Saturday, November 26, 2005

In Meeting With Rival Factions, U.N. Envoy Paves Way for Kosovo Talks

BELGRADE, Serbia and Montenegro, Nov. 23 - The United Nations took a step closer to starting talks on the future of Kosovo, perhaps the most intractable issue remaining from the Balkan wars of the 1990's, with a visit by its chief negotiator to the region this week.

The envoy, Martti Ahtissari, a former president of Finland and recently appointed as the United Nations' negotiator, met Tuesday and Wednesday with the leaders of Kosovo's two factions, ethnic Albanians and Serbs, in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, to prepare for possible face-to-face negotiations between the sides early next year.

His tour paves the way for negotiations that are expected to end six years of legal limbo for Kosovo, during which uncertainty over that Serbian province's future has frustrated both its populations and the threatened the chances for long-term stability in the region.

Kosovo has been under the control of a United Nations interim administration since it was wrested from Serbia's control in June 1999 after a 78-day NATO-led bombing campaign. The air campaign came after Serbia sent troops into the province against an ethnic Albanian rebel movement, and evidence emerged of widespread atrocities by the troops against the Albanian majority.

Since then the United Nations has established a regional government with substantial local control. But the mission's role in the province is seen by international officials as increasingly untenable because of the failure to resolve its future status.

Officially Kosovo remains a part of Serbia, contrary to the wishes of the Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the estimated two million people and who want independence. Last year 50,000 ethnic Albanians rioted in the region, forcing 4,000 Serbs and others to flee their homes and killing 19 people.

The difficulty of Mr. Ahtissari's task was underlined just before his visit as Serbian and Albanian political leaders reiterated their diametrically opposing views. On Monday, Serbia's Parliament passed a resolution agreeing to the negotiation process, but rejecting any solution that would remove Kosovo from Serbia. On Tuesday, Kosovo's Albanian leaders told Mr. Ahtissari that they would not accept anything less than independence.

"I insist on the direct recognition of Kosovo's independence that will calm down the region," Kosovo's president, Ibrahim Rugova, said after meeting in his home in Pristina with Mr. Ahtissari. "The time has come to wrap up this business."

Much of the negotiations are expected to focus on how Kosovo's Serbian population, which numbers up to 130,000, can best be protected and have a degree of autonomy from Albanian-dominated institutions.

While the United Nations officials say the final agreement will be the result of negotiation, senior Western diplomats across the region concede it will be difficult to defy Kosovo Albanian demands for independence, despite their failure to prevent attacks on minorities. Forcing Kosovo to remain within Serbia would run the risk of provoking an Albanian insurgency and destabilizing the region, they said.

But some politicians warn that insufficient consideration is being given to what impact Kosovo's independence would have on Serbia.

"Everyone seems to be concerned about the future status of Kosovo; that it will be more or less independent, conditional independence or independence with international supervision," Dimitrij Rupel, Slovenia's foreign minister and current chairman in the office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said in a recent interview. "But they haven't thought thoroughly about what might happen in Serbia."

The negotiations come at difficult time for Serbia. Next year Montenegro is expected to hold a referendum that could also lead to it breaking away from Serbia and becoming an independent state.

Serbia's democratic parties also remain weak, despite five years of democratic government since the fall of the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, Mr. Rupel said.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's coalition government has introduced difficult economic and political changes that have yet to bear fruit. Public enterprises are being restructured with job losses, social security payments have been scaled back, and public expenditures have been cut to ensure economic stability.

This environment, especially if Kosovo and Montenegro were to become independent, could be exploited by the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, which holds the largest number of seats in Parliament, said Vuk Jeremic, the foreign affairs adviser to the reformist president, Boris Tadic.

"We may experience a nationalist wave," Mr. Jeremic said in a telephone interview. "The Radicals will say, what have five years of democracy brought us? The improvements may not be very obvious at this stage." If Kosovo were lost, he said, "I think there will be little we can use to contain them."

Mr. Rupel said he had urged other European foreign ministers at a recent meeting in Brussels to consider how Serbia might be compensated for any possible losses in Kosovo. "I think part of the solution will be finding something attractive for the Serbs," he said. Asked what the response of his counterparts had been to his proposal he said, "They didn't have an answer."

Membership in the European Union some time in the future "isn't really a carrot," he said. Aid or compensation, financial or political would have to be sufficient to strengthen democratic forces enough to make people overlook the loss of Kosovo.

Mr. Jeremic said the whole region needed an additional aid package, to ensure stability after a decision on Kosovo. "There has to be a new initiative for the Balkans within the European Union," he said.

But he emphasized that Serbia could not be bought off on Kosovo. "No matter how high a price you pay for Kosovo, it would still be a sellout," he said. "The compensation has to be found within Kosovo. The compensation will have to be at the expense of Albanians' maximalist platform."


the-ilirian said...

There is no way that we (Albanians) will give up on total independence. The Albanian territory that is called Kosova is our sacred homeland and has been so since time immemorial and we have gone through too much hell and come too close to give up now. To all those, Serbs and internationals who think that there might still be a possibility of Kosova remaining under Serb rule...please get this through your thick heads; it's not going to happen!

Tung tung

Mir said...

I'm returning for now. What dosen't make sense to me is how you preach "total" "independence". Yet you want to be considered nationally, an Albanian? It dosen't make much sense that you want total independence but you want the Albanian flag and basically their government.

