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Balkan Report: November 11, 2005

11 November 2005, Volume 9, Number 29

UN SPECIAL ENVOY KAI EIDE TALKS TO RFE/RL. RFE/RL correspondent Ilirjana A. Bajo spoke in October with Kai Eide, UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan's special envoy to Kosova and Norwegian ambassador to NATO.

RFE/RL: Ambassador Eide, how would you describe the main findings of your report that you already handed to Secretary-General Annan?

Eide: The main findings are mixed. What I found were significant achievements in some areas, such as building of institutions and establishment of legal framework. We must remember that back in 1999 there was, in fact, nothing and there was a need to start from the very ground. So I think in this respect there have been some very significant achievements. And then there are some very, very important shortcomings. The justice system is very weak; the question of respect for rule of law is weak too. There is no doubt about that. Regarding interethnic problems, I believe very little has happened and the reconciliation process has not yet started.

RFE/RL: To remain in the same topic, after your experience in the field, what are the strong points and weaknesses of Kosovar society, although you already mentioned some of them?

Eide: I will give you an outline. There are institutions in place, which work, not perfectly, but they work. There is also a system for delivering of services to people almost all across Kosovo. The health and education systems are in place. These take tremendous energy and efforts to put in place. These are the main achievements. But I also mentioned the shortfalls that exist, and they are very serious.

RFE/RL: Ambassador Eide, UN Secretary-General Annan has said that he is likely to recommend the opening of status talks. How do you see this process?

Eide: This is not really up to me, but what I have said in my report is that we all have to move forward with some cautions and not rush into the process and not rush through the process. I think the process in Kosova will be very, very different compared to Bosnia-Herzegovina or any other places of former Yugoslavia. So I think there is a good need to take the time required and not set any artificial deadlines but to go into negotiations with patience and calm. I hope that it can happen. It is very important that all parties are brought into the process and brought through the process. Once the process has started it cannot be blocked by anybody and it has to come to its conclusions. These are my main considerations. In this regard I can repeat: don't rush, take the time required, and have results that really contribute to stability of the region.

RFE/RL: How do you see the role of different international players involved in this process?

Eide: My task was limited to determining if the time has come to initiate the future-status process. My task was not to judge what the final outcome would be. Regarding my task, I can say there is never any ideal moment for starting the process of future status. Even it's never a good moment for such steps, but I believe that the time has come. Since last year, there is a different dynamic in Kosovo. There is a political process going on and it will be wrong, even counterproductive, to stop this process.

Secondly, I think we must acknowledge that not much more could probably be achieved regarding standards implementation if we postpone the talks for few months. But the most important is that standards implementation continues and serious efforts are made to improve the situation in areas where improvement is needed. I have seen reactions of Kosovar Albanian leaders recently where they acknowledge the shortcomings and they must react upon [them]. The third important issue is that everybody needs clarity: Kosovar Albanians need clarity, Kosovar Serbs need clarity so they can make a decision if they want to return to Kosovo or not. I think the whole region needs clarity. I think the international community as such needs clarity at this time when it is still present in Kosovo at sufficient strength. I must say that my belief is that even Belgrade needs clarity. This is a question that always has been difficult for Belgrade, it will be difficult whenever this issue is handled, but I think the time has come.

RFE/RL: To remain at the regional dimension of the Kosova issue, how do you see the approaches taken by Tirana, Skopje, and even Belgrade in that matter?

Eide: First, we have the directly involved parties, such as Prishtina and Belgrade. Kosovar Serbs have to be involved in a sufficient way and consultations have to take place with other communities in Kosovo. In addition to that, I think it is important that Skopje and Tirana in particular, but also other neighbor states, are brought in in the sense that they must be consulted, must be listened to, and the process must explained to them, because we need their support for the process and the settlement. So we can be sure that settlement is stable and sustainable.

RFE/RL: Mr. Eide, do you see any relation between the future status of Kosovo and the future of Montenegro, when Podgorica has made it clear that it will hold a referendum on independence next year?

