Text of report by "jdc" entitled "According to unofficial sources, Kosovo will gain independence" carried by Belgian newspaper De Standaard website on 16 January
Nobody wanted to give an official confirmation at last week's OSCE conference in Vienna, but unofficial well-informed observers are saying with surprising firmness that "we have no alternative to Kosovo's independence".
The issue is very sensitive. Officially, Kosovo is still a province of Serbia that the United Nations has been governing since the 1999 war. By the middle of this year, however, a decision on its "definitive status" is due. The Kosovo Albanians, i.e. 90 per cent of the population, want independence. The Kosovo Serbs, the remaining 10 per cent who live mainly in the north, want to stay with Belgrade.
Last Friday [13 January] in Vienna, [Belgian Foreign] Minister [and OSCE Duty President] De Gucht met former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, the UN envoy who is leading the status talks. After the meeting, De Gucht declined to confirm or deny that independence - which will most likely be restricted in the initial stage - is the most plausible option because of the overly sensitive nature of the issue.
"Whatever happens, we will have to strive laboriously for a balanced solution," De Gucht said. "There are many minorities; we will have to maintain close contacts with Belgrade; and we will have to conduct the talks on the possible decentralization of power in Kosovo."
"Not all proposals are equally valuable. A Greek professor suggested granting Kosovo's minorities the same status as Mount Athos (a republic of monks in Greece - De Standaard editor's note), including their own legal system. In my opinion, this would be unfeasible in Kosovo."
In addition, the fear exists that the Kosovo Serbs will want to annex their part of the country to Serbia.