AIM: start

TUE, 27 NOV 2001 01:36:06 GMT

New Moments in Relations with Tirana after Kosovo Elections

AIM Tirana, November 21, 2001

A demand made by the President of the party that won the November 17 elections, Ibrahim Rugova, that the world should recognise the independence of Kosovo did not meet with positive official and public response even in the state that is considered to be a supporter of this idea - Albania. In their congratulations after the results of parliamentary elections in Kosovo became known, the Government and Prime Minister Ilir Meta positively assessed democratic developments and the participation of the minority communities at these elections, as well as the importance of democratic institutions that would be constituted after that. The Government even mentioned UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the need for developing a democratic and European Kosovo. Only President Rexhep Maidani, who was actually always a step ahead of Albania's official stand towards Kosovo, went even further in the evening of November 17, voicing his support for the will of the Kosovo people that would lead to self-determination on the way towards independence.

As far as other major parties are concerned, only Sali Berisha, President of the chief opposition party - Democratic Party (which is also an ally of the Democratic League of Kosovo) stated that Rugova's victory was a victory for the independence. On the other hand, President of the Socialist Party Fatos Nano caused great confusion when amidst his busy daily schedule and meetings he did not thought it necessary to welcome the November 17 elections in Kosovo with a single word.

A restrained Albanian enthusiasm which followed after the conclusion of Kosovo parliamentary elections was far from the triumphalism observed in that regard in Kosovo. True, all major institutions, from the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Ministry and Parliament, to the last political party in Tirana rushed to welcome the Kosovo elections as a victory of democracy, but it seemed that all of them came to the same conclusion that now after the elections relations between Albania and Kosovo were entering a new stage and would have a different character, which would require different treatment of these relations in the institutional terms. The Tirana dailies, which on the first day after the elections dedicated their entire front pages to the parliamentary elections in Kosovo, did not mention Kosovo a day after. Even Ibrahim Rugova's demand made at his first press conference after the elections, that the world should now recognise Kosovo's independence, did not make much of a splash in the local press.

There are several reasons for Tirana's restrained enthusiasm regarding Kosovo parliamentary elections. Actually, it should be said that it was not a result of the change in either Tirana's or Pristina's strategy regarding the future status of Kosovo. Both here in Tirana, as well as in Pristina, people think that the best way for Kosovo to develop would be its independence from Serbia. But, the official circles in Tirana are not inclined to say this publicly because they want to be on the same wavelength with the international community, which made it clear that it is not in favour of Kosovo's independence.

Kosovo Parliamentary elections of November 17 introduce a new moment in bilateral relations between Albania and Kosovo. This concerns the new legislative and executive structures that will be developed in Kosovo. Until now, the relations between Albania and Kosovo were party-based and even the Government, the Presidency and Parliament of Albania were forced to maintain relations with all political parties and all political options of the Kosovo politics. After the present Kosovo elections, there will be one President, one Government and one Parliament, which will ultimately be state institutions with which their Albanian counter-parts will establish contacts.

One way or another, this will give these relations a new form that will be closer to state relations. True, Kosovo will not have its Foreign and Defence Ministries, but will establish relations in the fields of economy, finance, science, trade, education, culture, etc. which will be covered by new Ministries. These relations will be bilateral and directly maintained between heads of specific departments and the UNMIK Head who, as a real President of the Kosovo Administration, does not have any reason to discourage them. The more so as, proceeding from the basic aim of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, i.e. the transfer of authority from UNMIK Head to the Kosovo institutions, the scope and intensity of Albanian-Kosovo bilateral relations will be constantly expanding.

It is expected that the effects of this new moment in the Albanian-Kosovar relations after the establishment of new institutions in Kosovo, will positively reflect on the stabilisation of the situation in Kosovo and its economic development projects. The development of a road between Pristina and the Albanian port of Durrese ranked high in the pre-electoral campaign all three major Kosovo political parties - Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo, Hashim Thaqi's Democratic Party of Kosovo and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo of Ramush Hardinaj. At the same time, the Democratic League of Kosovo plans to ask Tirana to give Kosovo a free zone in the port of Durrese.

It is understandable that in the post-election period these new Albanian-Kosovar relations, which will have their legislative and executive forms, may bring some new worries in Albania's relations with Belgrade, which, as it is common knowledge, has not abandoned the idea on winning back its control and sovereignty over Kosovo. Tirana is in a hard position, because any promotion of its relations with Kosovo might cause problems with Belgrade, same as any improvement of its relations with Belgrade might provoke the dissatisfaction of and tensions with Kosovo. The first test on Tirana's stand and politics in this respect might be the visit of Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta to Belgrade, which, according to sources in the Albanian Government, might happen in the next month.

However, analysing the stands of the Tirana Government until now, it seems that it is determined to go forward in both directions no matter how strange that might seem at first sight and it is in its interest to promote relations with both Kosovo and Belgrade.

Arjan LEKA