Thursday, August 31, 2006

Talking business - Former Yugoslavia

As war memories fade, the ex-Yugoslav states remember their common language

When commerce beckons, political and linguistic barriers come tumbling down

ANYONE interested in doing business in the region that used to be called Yugoslavia might be tempted not to bother—on the ground that its successor states were all very small, obsessed with minor linguistic and cultural differences, and generally not worth the effort.

A few years ago this might have been true, but now things have changed. Have a browse in a branch of Buybook, a Bosnian bookseller. In one section are shelves of “foreign” titles (by British or French writers, for example), and in another books by “local” authors. But “local” in this case does not mean only Bosnian. It means anyone writing in the language once called Serbo-Croatian—which is spoken, with only small variations, in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro.

In business and economics, as well as linguistics and culture, the old Yugoslav space is re-emerging. Damir Uzunovic, the director of Buybook, complains that it is still hard to sell Bosnian books in Serbia; but otherwise the book trade between all the countries which speak nas jezik—our language, as it is sometimes called in a desperate effort to sound neutral—has been flourishing.

After all, together the populations of Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia make up a market of some 16m people. Macedonians and Slovenes, also ex-Yugoslavs, speak different but closely related tongues; if you add them, the number swells to 20m. It grows to 22m if you throw in the Kosovo Albanians—most of whom understand the common Slavic language even if they abhor it. In any case, the simple fact that all members of the quarrelsome ex-Yugoslav family can understand one another (linguistically at least) makes it easy to market products of every kind.

Before the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s the country had plenty of strong brands. When it fell apart those brands lost most of their devotees. Now, partly thanks to the normalisation of relations between the former Yugoslav republics, those familiar labels are surging back. They include everything from Croatian chocolates to Slovene juices to Montenegrin wines.

Some of the change is psychological. A few years ago Croatian radio stations would not play Serbian pop. That taboo has now gone. Radio stations which specialise in “Yu-nostalgia” and festivals celebrating the music that all Yugoslavs once shared have become wildly popular. The best locally produced film about the wars—“Vukovar: The Final Cut”—is a joint Serbian-Croatian production. It tells the story of the devastating siege of the eastern Croatian town in 1991.

The re-emergence of a Yugoslav market in goods and culture has been helped by a fairly general economic recovery. People now have more money to spend, and they are using some of their extra cash to pay for cable-television packages that serve up broadcasts (and advertisements) from across the old country. In recent years Merkator, a Slovene supermarket chain, has made strong advances across the region. Croatia's main petrol company, INA, is also recovering some lost ground outside its home territory.

In diplomacy as well as commerce, the ex-Yugoslav states are getting along better and at last coming to recognise that they have common interests. But that may not suit everybody. Even though Serbia is a long way from joining the European Union, its interpreters had been licking their lips at the thought of thousands of pages of EU rules and regulations needing translation. Imagine their disappointment when the Croats, keen to smooth Serbia's European path, simply sent their Serbian colleagues all the translations they had already made. This left just a little tidying up (and a change of script from Latin to Cyrillic) to be done in order to convert the documents from the Croatian language to the slightly different Serbian.

Kosovo minister says Serbs allowed to use old vehicle plates until end-2006

Excerpt from report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 31 August: Minister of Internal Affairs Fatmir Rexhepi informed Kosovar legislators that Serb residents in northern Kosova [Kosovo] will have the right to use their vehicles with old Kosova's licence plates until the end of 2006,, while starting from January 2007 a law will be adopted that will sanction them.

Minister Rexhepi made these comments at the regular plenary session of the Kosova Assembly, in a response to a question made by member of the parliament from the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) Ramadan Kelmendi.

Kelmendi asked for an explanation why Serb citizens, respectively those in the north, use Mitrovice [Kosovska Mitrovica] licence plates, or sometimes drive their vehicles with no plates at all, while vehicle with KS [Kosovo] licence plates are stopped and controlled by the police.

"It is not only this segment of life, in other words old licence plates, but the entire mechanism over there functions in parallel with central institutions," Minister Rexhepi said.

As he stated, Kosova Police Service (KSP) in the north of Kosova is also under UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] reserved competences.

According to him, by a special UNMIK decision, citizens living in the north of Kosova register their licence plates every six months, therefore they have the right of driving their vehicles in "old manner" until the end of 2006.

"Starting from 1 January 2007, the collection of these licence plates will begin, and a decision will be taken in regard to the control, supervision and prevention of their further use in the North," Rexhepi said. [Passage omitted]

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 31 Aug 06


Kosovo Albanians handed Serb transport test

PRISTINA, Serbia, Aug 31 (Reuters) - The United Nations handed control of bus and train services for Kosovo Serbs to the province's ethnic Albanian leaders on Thursday, in a fresh test of their commitment to minority rights as they bid for independence.

The U.N. mission running Kosovo had been in charge of "humanitarian" bus routes and the "Freedom of Movement Train" that 100,000 Serbs scattered across Kosovo rely on to send children to schools and make shopping trips.

Many Kosovo Serbs, ghettoised since the end of the 1998-99 war and pullout of Serb forces, refuse to venture into urban centres dominated by Kosovo's 90-percent ethnic Albanian majority, where they expect discrimination and fear attack.

But the Albanians, who in 1999 went from persecuted minority within Serbia to lords of their own manor, are under pressure from the West to show they can provide for all Kosovo's citizens as they push for independence this year.

"I sign this Memorandum of Understanding with the confidence that the government of Kosovo will fulfil all its political, administrative and financial commitments to ensure the freedom of movement to all of Kosovo's communities," said U.N. civil administration chief Patricia Waring.

The United Nations has run Kosovo since 1999, when a 78-day NATO bombing campaign drove out Serb forces accused of killing and expelling civilians in a war with Albanian rebels.

The U.N. mission has started downsizing and handing responsibilities to the Kosovo institutions as it prepares to pull out sometime in 2007. With direct talks under way in Vienna, the West wants a decision on "final status" this year.

The multi-ethnic Kosovo Police Service already shoulders most of the responsibility for securing the bus and train services, once the job of the 17,000-strong NATO-led peace force and 3,000 U.N. police officers stationed in Kosovo.

Serbia opposes independence for its southern province, which many Serbs consider the cradle of their nation. Belgrade says the Albanian majority is neither ready nor willing to secure the rights of the remaining Serbs. Around half the Serb population fled a wave of revenge attacks with the end of the war.

U.N. officials say statistics show ethnically-motivated crime is falling. But reports of Serb buses being stoned still surface, and a grenade attack on a Serb cafe on Saturday, which wounded nine people, has only refuelled the mistrust.

Albania avoids poll boycott, reaches election deal

TIRANA, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Albania's main parties reached an agreement on the framework of the next local government elections, avoiding the prospect of a boycott and nationwide protests by the opposition, officials said on Thursday.

The main opposition Socialist Party and its allies had threatened to boycott the elections unless voters were listed in a permanent register and the public television board and a media watchdog were balanced to reflect political weight.

Bodyguards had to contain opposition MPs in July when they threatened the speaker and took out their rage on the chamber's furniture, after the ruling Democrats approved a new Central Election Commission member in what they saw as a breach of accords.

The European Union urged both sides to engage in dialogue, reminding politicians they had a duty to step up work on the pre-membership Stabilisation and Association Agreeement (SAA) with the EU.

"Nobody lost from this deal; Albania won," Prime Minister Sali Berisha said after senior politicians signed the accord.

"Our conditions have been met," added opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama. The two leaders did not meet.

The deal sets an October 20 deadline to scrap the temporary voter register. The opposition feared a "phantom" army of 130,000 voters could theoretically cast ballots in both their old and new residence areas and tip the scales of the election.

Berisha, who is himself listed in the temporary register, blamed the Socialists for the register's flaws and said his party did not want to deny anybody the right to vote.

Albania has yet to hold an election that is judged to be free and fair, one of the key conditions for its European Union and NATO entry. Last year's general election was assessed as partly free and fair.

The agreed formula focuses on adding new members to the Central Election Commission, the public television board and the media watchdog council, to accommodate the opposition demands.

The two sides had been in a standoff since July, raising the spectre of new upheaval in Albania just as the West is trying to settle the future of the neighbouring U.N.-run Serbian province of Kosovo.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Belgrade negotiating team criticizes Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic

Members of the Belgrade negotiating team for the Kosovo talks, Leon Kojen and Slobodan Samardzic, have openly criticized Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic for allegedly dominating talks with UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari during his recent visit to Kosovo, according to a Serbian newspaper report. Ivanovic told the paper that he had essentially presented the same proposals on decentralization as the Belgrade negotiating team and rejected claims that he was a "loose cannon". The following is the text of the report by Biljana Bakovic entitled "Favouring Oliver" published by the Serbian newspaper Politika on 26 August:

The four-day visit to Serbia's southern province [Kosovo] by Martti Ahtisaari, the UN special envoy for the status of Kosmet [Kosovo-Metohija], has exposed divisions on the Serbian side over the issue of the decentralization of Kosmet. Yesterday [25 August] Leon Kojen and Slobodan Samardzic, members of Belgrade's negotiating team, openly expressed displeasure with Ahtisaari's choice of interlocutor among representatives of the Kosmet Serbs.

They said that Oliver Ivanovic (the head of the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija, who met with Martti Ahtisaari on Wednesday) is "systematically monopolizing the name and authority of the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija for his own personal proposals". Moreover, the special envoy and his office, UNOSEK [UN Office of the Special Envoy for Kosovo], "are giving stronger political preference to Oliver Ivanovic and the Serb List, as if Ivanovic has made the only proposal for decentralization," Kojen and Samardzic said, thus confirming that the Serbian side in the critical talks on the southern province is experiencing rifts that others are obviously taking advantage of.

