Sunday, February 25, 2007

“Macedonia to buy contested borderlands with Kosovo”

A bit of speculation by the Macedonian and Albanian media about the border dispute with Kosovo. The fact that Macedonia is willing to "buy" this parcel of land proves, once agian, that it is not theirs in the first place. In any case, if the border demarcation stands as is, Macedonia will have to compensate the owners of the land (which happen to be Kosovo Albanians. Coincidence? Not so much!) . I mean, who is going to compensate them? The land is being transferred to the Macedonian side, and it is only reasonable that they are responsible for compensating people. There is nothing unusual about it.

Macedonia will be more then happy to pay up, but it will not be that easy. Even Ahtisaari acknowledges, in a twisted way, that the land belonged to Kosovo at one point. He says that the borders of Kosovo should be the same as they were in 1989 with the exception of the border with Macedonia. The exception acknowledges that borders were changed. The article below is from B92:

SKPOJE -- Media in Kosovo and Macedonia report that the government in Skopje intends to buy the contested territory.

The Macedonian authorities reportedly visited the Kosovo village of Debalde located some one hundred meters away from Tanusevci and offered money to the residents for their land, the Macedonian newspaper Vreme reports, citing the Priština-based Lajm newspaper.

The Macedonian government did not comment on the information, which it said was unofficial. The Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) denied having sent members to buy lands.

Thursday, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Agim Ceku visited Debalde. He told the residents that “no one could deprive them of their property.” Ceku stated “he hadn’t heard about the problem before” and shifted the responsibility to the Kosovo negotiating team. The contested land covers 250,000 square meters. They are the major reason why the border between Macedonia and Kosovo there has not been marked yet.





UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s plan for Kosovo future status refers to the demarcation of the border in that area as “just a technical matter.” He proposes that the border be marked according to the existing line, which means that the land belonging to Kosovo residents would remain in the territory of Macedonia. They would be able to enter Macedonia in order to cultivate their land only with special identity documents. The residents of Debalde, however, oppose such proposal. They said they “would not allow their lands to become part of the Macedonian territory”, the Macedonian media report. Fair use from B92.




To corroborate this story, an Albanian newspaper from Macedonia, Lajm, quotes a villager from the disputed territory, Hamdi Hasani (who is the head of the border village) as saying: “Five [Albanian] members of the Macedonian Government offered me bag of 600,000 euros just to keep my mouth shout and give up on my land. I refused.” There does seem to be some truth to this whole story.

Protected witness on Batajnica mass graves

This eyewitness macabre account about the bodies of Kosovo Albanians who were transferred to Serbia during the 1999 war may be too disturbing for some readers. At the very least it will send shivers through your body!

THE HAGUE -- A MUP officer testified about the bodies transferred from Kosovo to Batajnica in 1999 at the Hague last week.

Protected witness K-88 took the stand at the Kosovo Six trial to describe what he had learned about the bodies of Albanians killed in Kosovo in his capacity of a logistics police officer.The bodies were transferred to Serbia to be buried in the Special Antiterrorist Unit (SAJ) range in Batajnica, a Belgrade suburb. In his brief evidence he gave with protective measures - image and voice distortion – the witness confirmed the claims he had made in two statements he had given to the OTP investigators in 2005 and 2006.

Both statements and the map on which he draw the locations of all Batajnica mass graves were admitted into evidence. The witness claimed he saw six trucks arriving to the SAJ base in Batajnica in the spring of 1999. They were loaded with the dead bodies of Kosovo Albanians. The bodies were then buried in eight mass graves at the firing range. At the same time, the police officers set the tires on fire to prevent NATO from observing the location. As K-88 explained, "we set about a hundred tires on fire around each pit and the thick smoke shielded us from NATO planes".

The trucks full of dead bodies sometimes remained in the base up to 15 days. "Something was leaking from the trucks", he said. Before digging the pits, he and his colleagues spilled gasoline one the areas where there had been leakage and then set the soil on fire, because they “could not fight the stench of the leakage with toilet cleaning acid.”

The witness said that the transport and the burial of the bodies were "quite chaotic". According to him, the trucks carrying the dead bodies were in a poor condition. He talked to the drivers of one of the trucks and he told him that "the side of the truck broke" on their way from Kosovo and some 50 bodies fell out on the road. They had to stop and pick them up and continue to Belgrade.

K-88 explained that all six truck drivers had worn police uniforms. One of them was a state security officer and spoke with in a Montenegrin dialect. The trial of the six former top Serbian officials indicted of war crimes in Kosovo continues on Monday. Wolfgang Petritsch, former Austrian ambassador to the FRY, is among the witnesses scheduled to take the stand next week.
Fair use from SENSE .

Saturday, February 24, 2007

INVESTIGATION: Romanian Police Blamed for Kosovo Protest Carnage

International police accused of using excessive force during riots.

By Jeta Xharra and Krenar Gashi in Pristina and Marian Chiriac in Bucharest.

UN police from Romania might have overstepped their rules of engagement during the bloody violence that followed the controversial rally in Pristina on February 10, which resulted in two deaths and injuries to 80 people, a Balkan Insight investigation can reveal.

The probe, based on exclusive access to film footage of the rally and interviews with officers of the Kosovo Police Service, KPS, as well as protesters, suggests UN police fired rounds of rubber bullets at the rally at close range, sometimes aiming at protesters’ heads.

Experts and human rights organisations say that such action - which has already caused turmoil in UNMIK, with the resignation of UNMIK police commissioner- is highly improper and against UN regulations on police conduct.

In addition, Balkan Insight can reveal that Romanian police have a bad record of using force against civilians.

The protest saw the most serious outbreak of unrest in Kosovo since nationalist riots in March 2004 led to the deaths of 19 people and left thousands of Serbs homeless.

About 3,000 people joined the rally on February 10, held to protest against the UN proposal for Kosovo’s final status.

Protesters said it offered too many concessions to Kosovo’s Serbian minority and the government in Belgrade. Serbia strongly opposes independence for Kosovo, claiming it as an integral part of its own territory.

Police used tear gas and rubber bullets when the protesters tried to break through police lines. Film footage showed the protestors throwing stones and other heavy objects towards the police, including wooden placards.

The nationalist Vetevendosje (self-determination) movement, which held the protest, has, meanwhile, announced a new rally for March 3, raising fears of a fresh confrontation between hard-line supporters of independence and the authorities.

Vetevendosje’s charismatic former student leader, Albin Kurti, was arrested after the protest and is in detention.

A forensic commission of three international experts and one local expert, Arsim Gerxhaliu, confirmed that the autopsy performed on the two victims of the protest, Arben Xheladini, 35, and Man Balaj, 30, showed the two men died from head wounds inflicted by rubber bullets.

According to the human rights body Amnesty International, rubber bullets are known to be potentially lethal and should be treated for practical purposes as firearms.

Rubber bullets “should be used only by trained firearms officers and then strictly in accordance with the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officers,” Amnesty said on February 15.

UN regulation states that “law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury”.

Balkan Insight journalists who covered the rally witnessed how UN police continued to fire while advancing towards the protesters, even when it was apparent the crowd of some 3,000 people was retreating.

After viewing about five hours of film, Balkan Insight journalists have seen six instances in which Romanian officers can be seen firing rubber bullets directly into the crowd.

Many have described the Romanian action as uncalled for. When the footage was re-broadcast in slow motion on Kosovo television, RTK, on February 16, Nuredin Ibishi, an expert on police matters and a former member of the special police in Yugoslavia, said it was clear the Romanians over-reacted and fired at close range.

