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Kosovo: Premier Says Independence Shouldn't Be 'Bargained For'

Bajram Kosumi (file photo) (epa) Interview with Kosova's prime minister, Bajram Kosumi, by Arbana Vidishiqi of the Kosova Subunit of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service.

RFE/RL: Mr. Prime Minister, the negotiation group held its third meeting since its formation. Don't you think this group should work harder, at a time when international factors have intensified their efforts to prepare the beginning of status talks?

Kosumi: Well, the group took an important step. We have agreed to establish a political group, which will be close to Kosova's delegation on all vital issues. This political group will be represented by leaders from the political parties, capable of proposing to Kosova's delegation basic lines of politics and preserving the principles of political programs, which will result in documents for Kosova's final status. We have also agreed that in all of these groups, representatives of other ethnic communities, groups, and political parties should be represented and take an active role. This is the first important step. This group will also very soon propose to Kosova's delegation the platform for status talks, which will then be approved in Kosova's parliament. So, everything has started to move, these important decisions have been made by Kosova's delegation and now everyone is working with all possible energy to prepare Kosova for the status talks.

RFE/RL: The international community has basically two requests for Kosova's institutions: a unified Kosovar political spectrum and the creation of better living conditions for the Serbian minority. Specifically, what is Kosova's government offering Kosova's Serbs?

Kosumi: Our offer for Kosova's Serbs, as for all other important issues in the Kosova process, is based on European principles established during the last century, on which European democratic societies function to this day. This means, full equality for all the citizens of Kosova, regardless of their color, race, religion, or language. We've always said Kosova is a state of Kosovar citizens, including those who belong to other ethnic communities, and not only Albanians. Also, an independent Kosova will be able to give constitutional guarantees for preserving the cultural and ethnic values and identities of all minority ethnic groups. This is the basics that differentiate Kosova's concept -- for solving these issues -- from Belgrade's medieval concept, which is on the table for more than 20 years now, the concept of ethnic boundaries, ethnic enclaves and corridors. This concept has ignited wars in former Yugoslavia and inflicted a lot of damage on Western civilization.

RFE/RL: One of the main challenges you will probably face during the negotiating process is the situation in the city of Mitrovica, in northern Kosova. Do you have a plan for this city, which remains divided (into Albanian and Serbian parts) even six years after the war?

Kosumi: I think it is clear by now to everyone that there is only one way of solving some of the issues in the north of Kosova. This plan is the reintegration of this part of Kosova in all of the structures of society and governance. There can be no other plan, no other solution. This has been confirmed by Contact Group as well, during its meeting in April and the 2 November meeting in Washington, by saying there can be no changes or territorial partition within Kosova. Still, we need to prepare the details of a reintegration plan for that part of Kosova. Kosova is in any case too small for any kind of partition. Serbs in that part of Kosova will enjoy all the rights according to all international conventions, including the Copenhagen documents [EU criteria on the treatment of ethnic minorities], but the Serbs need to be a part of an integral place called Kosova.

RFE/RL: The negotiations are expected to be led by [former Finnish President] Marti Ahtisaari, as the UN special envoy for the status talks. What exactly do you expect from Mr. Ahtisaari and from the whole process of negotiation for that matter?

Kosumi: For me, there is three main issues in all this process and of course I expect Mr. Ahtisaari and the Contact Group to lead this process in the right direction. One: Kosova's citizens must enjoy their own right to have their own state, to create their own democracy, economic prosperity, and to create their own future. This is a basic postulate of every initiative, every negotiation, and every move in this direction. Two: in Kosova, as a state, should be created a governing mechanism, which would be functional and enable us to be careful of any kind of impact and the creation of mechanisms, which would maybe hamper the functioning of the state of Kosova, its development and prosperity. Something similar to this happened in Bosnia. Three: this state of Kosova will positively affect and create peace and stability with all neighboring countries, including Serbia, and will definitely help in establishing peace and stability in the region.

RFE/RL: Lately, a concern has been raised by certain circles over the possibility of destabilization during the negotiating process. Do you share these concerns?

Kosumi: As long as there are forces that do not want Kosova's status to be resolved, they will tend to destabilize the process. We have to be prepared to expect such things, they will happen. It is the responsibility of Mr. Ahtisaari and Contact Group members, but also of politicians in Kosova, to face these difficulties. Whatever they might be, whatever the obstructions, whatever the crisis, be they prolonged talks, clinical death of the negotiations, or actions by extremist groups, the forces interested in resolving Kosova's status are much stronger and bigger then those groups, political groups that tend to hamper the process. We have to be decisive, once the process has begun, we should finish it up fairly quickly, in order to avoid any problems or destabilization, we have to complete it successfully.

RFE/RL: One of the options mentioned as a possible result of the status talks is "conditional independence." Does the government of Kosova see this option as a compromise, for which there has been some talk lately?

Kosumi: No. I don't believe we should make compromises and bargain for Kosova's independence. Kosova should be independent, like all other countries in the region and should have as much sovereignty as those countries. We can go a step further and reach an agreement with NATO or Brussels to get some further help in fields where we need help, support and share our responsibilities together. In the security sector, we need an extensive NATO presence in Kosova. In other fields, we also need advice, support, supervision of the process, but not its administration. We will administrate the process, we will have full authority in this direction and we will not be conditioned, in a negative sense of the word, with anything, because that would obstruct Kosova's economic development in the future.

RFE/RL: Finally, you have been named to the position of prime minister under difficult circumstances, compared to your predecessors. Do you agree?

Kosumi: I believe so. My coming to this post, the circumstances, the dynamics, the important phase in Kosova's history when its status is being decided, have made more difficult, even more complicated, the job of Kosova's prime minister. Anyone in my place would have had the same dynamics and the same difficulties. But, at the same time, allow me to say that it's an honor, not only for me as prime minister, but for all the people of Kosova, for all these generations to live through this most historic time for Kosova. Around 3 million Kosovar citizens are the authors of a creation that will live for centuries and will bring joy to others for centuries.

RFE/RL Balkan Report

RFE/RL Balkan Report


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