At a news conference held yesterday in the Serbian government building, Samardzic and Kojen were also critical of the fact that while in Kosmet, Ahtisaari spent more time talking about the number of municipalities than about their authorities.

The Serbian negotiators expect UNOSEK to inform them directly of what was offered to the Albanian side and what their response was.

Samardzic said that the mayors of the three Serb municipalities in northern Kosovo "presented their position appropriately and properly, a position that is identical to that of negotiating team." However, he added, in talks with the Serbian side UNOSEK gave priority to the leader of the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija, who used that opportunity to present his own proposal, which differs from Belgrade's official stance.

Leon Kojen noted that the member of the Serb List on Belgrade's negotiating team is Goran Bogdanovic, who did not support Ivanovic's proposal. "What Oliver Ivanovic is doing, both when he submits proposals to Ahtisaari and when he meets with (Kosovo Prime Minister) Agim Ceku, is political manipulation," said Kojen, recalling that Randjel Nojkic, a member of the Serb List with close ties to Ivanovic, protested about his meeting with Ceku.

The harshness of Kojen's attitude towards Oliver Ivanovic was further evidenced by his observation that he has not seen any reports in the Belgrade media about the Serb List leader visiting any Serb enclave in Kosovo and holding open forums anywhere in the province, nor any reports on him having any contact with the populace that he "ostensibly represents". Kojen went on to say that the proposal for decentralization in Kosovo that was presented as a Serb List document is actually a proposal by Oliver Ivanovic and a small group of people, and for that reason the state negotiating team saw no need to respond and react to that plan.

In a phone interview with Politika, meanwhile, the "censured" Oliver Ivanovic responded that it was precisely because of the egos of allies of the Serbian president and prime minister that the Serb List's plan was not considered by the negotiating team. He also says that there are no major differences between the two Serbian plans for decentralization. "The only difference lies in the supporting arguments, which in our case are much more realistic and more attuned to the people since they came from the people, and thus they are also better received by the international community," he says. He emphasizes that the Serb List is seeking greater authorities for municipalities with a Serb majority than the Serbian negotiating team is. "Second, the Serb List has included Lipljan, the urban part (which with Novo Naselje has more than 1,500 Serbs and, among other things, two 14th century churches), but the Belgrade negotiating team does not include it. The Serb List has included Crkvena Vodica and Janjina Vodica, and our negotiating team has not. We are more demanding, but they are listening to us," says Ivanovic, adding that Goran Bogdanovic who, in his words, was sent to the state negotiating team by the Serb List, "has not succeeded in warning them of the danger of making proposals that will not be accepted most of all by the Serb community itself."

"Goran Bogdanovic is unable to win out on that point. What we are talking about here is something that we gave him to convey to the negotiating team, but he did not manage to push that through. We waited three months to take action, and during that time no one reacted, saying either yes or no," he emphasizes.

He adds that more than 100 ordinary people were consulted when drafting this proposal. "We did not consult any outsiders. And Kojen's statement about disagreement within our ranks is not true. The entire Serb List is absolutely unified on this. We spoke with ordinary farmers. Thus, we did have contact. It is totally ridiculous and utterly unnatural for someone who has never seen Kosovo with his own two eyes, except on the map and on the TV screen, to talk about what should be done and how," Ivanovic says.

Since such actions have led some officials in Belgrade, and some representatives of Kosmet's Serbs, to regard him as a "loose cannon", Ivanovic emphasizes that he is certainly no such thing, since he was elected. "The Serb List is not a negotiator, we set the record straight on that, Ahtisaari told us that and we said the same thing to him. Only the Belgrade negotiating team has legitimacy, but does that mean that all of the rest of us have to remain silent in the meantime? We are here only to try to unblock the process with our initiatives," he emphasizes, but he refuses to comment when asked whether he means to say that Belgrade has blocked the negotiating process.

"The fact that Ahtisaari did not come to Belgrade should ultimately be taken as a warning. Much more important than what we think about ourselves and our actions is what Ahtisaari, the Contact Group and the UN Security Council think about what individuals are doing, especially the heads of the negotiating teams," Ivanovic stresses.

Still, he feels that this "dual-track" approach by the Serbian side does not benefit the Albanian side. "That only leaves a bad impression, I must admit, but it does not serve their purposes, because the Serb List's demands are much greater and much better supported by arguments, and thus much more dangerous too," Ivanovic emphasizes.

However, his remarks about unity within the Serb List are refuted by none other than Goran Bogdanovic, the member of the negotiating team and of the Serb List representing the Democratic Party, who says that at a joint meeting with Ahtisaari he "defended" Belgrade's proposal, while Ivanovic presented a "proposal from individuals in the Serb List".

"It is neither my desire nor my intention to assuage the frustrations of certain people in the Serb List. There is no unity within the Serb List, because when the decentralization plan was discussed, I and several other members of the Serb List were opposed to the Serb List presenting its own plan, in the belief that the proposal by the state team should also be the proposal of the Serb List and of all Serbs, especially those in Kosovo-Metohija. It is a fact that a huge number of Serbs agreed with the state team's proposal, so that for me personally there was no dilemma about which side to stand on," says Bogdanovic in a phone interview with Politika.

Emphasizing that no one has the right to torpedo the work of the state team, he notes that there was no need for individuals from the Serb List to put forward this proposal, because in February, when the talks began, he presented the views of the Serb List to the coordinators of the team, Kojen and Samardzic, and they were all incorporated into the negotiating team's plan. He says that this reflected his good intentions in terms of reaching an agreement within the Serb List on such matters in February, but he stresses that the Serb List did not delegate him to the state team, nor did anyone authorize him to present to the team the proposal that Ivanovic is talking about.

Source: Politika, Belgrade, in Serbian 26 Aug 06 pp 1, 7

Report: Kosovo's "fundamental problem" is uncertainty about its future, official says

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - The prime minister of Kosovo said Tuesday that the fundamental problem of the U.N.-administered province in Serbia is the uncertainty about its future, a news report said.

"I'm speaking about ... the approach to the future, about having a country one can recognize as one's own," Prime Minister Agim Ceku said in comments quoted by the Austria Press Agency.

He spoke at a meeting of politicians, academics and others in the Tyrolean town of Alpbach.

The people of Kosovo did not know "in which country they were living", which system of government they will have, who was heading the security forces and who was responsible for their energy supply, Ceku said, according to APA.

Kosovo has been administered by the U.N. since mid-1999 when a NATO air war halted Serb forces' crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians. U.N. mediators have been trying to narrow differences between the two sides over how Kosovo should be run in the future. But while Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority insists on independence, the Serb minority and Belgrade both want Serbia to retain some control over the province.

Earlier this month, Kosovo Serbs boycotted a round of talks on minority rights in Vienna, saying they would not accept being treated as a minority group, as they considered themselves citizens of Serbia, where they are in the majority.

Serbia to launch "political offensive" to prove Ahtisaari's bias on Kosovo

Text of report in English by Belgrade-based Radio B92 text website on 29 August

Belgrade, 29 August: [UN special envoy for Kosovo status talks] Martti Ahtisaari's recent comments regarding Kosovo were criticized at yesterday's meeting of [Belgrade's] status negotiation team.

The meeting, attended by Serbian President Boris Tadic, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, Foreign Affairs Minister Vuk Draskovic, ended with very strong criticism of the UN special envoy for the Kosovo status talks, and with the announcement of a parliamentary meeting for the discussion of the Kosovo situation.

Serbia will not be asking for Ahtisaari to leave the position of the special envoy, but will begin a diplomatic offensive that will try and prove his subjectivity, officials said after a two-hour meeting.

Ahtisaari commented last week that the Serbian people are at fault for the current situation in Kosovo, as they are the historical successors of the [Slobodan] Milosevic regime.

Source: Radio B92 text website, Belgrade, in English 0719 gmt 29 Aug 06

Albanian Speaker says independence "sole solution" for Kosovo'

Text of report in English by Albanian news agency ATA

Tirana, 28 August: Albania has always played a constructive, but not a paternalist role for Kosova [Kosovo], Assembly Chairwoman Jozefina Topalli said at the European Forum "Quest for Certainty and Security", under way in Alpbach [Austria].

Responding to one of the Serbian government representatives about Kosova issue, Topalli said that "during all these years we have supported Kosova's independence as the sole solution to the region's stability, naturally, taking into consideration the respect for the rights of the minorities, decentralization, and the strengthening of the institutions."

"The Albanians, not only geographically but also in their identity and roots, feel European. We are absolutely committed to fulfilling the European aspiration also through the EU support," she said, in relation to Albania's European perspective.

Source: ATA news agency, Tirana, in English 1944 gmt 28 Aug 06

Kosovo PM sees new plant as "only alternative" for normal power supply

Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 28 August: Kosova [Kosovo] Prime Minister Agim Ceku said today that construction of Kosova C power plant, which is expected to cost 2bn euros, is the only alternative to create a situation of stable power supply, and also positively influence positively the economic development of Kosova.

In his weekly address to the citizens, Ceku said that four to five years for the construction of this power plant are required, adding that this would be a capital investment that would consequently enable the export of electricity in the region.

"Kosova C would be an exceptional investment, and as such it would encourage potential investors to take Kosova into consideration seriously," the prime minister assessed.

According to Ceku, Kosova cannot expect economic growth if it fails to provide continuous power supply to the industry.

"This project does not offer an immediate or magical solution to the current power supply situation, but marks essential progress towards resolving the problem of electricity in Kosova on a longer run," said Ceku.

Ceku added that until then Kosova will depend on Kosova Energy Corporation's (KEK) ability to maintain its current units in function, and also from Kosova government's ability to import electricity.

"Funds are needed in order to make this possible. These funds are generated by paying the electricity. Currently, only 45 per cent of costumers in Kosova pay [for] electricity. This is unjustifiable. There is no alibi for not paying for serviced provided," said Ceku.

