Kosovo can never integrate into the EU and NATO unless it is a clearly defined sovereign state, leading Kosovar-Albanian negotiator Veton Surroi has said. Addressing a conference at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC on 20 October, Surroi said this stance would not change no matter who wins Serbia's parliamentary elections in December. "Even if Mother Teresa gets elected, we will still plump for independence," he said [the renowned Calcutta-based nun was ethnic Albanian]. His comments came as talks to decide the future status of the UN-administered province remain delicately poised, with mediators hoping to forge an agreement by the end of 2006.
Veton Surroi, President of the opposition ORA party in Kosovo and former editor of the province's leading daily newspaper, told Europolitics that the EU should be the key international player in bolstering the rule of law in Kosovo. He was referring to the civilian mission the EU is due to launch in early 2007 to replace the UN mission. It will carry out tasks like supporting the police, training judges and protecting trial witnesses. But he was also fearful of international forces having "too many powers of intervention" as he said this could weaken the state.
The ORA leader accused the Serbian government of showing "very little engagement" in the ongoing Kosovo status talks, saying Serbia was relying on Russia to veto any future independence deal at the UN Security Council. He admitted the Serbian minority in Kosovo should be more involved in the process. But he said the Kosovo Serbs had not helped their cause by choosing to be represented by the Serbian government as Belgrade had not kept them briefed on the negotiations. He opposed any move to alter Kosovo's borders to make it more ethnically homogenous, although he said the ultimate goal should be "to make borders obsolete".
From the US State Department, Christopher Hoh was concerned that with all eyes on the status talks, "people are not focussing on the big picture, which is the future of Kosovo self-government". He urged the sides to think more about "the day after" issues such as how to decentralise the police and health sectors in Kosovo. He said the US was more into nation-building now than before, because the real threat to global security today came from failed states. Steven Meyer, who worked for many years as a CIA analyst in the Balkans, said the US was keen to "get out of the region," and predicted that Kosovo was likely to "follow the money into the EU and follow security into NATO". He said the Albanians had played their hand much better in the negotiations than the Serbs who had gotten distracted by so-called technical issues.
Serbia adopted a new constitution on 30 September, granting Kosovo autonomy but denying it full independence. The text will be put to a popular referendum on 28-29 October.