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Balkan Report: October 7, 2005

7 October 2005, Volume 9, Number 27

The next issue of "RFE/RL Balkan Report" will appear on 14 October.

KOSOVA: U.S. MISSION HEAD TALKS TO RFE/RL ABOUT STATUS ISSUE. RFE/RL's Kosova subunit recently spoke to Philip Goldberg, the chief of mission at the U.S. Office Prishtina, about the issue of Kosova's status. The province's majority ethnic Albanians want independence from Serbia, while Belgrade supports a position of "more than autonomy, but less than independence." According to a recent Reuters report, Kai Eide, who is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for Kosova, said that his planned report on the province's readiness for final status talks will be delayed by "several more weeks" in order to put pressure on Prishtina and Belgrade to better implement the international community's standards for Kosova.

RFE/RL: Mr. Goldberg, Kosova seems to be just ahead of the international process of status definition. Exactly when do you think this process will begin?

Philip Goldberg: I can't say with absolute certainty, but I would expect that Ambassador Eide is in the process of wrapping up his report. That, if it is positive, will be the trigger from moving on to the final status process, first naming an envoy, a special envoy of the secretary-general of the UN. The United States has said that it is very much interested in providing a deputy for that team. So I hope that this process will begin during the fall.

RFE/RL: How do you see this process, this way of defining the status? Through a conference similar to Dayton or Rambouillet? Through "shuttle diplomacy," or through some other ways?

Goldberg: A lot of this will have to do with decisions taken by the envoy; what is his and his team's view of how best to structure these talks. And I think it is impossible at the moment to say exactly what structure it will take. What I know is, that at the beginning it will involve some sort of discussion with the parties involved to help set that framework.

RFE/RL: In your latest [public] appearances you have raised the need for political leaders to prepare for status talks. Until now, how much have they done this?

Goldberg: I would say very little. There have been a lot of discussions and some skirmishing in the forum, about how to organize. But it has really been just that, just talk. It hasn't really been a serious preparation for final status. You are quite right, that I have been quite strongly advising that people prepare for this moment. It is going to be one of the most important moments in Kosovo's history and the people here need to be well represented. You know there are people who are saying this isn't going to be a negotiation. Well, it is. Even if you take as your premise a certain position in the final status, which we all know on this side [Kosovo] means independence, on the other side [Belgrade] means something else. There are still a whole lot of issues that flow from that issue. For example, what are the rights and obligations of certain communities here; decentralization and how that will have an effect on the future of Kosovo; the north of Kosovo and what will happen there, because we all know that there has been a different reality there than in the rest of Kosovo in the last six years; issues having to do with debts and privatization, all of the technical issues that are involved. These are hugely complicated issues, including that of the role of the international community here, after final status is determined. It will be a lot better if the people on this side show the maturity and the political will to make those decisions themselves and try to engage the international community and Belgrade when necessary, on issues of vital importance for the people here.

RFE/RL: One of the main issues that will follow the process of status definition is the issue of interethnic relations and minorities. On one side, [ethnic] Albanian leaders claim that the Serbian community is not ready to integrate and is not accepting the new reality in Kosova. On the other side, the Serbian representatives say Kosova's institutions are not offering enough to be integrated. What would your comment be?

Goldberg: My comment would be that both sides need to do more to try to create a future that will allow minorities to have a safe and secure life in Kosovo. The majority needs to accept that there are minorities here, who have every right to live in safety, security, with their own language, with their own culture. That, in many ways, is part of the decentralization effort to assure that by putting a policy behind the rhetoric. I think that the institutions need to be more welcoming of minorities and more willing to offer opportunities to people. I think safety and security is not yet what we would like. Part of it is a problem of perception, in Serbian areas especially, that they are not welcome.... Part of it is psychological, but still more needs to be done by the majority to reach out to the Serbian community.

For example, when [Kosovo's] Prime Minister [Bajram Kosumi] a few months ago started to go to some Serbian areas and speak to communities and assure them that their future was secure and that the majority, the [ethnic] Albanian population, really wanted to make a gesture and actually live in harmony, that was a very good step. We would like to see a lot more of that. I haven't seen much of it in the most recent weeks, so I would like to see much more of it. On the Serbian side, there has been a feeling that somehow everything will be presented to them, a state of perfection, and then maybe they will consider being involved in the institutions. Well that's not right either. We have argued and we will continue to argue that the path to reconciliation, the path to living together, means working together. And it doesn't mean boycotting the institutions, it doesn't mean "you give us freedom of movement, you give us all of the things we are demanding and then maybe we will come into [these] institutions." You have to work together, you have to work for those things. So I think both sides need to do more.