Ceku also said that his government is taking ample measures to preserve a stable power supply.

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 28 Aug 06

Serbia's June Foreign Debt Up to $17.27 Bln from $16.97 Bln in May- Table

(c) 2006 SeeNews - South East Europe Newswire. All Rights Reserved.
BELGRADE (Serbia), August 28 (SeeNews) - Serbia's foreign debt rose to $17.27 billion (13.54 billion euro) at the end of June from $16.966 billion a month earlier, preliminary central bank figures showed on Monday.

SERBIA'S FOREIGN DEBT (in billions of U.S. dollars):


TOTAL DEBT.................................................17.27..............16.966...............15.467

International financial institutions................4.969...............5.245..................4.722







--European Community...................................0.343..............0.351.................0.324




--Paris Club.....................................................2.303................2.346................2.945

---consolidated debt........................................2.034...............2.072.................2.581

---debt after 20.12.2000..................................0.268...............0.274................0.364

--other governments........................................0.756...............0.757................0.734

London Club-restructured debt.........................1.076..............1.076...............1.076

London Club-non-restructured debt..................0.092..............0.092................0.088

Other creditors...................................................6.268..............5.680...............4.282

Short-term debt.................................................1.700..............1.666.................1.514

Clearing debt......................................................0.106..............0.106................0.106

NOTE: Serbia's end-June foreign debt figure included the $1.143 billion in debt owed by the country's southern province of Kosovo, now a U.N. protectorate.

($= 0.7841 euro)

Source: SeeNews (TM/RJ/TD)

Kosovo premier congratulates Macedonian counterpart on election

Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 28 August: Kosova [Kosovo] Prime Minister Agim Ceku has congratulated today in a telegram his Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Gruevski, on his appointment as Macedonia's prime minister, calling on the strengthening of relations between two governments.

"We view Macedonia's politics and engagement as a positive factor for stability of the region, and on this occasion I want to express the determination of Kosova's government for a close and continuous cooperation, and also for partnership between our two countries," Ceku is quoted stating by the Prime Minister's Office.

"Since the relations between Kosova and Macedonia represent a key for general development of the region, I sincerely expect to meet you in the near future," Prime Minster Agim Ceku stated, after congratulating the newly elected Macedonian Prime Minister on behalf of Kosova's people.

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 28 Aug 06

Envoy to present first draft of Kosovo status package to Contact Group 11 Sep

Text of report by Fatmir Aliu entitled "Status package - on 11 September in Sofia" published by the Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 25 August

Prishtina [Pristina], 24 August: The increased pressure and the dissatisfaction of both parties with the insufficient results achieved Thursday [24 August] afternoon are taking a different direction as the Kosovars have received clarifications about the future of Kosova [Kosovo], while the internationals received more guarantees of the Kosovars' promises.

Martti Ahtisaari, UN special envoy for Kosova's status, came out of Thursday evening's meeting with the Kosovars pleased with the generosity they showed in the way they envision resolving the technical issues that are being negotiated with official Belgrade (decentralization, the issue of Mitrovice [Kosovska Mitrovica], minority rights, the cultural and religious heritage and the economy).

Satisfied with the promises received and the change of principles that the Kosovars will defend before Belgrade's delegation in Vienna, Martti Ahtisaari unveiled his agenda to the Kosovars.

As Koha Ditore has learned from international sources, after being briefed, [former Finnish] President Ahtisaari said that he is "ready to conclude the draft framework of ideas for resolving the status of Kosova by 7 September".

But before this happens, President Ahtisaari will sit Prishtina and Belgrade around the discussion table once again, during the first week of September, from 4 to 7 September, and will request once again that the negotiating parties argue their positions on decentralization and minority rights.

The international sources further added that the possibility of holding other meetings also on the issues of the economy and cultural heritage is not ruled out. When all this ends, Ahtisaari will meet with the political directors for Southeastern Europe and the Contact Group member states. He has chosen Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, for this purpose - there, on 11 September, together with diplomats from the United States, the Russian Federation, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy, he will discuss the satisfactory achievements in the negotiation process, also in the presence of Kosova Prime Minister Ceku, and will also examine the "first draft of the package for resolving the status of Kosova".

Western diplomats close to the process said that, "seeing that the Serbians are not ready to move from their position", President Ahtisaari and his deputy Albert Rohan will most likely come out with a mediated proposal that is viewed as reasonable and is believed to be the final epilogue - limited independence. This proposal, they said, is expected to be presented also to the foreign ministers of the Contact Group member states during the Contact Group's ministerial meeting in New York.

As Koha Ditore has learned from its sources, this meeting is expected to be held sometime between 16 and 18 September. Although the exact date of the meeting between President Ahtisaari and the foreign ministers of the Contact Group member states remains uncertain so far, as Koha Ditore has learned from international sources in New York, President Ahtisaari has left this issue open, because he will be staying in the United States until 26 September.

According to Western diplomats, the package of proposals for resolving the status of Kosova will most probably offer the concept of limited independence with limited sovereignty. This means that the international community will remain involved in certain political issues, with a military presence too. This military presence, it is assumed, will remain the same as now or similar.

According to them, Russia's position on this issue remains to be examined, but it is also expected to be neutralized in the process, while London, Paris and Berlin are expected to accept the proposal that will emerge. They said that the United States' readiness to move in this direction is expected to be equally great, if not the greatest of all.

The Kosovar delegation to the talks and the UN special envoy for resolving the status of Kosova have agreed in principle on a number of issues that seemed unachievable a few days ago.

Unlike Wednesday, when President Ahtisaari was very tense and dissatisfied with the results achieved in his first meeting with the Kosovar party, on Thursday he managed to receive the answers and guarantees that the Kosovars are ready to do everything if they win what they are asking for.

At the meeting, which was held behind closed doors, as Koha Ditore has learned from international sources, the Kosovars argued before the international mediators that they will not offer more than 5+1 new municipalities.

As far as the issue of Mitrovice is concerned, they also agreed in principle to provide further details on the proposal for an international supervisory board, which was proposed by the Kosovar side, and to assign duties and the responsibilities to the board. But official Prishtina, as Kosova President Fatmir Sejdiu himself stated, will stick by its position that Mitrovice will remain one city, but with two municipalities.

Regarding other issues, such as the cultural and religious heritage, official Prishtina has agreed to implement the principles of Martti Ahtisaari's office for all those monuments that are of special importance.

"Over the past two days, we have had extremely fruitful and in-depth talks. We have presented the positions that we had with the Vienna delegations on all the issues that we had there. The important thing is that along this road we also want to create a sustainable structure in local government in Kosova, which will be in the citizens' interest. We stick by our position that there will be five new municipalities plus one that will be expanded.

"We have expressed this in a very convincing way and we have argued our position, and I believe there was mutual understanding. Decentralization has not been concluded, but it will end in a few days' time," President Sejdiu stated after a meeting with President Ahtisaari and his teams of experts that lasted several hours.

Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 25 Aug 06

Understated envoy offers hope for future of Kosovo

Joachim Rucker, Kofi Annan's new envoy in Kosovo, personifies the United Nations secretary-general's understated approach toward the potentially explosive issue of Serbia's breakaway province.

The German diplomat stands to play a leading role in determining the future of Kosovo, the most volatile Balkan flashpoint following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. A bomb blast on Saturday heightened the divisions between ethnic Albanians and Serbs as the UN tries to broker a deal expected to give independence to Kosovo and autonomy to its Serb-dominated northern municipalities.

Mr Rucker conspicuously lacks the international stature of his colleague, Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president who is presiding over talks in Vienna between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leaders.

Until his move to the Balkans in 2001, Mr Rucker spent eight years away from Germany's foreign service as mayor of Sindelfingen, a tidy Stuttgart suburb. But his relative obscurity belies a proven ability on the ground in Kosovo to achieve results.

Mr Ahtisaari's seven-month-old negotiation drive has been bogged down by enmity between pro-independence Kosovo Albanians and Serbs, who oppose such a move. By contrast, Mr Rucker, as the EU appointee in charge of Kosovo's struggling economy, has accelerated a previously moribund privatisation programme and transferred much of the province's economic capacity into local hands, potentially paving the way for independence.

In his first appearances after his appointment was announced in mid-August, Mr Rucker received a warm welcome from pro-independence leaders. Muhamet Hamiti, senior political adviser to Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu, praised the 55-year-old as "someone who has been on the ground, who does not have to start from scratch and who will need no learning period".

Mr Rucker offered further encouragement to leaders in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, by scolding Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, Serbia's top official for the province. After Ms Raskovic-Ivic floated the idea of partitioning Kosovo along ethnic lines, he shot back in a BBC interview: "We cannot and will not accept partition as an option."

The comments appeared to have forced Belgrade's negotiators back to the drawing board, with Serb officials disowning Ms Raskovic-Ivic's proposal.

Such firm language won points from senior UN officials keen to keep the rival delegations corralled in Mr Ahtisaari's talks. But it may also signal the end of Mr Rucker's honeymoon in Kosovo as a technician who, in tackling privatisation, managed mostly to steer clear of the intrigues over Kosovo's political status.

Mr Rucker's predecessors often suffered awkward moments with Belgrade.

Mr Annan's previous envoy, Danish diplomat Soren Jessen-Petersen, was highly regarded in Pristina but fell out of favour with many in Belgrade for maintaining a close working relationship with Ramush Haradinaj, a former Kosovo prime minister accused of war crimes.

Despite such difficulties, Mr Rucker said he intended to "switch off the lights" when he left Pristina, signalling the end of the UN's administration of Kosovo, now seven years old. To get there will require technical savvy and political muscle.

U.N. official: Serb hard-liners must allow Kosovo integration

BERLIN (AP) - Hard-liners in Serbia are hindering the integration of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, the province's U.N. administrator said in remarks published Monday.

Involving ethnic Serbs with Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority is among the biggest problems facing the province, Joachim Ruecker said in an interview the Handelsblatt daily.

