Belgrade, 11 Oct. (AKI) - Ten days after Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide submitted a report on the situation in Kosovo[Kosova] to the UN secretary general Kofi Annan, top Serbian leaders have until today carefully avoided comment on the document, leaving criticism to the lower ranks. Eide was appointed by Annan last summer to prepare a report on the progress made by the Kosovo ethnic Albanian transitional authorities in implementing high democratic and human rights standards as a precondition for opening talks on the final status of the province, which has been under United Nations control since 1999.
Ethnic Albanians, who comprise a 1.7 million majority against some 100.000 Serbs remaining in the province, demand independence and have made clear they would settle for no less. Belgrade, on the other hand, opposes independence, offering ethnic Albanians a large autonomy and insists on the return of over 200.000 Serb refugees who have fled Kosovo since 1999. Serbia is also demanding decentralization of Kosovo municipalities to grant self rule and more security to the non-Albanian minority.
Serbian leaders had put great hope in Eide, as an objective and balanced diplomat, but despite criticism of the present Kosovo situation, he nevertheless gave a green light for the talks to start. Political analysts say this has put Serbian leaders in an awkward position and may be the reason that neither President Boris Tadic, nor Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, uttered a word on the issue.
Meanwhile, Tadic’s adviser Leon Koen said that Eide’s report was a great disappointment. Kostunica’s aid Vladeta Jankovic was more restrained and said only that the report should be studied carefully. Belgrade still hasn’t formed a delegation for the talks, while Kosovo ethnic Albanians have announced their team over a month ago. What seems almost certain at the moment is that neither Kostunica nor Tadic would head the Serbian negotiating team.
This prompted Nebojsa Covic, who was recently sacked as Serbian government coordinator for Kosovo, to accuse the Serbian ruling elite that it has "already given up on Kosovo". The Belgrade daily, Kurir, quoted high diplomatic sources in Brussels saying that the international community was ready to grant Kosovo a conditional independence and a full statehood after the entire region joins the European Union. It said that Serbia would be faced with a choice to renounce Kosovo or its drive to join EU would be blocked.
EU commissioner for enlargement, Olli Rehn, who came to Belgrade on Monday for the opening of talks on Serbia-Montenegro agreement on stabilisation and association with EU, asked whether it was true, said “it couldn’t be put exactly that way”. In his words, EU was working to secure European future for Serbia-Montenegro, including Kosovo. But, he added, "we expect that Belgrade would be constructive and would actively contribute to solving the future status of Kosovo".
A Kosovo Serb leader, Milan Ivanovic, said granting Kosovo independence would be "a catastrophe for Serbia, but even more for Kosovo Serbs. If they take Kosovo away from us, we must return it in any way possible", he concluded.