Eide: I am not going into that at all. Montenegro falls outside of my mandate. I concentrated uniquely on Kosovo and its regional implications. But I have not had any mandate to go into the Montenegro issue.

BUSEK SAYS THE EU LACKS A STRATEGY FOR KOSOVA. Austria's Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, spoke in early October with Ilirjana A. Bajo of the Kosova subunit of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service about efforts to resolve the status question.

RFE/RL: Mr. Busek, a few months ago you declared that the EU does not have a strategy with respect to Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 January 2005). Do you think Brussels has one now, and if so what is it?

Erhard Busek: No, I think there is no clear position on the side of EU about what to do with Kosovo. I think it is also a problem on the one side in Belgrade, because what they think about a kind of autonomy is not enough. From the other side, Kosovars are convinced that they are already independent and [independence] is also not possible. Now we are waiting for [UN special envoy Kai Eide's report on possible Kosovo status talks] and for a facilitator. There are rumors that [Former Finnish President and expected leader of eventual status talks] Marti Ahtisaari might be the person who will go between Belgrade and Prishtina. If [as a result of steps such as the Eide report and bringing in an intermediary] they [achieve some progress] in 2006, that is very good.

RFE/RL: Several experts and politicians say that the outcome of status negotiations could result in conditional independence. Under this scenario, how do you see the relationship between independence and sovereignty?

Busek: If experts have such an opinion, that is very nice; I think the real problem is to convince both sides. Belgrade is convinced that Kosovo is still part of Serbia and it has to stay; Kosovars are convinced that independence is the only solution -- immediate independence. I think this is the problem. We have to try to convince both parties that they have to make some concessions. We have to go to each other and develop a timeline so we can solve this problem.

RFE/RL: If changes take place and the EU is ready to lead a mission in Kosova, how it should look, in your opinion?

Busek: Nobody is pleased because the possibilities of the EU are limited; it is a question of staff, money, and so on. But it is my personal conviction that the "Europeanization" of Kosovo is the only possible solution. So the EU and other European countries are taking over from the UN. I think the same should happen [in] Bosnia-Herzegovina.

RFE/RL: You mentioned that the EU has no clear position toward Kosova. Do other international players, outside the EU, have a position on Kosova?

Busek: My impression is -- although it is not explicitly [stated]-- that the United States is clearer on this than Europeans.

RFE/RL: Do you think that solving Kosova's status will contribute to regional stability and, if so, will there be any deadline for the end of negotiations?

Busek: A deadline makes no sense. The real deadline is if we get results. I think the current situation of Kosovo is not blocking just Serbia but the whole region, and there is an influence on Macedonia and Albania. There must also be a regional interest in solving this problem. As far as I can see, the countries of the region are going more and more in this direction -- to create some pressure...that it should be solved.

RFE/RL: How do you see the positions of Tirana, Belgrade, and Skopje toward Kosova? Are they playing a constructive role?

Busek: Tirana sometimes makes some statements that are semi-helpful, but I think they are keeping a kind of distance. Skopje is very much interested in seeing it solved, because if [a solution over Kosova's final status has any negative impact on the Albanian-populated parts of Macedonia], it will be very bad [for Skopje]. They are very interested in having a solution that is generally accepted.

RFE/RL: To remain on Belgrade, do you think the international community should give a major role to Belgrade when Belgrade already has lost a war in Kosova?

Busek: I think Belgrade has a key role, because what is coming out should be more or less acceptable to Belgrade. The problem is that the government is not the strongest one -- and the political parties are also trying to get something out of this. If they are campaigning -- if I might say -- they do it in a very brutal way on this subject.

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "We inherited a difficult legacy [in Kosova]. The citizens of Serbia should have no illusion that it is impossible for a solution to be imposed on us." -- Serbian President Boris Tadic. Quoted by Reuters in Belgrade on 25 October.

"There will be mayhem in Serbia" if Kosova becomes independent. -- Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). Quoted by Reuters from Belgrade on 2 November.