"More must be done, not only by the Kosovo-Albanians, but also by the Serbian minority," Ruecker was quoted as saying. "The hard-liners in Belgrade must stop hindering the political and economic integration of Kosovo's Serbs."

Ruecker, a German diplomat, also expressed confidence that U.N.-brokered talks on the future status of the province will be completed by the end of the year.

Ethnic Albanians are seeking full independence in the negotiations, while Serbia is offering autonomy for the impoverished province.

Ruecker said concern that a decision could provoke violence was "far-fetched."

"The institutions have stabilized. The political establishment has realized that violence brings nothing. It is more mature than before," he said.

The U.N. has administered Kosovo since mid-1999 when a NATO air war halted Serb forces' crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kosovo TV reports work begun on setting up intelligence service

Text of report by Radio-Television Kosovo TV website on 22 August

Even though there is no official permission to start the forming of a Kosova Intelligence Service the Kosova Prime Minister Agim Ceku has authorized experts to start working on a draft strategy and draft laws on the intelligence service, Kosova government Spokeswoman Ulpiana Lama said. Kosova [Kosovo] will need the final product right after the resolution of the status issue. So far, there has been work on terms of reference, financial implications, staff, time frameworks, and how the transfer of these competencies will be carried out. The work has just started, Lama added.

As in many other areas, the undefined status of Kosova is seen as a real obstacle for the creation of an intelligence service. Recently the government of Kosova received in principle permission from UNMIK to start preparations on drafting a framework for the future intelligence service as part of the Internal Security Sector Review, ISSR official Michael Page said. However, this permission is insufficient for the relevant Kosova authorities to deal with all the preparations to establish institutions of this nature. For the creation of a Kosova intelligence service it is very important that the status of Kosova is resolved as soon as possible and to be clearly known whether Kosova will have this service or not, because until then we cannot work on details, as it is not known what status Kosovo will get, Page added.

Regarding the creation of an embryonic intelligence service in Kosova, Page stressed that it is a complex issue to create a professional, apolitical service which would not serve certain political parties, but would focus on the protection of Kosova. It is very important to hire professional and qualified staff for any future intelligence service. The basic criterion is to follow the law and serve protection of security in Kosova, and not someone's political or party interests, Page said.

Source: RTK TV website, Pristina, in Albanian 1627 gmt 22 Aug 06

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Top UN envoy visits Kosovo for talks on future status

PRISTINA, Serbia, Aug 22, 2006 (AFP) -

Top UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari on Tuesday began a three-day visit here devoted to talks on the future status of the disputed province of Kosovo, in which Belgrade opposes ethnic Albanian demands for independence.

Upon arrival, Ahtisaari met with top representatives of the international community in the province, which has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, after a NATO bombing campaign ended Belgrade's offensive against Kosovo Albanian separatists.

Ethnic tensions remain high as ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the population of Kosovo, want to break away from Belgrade which considers the province part of the Serbian state.

Ahtisaari's new diplomatic visit to resolve the standoff between Pristina and Belgrade comes after nine rounds of technical talks between the two sides. It is the first visit since frosty high-level talks broke down last month.

The talks between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leaders, which went on in Vienna for several months, have failed so far to produce a breakthrough on the sensitive issue of the province's future status, as the two sides remained entrenched in their rival positions.

The international community has said it hopes to have a solution on the territory's future status before the end of the year.

During this week's visit Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, is expected to meet Kosovo Albanian and Serb leaders and to visit on Thursday the troublesome north of the province, where the Serb majority in June declared a state of emergency and broke off relations with Kosovo authorities.

The move was seen as a precursor to a bid to partition the province.

Kosovo: Officials say spread of meningitis epidemic "under full control"

Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 22 August: The officials of the University Clinical Centre (UCC) and those of the Infective Diseases Clinic said today that the number of patients with meningitis epidemic disease is decreasing, a disease which was spread during summer in Kosova [Kosovo], with 430 persons hospitalized.

These comments were made following a visit by the prime minister of Kosova, Agim Ceku, accompanied by the health minister, Sadik Idriz, and the head of UCC in the Infective Diseases Clinic in order to get informed how the meningitis epidemics was being handled.

Prime Minister Ceku expressed his belief that this epidemic is under full control of the UCC, National Institute for Public Health (IKSHP), Ministry of Health and also the World Health Organization (WHO).

"I was assured by the leaders of the Infective Diseases Clinic and UCC that the situation is under full control. The Infective Diseases Clinic has sufficient capacities in staff and medicaments to handle this disease," said Prime Minister Ceku.

Ceku also said that he was informed by health officials that there are 72 viruses that could cause this disease.

"Samples have been sent to Rome by the WHO, and we are expecting the results, therefore I did not see the situation as worrying," he stated.

Prime Minister Ceku said that more must be done in raising the awareness of the people about this disease, in improving the conditions of the drinking water and in improving the hygiene conditions, adding that the Ministry of Health and UCC has embarked on a meningitis awareness campaign.

He also praised the medical staff of Infective Diseases Clinic and those of UCC for their efforts in dealing with this disease.

Prime Minister Ceku furthermore said that government had provided the required funds asked by the UCC to deal with meningitis, adding that 5,000 euros was given for medicaments and further 5,000 euros for the awareness campaign."

Meanwhile, Muharrem Bajrami, the Head of the Infective Diseases Clinic, said that fortunately they had managed to very successfully deal with this disease.

On the other hand, the chief executive of UCC, Fadil Beka, said that they are in touch with everyone and that they have supplied with drugs the Infective Diseases Clinic when it was necessary.

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 22 Aug 06

Monday, August 21, 2006

Kosovo Albanians offer Serbs admin of 24 per cent of territory

Pristina_(dpa) _ The ethnic Albanian side in the talks on the future status of Kosovo is to offer Serbs in Serbia's breakaway province administration of 24 per cent of the territory, Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Lufti Haziri said Monday.

"In effect, 82 per cent of local Serbs in Kosovo administer themselves through the local governance ... while 24 per cent of Kosovo's territory is in their direct administration, which is in disproportion with their ethnic composition," Haziri said.

Ethnic Albanians are the vast majority of Kosovo, forming around 90 per cent of the population of what is formally still Serbia's province, though administered by the UN since 1999.

Talks between delegations from Pristina and Belgrade on the future status of Kosovo, held under UN auspices, were launched in February in Vienna, while the first top-level meeting of the prime ministers and presidents of Kosovo and Serbia took place late in July.

Little progress has been made in bringing the positions of the two negotiating sides closer. While ethnic Albanians insist on full independence for Kosovo, Serbia equally insists on not losing its territory and is offering wide autonomy instead.

UN special envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari is due to arrive to the province Tuesday for a three-day visit to Pristina.

Kosovo Premier Ceku calls on Serbs to see their future in Kosovo, not Belgrade

Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 21 August: Prime Minister of Kosova [Kosovo], Agim Ceku, has called once again on the Serbs of Kosova to see their future in Kosova, and promised them an open door for their integration in the institutions of Kosova, adding that Kosova party will have a lot of things to show to [UN] mediator [Martti] Ahtisaari about the Standards application.

The head of the government, in his weekly speech on Radio Kosova, said he was confident about the future of Kosova, calling on the Serbs to recognize the reality and give up Belgrade.

"They do not know what to be oriented to. Their compass is out of order, they do not know if they should be supplied with Kosova or Serbia documents, nor where do they belong to. They do not know which [registration] plate to use in their vehicles, or whether if their vote has any value," said Ceku.

According to Ceku, this is all happening as the consequence of the confusing statements of Belgrade officials, who systematically manipulate with the Serbs of Kosova. So they should urgently recognize and accept the new reality in Kosova created in 1999, as well as seizing the misinformation that creates fright and insecurity.

"As the consequence of all this pressure, Serb habitants feel frustrated and tired. They worry for the independence of Kosova, and are afraid of unknown, of the test of joint life with Albanians," he said, adding: "Majority in Kosova knows that the energy, goodness and insistence win over everything. The patience, determination and firmness evidence good cause and the seriousness of these causes."

In regard to Martti Ahtisaari's visit, Prime Minister Ceku expressed his optimism. "Ahtisaari will come tomorrow to visit Prishtina. We have what to show to him. We have made evident improvement in the standard implementation, the thing that we have promised. The government has taken the responsibility of giving arguments that support Kosova's request for recognizing the independence as soon as possible."

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 21 Aug 06

Kosovo Serb leader criticizes Belgrade for taking decentralization "too lightly"

(c) 2006 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved. No material may be reproduced except with the express permission of The British Broadcasting Corporation.
Text of interview with Oliver Ivanovic, head of the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija, by Zeljka Jevtic entitled "Belgrade asks us nothing" published by the Serbian newspaper Blic on 20 August

On Sunday I was in Osojani and Gorazdevac. The former is a returnees' village and the latter survived 1999. Osojani is celebrating return, Gorazdevac is commemorating the murder of children who were shot while swimming. Osojani is happy, people are at home and filled with optimism, Gorazdevac is as sad and tragic as it was three years ago. There is no justice as the killers have not been caught. A feeling both share is insecurity, and yet a wish to remain on their land. This is common throughout the Serb community in Kosmet, Oliver Ivanovic, head of the Serb List for Kosovo and Metohija, said in an interview with Blic.

[Jevtic] Are people discussing future status?

[Ivanovic] There are concerned mostly about the different statements of our politicians. Belgrade's concept at the talks is not clear. People here have no clear message on what is expected of us all. They have no idea what is to be done the day after. If there is an alternative strategy, it is not clear and the Serbs do not know about it. Finally, the negotiating team in Belgrade has no direct contact with Serbs in Kosovo. People ask: How are they negotiating on our behalf without asking us what we need? The negotiating team should visit us here and talk to people and get a feeling for our problems.