“These weapons need to be fired at the extremities and towards the lower part of people’s bodies and not straight at them, as we see in the film. If used at a distance of [only] 20 to 50 metres and if they shoot towards the area of the people’s heads, there are no doubt these weapons can kill,” said Ibishi.

“At that time, the protestors were running away from the police and the police was not under any kind of danger,” he added.

Nevertheless, Steven Schook, deputy to the UN Special Representative in Kosovo, agreed the UNMIK police fired rubber bullets in an improper manner.

“People don’t die from the proper use of rubber bullets, that’s for sure,” Schook told Balkan Insight on February 15.

The consequences of the protest have caused a serious debate in Kosovo and within UNMIK over responsibility for what to many seemed excessive police force.

The debate forced the resignations last week of the Interior Minister Fatmir Rexhepi, who quit the day after the rally. Steven Curtis, chief commissioner of the UNMIK police, resigned on February 14 while the UN formed a special commission to investigate the matter.

Schook is convinced that investigation on the protest will be successful. “We have taken the investigation out of the hands of the police [and put it] into the hands of department of justice and have engaged the most aggressive and best prosecutor we have, Bob Dean, to look into this investigation thoroughly,” he said.

Schook stressed that the investigation would be in the hands of UN officers of other nationalities than the ones who took part in the rally. This means Ukrainians, Romanians and Poles would not be involved.

There are 115 members of the Romanian Gendarmerie serving in Kosovo, tasked mainly with riot control. As Gendarmerie spokesman Bogdan Nicolae put it, they are there “to maintain order during public manifestations”.

Bogdan Nicolae insisted the Romanian police would cooperate fully with the probe. They had received “no clear evidence yet that their unit in Kosovo used rubber bullets during their mission in Pristina but, if so, we are sure the police did their job in accordance with legal procedures”.

Nicolae admitted that Romania’s domestic rules concerning the use of rubber bullets did not currently apply to its police serving in international missions such as in Kosovo.

In Kosovo, he explained, Romanian officers operated “in accordance… with rules specially designed for war-torn zones. So, in such theatre of operations as in Kosovo, we comply to these rules and not to local ones”.

Schook said, “I consider Kosovo a very late post-conflict environment - ready for the next step, its status resolution and ready for UNMIK to leave and have a new much smaller EU mission instead. That is where I believe we are now.”

But Romanian anti-riot police forces are criticised in their home country as well. Human rights groups in Romania noted that they have drawn attention before to the tactics of the country’s police.

Istvan Haller, of the organisation Pro Europa League, LPE, said it had extensively documented a case last September in which police wounded 30 Roma during a raid on a Roma neighbourhood in Apalina, central Transylvania.

“One person had 17 rubber bullets in his back, which shows the extent of the force used during the police raid,” Haller told Balkan Insight.

LPE and the Romanian branch of the Helsinki Committee have both criticised alleged excessive use of force by the Romanian police in reports.

A report of the Romanian Helsinki Committee, APADOR-CH, has described it as a reflection of “police lack of respect towards the fundamental right to life on the one hand and insufficient professional training on the other”.

Members of the KPS told Balkan Insight of the police failures that led to the deaths and injuries of February 10.

One criticised poor levels of planning before the protest began. “When the police commissioner asked in advance which units possessed anti-riot gear, the Polish, Rumanian and Ukrainian units came out as the ones with the equipment,” he said. “Not much attention was paid towards when and how the rubber bullets were going to be used.”

Kosovo’s mainly Albanian local police force is lightly armed. The KPS possesses tear-gas and batons but has no access to rubber bullets.

Other KPS officers said former police chief Curtis made a mistake in trying to keep local officers out of the loop.

“While the previous police commissioner used to let us make the first draft when it came to dealing with protests, Curtis kept us outside the planning room,” said one officer.

Another KPS officer present at the protest blamed the KPS for failing to assume leadership and for being comfortable with its lack of responsibility.

“It is true we were kept out of the planning of this operation but the KPS at no point protested against this,” he said. “KPS prefer not having to take responsibility for serious or sensitive actions.”

Other KPS officers complained to Balkan Insight that they were not supplied with gas masks for the rally, which left them at a disadvantage.

“We only had a certain number of gas masks and not everybody was equipped with them, so when the clashes started we were trying to cover our eyes because the tear gas affected us, too,” said one officer.

“Not equipping our own ranks with gas masks when we knew we were likely to use tear gas was another sign of bad planning and of the lack of coordination between local and international police units,” said a more senior KPS officer.

Some local police admitted they were reluctant to get involved in heavy-duty policing of fellow Albanians. “We are there to keep order but beating up protestors reminds people of images of the Serbian police in the 1980s and 1990s,” said one officer.

“This history means we were more tolerant than we should have been, which meant it was left to others to do that (disperse the crowd) and only international officers had the means,” said another KPS officer.

“We had to react because protesters were trying to break through our cordon and get to the government’s buildings.”

Ibishi said the police could have tried other means to break up the crowd, such as water cannons. However, Veton Elshani, KPS spokesperson, said neither KPS nor UNMIK police had any.

Both the KPS and UNMIK say they have learned from the experience and even before the report of the investigation is publicised have taken measures to ensure the events of February 10 do not happen again.

“UNMIK has taken an untypical, unprecedented decision in asking its chief police commissioner to resign, which did not happen even after March [2004] riots and shows how seriously we are taking this matter,” said Schook.

Some want more than individual resignations; they want UN officers to be stripped of immunity from prosecution in Kosovo’s local courts.

Sarah Maliqi, of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, said, “The concern remains that as in previous cases when international police officers did something wrong, the worse that can happen to them is being sent home.”

A February 15 statement from Amnesty International, also asks for international officers in UNMIK to be stripped of their immunity.

“Any UNMIK police officers suspected of unlawful conduct should be immediately suspended; they should not be repatriated but should remain in Kosovo until the inquiry establishes whether there are grounds for a criminal prosecution,” said the human rights body.

Jeta Xharra is BIRN Kosovo Director. Marian Chiriac is Romania Country Director. Krenar Gashi is BIRN Kosovo Editor. Balkan Insight is BIRN’s online publication.

Fair use from Balkan Insight.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Serbs Face Tough Choice as Kosovo Independence Looms

Very good article from the NYT. You got to feel for ordinary folks like her. It shows once again the heavy philological pressure most Serbs in Kosovo are going through. The fact that the spin machine from Belgrade feeds into this fear constantly doesn’t help either. Living in this kind of isolated situation, she probably doesn’t understand that she could walk around in any city in Kosovo without any problems. Artile below:

UGLJARE, Kosovo — To go, or to stay.
The New York Times
By CRAIG S. SMITH

Snezhana Jovanovic, 51, has faced that choice many times since war tore apart her tidy life nearly eight years ago. Now, with this long-disputed province promising to declare independence, she and many other Serbs are facing it again.
“Everyone is talking about this,” Ms. Jovanovic said, drawing on a Drina cigarette in one of six concrete houses along the side of a narrow road here half an hour from Kosovo’s capital, Pristina.

“Bergen” is painted on one of the buildings like an advertisement on the side of a barn. It is the name of a city in Norway, the country that has sponsored this small cluster of homes for Serbs displaced during the 1999 war over Kosovo.
Ms. Jovanovic says she will wait and watch and do what most other Serbs do. But she understands the psychology of fragile, frightened groups and is worried.

“When things are like this, one man can create panic by shouting,” she said as the room filled with the throb of a NATO helicopter skimming past outside. “I’ve lived through this before. One man says something and everyone packs up and leaves.”

The war, between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbian forces, killed thousands of people, mostly on the Albanian side. Entire families were massacred. Many men are still missing. NATO put a stop to the fighting with a 78-day bombing campaign in 1999, and Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations ever since.

