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Kosovo: RFE/RL Speaks With UN Special Envoy Kai Eide --> RFE/RL correspondent Ilirjana A. Bajo spoke this week with Kai Eide, UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan's special envoy to Kosovo and Norwegian ambassador to NATO.

RFE/RL: Ambassador Eide, how would you describe the main findings of your report that you already handed to Secretary-General Annan?

Eide: The main findings are mixed. What I found were significant achievements in some areas, such as building of institutions and establishment of legal framework. We must remember that back in 1999 there was, in fact, nothing and there was a need to start from the very ground. So I think in this respect there have been some very significant achievements. And then there are some very, very important shortcomings. The justice system is very weak; the question of respect for rule of law is weak too. There is no doubt about that. Regarding interethnic problems, I believe very little has happened and the reconciliation process has not yet started.

RFE/RL: To remain in the same topic, after your experience in the field, what are the strong points and weakness of Kosovar society, although you already mentioned some of them?

Eide: I will give you an outline. There are institutions in place, which work, not perfectly, but they work. There is also a system for delivering of services to people almost across all over Kosovo. The health and education systems are in place. These take tremendous energy and efforts to put in place. These are the main achievements. But I also mentioned the shortfalls that exist, and they are very serious.

RFE/RL: Ambassador Eide, UN Secretary-General Annan has said that he is likely to recommend the opening of status talks. How do you see this process?

Eide: This is not really up to me, but what I have said in my report is that we all have to move forward with some cautions and not rush into to the process and not rush through the process. I think the process in Kosova will be very, very different compared to Bosnia-Herzegovina or any other places of former Yugoslavia. So I think there is a good need to take the time required and not set any artificial deadlines but to go into negotiations with patience and calm. I hope that it can happen. It is very important that all parties are brought into the process and brought through the process. Once the process has started it cannot be blocked by anybody and it has to come to its conclusions. These are my main considerations. In this regard I can repeat: don't rush, take the time required, and have results that really contribute to stability of the region.

RFE/RL: How do you see the role of different international players involved in this process?

Eide: My task was limited to determining if the time has come to initiate the future-status process. My task was not to judge what the final outcome would be. Regarding my task, I can say there is never any ideal moment for starting the process of future status. Even it's never a good moment for such steps, but I believe that the time has come. Since last year, there is a different dynamic in Kosovo. There is a political process going on and it will be wrong even counterproductive to stop this process.

Secondly I think we must acknowledge that not much more could probably be achieved regarding standards implementation if we postpone the talks for few months. But the most important is that standards implementation continues and serious efforts are made to improve the situation in areas where improvement is needed. I have seen reactions of Kosovar Albanian leaders recently where they acknowledge the shortcomings and they must react upon. The third important issues is that everybody needs clarity: Kosovar Albanians need clarity, Kosovar Serbs need clarity so they can make a decision if they want to return to Kosovo or not. I think the whole region needs clarity. I think the international community as such needs clarity at this time when it is still present in Kosovo at sufficient strengths. I must say that my belief is that even Belgrade needs clarity. This is a question that always has been difficult for Belgrade, it will be difficult whenever this issue is handled, but I think time has come.

RFE/RL: To remain at the regional dimension of the Kosovo issue, how do you see the approaches taken by Tirana, Skopje, and even Belgrade in that matter?

Eide: First, we have the directly involved parties, such as Prishtina and Belgrade. Kosovar Serbs have to be involved in a sufficient way and consultations have to take place with other communities in Kosovo. In addition to that, I think it is important that Skopje and Tirana in particular, but also other neighbor states, are brought in in the sense that they must be consulted, must be listened to, and the process must explained to them, because we need their support for the process and the settlement. So we can be sure that settlement is stable and sustainable.

RFE/RL: Mr. Eide, do you see any relation between the future status of Kosovo and the future of Montenegro, when Podgorica has made it clear that it will hold a referendum on independence next year?

Eide: I am not going into that at all. Montenegro falls outside of my mandate. I concentrated uniquely on Kosovo and its regional implications. But I have not had any mandate to go into the Montenegro issue.

Interview by Ilirjana A. Bajo

For RFE/RL's full coverage of Kosovo, see News And Features On Kosovo

For RFE/RL's full coverage of Montenegro, see News And Features On Montenegro