RFE/RL: Lately, the issue of compromise has been raised by different circles, but the Kosovar Albanian leaders claim that independence is a compromise. Belgrade, though, insists on the formula "more than autonomy, less than independence." What do you think about it?

Goldberg: Compromise is important and will be necessary on both sides, on all sides I should say. Compromise basically means that you are not going to get everything that you want. I think that is readily apparent here on this side, and I think it will be apparent in Belgrade as well. We are going to face many difficult issues. Not the least being the one that you mentioned about the divergence in views in Belgrade and Prishtina about the final status issue.

RFE/RL: You mentioned earlier the role of the international community after status is defined. How do you see that role?

Goldberg: I see it as having to be determined quite frankly, but what I do know and what we all agree on, is that the path for the Balkans generally and Kosovo specifically, is towards Europe. And we would like to see and I think the Europeans would like to see a very heavily weighted international presence towards Europe, meaning the European Union. The United States of course will be involved, and what the actual arrangements are remain to be determined. It also has to be done in a way that has locals buy in...but also that protects the rights of minorities and the whole construct that comes from the final status process. So it is going to be complicated as I say and it is not something you can say in a vacuum. But I think what we do know is, in areas like judiciary and in areas that require a continued international presence, after the final status decision, that we will do it in a way that is not top-down necessarily, [as] the international community, as has been the case in the last six years, is running Kosovo, but rather more of a partnership, one that leads Kosovo towards those European institutions and integration with the rest of the region.

RFE/RL: Let's change the topic of our conversation a little and talk about the everyday problems Kosova's citizens face, such as the poor economy. What do you think needs to be done for the economy to be developed to a satisfying level for everybody?

Goldberg: There are few areas, few sectors, where the economy could very quickly improve. Everybody knows, for example, that a new electrical facility is going to be needed here. That is going to require international lending, international help that process become a reality. And that probably can't be achieved until the final status issue is resolved and there is more definition about Kosovo's future. But almost immediately jobs can be created from that, but more importantly electricity, if generated in a few years from a new plant, will also result in increasing revenues for the treasury of Kosovo....

[Also] property claims have to be resolved in a way and quickly, so that the agricultural output here is increased, so you're not importing only so many of your foodstuffs from outside of Kosovo. There is no reason for it when there is good land here. Those are two areas where things can start fairly quickly. From the privatization of the mines, jobs can be created. We know that, for example, in the privatization of Ferronikel [mining-metallurgical giant], 1,700 jobs can be created fairly quickly in a period of about three years. And yet there is nothing but political objections raised to do that and all kinds of obstacles that Kosovars put in the way of this, not the internationals. So Kosovars need to get out of the way and see that there are good things out there too and not just to object to everything on political grounds, because if that is the case, people will be disappointed. And I think finally people should realize that the status issue is not some sort of miracle for the economy. It is going to take hard work. For example, a university that functions well and produces graduates who are capable and come into the workforce well trained, it means competing against other places and producing things here, that can be done more efficiently and more cost effectively than in other places. The international economy is as it is. Kosovo is going to have to adjust to it, it isn't going to adjust to Kosovo.

RFE/RL: The poor [state of the] economy is usually cited by experts as one of the reasons behind corruption and organized crime. Does Kosova have that problem?

Goldberg: We all are concerned about the problems of corruption and crime here.... Kosovo's, and quite frankly the region's, most recent history -- in Serbia there were sanctions, here there was war and other dislocations -- has caused all kinds of criminal enterprises to take advantage of the poor economic situation. So yes, we are concerned about that and people need to be aware of it. And as time goes by and as the economy develops, we hope and we expect, and as laws are observed more, that those enterprises will be pushed aside.

(Interview by Arbana Vidishiqi)

U.S. SAYS KOSOVA'S REFORMS MUST CONTINUE THROUGH STATUS TALKS. On 30 September, RFE/RL Washington correspondent Robert McMahon discussed progress in Kosovo with Rosemary DiCarlo, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs.

RFE/RL: At this point, is it a safe bet to assume that the final status talks will begin by December?

