Kosovo's delegation plans to throw Serbia onto the defensive at final talks on the future political status of the United Nations protectorate by presenting Belgrade with a huge bill for damages. The Kosovar delegation has set up a special team to handle economic issues, a subgroup of which is now itemising the damages for which they say Serbia is liable.
This group, which first met on January 6, consists of 30 experts in economics, law and engineering, including officials from the presidency, the parliament, the Kosovo Trust Agency, which handles privatisation, and the director of the Trepca mines.
The team is chaired by Muhamet Mustafa, director of the Riinvest Institute, a not-for-profit research institute.
"The experts will be divided into eight groups to organize their work better and approach each issue separately," Mustafa explained.
Among the issues he highlighted were income lost to Kosovars on account of anti-Albanian discrimination in the form of lost salaries, pensions and savings, war damage to property, foreign debt and the issue of succession to the old Yugoslav state.
The chairman said the team would also prepare a report on Kosovo's overall economic sustainability.
A member of the group, Muhamet Sadiku, said Kosovo ran up a foreign debt of 850 to 900 million dollars before 1989, when Serbia effectively scrapped the province's autonomy.
Until then, he said, the province of Kosovo managed its own foreign debt, much like the republics of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"Since 1989 Serbia has managed Kosovo's debts illegally, which means that since then the institutions of Kosovo have had no direct access to information on this issue," Sadiku said.
Sadiku added that the topic of Kosovo's debts needed to be discussed with the involvement of international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, IMF, the World Bank and others.
"We expect the starting point of these discussions with the IMF and World Bank to be 1989, whereas all speculation [about Kosovo's debts] after this date belongs solely to the Serbian government," he said.
Kosovo lost its right to assume responsibility for part of the assets and debts of the old Yugoslav federation in the early Nineties, when the Badinter Commission, established by Brussels to establish the criteria for European Union recognition of the independence of the Yugoslav republics, declined to recognize Kosovo as an equal constituent part.
This had serious negative consequences for Kosovo, since it legitimised Serbia's right to hold onto Kosovo's share of the resources of the former Yugoslavia. Now, Kosovo wants its succession rights to be restored and the team believes that future independence for Kosovo will force all partners to re-examine the issue.
As one of their main arguments, the expert team say, records clearly show that Kosovo contributed in the same way as the other federal units to the common assets of the old Yugoslav state.
Veton Surroi, leader of the opposition ORA party, and Ethem Ceku, the minister of energy and mines, agreed that the economics of Kosovo's divorce from Serbia have been insufficiently studied.
In December, they said the value of key economic assets, such as the Trepca mine complex in northern Kosovo, needed to be assessed and included in the final-status negotiations.
"Belgrade has made repeated claims regarding Trepca and the KEK [Kosovo's power company]," Mr Surroi said.
"But the Kosovo delegation has to make them aware of the damages they inflicted on both those fields during 1989 and 1999," he added.
Kosovar experts consider that Pristina should demand the return of pension funds worth 300 million euro, 150 million euro deposited on Kosovo's behalf in Serbian banks and several million euro to pay for other damages inflicted on Kosovo's public enterprises and property since 1989.
One member, Murat Mehaj, said information in the possession of the expert team undermines Serbia's overall claim to Kosovo, and especially its claims on Kosovo's formerly socially owned property.
While Mustafa said more experts may be enlisted into the team, the exclusion of certain names has invited criticism.
Kujtim Dobruna, of the Vienna-based Economic Initiative for Kosovo, ECIKS, who was not included in the team, argued that there are not enough young people on board.
"Young experts were left aside," he said. "Yet, they are more dynamic and do not carry any burdens from the past."
Arbana Xharra is a journalist for the Economy supplement of the Pristina daily Koha Ditore.B92