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Yugoslavia: Kosovo Government Funds Again Prove Divisive

Kosovo's unofficial parliament yesterday missed a deadline to dissolve, despite a prior agreement with the UN administration. RFE/RL's Jolyon Naegele reports that a key reason for the delay was disagreement over the fate of millions of dollars the government had collected from ethnic Albanians abroad.

Prague, 1 February 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A new joint administration was supposed to take office in Kosovo yesterday (Tuesday) to replace two competing, unrecognized ethnic-Albanian governments and self-appointed local authorities.

But one of the unofficial Kosovo governments, that of Ibrahim Rugova, refused to dissolve on Monday, saying it needs more time to decide what to do with funds it collected from ethnic Albanians abroad. A spokesperson for the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, said the administration will be implemented gradually.

Democratization and institution-building in Kosovo is the responsibility of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is operating in Kosovo under the aegis of the UN administration.

The head of the OSCE's operations in Kosovo, Dan Evert, tells RFE/RL (Pristina correspondent Evliana Berani) that the establishment of the Joint Interim Administrative Structure is "a very important, historic development."

"We leave behind us, hopefully, a period with rather confusing governance -- UNMIK. But there were also parallel structures. Now we have combined the energies. We have combined the resources and we should from now on jointly administer the area. So, hopefully, this is the beginning of a promising future."

This beginning, however, has been delayed because Rugova's prime minister, Bujar Bukoshi, has refused to transfer to UNMIK the tens of millions of dollars his government has collected during the last decade. The unofficial government, which was formed in exile in 1991 and only returned to Kosovo after Belgrade withdrew its forces last June, raised funds mainly through a voluntary 3 percent tax levied on Kosovo Albanians living abroad.

Pristina's Private Radio 21 quotes Bukoshi as saying his government's fund had collected the equivalent of $130 million in various currencies. Of that sum, he said the government had spent the equivalent of $103 million on defense and other activities.

Bukoshi said his government was suspending its activity effective on Feb. 1. But he said the mandate of delegates to his parliament should remain valid till new elections in Kosovo.

Evert says last December's agreement with Kosovo's disparate Albanian groups establishing the joint administration set down guidelines to merge the various groups' funds.

"That also means that separate ways of raising revenue and imposing taxes and spending money should now stop. It should become part of the same joint structure. So we must hope that whatever has been raised in the past will be made available to Kosovo at large, that means to the structure."

Another self-declared government in the province, that of former Kosovo Liberation Army leader Hashim Thaci, has dissolved itself in line with the UN's power-sharing agreement. It remains unclear what Thaci intends to do with money collected by his government.

The joint administration was agreed upon by UNMIK and Kosovo's Albanian political movements last December. At that time, Kosovo's Serbian community boycotted the new structure, saying Serbs had not been consulted. But Kosovo Serbian leaders now say they are close to joining the new government.

Evert says the international community "hopes and counts on" the Serbs' and other minorities' becoming full partners in the new government.

"It is their rightful place. They have a place, of course, in Kosovo, and a boycott of the administration would not be in the self-interest of the Serb community or others. So we are very keenly looking forward to have them share responsibilities in the new structure."

The joint administration will be an umbrella for 19 departments that will be run jointly by local leaders and UN administrators. It will be headed by a four-member Interim Administrative Council.

"So it will be a joint responsibility with very clearly identified persons who are in charge -- in charge of health, in charge of agriculture, in charge of energy, in charge of budget. So it will be very clear and transparent. That is the main gain for the population."

Evert says establishing the Joint Interim Administrative Structure should provide "a much clearer picture of who is responsible and who is accountable for the state of affairs" in Kosovo.

(Evliana Berani of the South Slavic Service contributed to this report.)