Neither Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-led Government nor Serbia have shown any will to reach a negotiated accord on the future status of the Serbian province, where Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1, and the senior United Nations official overseeing the issue will submit a “realistic compromise” to the Security Council this month.
“It is my firm conclusion that the potential of negotiations is exhausted,” Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari said after chairing a weekend meeting in Vienna of key players involved in deciding the future of the province, which the UN has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting.
“I regret to say that at the end of the day, there was no will from the parties to move away from their previously stated positions,” Mr. Ahtisaari added of his intensive talks with both sides since he put forward an initial plan last month that would give Kosovo the right to govern itself and conclude international agreements, including membership in international bodies, under international civilian and military supervision to help to ensure peace and stability.
Serbia rejects independence, a goal sought by many Albanians and both sides interpreted this plan as meaning independence supervised by the international community. Mr. Ahtisaari has said he will make “a very clear statement” on the independence issue in the version he submits to the Security Council by the end of the month.
“I had hoped, and very much preferred, that this process would lead to a negotiated agreement,” he said on Saturday after chairing the talks among Serbian and Kosovo leaders, the so-called Contact Group – the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Russia – which has been helping to seek a solution, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) whose forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 and who now help to maintain security in the province, and the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
“But it has left me with no doubt that the parties’ respective positions on Kosovo’s status do not contain any common ground to achieve such an agreement. No amount of additional negotiation will change that,” he added.
Stressing that a sustainable solution to the status issue was urgently needed, not only in the interest of the people of Kosovo but as a matter “of vital importance” for regional peace and stability, Mr. Ahtisaari said: “Delaying the status resolution would not create any better conditions for a solution – it would only be for the sake of delaying a difficult decision.”
The envoy’s provisional plan, unveiled on 2 February, addressed the demands of a multi-ethnic society, with a constitution enshrining the needed principles, to protect the rights of all communities, including culture, language, education, and symbols, as well granting specific representation for non-Albanians in key public institutions and requiring that certain laws may only be enacted if a majority of the Kosovo non-Albanian legislative members agree.
It called for wide-ranging decentralization, focusing in particular on the specific needs and concerns of the Serb community, which will have a high degree of control over its own affairs such as secondary health care, higher education and financial matters, including accepting transparent funding from Serbia. Six new or significantly expanded Kosovo Serb majority municipalities will be set up.
Since then, Serbia has repeatedly rejected any notion of independence for the province, while some Albanians have demonstrated for immediate self-determination.
President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica represented Serbia at Saturday’s meeting, while President Fatmir Sejdiu led the Kosovo team.