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South Slavic: August 28, 2003

28 August 2003, Volume 5, Number 27


RFE/RL's Gezim Baxhaku interviews Shkelzen Maliqi, a veteran political analyst from Prishtina, who thinks that both Belgrade and Prishtina are obstructing the beginning of talks.

RFE/RL: Mr. Maliqi, the three leading institutions of Kosova recently rejected the latest statements from Belgrade that stress that Kosova is part of Serbia (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 and 27 June, and 15 and 22 August 2003). What do you think?

Shkelzen Maliqi: The latest developments amount to staking out positions before the beginning of the negotiations announced at the insistence of the international community, namely Brussels and New York.

I think that Prishtina and Belgrade are trying to predetermine the outcome of the talks, and maybe even to obstruct them. It seems that nobody really wants the talks to start. Both sides seem to be afraid.

I think that the institutions of Kosova were right about the Serbian government declaration. That document is actually an attempt to predetermine the status issue, which is an open question at the very least.

RFE/RL: Representatives of the international community nonetheless continue to stress that neither Prishtina nor Kosova will have the last word about the future of Kosova. If that is the case, then what is behind all of the statements, memorandums, and everything else that is coming out of Belgrade regarding Kosova?

Maliqi: It is true that at this moment neither Prishtina nor Belgrade can make decisions regarding Kosova's future. NATO's military intervention has taken place and Kosova is an international protectorate. That is why the sovereignty of former Yugoslavia and Serbia over Kosova was suspended and transferred to the UN Security Council, which is now supposed to make the final decision about the status of Kosova, or at least to define a procedure that would lead to that.

Of course, talks and negotiations must take place first, and Prishtina and Belgrade will be asked to express their views about the future status of Kosova. But the main factor here is the citizens of Kosova, since their future is at stake, not Belgrade's or Serbia's.

RFE/RL: There is no doubt that the people of Kosova and their institutions are determined to make Kosova independent. By the same token, there is no doubt that the realization of that aim largely depends of the work of those institutions and their ability to govern Kosova, leading it toward democracy and a market economy. How serious do you think they are about it?

Maliqi: The transfer of power has begun, but Kosova's institutions are still young. There are two centers of power, and the internationals are reluctant to let go of what they have. The process of transferring power is nonetheless likely to pick up speed, and Kosova should acquire a high degree of self-administration -- as it is called in technical terminology -- by the end of the year or in the foreseeable future.

The point is that international funds for Kosova are drying up. [The UN Mission in Kosova] UNMIK and all the others are taking radical steps to reduce their staffs here.

I expect the attitude of insisting on standards before determining status to be modified to a certain extent (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 20 June, and 1 August 2003). Of course, Kosova should meet some standards. But without the resolution of its status, including the full competence and responsibility of the governing bodies, those standards will never be achieved.

That, I think, is the balance that needs to be struck between some extremists in Belgrade and some extremists in Kosova, who are very impatient for independence.

RFE/RL: Interestingly, both Prishtina and Belgrade cite [UN Security Council] Resolution 1244 when talking about their rights. How can those two completely opposite positions both be backed up by the same resolution?

Maliqi: Unfortunately, it is both Kosova's basic document and a sort of compromise.

What I consider essential is that, for the time being, the resolution has suspended the sovereignty of Serbia and Yugoslavia -- which does not exist anymore -- over Kosova. Now sovereignty needs to be redefined, and the population of Kosova should be allowed the right to self-determination.

Technically, that is still not possible, but within the Contact Group [of major powers dealing with the Balkans] and international diplomatic circles, nobody has illusions anymore that Kosova is anything but a clear case for self-determination.

There are still other problems, [including attempts to link the Kosova issue with that of Bosnia. What Belgrade probably wants by raising the Kosova issue is compensation in the Republika Srpska]....

RFE/RL: To what extent does the political noise coming from Serbia affect the atmosphere for any talks between Belgrade and Prishtina?

Maliqi: I do not find it helpful. Both sides are very nervous. Reactionary forces -- especially those in Serbia -- do influence state policy. I find it counterproductive, especially compared to what I think the assassinated Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic intended to do in order to resolve the Kosova problem as soon as possible.