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Serbo Journal

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Slovakia wants balanced Kosovo settlement

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT - Slovakia is one of the 15 members of the UN Security Council deciding on whether or not the new Kosovo status plan presented by Maarti Ahtisaari will be adopted and, if so, along what lines.

The UN special envoy's plan represents an open proposal but its author has already indicated that he has no intention of entering into lengthy negotiations with the two parties, but rather intends to conduct consultations, limited in time, on certain aspects of the deal. The process is set to culminate with the adoption of a new Security Council resolution, which is a prerequisite for the EU to step in and take over responsibility from the UN in Kosovo and for the presence of KFOR in the area to continue.

No new resolution, however, could lead to a set of unilateral acts whose direction is impossible to control. Several factors will influence Slovakia's position and priorities as we enter into the final act of the Kosovo drama and as we hear more about the Ahtisaari plan.

Slobodan Milosevic's liquidation policy towards Kosovo Albanians caused their exodus from Kosovo and prompted a NATO-led military intervention while the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 then placed Kosovo under interim UN administration. However, this move fell short of preventing the exodus of Serbs from Kosovo, most of whom never returned to the region. This was followed by the building of democratic institutions and several elections, often with the participation of Kosovar Serbs, followed by their boycott of the newly elected institutions.

Now the economy is in dire straits and unemployment rates are extremely high. The omnipresent ethnic tension is aggravated by occasional fatal incidents. This situation calls for massive civilian and military engagement by the international community. The status quo has ceased to be sustainable. While in 1999 Kosovo was faced with a number of different scenarios, the course of events gradually lead to a single one remaining today.

Under the supervision of the UN Security Council and the Contact Group, steps have been taken since 1999 to reinforce the de facto autonomy of Kosovo and its independence from Serbia. Serbia has no intention of agreeing to Kosovo's independence. A certain part of Slovakia's public as well as of its political forces support this stance since they see the matter as a separation of a territory against the will of the state.

However, Slovakia's public is equally aware of the fact that in order to attain its aim Belgrade is offering Kosovo unprecedented, almost absolute autonomy under the principle of minorities' collective rights - which is a model based on the principle that we deem unacceptable. The situation leaves open very few alternatives, none of which seems appealing. There is no ideal solution to it. Nevertheless, our first and foremost interest lies in a future solution that will enhance peace, stability and prosperity in the Balkans.

The outcome must not be a victory for one party and a defeat and humiliation of the other one. It must reflect reality, yet at the same it has to aim at providing a European perspective to the entire region. Therefore, today, EU member states must come together and unite both in finding a solution for Kosovo and in promoting a European perspective for Serbia, while giving some concessions.

This is our responsibility towards our national interests, but also towards our partners in the EU and our allies in NATO. Slovakia is in its second year on the UN Security Council and this month we also hold its presidency. Through our position on the issue of Kosovo, we must show that our country is mature enough to shoulder such responsibility.

The author is Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic.

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