AIM: start

MON, 26 NOV 2001 15:52:16 GMT

Independence Will Have to Wait

AIM Pristina, November 24, 2001

It seems that, after all, "formal recognition of the independence of Kosovo", as the leader of Democratic league of Kosovo (LDK) Ibrahim Rugova likes to say, is not all that "formal", or at least it will have to wait for various other "formalities" before it is considered. The slogan number 1 of the entire campaign for November 17 parliamentary election met with its first rejection right after the end of the process of general elections. Immediately after publication of the first results which presented him as a "solid" winner, Ibrahim Rugova declared that his party had ensured the victory and that his fundamental commitment would continue to be the independence of Kosovo, and he appealed on the USA and the countries of EU to formally recognise the independence of Kosovo, which would, according to him, pacify the Albanians and the whole region...

However, for Euro-Americans "peace" still does not seem to turn around that point. Messages arrived from Brussels that independence was not on the agenda, and it was said that Mr. Rugova used two languages: one in diplomatic discourse, and the other for internal use. And from Washington there arrived the message that it was necessary to fully implement OUN Security Council Resolution 1244 which still sees Kosovo as part of FRY.

It is not the first time that Rugova and all the other Albanian political parties with no exception express commitment to the independence of Kosovo, however, but it certainly is the first time that such declarations are openly rejected. After November 17, this commitment is articulated by persons elected by the will of the people who will control the institutions of Kosovo that are recognised by the international community. Consequently, demands of such leaders cannot be easily ignored because they have the possibility to "present their commitment in the parliament where they would ensure the support of at least 80 per cent of the deputies". However, this is unacceptable for the international community which still believes that it is too early for discussion on the final status of Kosovo. It first needs to develop democracy, and then the status should be discussed - this is the formula constantly repeated by foreign diplomats. On the day of the elections, on November 17, numerous compliments arrived to Kosovo because of peaceful and democratic elections. Head of American office in Pristina, Ambassador John Manses, declared that "it was truly an honour to participate in this historical moment, because Kosovo has once more shown to the world that democratic processes in Kosovo are alive and well. The people of Kosovo have once more passed a significant test, but the true work of the government is just beginning, the work on constructing coalitions, the work on overcoming divisions, the work that will give a part of the power and the future of Kosovo to everybody in Kosovo". American messages, that has already become customary, are read in Kosovo more carefully and with greater devotion than others, so the American evaluation that "November 17 will be remembered for a long time in Kosovo and outside it, as a historical date, because on that day you have joined the community of democracies and clearly told the world what you want for your future", seems to have been understood as a support to independence of Kosovo at first, since that is the "main thought of all the Albanians", and if one were to judge by the election campaign in Kosovo, of all the citizens of non-Serb ethnic affiliation.

"Friends" of the Albanians in the world have also started sending their messages in which they demanded "patience" on the road towards the definite status of Kosovo. Lord Russel Johnston from the Council of Europe stated that the elections in Kosovo were not a referendum for or against independence. Its status is and will remain for some time in the future determined by OUN Security Council Resolution 1244. Lord Johnston then sent word to the Kosovars that Kosovo needed democracy, transparence, and efficient administration, inter-ethnic co-existence and economic progress. "Progress towards the achievement of these goals will make reaching of the final status of Kosovo easier, which now remains unresolved", Lord Johnston concluded his message.

In any case, the question of independence of Kosovo or its becoming the topic of debate at this phase of development of the political process was struck out of the agenda even in the documents adopted by the Albanians themselves... The Temporary Constitutional Framework of Kosovo (the much discussed document) defined the nature of the institutions that will result from November 17 elections and that Kosovo will temporarily be ruled by, but that will not be able to decide about its definite status. This was clearly stated on several occasions by the head of OUN Mission in Kosovo Hans Haekkerup who did his best to include members of the Serb community into the election process and signed the document with Belgrade which offered guarantees that self-governing institutions will not be authorised to decide on the final political status of Kosovo. Moreover, as if he wished to confirm these guarantees, for the first time in a postwar document referring to Kosovo Serbia is mentioned, unlike previous ones which only spoke of Yugoslavia. Kosovo Serbs (like those in Serbia) are sharply opposed to every possibility of independence of Kosovo which they still look upon as "an integral part of Serbia and Yugoslavia". Representatives of Povratak coalition, the only Serb political force that participated in the elections, stated that in case the Albanians proclaimed independence at a session of the parliament, they would proclaim "Serb ethnic autonomy and their own parliament". Representatives of the Serb National Council in the north of Mitrovica who were against participation in general elections stated that "to vote in these elections would just give legitimacy to the process of creation of the Albanian independent state" and accused their rivals of exactly that - giving legitimacy to this process.

Nevertheless, it seems that the independence of Kosovo will be the most frequently used word in the parliament of Kosovo by both parties. The Albanians, along with political parties of non-Serb ethnic communities stressed that they would strive to achieve this goal, and even promised on several occasions that they would raise this question at the very first session of the parliament. Such promises might have increased the number of votes some of them won, but consequently increased the "responsibility" to the voters. On the other hand, it is quite clear that independence will remain the "forbidden fruit" for this parliament which will not be able to deal with the "statehood" of Kosovo in the next three years. In case it tries to do it, it can very easily be dissolved by decision of the head of temporary administration Hans Haekkerup who took care to keep for himself the main prerogatives. The government that will be elected by this parliament will not have the departments that make up a classical state; it will not have ministries of internal affairs, defence, foreign affairs and justice. All these jobs will be carried out by Haekkerup who sticks to Resolution 1244 as the "Bible" of his activities.

Despite everything, not a single diplomat of the most powerful countries has eliminated any of the options of resolving the question of Kosovo, (conditional) independence remaining one of them. But the question of definite status of Kosovo remains to be solved at some better time in the future when Kosovo will be a democratic, tolerant and multiethnic society. Once this objective is reached, an international conference can be expected with a "chair" reserved for Belgrade. For the time being, as claimed by local observers, Albanian politicians can do nothing but do their best to "weaken the influence of Belgrade, and make local Serb politicians who still rely on what is called 'state nationalism' in Serbia" as independent from it as possible. This could be achieved only by applying acceptable alternatives for the Serbs who need to be convinced that Kosovo is their homeland....

For as long as they do not achieve that (and this seems very distant among other because of the bitter experience from the past), Albanian politicians will have to hope for the understanding of their voters, or perhaps the hard everyday life in Kosovo will help them : no electricity, no water, heating, jobs or pensions. In exchange for resolving these problems, the voters could forgive them for "the impossibility to achieve the supreme political goal" which will apparently remain one of the big promises for next elections.

Besnik BALA