[Jevtic] And the Albanians?

[Ivanovic] They are completely confident. Increasingly frequent statements by [UN envoy] Martti Ahtisaari are actually criticisms of Belgrade's position, which the Albanians take as praise. On the whole, Albanians deem the presentation of Pristina's team as successful, which puts the poor economic situation into the background, and many differences between the government and opposition are sidelined. A crisis will break out if the talks come to a standstill.

[Jevtic] What is your grudge against the Belgrade negotiating team?

[Ivanovic] Besides what people think, I would add Belgrade taking the question of decentralization too lightly. If we succeed in keeping Kosovo part of Serbia, only decentralization can ensure normal life for Serbs in an Albanian environment. Belgrade is putting emphasis on status, while questions on technical talks that have to do with everyday life are considered less important. That precisely is the basis for Serbs to remain in Kosovo. However status is resolved we must establish relations and be protected through the institutions.

[Box] Ruecker optimistic

[Jevtic] You met the new chief of UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo], Joachim Ruecker. What are his opinions?

[Ivanovic] He told me that Martti Ahtisaari would propose a solution for decentralization in September and conveyed his opinion in principle on status. I doubt it will happen that swiftly, I think the new UNMIK chief is overly optimistic. He said he was the last chief, but the last three shared this belief. Ahtisaari will be here next week so that will be an opportunity to clarify many issues.

[Box] Institutions

[Ivanovic] There is no alternative to the Serb List and no alternative solution until elections. This should be quite clear to everyone who called for early elections.

Source: Blic, Belgrade, in Serbian 20 Aug 06 pp 2-3

Contact Group alarms Belgrade (Dailies)

Dailies report that according to the Serbian media the Contact Group has sent Serbian leaders a letter saying that the months to come are decisive, therefore they should use them.

Contact Group ‘pulls the ear’ of Belgrade, writes Kosova Sot. According to the paper both sides in Kosovo are expected to show mutual understanding at this sensitive stage of talks, while Belgrade should influence leaders in the north of Kosovo to promote constructive actions and to calm down the situation.

Express on front-page headlined Contact Groups alerts Belgrade and writes that the CG in its letter has also expressed its strong support to UN Status Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and advises both parties to use the upcoming meetings for solving essential issues rather than concentrating on procedural ones. The paper citing Belgrade daily Politka writes that CG has also urged Belgrade to show more flexibility on decentralization and cultural heritage talks as well as to participate in meetings regarding community rights.

Moreover, the paper writes, CG has also called on Kosovo Serbs to join Kosovo institutions as the best way for realizing their interests since any further continuation of boycotting would only harm them.

Prime Minister of Kosovo has institutional and party support when talking about army

Koha Ditore lead story reports that the institutional and main party leaders in Kosovo strongly back the stance of Prime Minister Agim Çeku when he says ‘Kosovo will have its army in the future’ following reactions by Serbian officials against it.

Koha Ditore reported on Sunday that the statement of Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Çeku that Kosovo should have its own army has triggered lots of reactions among Serbs.

Kosovo’s army would jeopardize regional stability, said Serbian president Boris Tadic for the Serbian state TV, RTS.

Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic has said for B92 that it is an age-long wish of Kosovo Albanians to ensure a better negotiating position through an army which is a symbol of statehood. According to him, an army for Kosovo would create huge tensions in the region and would be a factor of destabilization.

Leon Kojen, coordinator of the Serbian Delegation has said that the ICG has also encouraged these statements. “The position of Belgrade is clear. We are for complete demilitarization of Kosovo,” he said adding that the international troops and also the police would meet the European standards.

These in turn led to backing statements in Kosovo by institutions and the parties.

“Of course that Kosovo should have a military force. Kosovo’s military force will have a stabilizing role in the region, of course not denying the presence of international military force, namely NATO,” the Assembly President Kolë Berisha is quoted as saying. Berisha clarified further that Kosovo military force should be in coordination with the international military force that will still be in Kosovo.

Kosovo army does not in any way pose a threat to peace and stability in the region…on the contrary it is a precondition for long term stability, said LDK spokesperson Lulzim Zeneli, according to the paper.

PDK spokeswoman Vlora Çitaku says that her party considers Kosovo should have its own army, and that this is not to be negotiated. “PDK is for a modern and integrated army that would first be part of partnership and later member of NATO,” she said.

ORA spokesperson Ylli Hoxha also emphasizes the need for Kosovo to have an army. “It is clear that Kosovo once it becomes a state will need its army and we as a political entity will work on it being efficient and also cooperative with Euro-Atlantic structures.” Hoxha further said that it will be an army of peace and not of war.

KPC spokesperson Enver Dugolli has said that the people of Kosovo will decide whether Kosovo needs an army or not.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Navigating Kosovo's Future

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company. All Rights Reserved.
The 1999 war over Kosovo left the former Serbian province in political limbo, postponing the question of possible independence for another day. That day is now at hand, and the main question facing the international community is not whether Kosovo will become independent, but when and how. Status talks are expected to conclude in the next few months, with the United Nations Security Council to rule on the issue by the end of the year.

The original plan was for Kosovo's political leaders to demonstrate their ability to govern responsibly before formal discussions of sovereignty could begin. They haven't really done so, although they have made some grudging moves under international pressure.

Yet as a practical matter, Kosovo's international wardship cannot be extended indefinitely. The most promising way to encourage further progress is by moving ahead to a carefully conditioned form of limited autonomy.

The most critical issue, now as ever, is guaranteeing the rights of the ethnic Serb minority. Any independence arrangement will have to assure minorities a substantial role in government, particularly in sensitive areas like the Justice Ministry.

For the first few years at least, the powers of Kosovo's new government must be strictly limited. An international authority will have to monitor the government's fulfillment of internationally agreed conditions, paying special attention to issues like the rule of law and minority rights. A few thousand NATO-led troops should remain in Kosovo with the power to intervene when necessary to compel compliance.

Most of the countries with troops in Kosovo would prefer to bring them home now. But Kosovo's march toward independence is going to remain difficult and dangerous for years. The need for a continuing armed international presence should be non-negotiable.

Premier says Kosovo to have its own army

Text of report in English by Croatian news agency HINA

Pristina, 17 August: Kosovo will have its own army that will evolve from the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), Kosovo's Premier Agim Ceku, former commander of the KPC and of the now defunct Kosovo Liberation Army, said in Pristina on Thursday [17 August].

Ceku was speaking in response to the statement made on Wednesday by the head of the German office in Pristina, Eugen Wollfarth, that the forming of a Kosovo army would not be among the future priorities of the international community and that Berlin did not support its formation.

Ceku said that security structures for Kosovo would be the subject of talks and that at the request of the Kosovo negotiating team he would be personally involved, together with a group of experts, in preparing a proposal to form a Kosovo army.

The KPC commander, General Sulejman Selimi, said on Thursday that in defining the final status of Kosovo, a military component should also be defined and that Kosovo should be independent and have its own army.

The commander of the NATO-led Kosovo Force (Kfor), General Giuseppe Valotto of Italy, visited the Kosovo Protection Corps earlier on Thursday. He said that Kosovo should have trust in the KPC, which he described as a well-prepared and well-led organization ready to carry out any assignment.

Source: HINA news agency, Zagreb, in English 2105 gmt 17 Aug 06

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Kosovo institutions see progress in return of displaced, freedom of movement

Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 17 August: The Kosova [Kosovo] institutions have evaluated today that there is an evident progress in the implementation of Standard III and IV, which are the freedom of movement and the sustainable return, adding that there is an increase of the returned persons during these last months.

This was announced today in a meeting of the working groups made of the local and international officials for Standard III and IV.

The deputy minister for the local self-administration, Aziz Lila, said that the continuity of construction of the houses, the issue of the return of the displaced persons and the end of the administrative direction for a fair share of the finances are some of the main points of Standard III and IV.

According to Lila, Kline [Klina] is the place with the highest number of the sustainable returnees, followed by Peje [Pec], and so on.

"There is no exact number regarding this issue, since the returns happen every day and constantly," said Lila.

Meanwhile, the director of Office of Communities, Returns and Minority Affairs, Sandra Mitchell, said that they have reached an agreement with the Ministry of Return, in accordance with the Contact Group requests for sharing the grants where it will be included the support for the projects for the return in the neighbourhoods of Abdullahaj in Gjilan [Gnjilane] and Skenderaj [Srbica].

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 17 Aug 06

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Statement on Kosovo partition met with mixed reactions by Serbs in Gracanica

Excerpt from report by Belgrade-based B92 TV on 15 August

[Newsreader] While government representatives are ruling out the possibility of Kosovo partition and claim that the statement by [head of the Coordination Centre for Kosovo-Metohija] Sanda Raskovic-Ivic [to this effect] was taken out of context in an interview with the BBC, certain analysts take the view that her statement was not coincidental. According to them, this was done to test the water of domestic and international opinion on the possibility of Kosovo partition.

[Reporter] Sanda Raskovic-Ivic told the BBC that if both sides - Serbs and Albanians - face the fact that it is impossible for them to live together, and if the international community faces that fact as well, then a win-win situation would be a kind of partition. This statement was met by different comments from the locals in Gracanica.

[First citizen] This is not the first time that Sanda Raskovic-Ivic is floating a trial balloon of [Serbian Prime Minister] Vojislav Kostunica. Let's get something straight - the position of the entire government, even opposition - is partition of Kosovo.

[Second citizen] The idea of Kosovo partition is mere provocation. This option does not, in any way, suit us. Maybe it suits that other part of Mitrovica - but for us here absolutely not.

[Third citizen] Maybe this can be a solution for Kosovo, for it to be partitioned. That way it would not be the way we want it, but neither the way they [Albanians] want it.

