Sunday, May 07, 2006

Press coverage on decentralization meeting held in Vienna

(Kosovo Dailies&TVs’)

The daily press gives extensive coverage to the first day of the Vienna meeting on decentralization. Under the leading front-page headline Pristina and Belgrade with diametrically opposite maps, Koha Ditore reports that the Serbian side has called for 17 new municipalities in Kosovo with Serb majority, whilst the Kosovar side has proposed only four. The paper notes that after the first meeting, Pristina representatives have once again announced that the Serb goal is clear: to create as much municipalities along ethnic lines, which would then lead to some sort of autonomy within Kosovo and which would enable the partition of the country.

Koha Ditore also quotes unnamed sources as saying that Pristina and Belgrade have diametrically opposite positions when it comes to the boundaries of the new municipalities.

Most dailies, especially Koha Ditore, note that unlike the previous occasions, this time along neither Pristina nor Belgrade received the blessing of Status Envoy Martti Ahtisaari before the start of talks. “The reason: Ahtisaari is in Athens where he is attending a meeting of regional foreign ministers,” reported Koha.

Zëri reports on the front page that the delegations from Pristina and Belgrade have had essential differences in the first day of the meeting in Vienna. The paper notes that the Pristina Delegation has proposed the creation of four mainly Serb-inhabited municipalities, whilst Mitrovica will be a municipality with two sub-municipal units which after the elections will be led by one mayor. At the same time, the Serbian side has called for the partition of Mitrovica along the River Ibër and the unification of the northern part of Mitrovica with Zvecan, as well 17 municipalities with Serb majority.

Zëri quotes the head of the Kosovo Delegation Lutfi Haziri as saying, “Pristina’s proposal for Mitrovica is one city with two sub-municipal units.”

Zëri also cites information broadcast by Reuters as saying that Serbian negotiators have asked for the partition of Mitrovica along the River Ibër. The same news agency also reported that Albanians are under pressure to give bigger municipal competencies to the Serbs in exchange for the state of Kosovo.

Express reports in the leading story that maps have been presented for the first time in the table of talks in Vienna. The paper quotes Haziri as saying, “We want functional, economically stable and strong municipalities”. Haziri and the Pristina Delegation, says the paper, accused Belgrade of using only the ethnic argument.

According to Express, the “dessert” [the term the paper uses to refer to Mitrovica] was left for Friday morning. “Mitrovica won’t be a special topic, but it clearly will be the most difficult part,” said a Kosovar official involved in the talks.

Express also notes that in the first days, both parties accused each other of misinterpreting the data from the census in 1981 and the data from 1991.

“There was nothing spectacular from the meeting, but Serbs seem to be really interested in minimising every possibility for an agreement,” said Enver Hoxhaj, member of the Pristina Delegation.

Both delegations, added Express, claim that their positions were close to those of the international community. However, Pristina and Belgrade remain very far one another in their positions. “My impression is that we are far from each other in every criterion and in every proposal,” Lutfi Haziri was quoted as saying.

An international official involved in the talks told Express that Pristina was making as less proposals as possible, whilst Belgrade was doing the opposite, in order for the conclusion to be mediocre. “Regardless of this we will remain committed to the criteria for the creation of municipalities,” added the official.

Epoka e Re reports on the front page that talks in Vienna have brought no changes and that the positions remain opposite. “The chances for a successful conclusion of the talks in Vienna are less than minimal,” the paper elaborates. Epoka e Re says that according to Belgrade’s map, the new municipalities would be directly linked to Serbia through two corridors: Mitrovica and Ranillug.

The paper also says that Belgrade in its presentation relied on the 1981 census, but this was opposed by the Pristina Delegation. “We won’t accept to work according to the data from 1981 because it doesn’t reflect the actual situation,” said Enver Hoxhaj.

Kosova Sot reports in its leading story that Serbs want corridors of ethnic partition that leads toward the territorial division of Kosovo. “The Kosovar side has not proved to be generous. The meeting resumes today and there are slim chances for a rapprochement of positions,” adds the paper.

Kosova Sot quotes Dusan Batakovic, member of Belgrade’s delegation, as saying,

“For us it is important that the northern part of Mitrovica joins the municipality of

Zvecan and to form a new municipality which would be called for example Zvecanska

Mitrovica”. According to Batakovic, “this would constitute no danger to the municipality of Mitrovica in the southern part of River Ibar.”

Iliria Post starts its coverage on the Vienna meeting with the following quote from

Lutfi Haziri: “The agenda of the international mediator Albert Rohan has foreseen to discuss the new Serb majority municipalities. I want to emphasize that there are other non-Serb minorities in Kosovo that represent their interests through the Kosovo Delegation. We have come to Vienna with concrete proposals about local government reforms and the number of new Serb majority municipalities”. The paper notes that the position of the Pristina Delegation is quite clear: no more than five new Serb majority municipalities and no partition of Mitrovica.

All TVs’ reported about the round of talks in Vienna and RTK aired Lutfi Haziri saying that the criteria presented by Belgrade Team are unacceptable, whilst leader of the Belgrade delegation Dusan Batakovic has said that his team had come with the offer of creation of at least 17 Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo. Mr. Batakovic said that the proposal of his team states that Mitrovica north should join Zveçan.


WARchild said...

So, how does uniting more than half of a municipality (n. Mitrovica) with another municipality (Zvecan) make for a more decentralized government? I thought decentralization was about being small for the sake of governing better, not fusing ethnicly cleansed areas together, which is what Serbs really want but are shy to tell the world.

Also, Kosova should move forward population registration. A relaible picture of reality will clear at least some of the confusion.

Balkan Update said...

Of course the Serb delegation is not interested in decentralization. This will come to bite them later, however, when Kosovo actually becomes independent.

Their strategy is to place such ridicules demands so that the Albanian delegation will not accept them, and this way postpone the status of Kosovo for better times. But it has been shown time and again that Serbs are masters at making miscalculation of unseen proportion (See Negotiations before the War), and the Albanian delegation can count on this to save them again. Serbs refusal to make an agreement with Kosovo Albanian will not postpone the status of Kosovo. The international community has already rejected their demands as being unreasonable. The Albanian delegation has offered Kosovo Serbs a fair deal by any measure: Serb municipalities’ wherever Serbs are a majority. We cannot turn every village into a municipality. It doesn't make logical, political and economic sense. It’s down right stupid!

They are demanding 17 municipalities for a minority of around 8% in a country that has a total of 28 municipalities. Considering that other minorities have their own municipalities already, the Serb plan will lead to a situation where a mere 10% of a population will be in charge of 60% municipalities. Now, who can say this is not ridicules and insane. It makes the Serb delegation look childish.

Serbs may be playing a 19th century diplomatic game which called for placing maximum demands during negotiations to achieve a mediocre result. The problem is that that diplomatic strategy is outdated and not very useful in the 20th century. If you cannot make a logical case for your cause you will lose, and that's what will happen to the Serbs in the end.
I don’t even want to make a comment about their fictitious population numbers.