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And the Kosovo Goes to... the International Community?

And the Kosovo Goes to... the International Community? Can Karpat, AIA Balkan section

Last Friday, Martti Ahtisaari, the UN representative and mediator for Kosovo, presented his proposal on the future of Kosovo to the Contact Group at a closed-door session in Vienna. Probably no independence, but a Dayton-like broad international engagement in Kosovo. At the end, it seems that Kosovo will get rid of Serbia - to go to . the international community? Meanwhile, the coalition negotiations have just begun in Serbia. As one Serbian minister put it, "it has never happened that a European state is requested to have its key issues discussed at a time when its government has not been set up". This is a grand première indeed .

The Kosovo well

Last Friday, Martti Ahtisaari, the UN representative and mediator for Kosovo, presented his proposal on the future of Kosovo to the Contact Group at a closed-door session in Vienna.

All that we know is that Ahtisaari's Kosovo status proposal focused on protecting minority rights and foresaw "a strong international civilian and military presence within a broader future international engagement in Kosovo". That was what he told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last Wednesday.

Of course what interests the public opinion is not this rather impenetrable and vague bureaucratic rhetoric. The main question is short and plain: at the end, independent or not independent?

Diplomats close to Ahtisaari state that "independence" as word does not appear in the document. Instead, the proposal intends to repeat the Dayton model, namely the establishment of an international administrator in Kosovo. As in Bosnia, there will be an international military presence backed up by NATO peacekeepers and a civilian one backed by the EU.

Martti Ahtisaari plans to present his proposal formally to the Serbs and Kosovo Albanians during his visits to Belgrade and Pristina on 2nd February. So as predicted, no one would be happy with the outcome.

The Kosovo Albanians have been assured by their politicians for years that the only possible outcome would be full independence. It was often said that this policy was quite perilous and unwise. Now the Kosovo Albanians would feel themselves frustrated by this proposal, which no doubt delivers them from Serbian control, though without turning their province into a sovereign state as they expected. What will be their reaction? Or rather let us put the question bluntly: will their reaction be peaceful or violent?

As to the Serbs, the proposal would mean nothing but unsaid independence for Kosovo, which is indeed the case. And all this during a most delicate period for Serbia: the post-elections period. The coalition bargain started yesterday. Would such a proposal push Serbia into the political abyss?

And finally, let us ask one final question: what on earth pushed the international community to such a hasty initiative? Crass ignorance of Balkan affairs? Political impatience? The traditional belittlement of the Balkans as "Europe's backyard"? Or all three of them?

As the outgoing Minister of State Administration and Local Governance, Zoran Loncar put it: "It has never happened that a European state is requested to have its key issues discussed at a time when its government has not been set up".

The elections riddle in Serbia

Last week the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) interim president Tomislav Nikolic stated: "The Radical Party is the winner but we shall not have the opportunity of forming a government. We are now going to see how the two parties, the Democrat Party [DS] and the Serb Democrat Party [DSS] will come together". An excellent example of Schadenfreude indeed!

As Nikolic put it, it is quite probable that to find a common ground between Boris Tadic's DS and Vojislav Kostunica's DSS will be a difficult task.

Apart the dispute over the prime minister chair, Kostunica declared that he will not accept any coalition government with the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) in it. Note that LDP is the only Serbian party which does not oppose to the independence of Kosovo.

Otherwise, the DSS top official Dragan Sormaz warned, new elections will have to be called. This was a rather premature warning anyway. Should we take it as a sign of DSS' bad faith?

Yet, as Vojislav Kostunica himself already stated, it is now up to the President to appoint the prime minister. It is expected that Boris Tadic designate the former finance minister Bozidar Djelic to this post. As to the second problem, it may be that this would not be that difficult to push aside.

No matter how or when, DS and DSS accompanied by other minor Serbian and minority parties would probably form the new government at the end. However, the question is not there.

The main question is: will a DS-DSS coalition government, though a pro-Western and democratic one, be functional enough to face the country's serious international and economic problems? Or will it be just a suspension of sentence - as sentence called SRS?

One last nuance, though. Many Europeans patronise the Serbs about the January elections, reproaching them for allowing the Radicals to be the winner. However, in comparison to the last general elections on 28th December 2003, DS marked + 10.3 points, while SRS only + 1.1 point. When one thinks of the serious domestic and international problems that this country does and will face, this result is in fact a promising one for the future.

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