External relations – 19-02-2007 – 10:16
Kosovo remains one of the last puzzles in Europe to besolved after the fall of Communism. Earlier this month, Martti Ahtisaari, the UN envoy responsible for the province, laid out plans that provide a blue print for state hood despite not mentioning “independence” from Serbia directly. A head of a report on Kosovo in Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in March, we gauged the opinions of MEPs with a special interest in the area.
Kosovo has been run by the UN since 1999 when a NATO bombing campaign forced out Serbian troops after they had been involved in there pression of the Albanian population. Legally, it remains part of Serbia although most of its 2 million ethnic Albanian populations want independence. Around 100,000 Serbs remain in the province and their status is a crucial issue. Poverty is widespread with unemployment at 40%.
EU to take over from UN
Martti Ahtisaari has had the almost impossible job of recognising ethnic Albanians demands for full independence with Serb’s wish to retain full sovereignty.
His plan aims to reconcile these differences. It does not mention either “independence” for Kosovo or the “sovereignty” of Serbia. Kosovo would be given the attributes of independence – it can join international organisations, have a constitution, a flag and a national anthem- whilst remaining under the protection of the international community. Inthe Ahtisaari plan the EU will take over responsibility from the UN for Kosovo. The UN Security Council will discuss the plan next week.
Speaking a few days ago the Chair of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Jacek Saryusz-Wolski commented that “the settlement must meet the expectations of the Kosovo population, notably all its communities. The rightto self-determination must be accompanied by firm guarantees for the minorities living in Kosovo”.
Underlining the importance of events he noted that “in the European Parliament we keep repeating that the whole of the Western Balkans belongs toEurope”. He also welcomed EU governments support for the formation of a democratic government in Serbia after recent elections there.
Report says maintain multi-ethnic Kosovo
An EU planning team (EUPT) – is already preparing an EU “rule of law” mission in Kosovo which include a 1,300 strong mission of international police, judges, prosecutors and customs officials. Doris Pack, Chair of Parliament’s delegation to South-East Europe commented that “the EU’s role will be much stronger, because it will have to monitor the fulfilment of condition seventually decided by the UN Security Council”.
The report on the future of Kosovo and the role of the EU drafted by Dutch Green MEP Joost Lagendijk will be voted in the Committee on Foreign Affairs on March 13.
The draft reflects the UN and Council positions and supports granting Kosovo “internationally supervised limited sovereignty”, which is important”in order to maintain the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo and to safeguard the interests and security of the Serb population and of other ethnicminorities”.
However, a big debate over the word “independence” is likely in the Committee meeting. The draft mentions it although some groups are opposed to such a statement and want it removed. Should it be removed it would mean the report effectively echoes the Ahtisaari plan.
The situation on the ground is certainly turbulent. Two people were killed when thousands of Albanian pro-independence demonstrators clashed with UN policeover a week ago. Given this it is clear much still needs to be done for”establishment of a multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-faith, tolerant country and society” Lagendijk. According to Doris Pack people in Kosovostill need to be “patient” before the final status of Kosovo is defined.
However, getting the Serbian government to agree to the plan is likely to be difficult. Last week the recently elected Serb Parliament rejected the plan ashas the country’s Prime Minister. The EU’s relations with Serbia have been frozen since May last year when the Commission and the Council suspended negotiations on a “Stabilisation and Association Agreement” covering political and trade links.
It was called off as Serbia was judged not to have been cooperating fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the search for war criminals.