Now a diplomatic effort is afoot to give Kosovo its independence. A proposal put forward by a United Nations mediator would grant Kosovo de facto nationhood — an army, a constitution and a flag — but it would still be overseen by the international community. A small number of Kosovo Albanians say the proposal does not go far enough, and Serbia is outraged by the whole package.

Amid the uncertainty, the estimated 120,000 Serbs left in the province, many of them natives, are wondering what to do.
Ms. Jovanovic was born elsewhere in Serbia, but her parents moved back to their hometown in southern Kosovo when she was 2. She grew up in Prizren, then a mixed community, and speaks Albanian as well as Serbian.

That sets her apart. Most Serbs in Kosovo do not speak Albanian, leaving them cut off from and wary of Albanians, who make up more than 90 percent of the province’s population. But even Ms. Jovanovic now lives in a parallel world.
After she married, she moved to a house in the hills on the outskirts of Prizren. Her neighbors were mostly Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Albanians.

She worked at a textile factory and drew a salary equal to roughly $110 a month taking care of the looms, a job she liked. But the war came and swept that life away.
She recalled the morning she and other Serbs left their homes to gather in a church as gunfire from ethnic Albanian militias drew near and the Yugoslav Army’s protective cover drained away. After eight hours of waiting, a German NATO commander arrived to say he could not guarantee their safety. With that, people gathered their belongings and fled.
Ms. Jovanovic’s son drove her to a ski resort in the mountains to the east, but after a few days a man arrived shouting: “They are coming! They are killing people!” and everyone grabbed what they could and left. “It’s fear that does it,” she said.

Her son drove her north to Serbia proper, but she returned after a week. She called an Albanian neighbor and learned that her house had been destroyed. She never went back to see it. “I don’t want to,” she said. “I couldn’t take that.”
The United Nations moved her and other refugees into a school near Kosovo Polje, just outside the capital. She spent two years living in a converted classroom before moving to other temporary quarters. Depression took its toll.
“I was thin and starving back then,” she said. “I was ill.”
A visiting United Nations psychologist eventually asked her why she was so sad. “I looked at him and started to cry,” she said. He took her to a hospital and helped her register for financial assistance from the United Nations-administered government in Pristina. He eventually helped settle her at the Bergen camp.

There are 24 families in the small cluster of houses: one per room, four per house, 54 people in all. Ms. Jovanovic points out the fixtures in her room: a range, a refrigerator, a wood stove, a table. There is a gas water heater above the sink, though the water runs sporadically. She demonstrated by opening the tap, which produced only a sucking gurgle.
Now she spends her days on a pink sofa crocheting white doilies in her tiny yellow room.
It is a life, though not a very full one. But Ms. Jovanovic feels settled and is afraid of the physical and emotional strains that would come with uprooting herself again.

“I don’t want to move again when I remember what I went through,” she said.
Her mother did not flee, and while Ms. Jovanovic’s house was destroyed, her mother stayed through the turbulent years after Serbia’s withdrawal without any serious trouble.
“If that German had said, ‘We can guarantee your safety,’ I would have stayed,” Ms. Jovanovic said. She boils Turkish coffee and pours a guest a shot glass of homemade eau de vie from an old vodka bottle, with absinthe leaves suspended in the clear liquid. On the television, a fashion show from a Belgrade station plays, pulled in by an antenna connected to a cable that snakes up from behind the set and through a hole drilled in the ceiling.

She keeps an Easter egg in a white porcelain holder on a shelf beneath the television set. The egg, from last year, is dyed reddish brown and painted with an ochre cross. If the egg inside is still firm and white when it is peeled on Easter this year, tradition holds, she will be assured good health for another year.

“We call it the guardian of the house,” she explained with a smile.
She left her old egg holder behind in the house in Prizren when she fled.
Eventually, she will have to leave the Bergen compound. After five years in there, the refugees are encouraged to return to their original homes.

But she says she will never go back to rebuild, even though her mother still lives in Prizren. “There are only 16 Serbs in the whole town,” she said. “I can’t go back there and stay all alone.” Fair use.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ipko Net granted a licence for second mobile operator in Kosovo

A Kosovo telecommunications agency granted a license for second mobile operator in Kosovo to Ipko Net, a company in majority owned by Telekom Slovenia that attended the tender for the second GSM license in Kosovo in a joint venture.

A president of Management Board Bojan Dremelj said at the occasion: "We are glad to receive the news on the Kosovo tender outcome, since it represents a great success for Telekom Slovenia Group. Our first task is to pay the license and thus actually become the tender winner. Starting yet tomorrow we will do our best to carry out plans from our offer and achieve our progress goals."

At first a Kosmocell consortium was selected at the international tender, but it failed to pay the license in a due time. According to the tender rules the Kosovo telecommunications agency withdrew the license and granted it to the second best tender applicant Ipko.net. The appointed time for the license payment is 14 days. Telekom Slovenia offered € 75 million for the license via Ipko Net. Telekom Slovenia owns a 75% majority stake in Ipko.net.

Ipko Net is the main internet services provider in Kosovo. Currently it provides services such as internet access, data transport and/or inter-office telephony to more than 2000 thousand business clients, and it has over 1000 internet users.
Fair use from:
http://www.telekom.si/en

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hope and fear as Europe awaits birth of a new country

Ian Traynor in Pristina-February 20, 2007

Kosovo and Monaco have next to nothing in common. But every time you make a mobile phone call to the majority Albanian province in the southern Balkans you use the +377 international prefix for the millionaires' playground on the Riviera.

"They did us a favour, they lent us their prefix," said Kosovo's minister for the environment and spatial planning, Ardian Gjini. "But we paid dearly for it." Tens of millions of euros every year, in fact, from the youngest and poorest region in Europe to the wealthy principality to have a separate telephone code to Serbia, Kosovo's intimate enemy.

It is one of the problems of not having a country to call your own. There are plenty of others.
Queuing at Pristina airport to go to visit relatives in Zurich, Stockholm or Frankfurt, Kosovan Albanians hold dark blue documents that look and feel like passports. But the plastic cover bears the crest of the United Nations and the name of a mysterious entity called "Unmik". The "Unmikians", Kosovan Albanians, cannot get any other travel documents unless they bribe Serbian officials to run them up a Serbian passport - €500 (£338) the going rate, any identity you like. Few do so. More than half a million have "passports" with the acronym for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo.

All this is about to change. In addition to its own telephone code and passports, Kosovo is to have its own flag and constitution, a central bank and a currency, a customs service on a new international border, an anthem, an army and control of its own airspace.
In short, a new country is being born. "Of course, it will be better. It's always better to have your own country," said Mustafa Blakqorri, an ethnic Albanian who has returned from a decade in Cologne to play a small part in building a country. "Right now everything's a disaster. But independence will bring jobs and investment and industry."

There has never been a country called Kosovo. And in the post-colonial era there has never been a country created in the same manner - by international imposition and against the will of Serbia, the historical overlord of almost two million ethnic Albanians.

In Vienna tomorrow two teams of Kosovan Albanian politicians and Serbian officials will meet the former Finnish president and UN envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, to try to finalise the settlement establishing this small new state. They do so against a backdrop of rising tension over the anticipated solution. Last night, an explosion damaged three UN vehicles in Pristina. Nato-led peacekeepers launched an investigation; a bomb attack was not ruled out.

