Kosovars Jittery Over Final Status

Albanians say draft constitution for new union between Serbia and Montenegro denies them the prospect of statehood.

Kosovars Jittery Over Final Status

Albanians say draft constitution for new union between Serbia and Montenegro denies them the prospect of statehood.

Anti-Belgrade passions remain at boiling point in Kosovo after a diplomatic document last week described the territory as part of Serbia.

The reference cropped up in a draft constitution for union between Serbia and Montenegro. The Kosovan assembly, dominated by ethnic Albanians, approved a resolution denouncing the document as proof of Belgrade’s intention to annex Kosovo.

Albanian deputies urged international authorities to delete the offending passage and threatened to declare unilateral independence if they did not.

Ever since NATO pushed Serbian forces out of Kosovo three years ago, the territory has remained in effect a UN protectorate. UN Resolution 1244, guaranteed substantial self-government for Kosovo but left it ostensibly part of Yugoslavia for an indefinite time.

After the row broke out, the Secretary General's representative in Kosovo, Michael Steiner, said neither Belgrade nor Pristina could unilaterally decide the future of the region.

The Serbia-Montenegro union was devised earlier this year under strong European Union pressure. Constitutional experts from the two countries drew up the draft constitution, which included a preamble referring to Kosovo as part of Serbia.

Kosovo Albanians last week described it as “a new aggression from Serbia”. Albanians take it for granted that when the protectorate ends, Kosovo will become an independent country.

The Kosovan Serb minority took a predictably opposite view. Their deputies walked out of the assembly hall in protest over the Albanian resolution. "Yugoslavia could not remove Kosovo from the preamble, because the constitution provides that nobody can change the borders of the country," said Rada Trajkovic, a deputy of the Povratak coalition.

EU representative Javier Solana, who blessed the Serbia-Montenegro union last spring, discussed the matter with Steiner and said the reference to Kosovo should be expunged from the preamble.

Kosovan deputies fretted that Solana had taken his time before speaking up. Blerim Shala, a Kosovar political analyst, said, "The international community has not reacted swiftly and firmly enough to the Serbian provocation."

Ismail Kurteshi, a deputy from the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, said the United Nations in Kosovo, UNMIK, should suspend all contacts and relations with Belgrade. In the absence of speedy international action, Kurteshi said, Kosovo should declare its independence.

Serbia tended to shrug off the Pristina protests. Nebojsa Covic, Serbian deputy prime minister and chief negotiator on Kosovo, dismissed the Albanian resolution as “political marketing which had nothing to do with reality”. He said Serbia, not the UN, would decide on the region’s final status

Albanians, meanwhile, want to see Kosovo independent as soon as possible – something Serbs vehemently oppose. "To me and the other inhabitants of Kosovo, it is important to know who will rule Kosovo after the end of the UNMIK mandate," said Albanian deputy Hajredin Kuci.

The final status of Kosovo remains one of the thorniest problems in the Balkans. It’s hard to see how a solution that satisfies both sides can be found.

Perparim Isufi is a journalist with the daily Zëri in Pristina.

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