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TUE, 20 NOV 2001 21:34:19 GMT

Parliamentary Elections in Kosovo and Tirana

AIM Tirana, November 9, 2001

The day Nebojsa Covic, on behalf of FRY, and Hans Haekkerup, in the name of UNMIK, signed a joint paper on the Kosovo elections in Belgrade, the Albanian Parliament adopted a special declaration at its plenary session emphasising the importance of the Kosovo elections as an expression of the will of Kosovo people to have the self-government. This is an important indicator of not only Tirana's unfavourable view of Belgrade's participation in the process of Kosovo parliamentary elections, but also of a kind of confusion with which Tirana observes the November 17 elections in Kosovo. The adoption of a special declaration by Parliament is a rare case in which high official institutions in Tirana expressed their opinion of parliamentary elections in Kosovo, which the official authorities followed from a distance and with excessive reservations, which was clearly more imposed by the international factor's constant demands on Tirana to show moderation in relation to Kosovo. This request of the international community was interpreted here as a suggestion to keep distance from all that was happening at the current elections and will happen with other processes in Kosovo.

Prime Minister Meta's Government of the Left coalition paid in more than one way for the distance that Tirana kept regarding the election process in Kosovo. The first price it had to pay was in the sphere of internal politics, where the Government was vehemently attacked by the opposition and especially its major Democratic Party, for not doing anything for the Albanian relations with Kosovo and neglecting the Kosovo issue. On November 1, one of the Democratic Party leaders, Bardhyl Londo, Member of its Presidency, accused the Government that such estrangement had not been seen in Albanian-Kosovo relations even at the times of the Berlin wall.

The second price that the Government will have to pay concerns its relations with the political parties of Kosovo. Prime Minister Ilir Meta took a cautious stand and maintained relations with all Kosovo political parties, trying not to show his preference for any particular political force in Kosovo. He was the only Socialist Prime Minister of all recent Left Governments who managed to establish relations with both wings of the Kosovo politics. At his meeting with Vice-President of Rugova's DSK party, Nekiba Keljmendi and President of the Christian-Democratic Party of Kosovo Marko Krasniqi, (who is openly against the Socialist Party of Albania) held on October 29, in Tirana, the Albanian Prime Minister stated that his Government would cooperate with Government institutions of Kosovo after the elections so as to make relations between Albania and Kosovo more concrete.

The fact remains that the Socialist Party, headed by Fatos Nano, which is also Prime Minister Meta's party, is not on good terms with Rugova's DSK, same as the Democratic Party of the former President Berisha is not on good terms with two parties that had originated from the former KLA (Hasim Thaqi's Democratic Party and Ramush Hardinaj's Alliance for Kosovo's Future). Moreover, during his meeting with several Kosovo politicians in Tirana, President of the Democratic Party Berisha said that DSK would have full support of the Democratic Party at the approaching elections. The care with which distance was being maintained in relations between Albania and Kosovo was not only characteristic of the Socialist Party's Government.

It could also be observed in the behaviour of the Albanian opposition, when President of the Democratic Party Berisha skilfully avoided to directly state his stand in favour of Kosovo's independence. During parliamentary debate of November 5, one deputy of another parliamentary opposition party, D.Shehi asked for a formulation on independence to be included in the Declaration on Kosovo, but President of the Socialist Party Nano (who is also President of the Foreign Affairs Committee) opposed this with the explanation that the formulation on self-government would be sufficient.

Furthermore, it should be pointed out that the Albanian political parties in Kosovo also exercised extreme caution in stating their views and strategies on relations with Albania. Pre-election programmes of the LDK, PDK and AAK for these elections did not mention how they saw and planned future relations with Albania. In their pre-election speeches Presidents of major political parties in Kosovo avoided Tirana as a subject. A situation seen at the last year's local elections, when the issue of relations with Albania was not mentioned once, can again be observed at these parliamentary elections in Kosovo.

Regarding the ongoing campaign for Kosovo parliamentary elections, Tirana has various interpretations of this state of mutual relations, which at first sight might seem as a distanced, estranged or drifted apart. Actually, what is happening between Albania and Kosovo should not be judged by appearances. During the entire century these relations developed deep under the surface, underground, which was only natural under conditions when one nation was separated into two hostile states. Because of Kosovo's status of the international protectorate, where its institutions have no mandate to decide on major issues such as its status or neighbourly relations, it is quite understandable that relations between Albania and Kosovo have an external form which does not reflect their true contents.

This was and still is particularly influenced by the international factor, the EU and USA which constantly advised against excessive enthusiasm in relations between Albania and Kosovo. It seems that both Tirana and Pristina have such blind faith in the line and strategy of the West that they are waiting for the West to formulate Kosovo status. Until then, they think it would be better to keep the distance, which is mistakenly interpreted and understood, but for those well-versed in the Kosovo case, this seems as the most realistic stand that both Tirana and Pristina can take under present conditions.

Arian LEKA (AIM)