Mr Ahtisaari has spent more than a year crafting the blueprint for an independent Kosovo. The result is a masterpiece of nuanced nation-building that creates all the conditions and rules for the new country without declaring it independent or sovereign. The independence declaration bit will come from Kosovo if and when the Ahtisaari plan is blessed by the UN security council. "It's a good package, a decent compromise," said a western diplomat in Pristina. "The Albanian side can work with it. The Serbs got everything they asked for, but will still reject it in its entirety."

Mr Gjini has taken part in every session in Vienna in the past 14 months. "We're mostly happy. It leaves all the doors open for the future," he said.
Zivorad Stakic disagrees. The elderly Serb from the village of Ugljare outside Pristina complains that the Serbs of Kosovo are now to be turned into "a minority in our own country. My father, my grandfather, my great grandfather all lived here. And I'm a citizen of Serbia. I doubt if the Serbs will stay here."

In his Serbian village every second house is for sale. A neighbouring village, Serbian a decade ago, is now Albanian. Mr Blakqorri came home from Cologne and bought out a Serbian family. Other Serb farmsteads and cottages have been torched or dynamited.
Nato forces and UN agencies are preparing for an exodus. "We'll see a number of Serbs leave," a senior western official said. "The Serbs of Kosovo are scared. It might be irrational, but they fear the majority population."

For Serbia, the Ahtisaari formula is a humiliation. The independence of Kosovo is the last act in the bloody drama of 15 years of Yugoslavia's disintegration. But whereas the other parts of the former Yugoslavia that are now countries were republics in the old communist federation, Kosovo was always a province within Serbia, even after Nato drove the Serbs out eight years ago and the region came under UN administration. Up to 150,000 Serbs still live there.

Serbia's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, has ordered Kosovo's Serbs to sever all links with Kosovan Albanian authorities. A Serb-dominated northern stretch of the province, concentrated around the northern half of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, functions essentially as part of Serbia, which it borders. The car plates are Serbian, the currency is the Serbian dinar. Teaching and hospital staff are paid by Belgrade, which pours in €135m a year.

"The Ahtisaari plan will be accepted and implemented, but it will never work," said Oliver Ivanovic, a moderate Serb politician in Mitrovica. "This [Serb] northern bit will secede." The region is run by hardliners. Paramilitary thugs sit in the cafes overlooking the Ibar river that divides the town to ensure no Albanians cross over. Mitrovica follows orders from Belgrade and few step out of line. When a Serb basketball team started playing in the Kosovo league the coach's car was blown up.

Albanian extremists are also chafing at what they see as excessive concessions to Serbs in the Ahtisaari plan, which provides for 10 Serb municipalities in Kosovo, wholesale decentralisation, and Serb minority veto rights over almost all legislation.

Albanian radicals say this is tantamount to partition and may bring war. "Our freedom is non-negotiable. We shouldn't even be talking to the Serbs," said student leader Glauk Konjufca.
Tensions are rising and things could easily career out of control. "We've had ethnic cleansing, heavy bombing, attempted genocide here," said Veton Surroi, a Kosovan Albanian liberal politician. "The Serbs have to decide if this is their home. We've paid a heavy price, but we're getting our independence."

What happens now?
To avoid a messy and potentially violent crisis in Europe, the UN security council has to endorse Kosovo's roadmap to independence, the Ahtisaari plan. Russia is threatening to block it, but a promising coincidence of diplomatic positions in the months ahead brightens the prospects for a deal. The US, Britain, and Germany are the biggest supporters of a Kosovo state. Britain chairs the security council in April when the plan is on the table, the Americans in May and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, will be hosting the G8 and EU summits in June.

Talks with Serbs and Albanians in Vienna will run from tomorrow until March 10. The UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari, right, will then fine-tune the plan and take it to the security council. Last week the 27 EU members backed the plan. But that consensus could fragment if there is no security council consensus. A UN mandate is needed for the new EU mission replacing the UN. Fair use from The Guardian.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Turkish NGOs slam UN plan for Kosovo

Representatives of Turkish non-governmental organizations in Kosovo believe that a UN plan granting supervised statehood for the contested Kosovo province has lacked fairness with its stance concerning rights granted to Turks.

Although once a strong future and assurance was promised for all of the citizens, it has granted too many rights to Serbs while limiting existing rights for the Turks, said Turkish NGOs, over the weekend near Pristine, where they evaluated chief UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari's plan.

The plan, asserting Albanian and Serbian as official languages of Kosovo, doesn't outline Turkish as an official language although it was recognized before at municipalities where Turks live, NGOs noted."What kind of a democracy declares Serbian as an official language even in places where a single Serb doesn't live while making Turkish language illegal at municipalities where presence of Turks is known since the 16th century?" said NGO representatives as quoted by Anatolia news agency.

Serb and ethnic Albanian negotiators are scheduled to meet for a final round of talks on the plan this week in Vienna, Austria. Ahtisaari has invited both sides to put forward their complaints about the draft before it is submitted to the UN Security Council for a final vote.The Turkish NGOs also called on the parties for having the issue of education in Turkish language on agenda of this week's negotiations, as the UN plan seemed to be vague over the right of education in Turkish language.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

U.S. lawmakers visiting Kosovo

By GARENTINA KRAJA
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

PRISTINA, Serbia -- Eight U.S lawmakers, including Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., visited Kosovo on Friday amid regional tensions over a U.N. plan that could give the Serbian province supervised statehood.

The delegation, led by independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, also included Republican senators John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, along with Reps. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Mark Udall, D-Colo.

They were in Kosovo on a brief, fact-finding mission, and met with Kosovo's Prime Minister Agim Ceku, said Lawrence Corwin, a spokesman for the U.S. office in the province. The lawmakers also visited a 14-century Serbian Orthodox monastery of Gracanica.

Reichert's office said the group also would visit Munich this weekend for a conference with world leaders to discuss international security policy.

Last week, U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari unveiled a proposal for the future status of Kosovo, which envisages that the majority ethnic Albanian province be granted internationally supervised self-rule with the trappings of statehood. The proposal also offers a high degree of self-rule to the Serb minority living in isolated enclaves in the province.

Ethnic Albanian leaders have endorsed the plan, while Serbian officials have rejected it. The two sides have been invited for further consultations before the final version of the plan is presented to the U.N. Security Council for approval next month.

"This is a critical period now," Lieberman told reporters. "We're looking forward to the implementation of those recommendations as Kosovo moves on to achieve its rightful status as an independent nation."

McCain said he hoped Ahtisaari's proposal will be accepted and implemented by both sides.

"We can applaud the people of Kosovo and their struggle for freedom and democracy. They've come a very long way," he said.

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations for nearly eight years following NATO's air war that halted Serb forces' crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians. About 1,500 U.S. troops are based in Kosovo as part of the 16,000-strong NATO peacekeeping force.

Lieberman and McCain were both supporters of the intervention in Kosovo, where the United States is considered a savior by ethnic Albanians for its role in leading NATO's air strikes.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people, are seeking independence from Belgrade. But Serbia and Kosovo's Serb minority say the province is the heart of Serbia's ancient homeland and should remain within its borders. Fair use.

Friday, February 09, 2007

EU warns Macedonia over entry

By Oana Lungescu BBC News, Skopje

The European Union's Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, has issued an unusually stark warning to Macedonia, the former Yugoslav republic which gained EU candidate status in 2005.

Macedonia's PM chose a minority Albanian party for his coalitionIn a speech in the Macedonian capital Skopje on Thursday, Mr Rehn described developments in the country over the last year as "alarming and a cause for concern".

Mr Rehn's main worry is the tension between the ruling conservatives and Macedonia's largest ethnic Albanian party DUI, led by Ali Ahmeti.
Sixteen deputies, mainly from Mr Ahmeti's party, walked out of parliament and are threatening to boycott municipal authorities.