I think this may be a problem with the indepence. Some Kosovars might want total independence (even from Albania) while some basically want to become a part of Albania. Is that a valid problem or not?


Kosovar2006 said...

Well Mitar you do have a valid point. As my name suggests I would like to be known as Kosovar. Joing all ALbanian Villayets will be difficult and we will not have support for it, none.

There are some of us still think its possible ,Its a dream for most, will it happen god knows, not in the current progress anyway.
The real problem about this will arise if Kosova doesnt get independence or if Serbia tries to split Kosova then everywhere around Kosova will erupt.
That's another argument why Kosova should be independent ASAP. That way everything will move forward then joining EU where borders arent much of an effect just line on the map really. That would be perfect solution. If anything other then independence happens then EU and international community will find it very hard to settle Albanian

oskar said...

@ Kosovar2006:

At the moment, Kosovo is not heading for full independence, but rather some kind of limited and conditional independence, at best. Foreign troops will remain and there will be wide ranging international (EU most likely) control of the judiciary and police. Kosovo's constitution will be frame, or at least limited by, the international community. Minority rights will be closely monitored and most likely warrant continous intereference by the international community and by Serbia. Kosovo will be more of an international protectorate than an independent nation.

Wouldn't it be better if the northern slice of the province (say north of Mitrovica) was left in Serbia and any populations on the 'wrong' side of the border resettled. Churches and monasteries in the southern part could be taken down (stone by stone) and reerected in Serbia.

With no minorities left in Kosovo, the country would be truly free to pursue its own politics with no need for further involvement by the international community.

If Serbia insists on keeping Kosovo as an autonomous part of Serbia the issue will continue to drag the country down, stopping democratic reform and just be a huge unresolved issue. Likewise, if the Kosovo albanians demand full independence for the whole province, they'll continously have to look over their shoulder (once the Americans leave Serbia could pretty easily take back the province, or at least part of it).

Kosovo and Serbia will have to live as neighbours. For this to work neither can achieve its maximalist goals or you are only laying the foundations for the next war.

Kosovar2006 said...


Well Serbia is wanting The natural wealth of Kosova it wouldnt care if it didnt get the south where a lot of churches are especially Prizren.
So Serbia gets North of Mitrovica. You said 'With no minorities left in Kosovo' that means we should get Parts of Macedonia and Serbia well you don't want minorties given them to us include the land.

Not a healthy suggestion. By the way Serbia is having good deal with current Kosovo borders.Just accept and work as neighbours

I know that we will be protacting (or controlled if u wish) by international community.With independence I can say Im a KOSOVAR. We will have a football team all the sports represented as KOSOVA and loads of other adventages come with being recognised as a state

oskar said...

I'm not talking about getting a good deal or what's fair. I'm talking about what's viable in the long-run.

If Kosovo is to become an independent state within its current borders, then it will have to be a multicultural/multiethnic state.

This means that it cannot be an ethnic albanian state.

It will have to have two official languages, specific constitutional rights for minorities, limits on the make-up of the police, judiciary, army and government. The country's flag cannot be a Kosovo albanian flag but something less controversial. Likewise for the national anthem. Teaching of history in schools would have to be 'balanced' etc, etc, etc...

Considering that Kosovo is probably the most nationalist place there is in Europe today, this is not likely to happen. Also, I think most ehnic Albanians in Kosovo really want a multiethnic Kosovo - they want an albanian Kosova.

Heaving off a northern slice of Kosovo and resettling any populations on the 'wrong' side will create a much more stable independent Kosova, one that is what most ethnic Albanians want and expect.

As long as Kosovo remains multiethnic it will continue to have problems. Better to take a clean split and let each group get on with its life.

An on the issue of ethnic Albanian minorities elswhere, that's not what's up for discussion. Comments like that will only make your future neighbours more suspicious of you.

dave said...

that is all absolutely ridiculous.
i think everyone is aware of the multi-ethnic fabric of future kosovo, and i have spent much time there to see this myself.
i'm curious about your comment about two official languages. why should kosovo have an official language at all? are you aware that the USA has no official language? what about serbia using only the serbian language, despite the high percent of albanian-speakers before the loss of kosovo? or the "noble" treatment in austria of their enormous slovenian speaking minority?
your suggestion to cut off northern kosovo is foolish at best, and dangerously incompetent in reality.
as far as the flag of kosovo, those that fought and suffered for the country should be able to decide. this doesn't mean that the serbian minority will be left out of decision-making politics, but at the moment they are not doing their share and they certaintly didn't assist on the road towards an independent nation of kosovo. they will get there equal representation (and probably more), once belgrade stops poisoning them with nationality serbian agendas.
the flag must vary in some way from the albanian flag, as it's just not possible for two separate countries to have the same flag, but the majority will decide.
stop making internationals look so demanding and irresponsible. the kosovars have lived on that land their entire lives and have cried themselves to sleep at night with visions of a free and democratic kosovo. the best the west can do is to offer them security through these tough times and support in building their governmental structures, fighting crime and bringing investments to the economy.
spend some quality time in kosovo or at least with people from there before you start preaching your perfect solutions.

armera said...

All I can say is Thank You Dave!
You hit many relevant points.
Greetings from multicultural Canada.