We are not at loggerheads, however. Part of the international community has obviously not yet become used to the fact that we now have a democracy in Kosovo. The common platform of all parties is independence. We agree on that. If there are to be status talks, the opposition wants to be involved as well. Of course, the talks will be led by the legal institutions of Kosovo.

[Illmeier] The community of states is insisting on direct talks between you and Serbian President Boris Tadic. Your condition is that such a meeting can take place only in the framework of an international conference. In Paris in May, there will be a donor conference on the reconstruction of the religious sites destroyed last year. Would that be a possible venue for a meeting?

[Rugova] I do not attach much importance to such a meeting. There are already talks between Belgrade and Pristina about technical questions. Serbia can certainly take part in an international conference on Kosovo but without the right to veto the future status of Kosovo.

Source: Die Presse, Vienna, in German 30 Apr 05 p7

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