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Yugoslavia: OSCE, NATO, And UN Planning Kosovo Resettlement

Vienna, 20 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- As efforts to bring an end to the conflict in Kosovo gather speed, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is developing plans for creating a new civil society in the province.

Officials at OSCE headquarters in Vienna say provisional discussions have already begun on creating a new police force in Kosovo. Other OSCE officials are looking into the whole question of institution-building, covering not only the creation of a provisional government but also other institutions such as local authorities and a judiciary.

OSCE spokeswoman Melissa Fleming says the planning is purely provisional at the moment because NATO and European governments have yet to decide which international organizations will be given responsibilities in postwar Kosovo. "We assume that OSCE will have a large role, given our experience in Bosnia," Fleming said. "But there are no concrete proposals so far."

A United Nations spokesman in Geneva told RFE/RL today he expects that the task of creating a postwar civil society in Kosovo would be given largely to the OSCE and UN in cooperation with other bodies.

The OSCE has already begun a program to issue the refugees in Albania and Macedonia with identity cards. The technology was donated by the U.S. computer giant, Microsoft. OSCE officials involved in the program believe the identity cards could also be useful when registering voters for elections in Kosovo. Serb police seized the identity documents of many ethnic Albanian refugees before they fled across the borders into Albania and Macedonia.

The OSCE has already created a planning group to consider how to create a new local police force in Kosovo. Most experts believe that about 3,000 ethnic Albanians will be needed for the police. The OSCE sent a team of experts to Albania and Macedonia this week to discuss with local authorities there the problems of creating a police force. OSCE officials said it was possible the team would also talk to former police officers among the refugees.

The UN and some NATO countries have suggested that initially local police responsibilities might be handled by an international police force. They have suggested that about 1,000 or more international police officers should accompany the international peacekeeping force which is expected to move into Kosovo as soon as a peace deal becomes effective.

OSCE experts told RFE/RL that experience in Bosnia showed that creation of a provisional government followed by elections could be a lengthy process. Most assume that the first provisional government will be a coalition of different groups.

In Brussels, NATO officials said today they expect the return of the refugees and the restoration of order in Serbia would be a far bigger problem than first envisaged.

An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that NATO had drawn up peacekeeping plans during the political negotiations earlier this year which led to the Rambouillet conference, which failed. They had set timetables for demilitarization, for local elections and other problems. But he said that all those plans had fallen apart when Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic expelled tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians and destroyed many of their villages.

NATO now believes that it will need many more engineers, technicians, police and others than it originally planned. Just as in Albania and Macedonia where NATO soldiers have built camps for refugees, so it is likely that much of the early recovery work in Kosovo will be done by NATO's military forces.

The NATO official said the original plans for the international peacekeeping force have had to be broadened because of the conflict.

Homes and businesses owned by ethnic Albanians have been destroyed by Serb forces and, in many cases, burned to the ground. NATO bombing has destroyed roads, bridges and rail lines. The bombs have also destroyed many Yugoslav army barracks which might have been useful as temporary shelters for returning refugees.

All international groups -- the UN, OSCE and NATO -- agree that the return of the refugees may turn out to be a major headache. Around 780,000 are believed to have fled the country.

The NATO spokesman said today that "a massive surge" of ethnic Albanians back to their homes after a ceasefire could disrupt the deployment of the peacekeeping force and the establishment of order. He said NATO was also concerned that retreating Serb forces might leave land mines which would have to be cleared before the refugees safety could be guaranteed.

On the other hand, NATO and OSCE recognize the problems, including possible unrest, if the refugees are forcibly prevented from returning to their homes and lands.

"A peace settlement is something we all want," said the NATO official. "But it will take longer than many think to give the people a proper homeland."