[Reporter] Analyst Djordje Vukadinovic believes that it is beyond any doubt that official Belgrade remains steadfast in its position of [granting] broad autonomy for Kosovo as part of Serbia. But he also pointed out that the kind of partition that Raskovic-Ivic suggested in the interview, as well as changes to borders, has been discussed in diplomatic circles for some time now.

[Vukadinovic] It seems as though this statement came out to test the water of both international and domestic, that is public opinion in Serbia, and diplomatic circles - to see what the reactions to this idea would be both abroad and in Serbia. As I already said this possibility has been denied for years, and for years it has been emphasized that it is absolutely out of the question. But this does not exclude the possibility that if a compromise is, after all, really sought then this idea will certainly need to have its place [as received].

[Passage omitted: UNMIK chief's position on this]

Source: B92 TV, Belgrade, in Serbian 1400 gmt 15 Aug 06

Serbia should be first to recognize Kosovo, official says

Text of report by Radio-Television Kosovo TV website on 15 August

Serbia should be the first to recognize an independent Kosova [Kosovo], because this would relieve it of the painful problem and open the doors of the international community, said the chairman of Kosova Association for Multi-Ethnic Cooperation NGO and former senior communist party official, Azem Vllasi. According to Vllasi, Serbia would get rid off an old and painful problem. It will not be able to resolve the problem in a favourable way, in a way beneficial to Serbia. Serbia could then enter the European integration much faster, Azem Vllasi assessed.

Source: RTK TV website, Pristina, in Albanian 15 Aug 06

US envoy rules out partition of Kosovo

Text of report by Radio-Television Kosovo TV website on 15 August

The international community does not accept partition of Kosova [Kosovo] and I do not understand what Serbs would gain from a divided Kosova, head of the US office in Prishtina [Pristina] Tina Kaidanow has said. Not only me, but all representatives of the Contact Group were clear about this issue. There will be no partition of Kosova. The reason is very simple - this will bring no gain and I think that Kosova Serbs would definitely have no gains from partition, assessed Kaidanow. She also added that issues which would interest her if she were a citizen of Kosova would have to do with everyday life, issues such as healthcare and education of children.

Source: RTK TV website, Pristina, in Albanian 15 Aug 06

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Source says Serbia considering "ways to implement" partition of Kosovo

Text of report by J. Jevremovic entitled "Trial balloon through Sanda" published by Serbian newspaper Glas javnosti on 15 August

Belgrade: The DSS [Democratic Party of Serbia] has washed its hands of a statement on the partition of Kosmet [Kosovo-Metohija], made by Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, chairwoman of the Coordinating Centre for Kosmet and DSS deputy chairwoman, saying it was misinterpreted. However, Belgrade has been considering for some time the possibility of dividing the territory of its southern province between Kosovo Albanians and Serbia, Glas has learned from a source in the Serbian government.

"Belgrade has been considering ways to implement a partition of Kosmet for a long time, aware that nothing can be achieved by insisting on substantial autonomy. The story is being spread in Kosovo and the population is being unofficially prepared for this possibility," said our source.

However, the statement that Raskovic-Ivic let slip and [Interior] Minister Dragan Jocic denied is a good trial balloon on which neither the president nor prime minister have said anything.

An idea proposed by the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, and before him [former Yugoslav President] Dobrica Cosic, was to give the Serbs northern Kosmet - which is 15 per cent of Kosovo's territory - and its southern border would be on the River Ibar. Isolated Serb territories inappropriately referred to as enclaves, populated by a Serb majority - such as Gracanica, Strpce and others, would have special connections with Belgrade, but primarily with the compact territory that would be separated from Kosmet. However, it is impossible to pursue this option during the official talks on Kosmet's future status as the Contact Group is opposed to partitioning the province.

"Though the Contact Group set down the principle that the territory cannot be partitioned, it will be done so that it is not officially divided, though it will be so in reality. Bosnia-Hercegovina is not officially divided, but in real life it is. We would therefore have one Serb entity and a few enclaves," said our collocutor, adding that this could be termed a compromise.

This is not the first time Raskovic-Ivic has made a solo appearance. A scandal broke out in September 2005 when she divulged details of Serbia's plan, which was to be kept secret until the status talks began. Serbian President Boris Tadic had declined to reveal details of the plan to the US administration and was shocked on his way back, when he read in the papers on the plane what he had kept silent about in the United States.

Analyst Slobodan Antonic said it was possible that Belgrade had a reserve plan on the partition of Kosmet, but added that the government had to adhere firmly to autonomy. "Perhaps this is one way of saying Serbia is willing to discuss other options, those that do not imply the independence of Kosmet," Antonic told Glas, saying it was possible that Raskovic-Ivic had become "too relaxed".

Source: Glas javnosti, Belgrade, in Serbian 15 Aug 06 p 2

Contact Group officials optimistic Kosovo to fulfil Standards

Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 15 August: The representatives of the Contact Group member states in Kosova [Kosovo] expressed today their satisfaction with the work of the Kosova institutions in the fulfilling of Standards, whereas they encouraged Prime Minister Agim Ceku to continue work on those Standards which remain unfulfilled yet.

They made these comments following a joint meeting with Kosova Prime Minister Agim Ceku.

Ceku briefed the Contact Group representatives on the achievements on the fulfilling of Standards, assuring them Kosovar institutions will manage to fulfil all the Standards by October.

Ceku also said that five out of 13 points set by the international community have already been fulfilled, whereas the government is working on the implementation of other points.

The Contact Group representatives voiced their optimism that Kosovar institutions will fulfil all Standards within the given time, including the 13 standards set by the Contact Group.

"On behalf of the Contact Group, I must say that we have all agreed that a lot has been done in the fulfilling of Standards, but we believe that more needs to be done," said Tina Kaidanow, head of the US Office in Prishtina.

She also announced that the Contact Group representatives have encouraged the prime minister to continue work on the fulfilling of other Standards set by the Contact Group.

Prime Minister Agim Ceku also briefed the international representatives on the efforts of trust building between communities and protection of minorities, especially the Serbs.

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 15 Aug 06

New UN chief rules out Kosovo partition

PRISTINA, Serbia, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Kosovo's biggest challenge this year will be keeping Serb minority areas peaceful and staving off any threat of partition, the new United Nations governor for the southern Serbian province said on Tuesday.

Joachim Ruecker, a German diplomat, was confirmed on Monday as the sixth chief of the U.N. Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in seven years. He expects to be the last, as the West mulls granting Kosovo the independence its Albanian majority demands.

In his first news conference after his appointment was announced on Monday, Ruecker stressed that Belgrade's idea of partitioning the province and annexing the northern, Serb-majority part to Serbia, is out of the question.

"UNMIK and KFOR (the NATO-led Kosovo Force) have increased their presence in the north and I think that was the most important development in recent months," Ruecker said. "We cannot and we do not accept partition as an option."

Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999 following NATO bombing that expelled Serb forces to end what Western powers said was deliberate killing of civilians in fighting an ethnic Albanian rebel insurgency.

About 100,000 Serbs stayed on while up to twice as many fled revenge attacks after the war. Most live in a northern triangle of territory supported and serviced from Belgrade.

Ninety percent of Kosovo's 2 million people are ethnic Albanians. U.N.-brokered talks are under way to determine whether Kosovo will remain part of Serbia, as sought by the government in Belgrade, or becomes independent. The talks, which started in February, are expected to conclude by year-end.

Ruecker, 55, takes up his duties on September 1, replacing Soren Jessen-Petersen of Denmark who resigned in June.

He said his focus would be on building stable institutions, increasing the participation of minorities in political life and promoting economic development.He added that he expected to be Kosovo's last U.N. governor.

"A very important part of the mission's work will now focus on preparing for UNMIK departure and preparing for the handover to the authorities and to the future international mission as defined by the status settlement," Ruecker said.

The European Union is expected to assume a supervisory role if, as expected, Kosovo is granted conditional independence.

New U.N. administrator appeals to ethnic Albanians to help Kosovo's Serbs

PRISTINA, Serbia (AP) - The newly appointed U.N. administrator of Kosovo appealed Tuesday to ethnic Albanians to reach out to the province's Serb minority.

Joachim Ruecker, a German diplomat, was named to the post by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday. He pledged to make it his priority to give Kosovo's 2 million people "a clear perspective," and expected to be the last U.N. official running Kosovo.

"Minority communities in Kosovo, especially the Kosovo Serb community, need special reassurances," Ruecker said. "The majority population has an obligation and responsibility to reach out to the minorities more than ever before."

Ruecker has been in Kosovo since 2005, as the top U.N. official in charge of the province's economic development and the privatization of hundreds of socially owned enterprises -- most of which are dilapidated after years of mismanagement and neglect -- in hopes of boosting investment in the impoverished province.

His appointment comes at the most sensitive time for Kosovo.

The province is as divided as ever. Ethnic Albanians and Serbs remain entrenched in opposing positions on the province's future status. It also remains one of the poorest regions in Europe, with an unemployment rate estimated at more than 50 percent.

U.N.-brokered talks on the future status of the province are under way, with former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari seeking to find a solution by the end of the year between ethnic Albanians, who are seeking full independence, and Serbia, which is offering autonomy for the province.

There are fears that tensions will rise between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and Serb minority, especially in the northern part of the province where some local Serb leaders have warned of partition if Kosovo gains independence.

Ruecker said he will support efforts to find a solution for Kosovo's status in 2006 and focus on developing stable institutions, securing minority participation and providing a secure environment for economic development.

As the head of the U.N. mission in Kosovo, Ruecker will also oversee the reduction in size of the U.N. mission, which has administered Kosovo since mid-1999 when a NATO air war halted Serb forces' crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

Ruecker said his ambition was to be the last U.N. official running Kosovo and have "a relatively short period of tenure."

"I think it will last until the U.N. mission in Kosovo switches off the lights," he said of his contract.