DUI is accusing the government of lacking legitimacy and ignoring the rights of ethnic Albanians, who form about one-quarter of the country's population of two million.

Changing times
Mr Ahmeti is a guerrilla leader turned politician.
One of the founders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, he returned to his native Macedonia to lead ethnic Albanians in the 2001 revolt against government forces that took the country to the brink of civil war.
He then joined the coalition government formed as a result of the Ohrid peace accord, mediated by the EU and Nato.

But despite winning most Albanian votes in the 2006 election, Mr Ahmeti has found himself in opposition for the first time, after Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski chose a smaller Albanian party for his coalition.
A year ago, the EU praised Macedonia as the only functioning multi-ethnic democracy in the Balkans, rewarding it with the coveted candidate status.

Now things are different, with Mr Rehn criticising all parties for "obstruction and lack of faith".
He called on them to work within the democratic institutions they had worked so hard to set up.
'Wake-up call'
To press his point, the EU commissioner met the Macedonian prime minister no less than five times during his one-day trip.

The EU commissioner has changed his tune on MacedoniaHe also held separate talks with all party leaders one by one.
Even the silver-haired Mr Ahmeti was persuaded to return to the parliament building to meet the man from Brussels.
"It's very important that at the time of negotiations on the future status of Kosovo and concerns over the stability of the region, we can prevent the political stalemate in this country turning into a crisis," Mr Rehn told the BBC.

"We need to exert pressure on both the government and the opposition to respect the rules of the game and ensure the legitimacy of the political system.
"This was meant to be a strong wake-up call and I hope we'll see a reinforcement of mutual trust, a consensus on the rights of minorities and reforms related to European aspirations."

Sluggish reforms
Diplomats are concerned that reforms have slowed down in Macedonia after it received candidate status, especially in key areas such as fighting corruption and reforming the police.
EU membership was not automatic, Olli Rehn warned, and substantial reforms were needed before the European Commission could seriously consider recommending the start of membership talks.
The government hopes to receive a date for accession negotiations at the end of this year, but that looks increasingly unrealistic. Fair use.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Consortium Wins 2nd Mobile operator bid

PRISTINA,Kosovo — A consortium headed by a Kosovo businessman was declared the winner of a bid for the second mobile operator in the U.N.-run province, officials said Tuesday.
Kosmocell, a partnership between local companies Dukagjini, Kujtesa and an Italian-US operator, emerged first, beating a consortium between Telekom Slovenija and the Kosovo provider Ipko Net, Mobilkom Austria, as well as Team Kosova, said Mirlinda Bivolaku, a spokeswoman for the board of Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

Kosmocell offered euro81 million (about US$104.8 million) for the license, she said.
The province already has one cell phone operator under a deal between the Kosovo Post Telecom and Monaco Telecom.

Kosovo has been run as a U.N. protectorate since mid-1999 when the war ended here.
The process to select the second operator in Kosovo was marred with irregularities. In 2004, the bid was canceled by U.N. authorities after the procedure was contested by Kosovo's prime minister and U.S. diplomats, who raised concerns about possible corruption and misconduct in the bidding process. © 2007 The Associated Press. Fair use.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Kosovo opposition Leader to visit Israel

Kosovo's public television (RTK) reports today that the head of biggest opposition party in Kosovo, Hashin Thaqi, will travel to Israel for a three day visit. This is the first time a high ranking Kosovo official has visited Israel. What is even more interesting is that, according to RTK, Thaqi was invited by the government of Israel.

Thaçi kërkon mbështetjen e Izraelit për pavarësinë e Kosovës

He will attend a meeting with deputy PM Shimon Peres, the speaker of the Israeli parliament (The Knesset) Reuven Rivlin and the opposition leader Benjamin Netanjayu. RTK also adds that Mr. Thaqi will meet the leaders of the Economic Chamber of Israel to encourage them to invest in Kosovo.
Not sure at this point what is the purpose of this invitation, but it appears unusual.

02/08-Update: Shimon Peres was quoted yesterday by Kosovapress as saying that Israel will indeed support the Independence of Kosovo. He also indicated that Israel will invest significantly in Kosovo by reiterating to Mr. Thaqi that Israel has some major investment plans for Kosovo. Mr. Peres reasoned the Israeli support for Kosovo by saying that “Kosovo and Israel are one of the most pro American nations in the world”.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Macedonia backs Kosovo blueprint, defying Serbia

By Kole Casule

SKOPJE, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Macedonia on Saturday backed a U.N. draft plan to set the breakaway Kosovo province on the path to independence, openly defying its northern neighbour Serbia.

"From what we have seen unofficially, we can say that the document ... will be acceptable to the Macedonian government," Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski told reporters after meeting Kosovo Albanian opposition leader Hashim Thaci.
Gruevski and Thaci in Skopje (FoNet)
"It is a document that should help stabilise the region."

The comments set the former Yugoslav republic on a diplomatic collision course with Serbia, which rejects independence for its southern province but may be powerless to prevent it. Serbia's caretaker prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, has urged parties trying to form a governing coalition after an inconclusive January election to take a hard line on relations with any state that recognises the independence of Kosovo.

U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari unveiled a plan in Belgrade and Pristina on Friday which, if adopted by the U.N. Security Council, would open the door to a form of internationally-supervised independence for the territory.

Kosovo, 90 percent of whose 2 million people are ethnic Albanians, has been run by the United Nations since NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 to halt the killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanians in a two-year Serb counter-insurgency war.

Macedonia has a large Albanian minority -- roughly 25 percent out of a population of 2 million -- and is anxious to avoid fresh instability in Kosovo that might spill across their joint border. Gruevski's conservative coalition includes an ethnic Albanian party.

In 2001, an ethnic Albanian guerrilla army seized areas of northern and western Macedonia. The European Union and NATO intervened diplomatically to halt seven months of fighting and a peace accord gave the Albanian minority greater rights.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ceku warns Serbs against partition

3 February 2007 | Source: B92, Reuters, AP PRISTINA -- In an interview to Reuters, Agim Ceku warned Serbs “not to separate from Kosovo”.

Agim Ceku (FoNet)
Agim Ceku (FoNet)

Kosovo’s prime minister told the agency that although Martti Ahtisaari’s proposal did not fulfil all the Kosovo Albanians’ expectations, any attempt on the part of the Serbs in the north of the province to partition territory “will not work”.

“Serbs need to realize this is not 1991. They cannot do what Serbs in Croatia did. That will simply not be allowed”, Ceku warned.

“Ahtisaari’s document guarantees Kosovo territorial integrity and the entire territory of Kosovo will be governed by Kosovo institutions”, he added.

Ceku also said he was “not worried” over Russia’s support to Belgrade and its position favoring Kosovo within Serbia.

“I hope that, in the end, Russia will support a new UN resolution on Kosovo”, Ceku said.

Earlier, Kosovo's prime minister told The Associated Press he expected the UN to adopt a new Kosovo resolution “by April”.

Agim Ceku, who accepted a UN proposal released Friday on the future of Kosovo, said the plan described the province as an independent state and gave it the attributes of statehood.

"Kosovo is definitely running the last mile toward independence," Ceku said.

Speaking after the meeting with Ahtisaari on Friday, Ceku said the UN envoy's document “opened the doors to Kosovo’s independence”.

“The way Ahtisaari describes Kosovo, it’s a sovereign and independent state. However, this document still falls short of all our expectations, all our demands, all that belongs to us and that we have asked for and we will examine it critically during the next couple of weeks”, Ceku said.