DiCarlo: Basically what I can say is we are awaiting now the results of a comprehensive report carried out by Ambassador Kai Eide, who is Norway's permanent representative to NATO. He was appointed by Secretary-General [Kofi] Annan to do so. We are awaiting Eide's report and then the final recommendation of the secretary-general. If that report deems, and if the secretary-general accepts the recommendation, that enough progress has been made on implementation of standards, then we would assume that future status talks would be launched and, conceivably, since the report is due shortly, conceivably they could be launched by the end of the year but we need to see the results of that report.

RFE/RL: It is the secretary-general's recommendation, but it is also, obviously, the Contact Group and the Security Council members, some of whom are in the Contact Group. How much are they weighing in right now with their views, or are they all sort of waiting for this as well?

DiCarlo: The Contact Group meets frequently, and we are a member, so we meet and discuss things frequently. And we have been following the issues considerably according to UN Security Council Resolution No. 1244, it's the secretary-general who makes the recommendation and determination. I think that we all agree that progress has been made on the ground in Kosovo. It's a question of whether the progress is sufficient at this point or not. But we've seen a number of things happen over the last couple of years -- the implementation of laws, attempts at greater decentralization, things that basically would enable Kosovo to be a multiethnic society and function quite properly respecting the rights of minorities. So some progress has been made, and we know that additional progress needs to be made as well.

RFE/RL: On that note, it was about a year ago -- a little longer -- that Mr. Eide released his initial report, summing things up, which served basically as a catalyst for, I think, hastening the timetable. What can you say about the impact that report and the ensuing process has had on the standards process?

DiCarlo: It's had a very positive impact. I think it's clear that standards need to be met for Kosovo really to move forward in any capacity. There are a number of things that had to be done, and Eide pointed to them and was very clearly focused on some of the things that needed to be focused on.

We have, as I said, seen some progress. I think that there is a sense in the international community that we cannot leave the undefined status of Kosovo -- we can't maintain the status quo -- that there is a need to determine what the future status would be, provided indeed that some progress has been made.

RFE/RL: You have these sort of locked positions on both sides -- they are barely talking to each other -- and yet by year's end they may be in a situation where they have to be engaged in pretty intense talks. It really seems to be an almost irreconcilable thing and yet you have major players involved, so that leaves some hope.

DiCarlo: There is a lot of hope, and I think there is some dialogue going on now, which is good, and we would encourage continued dialogue no matter when talks are launched. So you have, as you pointed out, major players, you have the UN involved, you have four of the five [permanent] members of Security Council involved in the Contact Group, the European Union -- so you have a number of major players that are willing to facilitate this dialogue.

RFE/RL: Also, there are other factors that might have an impact. The illness of [Kosovar] President [Ibrahim] Rugova -- does that concern you in terms of his ability to be part of this? Obviously, he's a key player with charisma and local sway, and so forth.

DiCarlo: Well, he certainly is a key player. He has the moral authority. We understand he is playing a role now. He has just named a team of unity and it includes the current government, a few key government officials with opposition leaders to be the negotiation team if indeed talks are launched this year.

RFE/RL: It's a four-member team?

DiCarlo: It's four members. The prime minister, the president... Actually, I think it is more than four. Five or six. Prime minister, president, head of the parliament, and then leaders of the two major opposition parties. That's my understanding.

RFE/RL: So you're encouraged that he can still play a role, that he's not too incapacitated at this point?

DiCarlo: We are encouraged he can play a role, yes.

RFE/RL: In terms of the region, you have a new government in Albania that obviously can be very influential in this process. What kind of conflicts has the U.S. administration had with Albania, as well as with the Albanians in Kosovo?

DiCarlo: We have a very active embassy on ground in Tirana, and we met with the new government leaders in New York when they were here for the UN General Assembly. So we have had meetings with Prime Minister [Sali] Berisha, President [Alfred] Moisiu and Foreign Minister Besnik Mustafaj and have received their assurances that they will play a constructive role over the coming months if indeed talks are launched.

RFE/RL: Now they are talking about something like "conditional independence" or something along those lines. This is coming out in some other comments you see from people involved in the process. I realize you don't want to prejudge anything, but is it safe to say that some kind of international supervision will be part of the process going forward as these talk take place and as people are looking toward an end game?