Kosovo likely to hold decentralization talks with UN experts this month

Text of report by Radio-Television Kosovo TV website on 14 August

The month of August will be one of the hottest in talks on technical issues for the Kosova [Kosovo] Negotiation Team. The talks will most likely not be with Serbs but with UNOSEK [UN Office of the Special Envoy for Kosovo]. The temperature will rise on 21 and 22 August when two meetings at the level of experts are expected to be held in Pristina.

The first meeting will be on the financing of new municipalities, while the agenda for the second meeting is still unknown. In the coming days experts from UNOSEK will come to Kosova to hold talks on technical issues and will then travel to Belgrade, said Hua Jiang, the spokeswoman for the UN special envoy for Kosova status talks, Martti Ahtisaari, confirming the 21 and 22 August meetings.

She added that no concrete date has been set on when the direct meetings on decentralization and community rights can be held, but there is a possibility that decentralisation talks may be held early next month, said spokeswoman Jiang. A member of the Kosova Negotiation Team said that decentralization, the competencies of municipalities and the rights of minorities will be discussed at these meetings, but they will not be like the meetings in Vienna because no Serb experts will be present. There is only a 2 per cent difference between the position of the Kosova Negotiation Team and UN special envoy for Kosova status talks Martti Ahtisaari's office on the issue of decentralization.

Source: RTK TV website, Pristina, in Albanian 14 Aug 06

Monday, August 14, 2006

German diplomat named Kosovo's new UN governor

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 14 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has chosen veteran German diplomat Joachim Ruecker to be the next U.N. governor of Kosovo, the United Nations announced on Monday.

Ruecker, who now serves as head of economic reconstruction for the U.N. mission in Kosovo, will be the sixth U.N. administrator in seven years for the southern Serbian province. He may be its last as the international community considers granting it independence in a process due to be wrapped up by the end of the year.

Ruecker, 55, will succeed Soren Jessen-Petersen of Denmark, who announced his resignation in June.

"The secretary-general has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Ambassador Joachim Ruecker of Germany as his new special representative and head of the U.N. interim administration in Kosovo, known as UNMIK, as of September 1, 2006," said U.N. chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999 following NATO bombing that expelled Serb forces to end what Western powers said was repression of civilians in fighting an ethnic Albanian rebel insurgency.

Ninety percent of Kosovo's 2 million people are ethnic Albanians. U.N.-brokered talks are under way to determine whether Kosovo will remain part of Serbia, as sought by the government in Belgrade, or becomes independent, as the vast majority of Kosovo's residents insist.

The talks that are to determine the future status of the province began in February and are expected to continue until the end of the year.

Ruecker has held a variety of posts in Germany's Federal Foreign Office, beginning in 1979. Before going to work for the United Nations, he headed the Foreign Office's Budget and Finance Division in Berlin.

In his work in Kosovo, he has led efforts to revitalize the ravaged economy in the province, where unemployment is 60 percent. U.N. officials in Kosovo said an advantage of his appointment to the top U.N. job was that he could hit the ground running.

Serbian official's remark on Kosovo partition "misinterpreted" - party

Text of report by Belgrade-based B-92 TV on 14 August

[Presenter Zivana Saponja-Ilic] A statement by Sanda Raskovic-Ivic [chairwoman of Coordination Centre for Kosovo-Metohija] that even a partition of Kosovo would be acceptable [for Serbia] if Serbs, [Kosovo] Albanians and the international community come to realize that they cannot live together has provoked stormy reactions both in Belgrade and among the Kosovo Serb representatives.

The Democratic Party of Serbia [DSS], to which Sanda Raskovic-Ivic belongs, is now saying that she did not mean it in the way that it was reported.

[Reporter Milos Milic] A proposal on the partition of Kosovo, which was mooted by President of Coordination Centre Sanda Raskovic-Ivic as her personal view in an interview with the BBC, has forced representatives of the government and the ruling Serbian parties to deny this idea, or rather to claim that it was taken out of context. This is what Sanda Raskovic-Ivic said exactly about the possible partition of Kosovo.

[Sanda Raskovic-Ivic speaking in English in phone interview with the BBC] If both sides - Serbs and Albanians - face the fact that it is impossible for them to live together, and if the international community faces that fact as well, then a win-win situation would be a kind of partition.

[Reporter] In the meantime, the Kosovo Serb representatives have criticized this statement, saying that it was damaging the Serb interests in the province while members of the [Belgrade] negotiating team [in talks with Pristina on decentralization of Kosovo] have declined to comment on the proposal. The DSS, Sanda Draskovic-Ivic's party, today attempted to clarify what exactly she had said.

[DSS's spokesman Andreja Mladenovic] She did not mention [this proposal] in the way it was interpreted by the BBC, she clearly had in mind two kinds of autonomy and partition of these autonomies within the framework which I have just explained, that is Kosovo-Metohija in relation to Serbia as a state.

[Unspecified journalist] So this is not a territorial partition?

[Andrija Mladenovic] There is a document under the name "Declaration of the [Serbian] National Assembly" and there is a platform of the negotiating team, and rest assured that Sanda Raskovic-Ivic is the last person who would give up on, or depart from, these documents and the platform in question.

[Reporter] While some Western analysts, such as [Balkan specialist] Tim Judah, say that the idea of partition is not new, that it has been present in diplomatic circles and that it was not realistic that it would actually happen, domestic pundits have confirmed that Belgrade has a contingency plan [Plan B] for Kosovo, which in practice means that it deviates from the official proposal on autonomy in the framework of Serbia.

The Serbian Radical Party [SRS] official, Aleksandar Vucic, requested that for every change in plans for Kosovo the government should seek the approval of the [National] Assembly. The last proposal, which was passed by parliament in March 2004, as a resolution for talks on the status of Kosovo-Metohija, envisages essential autonomous status [for Kosovo] within Serbia and personal autonomy for Serbs in Kosovo.

Source: B92 TV, Belgrade, in Serbian 1400 gmt 14 Aug 06

NATO commander warn against violence in troubled Kosovo

PRISTINA, Serbia (AP) - A senior NATO official warned Kosovo's extremists Monday not to test the alliance's resolve in keeping control over the province's security.

The 17,000-strong peacekeeping force, known as KFOR, was "trained and prepared to handle disgraceful behavior," said Adm. Harry Ulrich, NATO's commander for southeastern Europe.

Ulrich is visiting the troubled north amid fears that tensions will rise between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and Serb minority as U.N.-mediated talks aimed at resolving the province's long-term status continue.

Human rights watchdogs have criticized the alliance's peacekeepers, saying they failed to protect the province's minority Serbs during several days of rioting in March 2004 that plunged the U.N.-run province back into ethnic strife and left 19 dead and thousands displaced.

"I challenge the leaders of Kosovo and the good people of Kosovo not to go down that path," Ulrich said.

He met local Serb and U.N. officials in the ethnically tense town of Kosovska Mitrovica and is scheduled to lunch with the chief U.S. diplomat in Kosovo, Tina Kaidanow.

NATO-led peacekeepers are in the process of reopening a military base in the Serb-dominated north and increasing their presence alongside some 500 U.N. police officers recently deployed there.

The beefed-up security was triggered by calls from Serbian officials to boycott the province's ethnic Albanian-dominated institutions after a series of violent incidents that Serbian officials blamed on ethnic Albanians.

The talks are expected to conclude by year-end, but the two sides remain deeply divided.

Ethnic Albanians insist the province must become independent, while Serbia is offering broad autonomy, but not independence. Some Kosovo Serb leaders have warned of partition of the Serb-dominated north if independence is imposed upon them.

Meanwhile, Portugal's Defense Minister Nuno Severiano Teixeira is also visiting the province, where his country has about 300 soldiers as part of the peacekeeping force.

UN Hands Over Kosovo Airport Security To Local Police

PRISTINA, Serbia (AP)--U.N. authorities handed over control of Kosovo's main airport to the local police force Monday as part of a process of transferring security responsibilities in the province, an official said.

The transition comes as the U.N. mission reduces its presence with the aim of passing some responsibilities to local institutions. Oversight of police and judiciary is expected to be taken up by a European Union-led mission, once a decision on the province's future is reached.

So far Kosovo's 7,000-strong police force has been put in charge of seven border crossings, said police spokesman Veton Elshani.

Kosovo has been administered by the U.N. and controlled by North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led peacekeepers since the alliance's 1999 air-war halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

About 2,000 U.N. police officers are currently deployed in Kosovo. [ 14-08-06 1200GMT ]

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Kosovo media say Ahtisaari to present proposal on Kosovo's status in September

PRISTINA, Aug 11 (Hina) - The UN chief negotiator for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, could present his proposal for Kosovo's status as early as September 1, the Albanian-language media in Pristina quoted sources in the UN.

Ahtisaari is expected to present his position on Kosovo's status at a session of the UN Security Council early in September since it is becoming less and less likely that Belgrade and Pristina will reach an agreement on the matter.

According to the Kosovo media, senior UN officials in New York have started adjusting positions of the foreign ministers of the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and China on outstanding global issues, including Kosovo.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Over 30 per cent of Serbians see Kosovo independence as "realistic" - poll

Text of report in English by Belgrade-based Radio B92 text website on 9 August

Belgrade, 9 August: Over 30 per cent of Serbians believe the realistic solution to the Kosovo crisis might be the province's independence.

Strategic Marketing director Srdjan Bogosavljevic said two questions were posed in the survey: which is the most desirable, and the most realistic, outcome of the Kosovo crisis. For almost a year the answer to the first question was stable - expressing the view of one quarter of the population - that Kosovo should be a part of Serbia. At the same time, Kosovo's independence is the least favourable solution for the entire population of Serbia.

Bogosavljevic told B92 that when it comes to the realistic outcome, that is, what the citizens expect to actually happen, "almost no one has said they expect a full integration of [Kosovo into Serbia]. At present, 20 per cent believe a partition to be the realistic outcome. Up to 30 per cent subscribed to this view earlier, mostly coinciding with the country's political elite promoting the idea.

