Austria's Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, spoke recently with the Kosovo subunit of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service about efforts to resolve disputes over the status of the UN-administered province of Kosovo, in Serbia and Montenegro. Interview by Ilirjana A. Bajo.
RFE/RL: Mr. Busek, a few months ago you declared that the EU does not have a strategy with respect to Kosova. (Editor's note: While the international community generally uses "Kosovo," it is "Kosova" in Albanian.) Do you think Brussels has one now, and if so what is it?
Erhard Busek: No, I think there is no clear position on the side of EU about what to do with Kosovo. I think it is also a problem on the one side in Belgrade, because what they think about a kind of autonomy is not enough. From the other side, Kosovars are convinced that they are already independent and [independence] is also not possible. Now we are waiting for [UN special envoy Kai Eide's report on possible Kosovo status talks] and for a facilitator. There are rumors that [Former Finnish President and expected leader of eventual status talks] Marti Ahtisaari might be the person who will go between Belgrade and Prishtina. If [as a result of steps such as the Eide report and bringing in an intermediary] they [achieve some progress] in 2006, that is very good.
RFE/RL: Several experts and politicians say that the outcome of status negotiations could result in conditional independence. Under this scenario, how do you see the relationship between independence and sovereignty?
Busek: If experts have such an opinion, that is very nice; I think the real problem is to convince both sides. Belgrade is convinced that Kosovo is still part of Serbia and it has to stay; Kosovars are convinced that independence is the only solution -- immediate independence. I think this is the problem. We have to try to convince both parts that they have to make some concessions. We have to go to each other and develop a timeline so we can solve this problem.
"My personal conviction that the "Europeanization" of Kosovo is the only possible solution. So the EU and other European countries are taking over from the UN. I think the same should happen [in] Bosnia-Herzegovina."
RFE/RL: If changes take place and the EU is ready to lead a mission in Kosova, how it should look, in your opinion?
Busek: Nobody is pleased because the possibilities of EU are limited; it is a question of staff, money, and so on. But it is my personal conviction that the "Europeanization" of Kosovo is the only possible solution. So the EU and other European countries are taking over from the UN. I think the same should happen [in] Bosnia-Herzegovina.
RFE/RL: You mentioned that the EU has no clear position toward Kosova. Do other international players, outside the EU, have a position on Kosova?
Busek: My impression is -- although it is not explicitly [stated]-- that the United States is clearer on this than Europeans.
RFE/RL: Do you think that solving Kosova's status will contribute to regional stability and, if so, will there be any deadline for the end of negotiations?
Busek: A deadline makes no sense. The real deadline is if we get results. I think the current situation of Kosovo is not blocking just Serbia but the whole region, and there is an influence on Macedonia and Albania. There must also be a regional interest in solving this problem. As far as I can see, the countries of the region are going more and more in this direction -- to create some pressure...that it should be solved.
RFE/RL: How do you see the positions of Tirana, Belgrade, and Skopje toward Kosova? Are they playing a constructive role?
Busek: Tirana sometimes makes some statements that are semi-helpful, but I think they are keeping a kind of distance. Skopje is very much interested in seeing it solved, because if [a solution over Kosova's final status has any negative impact on the Albanian-populated parts of Macedonia], it will be very bad [for Skopje]. They are very interested in having a solution that is generally accepted.
RFE/RL: To remain on Belgrade, do you think the international community should give a major role to Belgrade when Belgrade already has lost a war in Kosova?
Busek: I think Belgrade has a key role, because what is coming out should be more or less acceptable to Belgrade. The problem is that the government is not the strongest one -- and the political parties are also trying to get something out of this. If they are campaigning -- if I might say -- they do it in a very brutal way on this subject.