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Draft U.N. Plan Would Protect Minority Groups in Kosovo

22 March 2007

Kosovo Serbs would benefit from decentralized government, international presence

This is the second in a series of articles on the future of Kosovo.

Washington -- A draft U.N. peace proposal emphasizes that Kosovo would remain under international supervision, Serbs and other minority communities would be protected, and strong political, economic and security links would be formed with the European Union and NATO.

U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari of Finland is preparing to make a formal recommendation on Kosovo’s future status to the U.N. Security Council. The United States is waiting to see Ahtisaari’s final recommendation before forming an official position on Kosovo’s future status.

A province of Serbia, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 when NATO allies intervened to halt Serb attacks against ethnic Albanian separatists. Ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo’s residents and seek independence. Ethnic Serbs make up fewer than 10 percent and want to remain a part of Serbia. Kosovo has deep cultural and religious connections for Serbs.

The 1999 intervention was triggered by rights abuses against ethnic Albanians. Today, the 17,000 peacekeepers with NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) primarily protect minority Serb communities and cultural sites.

In February, Ahtisaari made public a draft proposal that would maintain a lasting international presence by appointing a senior European Union administrator, known as the international civilian representative (ICR). The ICR would have broad authority to annul laws or fire individuals who are not cooperating with the terms of the peace settlement. A similar arrangement has been in place in Bosnia since the 1990s.

The draft settlement also would create a European mission to monitor police and judicial systems. In addition, the settlement calls for the continued presence of a NATO-led international military presence.

According to Ahtisaari’s draft proposal: “Kosovo shall be a multi-ethnic society, governing itself democratically and with full respect for the rule of law, the highest level of internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, and which promotes the peaceful and prosperous existence of all its inhabitants.”

Following discussions with Kosovo and Serb officials, which lasted through March 10, Ahtisaari said he would make his formal recommendation to the U.N. Security Council by the end of March. Some elements of the draft proposal are expected to change, but Kosovo Serb and Albanian communities have agreed on more than 80 percent of the draft settlement. (See related article.)

A key part of the draft plan is protecting and promoting the rights of all people and communities in Kosovo, including provisions on culture, language and education, according to a summary released by Ahtisaari’s office. For example, the draft settlement calls for non-Albanian community members to serve in key public jobs, both to safeguard minority interests and to encourage active participation of minorities in the central government.

The draft settlement would limit the powers of the central government in favor of local and municipal governments. “The proposal focuses in particular on the specific needs and concerns of the Kosovo Serb community, which will have a high degree of control over its own affairs,” according to the draft settlement. For example, Kosovo Serb communities would make local decisions on health care and education, and they would have “extensive autonomy in financial matters, including the ability to accept transparent funding from Serbia.” The draft settlement also would allow “inter-municipal partnerships and cross-boundary cooperation with Serbian institutions.”

Speaking to reporters March 10 in Vienna, Austria, Ahtisaari stressed that a lasting settlement would result in significant political and economic benefits.

“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,” Ahtisaari said. Without a clear decision on Kosovo’s status, he said, “we will not get the economy improving like it should, because the unemployment at the moment in Kosovo is totally at an unacceptable level. And no one dares invest in a country the status of which is unsure.”

U.S. diplomat Daniel Fried met with State Department reporters March 12 to discuss his recent visits with Kosovo community leaders. “It is clear that the people of Kosovo, about whom all of this is taking place, do want in the main to live together,” said Fried, who is assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. “They are apprehensive about each other. There is clearly not a great deal of trust. But there is at least a determination to try to make the Ahtisaari plan work.”

Leaders of all the communities urged that NATO forces remain in Kosovo, Fried said. “And that, in fact, is NATO’s intention,” he added.

See also "U.S. Believes an Independent Kosovo Would Not Set Precedent."

For more information on U.S. policies in the region, see Southeast Europe.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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