DiCarlo: Our position is we go into these talks, we, the United States and the Contact Group, do not have a predetermined outcome for these talks. They have to be negotiated. There are a few issues that we would rule out. We certainly don't want to see any decision made on future status that is done by unilateral action or use of force. We do not want to see a partition of Kosovo. We don't want to see borders redrawn in the region. This is something that we have laid down as sort of conditions. Other than that we think that there should be a negotiated outcome, and we don't want to prejudge what the outcome is.

Certainly the way we understand the process will unfold is that if the recommendation is to launch talks, we would expect that they would be launched by the end of this year. I mean if the recommendation comes out in the next few weeks, we would expect it would be done by the end of this year. The secretary-general will appoint a special envoy to do it. He will carry a UN hat. There would be a team, the envoy and his team would be working with both Belgrade and Pristina on discussions on the future status, which would cover a range of issues, because there are many issues to be taken into consideration as well -- protection of minorities, cultural sites, I mean there is a range of issues that would have to be discussed.

RFE/RL: With all appearances that this process is moving to a new phase, what is the concern, how much concern is there among actors like the United States and your colleagues about an outbreak of violence in the region that could also influence matters as well? Is there concern, are you getting sort of vibes from the area that this is something that needs to be really watched closely?

DiCarlo: Obviously when one enters a phase of this kind, one wants to pay attention to all aspects. We certainly hope for constructive engagement from all sides and would hope that things could proceed very peacefully. We don't have indications now that there would be acts of violence or anything. To the contrary. But it is an issue one pays attention to, certainly.

RFE/RL: And on the Security Council -- you mentioned that four out of the five permanent members are part of the Contact Group in the process. The initial Kosovo war was conducted without a Security Council mandate because of Russian objections and they continue to make their positions clear through this process and are seen as a kind of broker on behalf of the Serbs. Is there sufficient unity on the Security Council to sort of bring this process through the difficult next phase?

DiCarlo: I think there is. I think that the Russians have played a very constructive role over the last couple of years and I think there would be sufficient unity, yes.

RFE/RL: So it is not one of these things where there is a sort of red line that they've brought up and you are seeing on the horizon and that would be difficult.... You mentioned that for the United States, partitioning is not an option....

DiCarlo: Well this is from the Contact Group. This is not the U.S. This is something the Contact Group has agreed to. So, we all have agreed to certain principles -- and partition is one, no use of force is another, no unilateral action is yet a third. So, I think that Russia has been an active member of the Contact Group. I think that we will see again cooperation and the kind of constructive engagement that we've had in the last couple of years.

RFE/RL: How important is the situation of spurring economic improvements in Kosovo? The World Bank came out with a report showing high levels of poverty there. Obviously it is an issue that everybody is aware of. What can be done to help that process while this difficult political process is going on a parallel track?

DiCarlo: Certainly the UN administration that's based in Pristina has been trying very hard to implement, along with the Kosovars, a number of economic reforms that would help them move the economy. And one of the reasons I think that future status is so key is that until the status is determined it's extremely hard for them to move forward in a number of areas. Certainly investment and other things are stalled until it's clear what the status of Kosovo will be.

They have made quite a bit of progress on privatization, that is one area where they have made progress. More progress does need to be made, but there has been progress in that area.

RFE/RL: I suppose trading partners would want to know what sort of entity they are doing business with?

DiCarlo: Exactly. And what the legal framework is, what the regulatory framework is, etc.

RFE/RL: And related to that is this illicit economy in the province that has raised concern as well. Is there a firm enough law enforcement apparatus there to be able to move against that or is that something where the international community is going to have to be involved for the foreseeable future?

DiCarlo: I think they have made a lot of progress on local police. It's another area where considerable progress in some cases has been made. It's actually a multiethnic police force at this point, but they will certainly need support from the international community in continuing to develop, there's no question.

RFE/RL: In the greater scheme of things in terms of international media attention and other things, Kosovo is a side issue compared to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and so forth. Where does it figure in U.S. concerns at this point and how would you categorize the way the U.S. is engaged in Kosovo at this point?

DiCarlo: Both the president and the secretary of state have placed a high priority on the United States being involved in leading international efforts to stabilize the Balkans in general. They both realize there's more to be done and that we have to be part of this to help it become stable.

We see the region as entering a new stage right now. We think this is a really important year, this year and next year, really a year for a lot of decisions, but we're entering a new stage and that stage, we would hope, would accelerate the region's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. So we do see U.S. involvement as an important issue here.

