AIM: start

TUE, 05 FEB 2002 22:35:58 GMT

Steiner – The New Administrator of Kosovo

AIM Pristina, January 26, 2002

One thing is certain about the German diplomat Michael Steiner - in Kosovo he will have no chance of getting in the middle of some "caviar scandal", if he does not fall for the joke that in the Balkan "caviar" is - beans. Even if that happens to him, beans will hardly be the reason for him to get on the front pages of newspapers where his name was for days when he was put on the long list of candidates for the head of OUN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) or in special OUN language - for the special envoy of Secretary General. As some sorceresses the newspapers started to foretell, speculate, forecast the "destiny" of Mr. Steiner. They all agree about one thing: he will have a very difficult job in Kosovo on which by decision of OUN Secretary General Kofi Annan he will succeed Hans Haekkerup, the Dane who resigned officially “for personal reasons".

Mr. Steiner is taking over the office of the head of UNMIK at the time when OUN administration is making preparations to transfer its power to the institutions of self-administration in Kosovo that resulted from general elections held on November 17, 2001. It seems that he will be lucky if before his arrival in Pristina other diplomats manage to convince the political representatives of the Albanians to reach an agreement about foundation of the institutions of power after almost three months of repeated failure in the negotiations about division of power.

Mr. Steiner "got" the post of the head of UNMIK in strong competition with, among other, Italian general Carlo Cabigiozu who commanded NATO led peace forces (KFOR) in Kosovo. This 52-year old diplomat will succeed Danish defence minister Hans Haekkerup who was the head of UNMIK for almost a year (from January until December 2001).

Analysts consider Mr. Steiner a professional diplomat with big experience in the countries of the Balkan. He used to work in the peace mission in Bosnia & Herzegovina as deputy High Representative of the international community. He also did other significant jobs for his country and even became an advisor of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

He resigned from that post because of the scandal with Russian caviar. And if that scandal did not prevent German Chancellor from giving him back his job, it will certainly have no effect on Kosovo Albanians who have special inclination towards Germany, if for no other reason, because of the fact that it was the "host" to several hundred thousand Albanians - emigrants during the nineties. However, what the Albanians most frequently "pray" for is that Mr. Steiner succeed his predecessor Haekkerup only at the post but not at the actual work because the latter has remained "distant and cold" for them. They complained most because of "his efforts to restore links with Belgrade" which for the public in Kosovo meant dispelling of their dreams on full independence of Kosovo.

Signing of a document with the officials in Belgrade which was in fact the price he had paid for the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the general elections of November 17, was at the same time the end of "love" for the administrator who Kosovo political protagonists claimed talked more to Covic (deputy prime minister of Serbia) than to his political partners in Kosovo. Steiner is coming without a "dubious" background, and Kosovo political leaders are hoping that he will "get better acquainted with Kosovo and its problems". A part of them believe that Mr. Steiner will be more sincere and just in the interpretation of OUN Security Council Resolution 1244, that is, that he will not interpret it one-sidedly that Hans Haekkerup was, among other, accused of.

According to international officials, however, Mr. Steiner is arriving with the reputation of a diligent man and a person who will encounter a pile of problems in Kosovo. If the first administrator of Kosovo, Frenchman Bernard Kouchner had come in the "emergency phase", Hans Haekkerup passed through the difficult period of restructuring of the legal framework into the so-called substantial autonomy. On the other hand, Mr. Steiner is coming at the time when UNMIK is passing from the phase of full administration of Kosovo into the phase of limiting its role in administering with the focus on law and order, return of displaced persons, struggle against organized crime and strengthening of the judiciary. The officials wish to believe that Mr. Steiner is the right person for such a difficult job, and in UNMIK they claim that a powerful personality is needed who will be capable of facing the challenges in Kosovo. "In this part of the Balkan personalities have very big significance", declared a spokeswoman of OUN Mission who is getting ready to "outlive" all three administrators.

This person will, however, face very severe problems. Kosovo is administered as a whole, but in fact it is not that at all. Its north is “impenetrable land” for the members of the Albanian community, like all the other enclaves populated by the Serbs. For the latter, territories outside the enclaves are “terra incognita”. Animosities are still deep, security continues to be one of the fundamental problems, and as if on purpose in order to warn Steiner about his difficult job, a few days before his appointment to the new post, Kosovo was stricken by a wave of violence with strong political motives. On the other hand, Mr. Steiner is inheriting the unresolved questions of the arrested persons and thousands others who are considered to be missing. But above all, he will administer Kosovo which remains with undefined political status, so he will be forced to “very skillfully balance between the demand of the Albanians for independence and the demand of the Serbs for the return of Kosovo under Serbia’s sovereignty.

If nothing else, Steiner has already achieved one goal – that of Germany to increase its role, since he has become a German on one of the most significant posts after the Second World War. The fact that one of the main deputies of UNMIK head is his compatriot (Tom Koenigs) makes Germany one of the countries with the biggest influence in the peace Mission in Kosovo. Observers say that this will not make Steiner the “christened king of Kosovo” as he was called during his mission in Bosnia. International and local officials in Kosovo hope that he will introduce more spirit into the political process and perhaps restore the interest of the international community for Kosovo. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, hope (and many believe them to be naive) that together with Steiner, German investors might come to Kosovo. After arrival in Kosovo Steiner will also have at his disposal the results of the campaign of the head of his country’s mission in Pristina, Michael Schmunk, who is for some time standing together with his American colleague in the attempt if not to catch up with his role, at least to be near by – just in case.

Besnik BALA