There has recently been a slowdown in the political process of moving ethnically-divided Kosovo along the road towards determining its final status, the United Nations administrator of the province said today.
"We have recently seen a slowdown in the implementation of some of the standards," Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Søren Jessen-Petersen told a news briefing of the eight goals in areas such as democratic institutions, minority rights and an impartial legal system, seen as crucial steps in moving towards final status talks.
The UN has run the province since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops amid grave human rights abuses in fighting between majority Albanians and Serbs in 1999.
Speaking to reporters after conferring in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Mr. Jessen-Petersen gave three reasons for the slowdown.
"One is that we need to see stronger commitment on the Kosovo Albanian leadership, the PISG (Provisional Institutions of Self Government), they need to show even stronger commitment to push forward on returns, on freedom of movement, and also on decentralization," he said. The return of Serbs who fled their homes in the province is a significant issue.
"The second reason for the slowdown is, as long as Belgrade (Serbia's capital) denies the Kosovo Serbs the opportunity to be part of the process, there will be limits to how much progress we can make on returns, on freedom of movement," he added.
Mr. Jessen-Petersen has repeatedly urged Serbian leaders in Belgrade to encourage Kosovo Serbs to participate in the political process in the province where Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities 9 to 1.
The third reason is that, more and more, issues are now being seen through the prism of status discussions, he said, as in the case of discussions on decentralisation.
"Clearly, there is a slowdown and as I say, there is a responsibility on the side of all, including us, to make sure that progress continues," he added.
Mr. Jessen-Petersen has previously said the process to decide Kosovo's final status could begin this year.