Kosovo: Envoy Says New Constitution For All Communities
On April 7, Pieter Feith, who is the international civilian representative in Kosovo, spoke to Arbana Vidishiqi of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service.
RFE/RL: One of your first projects, the constitution of Kosovo, has just been signed. It is slated to come into effect on June 15. Does this date also mark the end of the transition period from the UN administration to that of the EU?
Pieter Feith: Please ask Mr. [Joachim] Ruecker [who heads the UN Mission In Kosovo, UNMIK], but in my view, it does, yes.
RFE/RL: How will the transfer of competencies be determined, in view of the fact that the EU's legal framework is UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which is the same as UNMIK's?
Feith: Well, the modalities of the transition are a matter that is to be decided by the United Nations.
RFE/RL: There is still some confusion in regard to the UN's presence after the transition period. How do you see this issue, which some consider to be a dual authority? Can it interfere with your mission?
Feith: Well, I hope not. Again, it is up to the United Nations to decide about which residual authorities and powers they want to continue to exercise under Resolution 1244.
RFE/RL: Your mission faces strong objections by Kosovar Serbs, who are encouraged by Belgrade and Moscow alike. How do you intend to overcome these obstacles?
Feith: We will try to convince the Serb community in Kosova about the benefits that [UN envoy Martti] Ahtisaari's [constitutional legislation] package will bring them. We think this is very significant, and we need to give them the confidence that with these provisions they can have a better future, better economic opportunities, and that their way of life will be fully respected.
RFE/RL: Are you still functioning in the Serbian-dominated north?
Feith: Yes, we are still functioning in the north.
RFE/RL: Do you need NATO protection to function there?
Feith: NATO has its main task to provide a safe and secure environment throughout Kosova, and of course we as a mission stand to benefit from it.
RFE/RL: While we're on the subject of the north, some Belgrade officials have come up with a proposal on, as they've put it, a "functional division" between the Albanians and the Serbs, which many consider to be a de facto partition. What is your response?
Feith: It is up to the special representative of the UN secretary-general to take a [position] on this. For me, this proposal would not be a good way forward and would not be beneficial.
RFE/RL: You have also emphasized the importance of multiethnic integration. What can your mission do to convince Serbs to orient themselves towards Pristina rather then towards Belgrade?
Feith: We are working on the basis of the relevant provisions of the comprehensive settlement package. I have an office here with the necessary expertise to work on decentralization [and] on the protection of the cultural and religious heritage....
As you've said yourself, on April 7 a significant step was taken in moving the draft constitution to full adoption by [Kosova's parliament on April 9]. This constitution embodies all the provisions that we consider important and necessary for minority communities. And if we're given the necessary opportunities to have access to people, then I hope we can explain [matters to them] and give [them] confidence [about the matters] that I mentioned earlier.
RFE/RL: When do you expect for your mission to be fully functional?
Feith: You should rephrase this matter, because we are still in a build-up phase. I mean, under the Ahtisaari package, this is called a transition period. In fact, we do not have in many ways the authority that we will have after the June 15. We hope that by that time we will have built up this organization so we can [take on] more tasks.
RFE/RL: Many have seen economic incentives as a way of reaching a stabile environment in what is often described as an economically depressed country. What are your plans in this regard?
Feith: There will be an important donor conference in June, which will be under the authority of the [EU] and the World Bank. We look for an early decision to admit Kosovo into the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. I'm working with my colleagues on possibilities to attract private investment in order to restore growth in the Kosovar economy. But I must also say that the government has to [carry out] its responsibilities in this regard and make Kosovo an attractive country for direct private investments.
RFE/RL: Finally, Mr. Feith, you're also empowered to dismiss elected officials in Kosovo. Do you intend to use these powers, and under what circumstances?
Feith: These powers are there, although the main emphasis of my work is to advise and assist the government. I don't think it is very likely, but if there [are any serious deviations from the Ahtisaari guidelines], then certainly I will use my powers.
Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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