"Since February, we have had a large percentage of people who believe Kosovo's independence to be a realistic option. In the past three months, more people believe that Kosovo will break away rather than remain within Serbia. People seem to be reacting to available information. The information they got was that Kosovo is a part of Serbia. For the first time, however, with the Vienna talks in progress, the number of those who believe that Kosovo will become independent is on the rise".

Source: Radio B92 text website, Belgrade, in English 1522 gmt 9 Aug 06

Mitrovica officials welcome Contact Group's statement on northern Kosovo

Text of report by Izedin Krasniqi entitled "Time for concrete steps in north" published by Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 6 August

Mitrovice [Kosovska Mitrovica], 5 August: A day after the Contact Group's 10 points for resolving the issue of northern Kosova [Kosovo] were made public, local political leaders were requested to take concrete actions to ease tensions, which are also being manifested with the claims that Serbs in the north have started getting armed.

In a press release, the Contact Group members have expressed their concern over the situation in the north, calling on Prishtina [Pristina], Belgrade and the citizens of Kosova to take steps to ensure that northern Kosova remain stable, Kosova's future status notwithstanding. They said that the solution for the town of Mitrovice should also be functional and realistic, and that it should guarantee the rights of all residents.

Commenting on these positions last Saturday [5 August], Mitrovice municipal assembly chairman Mursel Ibrahimi welcomed the Contact Group's views, saying that the municipal assembly has contributed to respecting all communities within its competencies.

He said that the resolution of the issue of Mitrovice, within the Kosova status resolution, should be in the interest of all citizens.

"We support the reform of the local authority in a principled way, but these reforms should be at the service of all citizens," Ibrahimi said, commenting on the Contact Group's statement on decentralization.

However, he argued against the creation of ethnic corridors through decentralization.

"We have to find a solution that will serve the Mitrovice citizens, and not allow the creation of corridors on ethnic grounds, because this is not in the interest of the Serb minority," Ibrahimi said. He added that the team of unity will find solutions for the Serbs' requests.

Oliver Ivanovic, leader of the Serb List for Kosova-Metohija, assessed that there is nothing new in these assessments.

"I do not believe there is anything new in the Contact Group's positions. It has only reiterated its positions of a few months ago and it is only receiving increased attention in the north of Kosova in a sensitive place and at a sensitive time," Ivanovic said.

He expressed hope that economic support would increase, bringing order to the north.

"We hope that economic support will also increase, because so far, this part of Kosova has not had such economic support. I have the impression that we were sanctioned because, being from the north, we have acted in an unacceptable way. I believe that this situation is coming to an end, and with the increase of investments and political engagement, there will be more order in the north and more prospects," Ivanovic said.

Like Ibrahimi, Ivanovic, too, welcomed the Contact Group's positions that encouraged the Serbs to take part in the institutions of Kosova. Ivanovic said that there were no dilemmas as to whether they should be in the institutions.

"As leaders, we have to stand up for the requests of our people and we have to convince them about this, so that we have the majority's support for inclusion in institutions. In order to come closer to this goal, Belgrade's position could help us a lot. Most of the people there understand that non-participation in elections was a mistake and this mistake is still being made by not giving support to the Serb List," Ivanovic said.

Political analyst Nexhmedin Spahiu also assessed these positions as very positive, even though, in his view, they are "belated".

"In fact, these positions were requested by politicians and prominent people in Mitrovice before the start of the status talks."

According to him, the Kosova government and the political class of Kosova should take these positions seriously and do their utmost to fulfil the obligations that stem from them.

"The fact that the Contact Group mentions Belgrade and Prishtina in the same paragraph implies that, in addition to Belgrade, Prishtina is also, to some extent, responsible and to blame for the situation in the north of Kosova and this should be taken seriously," Spahiu said.

Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 6 Aug 06 p 2

Future army to derive from Kosovo Protection Corps, says PM Ceku

Excerpt from report by Radio-Television Kosovo TV on 8 August

[Announcer] The Kosova Protection Corps [KPC] is waiting for the forming of the political conditions that will enable it to take on other tasks and fulfil its vision for the future, said Kosova [Kosovo] Prime Minister Agim Ceku in Shiroke. He stressed that Kosova will have its own army which surely will derive from the Kosova Protection Corps.

[Ceku] The Kosova Protection Corps belongs here and there is no doubt that Kosova will have its own army which will derive from the KPC which will see the conclusion of another KPC mission. I have full confidence in the KPC and in the future of the KPC. [Passage omitted]

Source: RTK TV, Pristina, in Albanian 1730 gmt 8 Aug 06

Head of Kosovo delegation at Vienna talks says absence of Serbs not damaging

Text of report by Radio-Television Kosovo TV on 8 August

[Announcer] We have live from Vienna the head of the Kosovar delegation, Veton Surroi. How do you evaluate today's talks?

[Veton Surroi] We presented our document, while the Belgrade side tried to change the topic and not discuss the real matter in question. This I believe brought legitimacy to the proposed document tabled by our side and in the upcoming days and weeks we expect that our document will become the basis of the talks.

[Announcer] How did the Serb delegation and international mediators react to the document proposed by the Kosovar side?

[Surroi] The international mediators have had knowledge of this document since April this year, while Belgrade attempted not to discuss the document and tried to minimize the document's provisions on the rights of the Serbs, considering them to be state forming.

[Announcer] The Kosova [Kosovo] Serbs were not present with the Belgrade delegation, does this damage the process?

[Surroi] It does not damage the process, the Kosova Serbs belong with the Kosovar delegation and not with Belgrade.

[Announcer] This was the first meeting on this issue. What will happen next? Will there be other meetings?

[Surroi] It was the first meeting and it is important for the fact that after 20 years we have arrived at a realistic situation to start talks between the Albanian majority and the communities that are minorities. We expect that in the future we will have a meeting with UNOSEK [UN Office of the Special Envoy for Kosovo] experts. These experts will make concrete remarks on our document and we will try to consolidate the document, to make additional proposals if this is needed. Then we will hand this document back to UNOSEK with the request to hand the document to Belgrade, so it can start formally negotiations on this document.

[Announcer] Mr Surroi, thank you for being with us.

Source: RTK TV, Pristina, in Albanian 1730 gmt 8 Aug 06

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Kosovo Serbs boycott talks on minority protection in Kosovo

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Kosovo's Serbs have boycotted negotiations on the future of the disputed province, saying they would not accept being treated as a minority group.

A U.N. mediator said Tuesday that Serbian officials from Belgrade who attended the talks and ethnic Albanians remained far apart as they ended their negotiations on protecting the rights of Kosovo's minorities.

The meeting was the first time both sides had put the divisive issue on the agenda during their U.N.-brokered talks on the province's future status. U.N. envoy Bernhard Schlageck said no breakthrough was made.

He said the ethnic Albanian delegation presented concrete proposals on the representation of minorities in the province's institutions, as well as on language rights and freedom of movement, while Belgrade wanted the issue of minorities to be addressed in the final status settlement.

U.N. officials will travel to Pristina and Belgrade to pursue further talks, Schlageck said.

Schlageck said the boycott by Serbs from Kosovo was a mistake. "This decision is a missed opportunity to engage in a process which is of central importance for all of Kosovo's communities, not least the Serbian community."

The issue of minority rights is seen as crucial to resolving Kosovo's status. Though still a part of Serbia, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, when a NATO-led air war ended a Serbian military crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million population, and there are about 100,000 Serbs, mostly living in communities across the province. Another 200,000 Serbs and other minorities -- including Turks, Bosnians and Gypsies -- fled during the 1999 NATO bombardment.

U.N. mediators are pushing the two sides to narrow their differences before tackling the ultimate issue -- whether Kosovo will become independent, as ethnic Albanians insist, or remain a part of Serbia, which Belgrade and the minority Serbs want.

Veton Surroi, an ethnic Albanian leader, said his delegation presented a document which included issues such as minorities' representation in official bodies, use of language and mechanisms designed to prevent minorities being outvoted.

"We believe this is part of our common goal, which is to integrate the identities of communities of Kosovo into a future independent Kosovo," Surroi said.

Kosovo's Serbs "will not accept the status of minority -- this would be a degradation of their status," Serbian envoy Dusan Batakovic said.

Batakovic referred to the ethnic Albanian proposals as "a long list of very good wishes" that cannot be achieved "at least in the next 20 years given the situation on the ground."

Negotiators have failed to reach agreement on most points in discussing how much say Serb-run municipalities should have in Kosovo.

Head of Kosovo negotiating team accuses Serbia of obstructing devolution talks

Excerpt from report by Radio-Television Kosovo TV on 7 August

[Announcer] We now have Deputy Prime Minister Lutfi Haziri on the line live from Vienna. How did today's talks go?

[Haziri] We discussed the competencies that municipalities will have in the future and border cooperation. We did not discuss the formation of new municipalities or the new ways of working in reforming local government. Our delegation presented the Kosovar officials' stance on the clear competencies the municipalities will have and these competencies will be the same for all municipalities except Mitrovica. This is a specific case and we will discuss this issue in a future meeting. Our stance is very close to UNOSEK's, there are only a few open issues, while Belgrade's stance is very far removed. The Belgrade government still holds the same stance, but they have camouflaged and changed the form, attempting to hide their entire strategy, one that is unacceptable and has been rejected by our side. Belgrade has to understand that this is not the way to help the process and we understand that they are working to obstruct and delay the process. This way of working has been seen as unacceptable. We have retained the same stance as before and we have clear principles for the reform of local government. They address, and recognize, the aspirations of the ethnic communities, and through legal means help them integrate in an independent Kosova where they will be able to have a good life and be equal to all of us. [Passage omitted]

Source: RTK TV, Pristina, in Albanian 1730 gmt 7 Aug 06