Sejdiu with Ahtisaari in Priština Friday (FoNet)
Sejdiu with Ahtisaari in Priština Friday (FoNet)

Kosovo Albanians’ negotiating team believes the proposal is a basis for the creation of independent Kosovo.

Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu said, after meeting UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari in Priština Friday, that his comprehensive status proposal will make the province “a sovereign and independent state”.

“The negotiating team will offer its comments and suggestions on president Ahtisaari’s document very soon and remains committed to continuing the process as planned”, Sejdiu said.

Democratic Party of Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci said Kosovo had entered a new phase which represents a foundation of statehood and sovereignty on its entire territory. He dubbed February 2 “a historic day” for the province.

In a session held late yesterday, Kosovo government said that Ahtisaari’s status proposal was “a good message for the Kosovo citizens”.

“At the same time this is proof that the international community is determined to resolve Kosovo’s status without delay”, a statement issues after the session read.

The government stressed that “Ahtisaari’s proposal further clarified Kosovo’s future, opening way to independence”. Fair Use.

Friday, February 02, 2007

How America and Europe can make the inevitable acceptable to the Serbs

Feb 1st 2007
From The Economist print edition


FOR the eight years since NATO aircraft bombed Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia into submission, the Serbian province of Kosovo has been in a state of suspended animation. Some 90% of its people are ethnic Albanians, almost all of them determined to achieve independence from Serbia. But for many people in Serbia the idea of Kosovo slipping formally away into independent statehood remains an anathema. And in the province itself some 17,000 NATO troops are still in place to preserve a grudging peace between the Albanian Kosovars and the remaining Serb minority.

Given the horrors that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia through the 1990s, it is understandable for outsiders to be wary of upsetting this precarious peace. One sign of how dangerous that could be was the outcome of last month's general election in Serbia. The greatest share of the vote was won by the Serbian Radical Party, which insists that Kosovo will remain an integral part of Serbia. Indeed, the Radicals' leader is an indicted war criminal awaiting trial in The Hague.

But the Kosovars are impatient, and their status cannot be left hanging forever. In 2005 the United Nations appointed Martti Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland, as its special envoy. Last week he presented his plan for the province's future to the six-nation “contact group” of America, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia. This week he told the Serbs and Kosovars themselves what he has in mind. This is a form of supervised independence, similar to the status Bosnia was given in 1995. Ultimate authority for Kosovo would be transferred from the UN to a special representative of the “international community”, and Kosovo would be able to join international organisations.

This falls short of full independence. But for Serbia it may go too far. Although it softens the blow by promising autonomy to the Serb areas of Kosovo, and safety for Serb religious sites, it still offers a platform for Kosovo to declare independence and so will please no Serbian politician. Nor does it sit well with Russia, which has said that it will block in the UN Security Council any deal which does not have Serb approval. Nonetheless, it may yet succeed, with the right diplomacy.

Entice Serbia—and, if necessary, ignore Russia

One reason for optimism is that the position of the Radical Party inside Serbia is weaker than it looks. Kosovo was not the overriding issue in the recent election; corruption and economics probably swayed more votes. The Radicals, moreover, will not be the government. They collected fewer votes than the combined total of two other parties, the Democratic Party led by President Boris Tadic, and the Democratic Party of Serbia, led by the outgoing prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica. Both of these parties are well disposed to the European Union. Assuming that they form the government that will emerge from the horse-trading now under way, they are likely to have some understanding, albeit tacit and grudging, of the EU's determination to solve the Kosovo problem by supporting some form of independence.

The prospect of joining the EU is a carrot to dangle in front of Serbia as some compensation for the eventual loss of Kosovo. Last year the EU suspended talks on an association agreement—the first step towards membership—because of Serbia's failure to arrest Ratko Mladic, a Bosnian Serb general wanted for war crimes. If the Serbs renew their co-operation with the war-crimes tribunal, those talks should now resume—with the warning that their progress will be limited while Mr Mladic remains at large.

The Russians may be harder to entice. They argue mischievously that if Kosovo is allowed to become independent, so should South Ossetia and other pro-Russian enclaves in the Caucasus. And if Russia wants to, it can of course veto any UN resolution that sets Kosovo on the path to independence.

In that case Kosovo will have to go forward without the whole Security Council. Let America and European countries recognise an independent Kosovo, while the EU does what it can to calm the Serbs. Too much blood has been shed in the Balkans to allow prickly nationalists in Belgrade or muscle-flexers in Moscow to block progress towards a stable future. Fair use.

Albania Lobbies Discretely for Independence

Tirana likely to be among first to recognise new state for which it has consistently manoeuvred.

By Elton Metaj in Tirana (Balkan Insight, 31 Jan 07)
Albania may be the first country to recognise Kosovo's independence, if that possibility is contained in the proposals on final status that the UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari presents this week.

Tirana has recently tried to increase its impact in the regional arena, promoting Kosovo's independence as the only solution to a long-running conundrum and one that may bring peace and stability to the war-torn Balkans.

On January 30, President Alfred Moisiu sent a letter to the new UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, suggesting that Kosovo's status should be "in accordance with the will of the majority of Kosovo's population and also reflect the efforts and commitment of the international community for a calm and stabilised Balkans that should finally rid itself of the Cold War inheritance and fevers of aggressive nationalism".

Moisiu added, "It is our conviction that the Western Balkans will have its future in Euro-Atlantic integration with Kosovo and Serbia as two neighboring countries alongside each other."

On January 29, after meeting his Bulgarian counterpart in Tirana, Albania's prime minister, Sali Berisha, made the same point.

Berisha said Tirana would support the UN envoy Ahtisaari in a project "that embodies those principles that have realised the project of a free Kosovo, with citizens enjoying equality under the law, full respect for minority rights and an independent and European Kosovo".

Earlier this month, the speaker of parliament, Jozefina Topalli, said while visiting the Council of Europe that Albania's parliament "has always supported Kosovo's independence, viewing it as the only way out for peace and stability in the region".

It is not surprising that Albania has always been the region's most enthusiastic supporter of independence for Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up 90 per cent of the population.

At the same time, Tirana has tried hard to dispel any fears that its seeks the creation of a greater Albania, always maintaining that it has no territorial claims on Kosovo and does not seek either to change its borders or unite with Kosovo.

The foreign minister, Besnik Mustafaj, made it clear from the start of the status talks last year that Tirana wanted to be "an actor but not a factor" over Kosovo and would promote its independence without trying to upset the current fragile stability of the Balkans.

Tirana has urged Kosovo's ethnic Albanians to respect the rights of the Serb minority and called on the international military force in Kosovo, KFOR, to continue to serve the community there.

If the UN envoy's plan is seen as satisfactory, Tirana is likely to get involved in the lobbying at the UN's New York headquarters, where allies of Serbia may attempt to veto proposals for independence, according to the independent analyst, Blendi Fevziu.

The Kosovo issue has probably been the only one in recent years over which Albania's ever-squabbling politicians have joined forces.

Kastriot Islami, an opposition Socialist parliamentarian and former foreign minister, strongly supports the centre-right government on this issue, dismissing the notion heard abroad that Kosovo's independence may become a dangerous precedent, encouraging separatist movements everywhere.

"That [idea] is only a cover for opposition to independence," said Islami. "Kosovo is a unique case in the world, a consequence of ex-Yugoslavia's dissolution and it has no correlation to other cases."

By playing a discrete, behind-the-scenes role and imposing its influence on the Kosovo political scene on the side of moderation, Tirana has gained credit internationally.

Indeed, while trying to preserve its constructive image in the region, it may be that Tirana does not rush to recognise Kosovo but waits for Washington and London to act first.

