The top United Nations envoy in Kosovo today voiced confidence on reaching a decision on the final status of the Albanian-majority Serbian province that the world body has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting.
“We have come a long way in the status process led by Special Envoy Ahtisaari,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Joachim Rücker said in a message marking the Kurban Bajram Muslim festival, referring to former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who is overseeing the status talks.
“We have not reached the finish line yet, but I am confident that we will stick together and keep Kosovo on track as we reach the culmination of this process.”
Independence and autonomy are among the options for the province, where Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1, but Serbia rejects independence. A UN proposal for the future status, which was to have been submitted this year, has been postponed until after Serbia’s parliamentary elections on 21 January.
In his most recent report on the province last month, Mr. Annan said Kosovo’s provisional ethnic Albanian Government and Serbia remained “diametrically opposed” in their views of the future status.
Mr. Rücker cited progress in implementing the so-called Standards, eight overall targets that include building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and setting up an impartial legal system.
He also noted that the economy had grown by almost 5 per cent, much higher than predicted at the beginning of the year, for the first time driven by the private sector.
“Of course, this growth is not sufficient yet to reduce unemployment and we have to work even harder,” he said. “Important steps have been taken to attract foreign direct investment to Kosovo, especially in the energy sector, where we need it most.”
He pledged to bring a successful conclusion to the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) by planning an orderly transition from international administration to institutions set up under the final status.
“Everything we do continues to be a partnership between internationals, our partners in the PISG (provisional government) and you, the people of Kosovo,” he said. “It is this partnership that gives me confidence that we will overcome the challenges ahead, and keep Kosovo secure and a home to all of its people.”