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Concerns Mount Over Kosovo's Status

22 December 2006

Reaching a decision on the final status of the disputed Serbian province of Kosovo is becoming more difficult, because of Russian objections and a lack of consensus within the 25-nation European Union. VOA's Barry Wood has this report.

A decision by the European Union on Kosovo's future has been in limbo since the end of NATO's bombing campaign in 1999. Coupled with a lack of Russian support, it seems a quick solution for the region is further out of reach, according to Kosovo expert Daniel Serwer.

"I don't see the possibility of a peaceful, negotiated solution," he said. "Rather [I see] a continuation of delays and uncertainty, which could lead to problems in Kosovo."

Even though it remains officially linked to Serbia, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since fighting ended. Almost all its population - more than 90 percent ethnic Albanians - want independence, but Serbia refuses to agree.

A United Nations negotiator has been meeting for months with ethnic Albanians and Belgrade, trying to prepare a plan for Kosovo's future, whether it will become an independent nation or remain part of Serbia. An end-of-the-year deadline has been extended until at least January 21, however, to avoid undue influence on parliamentary elections Serbia is holding on that date.

Serwer tells VOA it will be difficult to obtain Russian support for conditional independence for Kosovo - the U.N. negotiator's most likely recommendation. Moscow, Serbia's traditional ally, has said repeatedly that no solution can be imposed against Serbia's wishes.

Bulgaria's foreign minister, Ivailo Kalfin, says Kosovo is the key to the entire western Balkan region. A peaceful, internationally accepted outcome, he says, will move Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Montenegro towards European Union membership. Kalfin says it is essential that Kosovo retain its multiethnic character.

"It's crucially important that the Serbs in Kosovo can be involved and stay there," he said. "Of course, they need to have security. They need to receive the possibility to work, to make their living. They need to be more engaged in the political life of whatever is happening in Kosovo."

Bulgaria and Romania will become the 26th and 27th members of the European Union on New Year's Day.

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