In another gesture of regional reconciliation, following the recent general elections in Serbia, Tirana offered the hand of cooperation to any new government in Serbia "formed from pro-European and pro-Euro-Atlantic elements".

Albania added that it would also support Serbia's integration into the European Union and NATO if Belgrade accepted an independent Kosovo "in a peaceful and dignified way that serves peace".

But not all local commentators think Albania's politicians have helped the cause of Kosovo's statehood.

Writing in the January 29 edition of the Gazeta Shqiptare, Kico Blushi said Albania's political establishment may even have been partly to blame for the delays to Kosovo's final status.

Referring to the endless, destructive feuds between the leading parties that have consumed so much energy in recent years, he said, "The Albanian political class has, in its irresponsible way, permitted Serbian diplomacy to manoeuvre and regain the image it had earlier lost."

Elton Metaj is editor-in-chief of Albanian daily Korrieri. Balkan Insight is BIRN`s online publication. Fair use.

Solution for Kosovo

The Balkan province should be on its way to independence.

Friday, February 2, 2007|Washington Post.

TODAY U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari is due to travel to the Balkans to kick off what should be the final resolution of Serbia's conflict with the province of Kosovo. It's been eight years since the United States led a NATO military operation to stop an ethnic cleansing campaign by Serbia against Kosovo's Albanian majority; since then the Connecticut-size territory of 2 million has been governed by the United Nations. NATO troops, including Americans, are still there.

All along it's been obvious what the permanent solution must be: the recognition of Kosovo as an independent nation, with protections for its Serb minority. The question has been whether that outcome can be arranged without a diplomatic or even military blowup -- between Kosovo and a Serbia still infected by belligerent nationalism, or between the West and an increasingly troublesome Russia.

The Bush administration is cautiously optimistic that the transition can be pulled off in the next several months. But it will take some deft Western diplomacy and, in the end, probably some American toughness.

A measure of the deftness has already been supplied by Mr. Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president who has been working on the issue for more than a year. Recognizing that Serbia and its ally Russia would strongly oppose a U.N. resolution explicitly granting Kosovo full independence, the envoy will propose that the Security Council adopt a measure ending the current U.N. regime but not mentioning independence.

The province would continue under international supervision, with the European Union to be given a major role, but would be allowed to join the United Nations and other international organizations. Once the Security Council approved these terms, Kosovo's Albanian-led government could declare independence and would win quick recognition from the United States and most European countries. Serbia could object but not stop the new arrangement.

The pitfalls along this winding course are easily spotted. Serb militants in Kosovo could respond violently to an independence declaration, as could Albanian nationalists disappointed that independence is not complete. Would-be Serb splinter states could appear in northern Kosovo or neighboring Bosnia. Russian President Vladimir Putin could trigger a crisis by vetoing the U.N. resolution. Or he could accept the resolution and cynically use it as a precedent to recognize the independence of Moscow-backed separatist regions in pro-Western Georgia or Moldova.

That's where U.S. firmness might be needed. The Bush administration has avoided responding to multiple Russian provocations in recent months, the most recent being Moscow's sale of antiaircraft missiles to Iran.

If Mr. Putin decides to make trouble over Kosovo, the United States will either have to push back or abandon allies it has supported against aggression: the Kosovo Albanians, or Georgia's liberal democratic government. The administration ought to make clear now that it will not go wobbly.Fair Use.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Here is Ahtisaari’s document

Kosovo daily Epoka e Re carried today what it claims to be Ahtisaari’s comprehensive proposal for a Kosovo status settlement. On the front page the paper carries a note by the paper’s Editor-in-Chief recalling President Kennedy’s advice to the media to maintain their independence, as a response to voices calling against publishing of the document.

UPDATE: THE ACTUAL DOCUMENT PROPOSED BY AHTISAARI CAN BE FOUND BY CLICKING HERE.

According to the paper, the article on general principles says the following:

  1. Kosovo shall be a multi-ethnic society, which shall govern itself democratically, and with full respect for the rule of law, through its legislative, executive, and judicial institutions.
  2. The exercise of public authority in Kosovo shall be based upon the equality of all citizens and respect for the highest level of internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the promotion and protection of the rights and contributions of all its Communities and their members.
  3. Kosovo shall adopt a Constitution. The Constitution of Kosovo shall prescribe and guarantee the legal and institutional mechanisms necessary to ensure that Kosovo is governed by the highest democratic standards, and to promote the peaceful and prosperous existence of all its inhabitants. The Constitution shall include, but not limited to, the principles and provisions contained in the Annex 1 of this Settlement.
  4. Kosovo shall have an open market economy with free competition.
  5. Kosovo shall have the right to negotiate and conclude international agreements, including the right to seek membership in international organizations.
  6. The official languages shall be Albanian and Serbian.
  7. Kosovo shall have its own, distinct, national symbols, including a flag, seal and anthem, reflecting its multi-ethnic character. Kosovo shall have no territorial claims against, and shall seek no union with, any State or par of any State.
  8. Kosovo shall cooperate fully with all entities involved in the implementation of and undertake all obligations under this Settlement. Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia are encouraged to cooperate in good faith on issues pertinent to implementation and realization of the terms of this Settlement.
  9. The international community shall supervise, monitor and have all necessary powers to ensure effective and efficient implementation of this Settlement, as set forth in Annexes IX, X and XI. Kosovo shall also issue an invitation to the international community to assist Kosovo in successfully Kosovo’s obligations to this end.
Articles:
  • Under article 2 on Human Rights and Basic Freedoms, the status package notes that Kosovo will promote, protect and respect at the highest level the internationally recognized human rights and basic freedoms, and all persons in Kosovo will be entitled to human rights and basic freedoms without any racial, gender, religious or political discrimination. All people in Kosovo are equal before the law and are entitled to have equal protection by the law without any discrimination.
  • Article 2 notes that the Constitution of Kosovo will provide the legal and institutional mechanisms for the protection, promotion and implementation of human rights for all people in Kosovo, and that Kosovo will promote and respect a process of reconciliation between all communities. Article 2 also says that all competent authorities in Kosovo will cooperate and provide an unimpeded access to international human rights organizations and mechanisms.
  • Article 3 on the Rights of Communities and Their Members, the status package provides that citizens that belong to the same national or ethnic, religious group will have specific rights and human rights and basic freedoms. Article 3 also provides that the authorities of Kosovo will be led in their policy and practice by the need to promote the spirit of inter-cultural and inter-religious peace, tolerance and dialogue between all communities and their members.
  • Article 4 ensures the right of all the refugees and the IDPs to return to their homes in pursuance with the local and international laws, and also lays down that Kosovo should create a suitable environment for a safe and dignified return. Kosovo, is further said, shall fully cooperate with the UNHCR and other organizations involved in the returns process to extend protection and assistance for the returnees.
  • The Article 5 covers the missing persons and says that Kosovo and Serbia shall in accordance with local and international norms and standards undertake all the necessary measures to provide information that will help resolving the issue of the missing. It also says that both Kosovo and Serbia shall fully and without delay participate in the Working Group on the Missing established during Vienna talks.
  • Local self-governance and decentralization are included in Article 6. Municipalities are the basic territorial units of local self-government in Kosovo, it says. The local self-government in Kosovo will be applied in accordance with principles of good governance, transparency, effectiveness and efficiency of public services taking into account specific needs and concerns of the non-majority communities. The article also spells out that the municipalities in Kosovo will have the right for inter-municipal and cross-border cooperation in terms of issues of common interest.
  • On the cultural heritage, Article 7 says that Kosovo should ensure the autonomy and protection of all religious sites and their location. Additional and special security will be provided to the Orthodox Church and to their clergy, activities and property. And that the Orthodox Church will be the only proprietor of its property and in charge to manage its property and access to their sites.
  • Economic and property rights are provided for in the next Article 8. Kosovo will follow an economic, social and fiscal policy necessary for a sustainable economy. Kosovo will also establish, in cooperation with the European Commission and the IMF, a supervisory fiscal mechanism. For the preparation of the budget, Kosovo will consult with the ICR.

