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Kosovo: Constitution Born Amid Fears Of Turmoil

Kosovar Serbs showing public support for the Serbian national anthem in February (AFP) When Kosovo's parliament chose a new national anthem from three finalists in a gala session this week, it was supposed to be one of the finishing touches on the newly independent country's fledgling statehood.

But amid the fanfare surrounding Kosovo's birth as the world's newest state, and the anticipation over the adoption on its new constitution on June 15, lurks a deep apprehension that renewed instability could be just around the corner.

The air of uncertainty, analysts say, is being fueled by doubts about the extent of the Pristina government's authority and confusion over the role of international institutions.

"I hope that the days after June 15 will be quiet and that there will be no drama," says Alex Anderson, Kosovo Project director at the International Crisis Group (ICG). "Certainly I think it is unrealistic to expect an expansion of the Kosovo government all over Kosovo and into every area of governance of Kosovo."

Serbia is pursuing a two-pronged strategy to undermine Kosovo's independence. On the ground, Belgrade is moving to consolidate authority over northern Kosovo, an ethnic-Serbian area in what is otherwise an overwhelmingly ethnic-Albanian country. And via its ally Russia -- which wields a veto on the UN Security Council -- Serbia is trying to block the deployment of a new EU mission to establish the rule of law in Kosovo.

Parts of northern Kosovo held unsanctioned local elections on May 11, the same day as Serbia's general election. A coalition of nationalists and socialists is now moving to establish a Kosovo Serb parliament in the area.

In a recent interview, Marko Jaksic, president of the Community of Serb Municipalities and Enclaves in Kosovo, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service that Serbs in the north consider the area to be under Belgrade's rule.

"We Serbs do not recognize this monster state. We believe that only one constitution can be legal on Serbian territory, and that is the constitution adopted in Serbia," Jaksic said. "We will organize ourselves based on the results of the May 11 elections."

Tough Choices

Despite the fact that Kosovo's government has virtually no authority in the north, officials in Pristina insist that they are the area's de jure rulers and -- despite Belgrade's dominance now -- that it is only a matter of time before they exert their control over the north.

"The rule of law, as determined by Kosovo's constitution and the laws passed by Kosovo's parliament, will dominate," Kosovar Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuqi says. "There is no other law and there is no space for other governing bodies. There are only illusions, but these illusions will very soon come face-to-face with reality."

Many Balkan-watchers believe that nationalist elements in Serbia are trying to partition Kosovo by gradually seizing control over the north and, in the process, undermining Pristina's authority and presenting the world with a fait accompli. The strategy, analysts say, leaves the Kosovar authorities with few good options.

"This will have an impact because it will not allow Kosovo's constitution to be enacted over all of its territory," Pristina-based political analyst Driton Lajci argues. "The government and people of Kosovo are faced with a dilemma. To attack these structures is impossible. To work with them is unacceptable at this time."

Not all Serbian officials, however, favor Belgrade's strategy. Serbian politicians have been unable to form a government in Belgrade after the inconclusive elections on May 11. President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party, which is hoping to lead a coalition government, is urging that any moves in Kosovo wait until a new cabinet is formed.

"We will wait for a new Serbian government to be formed," says Goran Bogdanovic, president of the Kosovo branch of the Democratic Party. "This government needs to form its position on Kosovo. It needs to decide whether this is good for all Serbs in Kosovo. This is the most important thing."

Brussels Tussle

Further complicating Kosovo's future are efforts by Serbia's ally, Russia, to block a new European Union mission from fully deploying to the country.

When Kosovo declared independence in February, part of the plan was for the European Union to take over policing duties from the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), whose mandate is set to expire on June 15. The EU mission is considered key to establishing stability and security in the early phase of Kosovo's independence.

But by threatening to use its veto in the UN Security Council against authorizing the EU mission, Russia has been able to block the handover. Russia and Serbia oppose the EU mission, analysts say, because they will have far less influence over it than they do over the existing UN mission.

EU officials announced in May that the bloc's EULEX police mission would not be able to deploy until September at the earliest. On June 12, NATO moved to fill the gap by agreeing to broaden their peacekeeping mission in Kosovo to include training the country's security forces.

NATO officials say this can be done under the alliance's current UN-sanctioned mandate in Kosovo, thus circumventing a Russian veto on the UN Security Council.

"We have agreed today to implement NATO's new tasks in Kosovo. With this decision, NATO will be able to assist Kosovo in building necessary democratic security institutions," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a meeting of the alliance's defense ministers in Brussels.

In another effort to evade a Russian veto of the EU mission, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced a "reconfiguration" of UNMIK to give the EU more authority over police, courts, and other duties.

Observers say the move would effectively allow the EU mission to operate under a "UN umbrella," avoiding the need for a fresh UN Security Council resolution that Russia would likely veto.

Russia responded angrily to the move, calling for the dismissal of UNMIK chief Joachim Ruecker for conspiring to reduce the role of the UN mission without approval from the Security Council.

RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service contributed to this report

Video: Northern Kosovo's Divided City

Video: Northern Kosovo's Divided City
One half of the city of Mitrovica is Serbian, the other Albanian. When Kosovo proclaimed its independence from Serbia in mid-February, it left one side jubilant and the other side angry.

Video: Part II -- 'A Dream Come True'

Video: Part III -- 'Kosovo Is Still Serbia'

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