RFE/RL: Is it possible to compare U.S. engagement with say, Bosnia, where we are going to have 10 years of Dayton coming up?

DiCarlo: I think both in Kosovo and Bosnia we have tremendous credibility. I think that's it's important. The Europeans want us involved. There's no question that they want us as partners in this. We indeed are very good partners in the Balkans. We work very cooperatively with the Contact Group and the European Union. In Bosnia we are still engaged, we are part of the peace implementation council working again with European colleagues hoping that we can see all of the Dayton agreements implemented and actually moving beyond Dayton.

I think both in Kosovo and Bosnia we have tremendous credibility. I think that's important. The Europeans want us involved. There's no question that they want us as partners in this. We indeed are very good partners in the Balkans. We work very cooperatively with the Contact Group and the European Union. In Bosnia we are still engaged. We are part of the peace implementation council working again with European colleagues, hoping that we can see all of the Dayton agreements implemented and actually move beyond Dayton. The key is to move beyond Dayton to the path to Euro-Atlantic integration. And the Bosnians have moved in some areas. They have made some major steps in the last few weeks in the area of defense reform. We are anticipating that they will approve it in their parliament in the next few weeks, which is a key move forward. They will have one military, which is obviously critical for membership in NATO. We hope they will continue to make other reforms that will be needed for them to launch a stabilization-association agreement with the European Union in the near future.

RFE/RL: And Kosovo is seen as this pivotal place where, if the international community gets it right, you have, maybe, Montenegro being helped, maybe the final stages for Bosnia, maybe everything starts to come together. If Kosovo doesn't, then it's this aggravating sore that seems to be upsetting other areas.

DiCarlo: I think it's true that Kosovo is key here. I think it's the most difficult remaining issue, and it's an issue that needs to be resolved and then I think we can see the region sort of turning a page and moving forward.

I need to mention one thing, though, and this is something that is really key for us and we know it is key for the Europeans as well. Unless we have full compliance with the international court in The Hague on, really Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Croatia are not going to be able to move forward in their path to Euro-Atlantic institutions. We have, I guess we should say, 7 1/2 war criminals left. There are seven criminals we do not have turned over to The Hague, an eighth one is under arrest now and will be turned over shortly -- the one arrested in Russia a few weeks ago. This is a very, very important issue. So, no matter what sort of progress they make in other areas, no matter what progress we make on whether it be police reform or Kosovo's future status or other issues like economic reform, the war criminals issue must be addressed.

RFE/RL: On that point, I've seen some reports lately or some people surmising that there has been some sort of deal making or soft pedaling of the war crimes issue if the Serbs play along with other key areas... But you are saying that's not a bargaining chip.

DiCarlo: That is not part of the bargaining. We have held very firmly that we need to see in particular [former Bosnian Serb Army General Ratko] Mladic in The Hague in order for the Serbs to become members of Partnership for Peace, for example. And I think that we know the European Union has placed certain restrictions in this area as well as far as full EU membership.

RFE/RL: Were you involved in the talks in New York?

DiCarlo: Yes, I was.

RFE/RL: Shortly after that it emerged that Eide wanted to wait a little while to provide an opportunity for the sides to show their sincerity for the standards process, especially, I think, the Albanians. That's what came out of the Contact Group statement, at least. Is that a fair characterization?

DiCarlo: I think that our statement was really more one to say that we're anticipating launching, if indeed we get the positive recommendation, we have every intent to move full speed ahead. We want to see a continued implementation of standards, of reforms. This is something that should continue throughout the process, if it's launched. And obviously we do encourage both sides to continue their dialogue. This is a good sign.

(Arbana Vidishiqi of RFE/RL's Kosova subunit contributed to this report.)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "Kosovo's Serbs, Roma, Turks, and other non-Albanians live in conditions worse than those in which Kosovo's Albanians lived during the era of Slobodan Milosevic. In fact, they live in the most abysmal conditions of anyone in Europe." -- Serbian President Boris Tadic, writing in "The Wall Street Journal in Europe" of 23 September (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 February 2005).

"As president, it is my duty to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, which the international community unambiguously recognizes as encompassing Kosovo and Metohija." -- Tadic in ibid.

"I see Serbia's proactive role in Kosovo's future status talks as an opportunity...." -- Tadic in ibid.