  • On the debts part, it says that any international debt of the Republic of Serbia allocated to Kosovo as a result of the division of the debts, will be considered a Kosovo’s financial liability. The point 8.3 of the article says that the movable and the immovable property of the FRY or of Republic of Serbia that is within the territory of Kosovo, at the moment when this agreement enters in force, will pass on to Kosovo.

  • Kosovo will recognize and implement the rights of persons for their movable and immovable property in accordance with international norms. Complaints will be addressed by the Kosovo Property Agency. When it comes to issues that cannot be solved through this mechanism, Kosovo and Serbia will try to directly solve any complaint, as both Kosovo and Serbia are expected to ensure a fair and non-discriminatory treatment of property and financial complaints form the one or the other side and a fair treatment in the their courts and mechanisms dealing with claims.

Article IX

  • Article 9.1 says the following; unless otherwise specified by this agreement, Kosovo shall have the authority to implement the law, security, justice, public order, intelligence, reaction to civil emergencies, as well as borders control within its territory.
  • Article 9.2 Notes that Security Institutions of Kosovo shall operate according to democratic standards and internationally recognized human rights to ensure equal representation of all the communities and at all its levels.
  • Article 9.3 clarifies the role of International Civil Representative (ICR) and International Military Presence, which shall be in accordance with this agreement and their mandate and shall supervise and guide development and evolution of security institutions in Kosovo.
  • Article 9.4 mentions creation of professional multiethnic Kosovo Security Force (KFS), who will develop a light armed component that will be able to exercise certain security functions.
  • Article 9.5 mention establishment of a Government Civil Organization who shall have control over KFS, in accordance with this agreement.
  • Article 9.6 says that after one year of this agreement entering into force, KPC will be dissolved since they have fulfilled their objectives including their assistance for revitalization of Kosovo.
  • Article 9.7 notes that all unauthorized organizations by law who offer security services in Kosovo shall stop functioning.

Article 10 on Constitutional Commission and Elections says that immediately after this agreement enters into force, President of Kosovo in consultation with the Presidency shall call the Constitutional Commission in consultation with ICR.

Article X

  • 10.2 notes that Constitutional Commission shall consist of 22 members (Kosovars) who carry relevant educational background and necessary expertise for this purpose, who will present the diversity of Kosovo society. Fifteen members shall be appointed by the President of Kosovo in consultation with the Presidency, and the three other members shall be appointed by the members of assembly who that maintain reserved seats for Serb Community in Kosovo, and three members shall be appointed by the members of Kosovo Assembly who maintain reserved seats for other non-Albanian communities in Kosovo.

  • Article 10.3 also provides that the Commission shall establish special mechanisms to inform public regarding its work. It also says that ICR shall appoint its representatives to assist the work of this Commission including preparation of draft regulation on the work and evaluation of international models available for drafting the Constitution.

  • Article 10.4 notes that Kosovo Assembly can not approve the Constitution until the ICR sets the time, as defined by this Agreement. Assembly shall officially approve the Constitution with 120 days after this agreement enters into force and that shall be done by the current Kosovo Assembly Members, with the votes of the two thirds of members present and after the necessary consultations with the members of minorities in Kosovo. Official approval of the constitution shall be made by the Assembly of Kosovo and it will enter into force the first day after the transitional period takes place.

  • Article 10.5 says that 9 months after this agreement enters into force, Kosovo shall organize its general and municipal elections in accordance with the conditions of this agreement and borders of the new municipalities as defined by Annex II of this agreement. Elections shall be certified by an International competent authority, after the international standards are fulfilled.
Article XI
Article 11 speaks about the International Civil Representative and the 11.1 notes that an International Steering Group (ISG), which will consist of key international partners, shall appoint ICR and they shall ask for the support of UN Security Council to make this appointment. ICR and EU Special Representative (EUSR), appointed by the CoE shall be the same person.

  • Article 11.2 says that ISG shall support and instruct ICR to fulfill his/her position.
  • Article 11.3 notes that ICR shall have overall supervisory responsibility and shall be the final authority in Kosovo to interpret this Agreement as it is specified in the Annex IX in particular in the Article 2 of this Agreement.
  • Article 11.4 notes that ICR shall exercise some responsibilities to ensure complete implantation of this Agreement, including competencies to undertake measures, if necessary to prevent or correct violations of this agreement.
  • According to article 11.5, ICR shall have comprehensive coordination role over the activities of other International organizations in Kosovo within the measures of responsibilities of ICR to monitor and ensure complete implementation of this agreement.
  • Article 11.6 notes that ICR mandate shall continue until ISG says that Kosovo has implemented conditions of this agreement.
  • Article 11.7 notes that ISG shall make its first review of the ICR mandate based on the level of implementation of this agreement, not later than two years after this agreement enters into force.

Article XII

Article 12 on the International Support in the field of Rule of Law specifies that the EU will establish a Mission called European Security Defense Policy ESDP in the field of rule of law.

  • Article 12.2 notes that ESDP shall assist Kosovo authorities making their sustainable progress and further development and strength of independent judiciary, police, customs service, by ensuring that those institutions are free of political influence and in accordance with the international standards and European practices.
  • Article 12.3 notes that ESDP Mission shall support implementation of this agreement and it will offer guides, monitoring and advices in the field of rule of law in general by holding some competencies in particular in regard to jurisdiction, police, customs and correction services, while the length of the time and other modalities will be decided by CoE in accordance with Annexes IX and X of this agreement.

Article 13 of the document speaks about the International Military Presence (IMP) which is to support the implementation of the status agreement.


The force will be led by NATO but the military presence in Kosovo does not exclude the possibility of being replaced by another organization military mission with a revised mandate.

IMP will be responsible for providing a safe and secure environment in all the territory of Kosovo together with ICR until Kosovo institutions are ready to take responsibilities.

IMP, according to the plan, will also be in charge of preparing and training the new Kosovo Security Force whereas NATO will have the overall responsibility for establishing a Government civilian organization that would exercise control over the Force.

Provisional and final dispositions of the agreement are set out in Article 14.

According to this, the transitional period will consist of 120 days during which UNMIK would continue to exercise its mandate under the relevant UN SC resolution but also under consultations with ICR.

Constitutional Framework of Kosovo and other applicable laws would continue to remain in effect until the end of the transitional period while the Kosovo Assembly is expected to officially approve a new Constitution before the end of transitional phase.

During the transitional period, Kosovo Assembly will, in consultation with ICR, officially approve the necessary legislation in order to fully implement all the conditions of this Agreement. This legislation will not need an additional approval or promulgation by UNMIK and will enter into force immediately after the end of transitional period.

At the end of the transitional period, UNMIK’s mandate will expire and all the legislative and executive authority will be transferred en bloc to the Kosovo government authorities unless otherwise specified by the Agreement.

UNMIK Regulations promulgated by the SRSG including the administrative directives and executive decisions issued by SRSG as well as the laws approved by the Kosovo Assembly will continue to be applicable unless otherwise specified by this Agreement.

At the end, the document states that Kosovo will continue to be bound, on reciprocity principle, to all international agreements that have been signed by UNMIK on behalf of Kosovo. Local Media Monitoring-UNMIK.