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Kosovars Balk at New Executive

A move by the international community to govern Kosovo jointly with local politicians is viewed by some Albanians as a threat to their struggle for independence.
By Llazar Semini

The launch of a power-sharing arrangement in Kosovo between the United Nations and local leaders earlier this week was marred by lingering Albanian resistance to the new institution.


The Joint Interim Administrative Structure (JIAS) which came into effect Tuesday, February 1, is intended to replace the numerous self-styled or parallel institutions set up by local leaders since the UN took over the province in July.


But a session of the fledgling executive was suspended after Kosovo's "parliament", a symbol of local desire for self-determination and a power-base for the veteran pacifist leader Ibrahim Rugova, pledged to continue, in the short-term at least.


The Albanian body met on Monday ostensibly to wind up parliamentary business, but decided to reconvene in ten days time with some deputies claiming they were being railroaded into the move without proper debate.


Jock Covey, deputy-head of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said the Albanian decision "was distinctly unhelpful" and disruptive. Covey demanded "clear and credible respect" for the new executive.


Other UNMIK officials, however, said they expected the dissolution of self-declared Albanians institutions to take time.


"It's not something that's is going to happen tomorrow, these [parallel] structures continue to exist and [the new administrative structure] will be a progressive implementation," said UNMIK spokeswomen Susan Manuel.


Despite the early setback, UNMIK remains optimistic. It says four of the 19 JIAS departments, to be administered by local and UN officials, are up and running and many of the heads of others have been chosen.


Negotiations are also said to be continuing with local Serb leaders who have so far refused to participate in the new body. They remain hesitant to collaborate with an international administration which they see as pro-Albanian, although expectations are that they will ultimately join.


Albanian leaders have strong reservations about the power-sharing. They are unhappy about losing their own institutions which they see as symbols of their struggle for self-determination.


While the joint administration may be more effective in governing the province, some local politicians fear it represents an attempt by the international community to shelve the independence issue.


In addition, Kosovo's feuding Albanian leaders, whose power-bases are centred around the province's parallel authorities, are resistant to working together.


The bitter political rivalry between former Kosovo Liberation Army leader, Hashim Thaci, and self-styled Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova is seen by many as a particular obstacle to the smooth running of the new executive.


Both men have grudgingly agreed to cooperate in the JIAS, but they are loath to give up their sprawling networks of competing institutions.


In their latest clash, Thaci accused Rugova this week of failing to meet the UNMIK deadline for dissolving his parliament. Thaci warned that his institutions would resume operation if Rugova did not comply within 48 hours.


This will clearly frustrate international efforts to establish power-sharing, but UNMIK cannot afford to exert too much pressure on Thaci and Rugova as their participation in the JIAS is crucial.


There are other problems too. Both men see the new executive as merely an interim authority in the run-up to local elections and the formation, they hope, of a government of an independent Kosovo.


The international community is mandated to organise elections for a provincial authority. But it fears that the poll will amount to de facto recognition of Kosovo as an independent state - something they are reluctant to countenance.


Llazar Semini is IWPR Kosovo Project Manager in Pristina.


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