Monday, April 30, 2007

Russia: Kosovo falls short of standards

MOSCOW, Russia, April 30, 2007 -- According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Security Council's fact-finding mission to Kosovo established that the province has failed to meet international standards and the provisions of Security Council Resolution 1244. In a statement released Sunday (April 29th), the ministry cited the alleged failures as a reason why the Ahtisaari plan should not be accepted. Moscow acknowledged, however, that certain progress has been made in the social and administrative sphere.

Meanwhile, in an interview published Sunday, Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku acknowledged that an independent Kosovo might not be recognised by some members of the international community, should the Ahtisaari plan fail to win UN Security Council approval. Such a development would be bad for Kosovo, Ceku said. Commenting on Serbia's stance, the prime minister decried "politicians who are using Kosovo as a propaganda tool".

"On the other hand, you have moderate, young people who are tired of all these old stories about Kosovo. They want to look forward and join Europe," Ceku said. "Serbia is being blocked by its past." (Tanjug, RTS, AP, AFP, UPI - 29/04/07)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Montenegrin Parliament extends public debate on proposed constitution

April 26, 2007

PODGORICA, Montenegro -- Parliament voted unanimously on Wednesday (April 25th) to extend public debate on the new draft constitution, from May 4th to May 28th. The decision was in response to separate requests from NGOs who say further discussion would contribute to the quality of the document. Two ethnic Albanian lawmakers are also proposing that the bill be released in the Albanian language also.

Separately, a delegation from the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe's advisory arm for legal matters, visited Podgorica on Wednesday. Meeting with Prime Minister Zeljko Sturanovic, Commission Deputy Secretary Tomas Markert reiterated that the panel is willing to provide any assistance necessary regarding the new constitution.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Will Russia Veto Kosova?

In a recent article, Reuters reported that "Serbia is convinced Russia will knock down a plan giving supervised independence to the breakaway Kosovo province with a "historic veto" at the U.N. Security Council, Serbia's prime minister said..." In fact Vojislav Kostunica went on to say that once the veto is exercised, a new "mediator" will be appointed to negotiate Kosova's future, one that will keep it part of rump Serbia.

So what will the Sercurity Council decide in the coming weeks? Here are some excerpts from international media sources commenting on Russia's decision whether to veto or not-to-veto.

The Economist: "The Russians know that the Serbs and Kosovo Albanians will never agree...if Russia blocks a new resolution, Kosovo will declare independence anyway—and the Americans will “probably” recognise it...Many Muslim countries will follow..."

International Herald Tribune: Russian Ambassador Churkin said "the UN should reject Ahtisaari's conclusion and turn to someone with the capacity to keep negotiations open." Asked if Russia was threatening to use its veto against the plan, Churkin said, "Veto is a very big word so I don't want, of course, to use it before the day comes to take a vote."

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network: "Russia is more interested in power games with the West than with Kosovo - and note that the Kremlin is being cautious about committing itself to using the veto ... Russia has particular concerns about separatism in the Caucasus, where it has been fighting an independence movement in Chechnya for years ... “If we see that one of the parties is not happy with the solution, we will not support it,” Putin told a forum of the world’s top security officials in Munich."

Washington Post: "Putin says Russia will not support anything that the Serbs oppose. If this means a Russian veto in the Security Council, or an effort to water down or delay Ahtisaari's plan, the fragile peace in Kosovo will evaporate within days, and a new wave of violence -- possibly even another war -- will erupt."

Radio Free Europe: "Russia's ambassador to Serbia, Aleksandr Alekseyev, told the private B92 television channel Lon December 4 that if a proposed status solution is not acceptable for both sides, the Russian side will use its right of veto."

The Guardian: There is disagreement on Belgrade's role and how to handle Russia's potential for blocking Kosovo's independence. (It was the threat of a Russian veto that prevented Nato seeking UN authorisation before the 1999 war.) ... Russia is a bigger problem. If Putin cannot be persuaded that Kosovo needs independence, the rest of the world should recognise the new state anyway. Kosovo can go without a UN seat - the only major consequence of a Kremlin veto.

Worldpress: "Russia has already stated that it will not recognize the independence of Kosovo and it will veto such a resolution in the Security Council ... Russia supports independence for the provinces of North Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia. Therefore, Moscow aims to win either way. Should Kosovo become independent it would claim a precedent for its claims in Georgia. It would always be able to exert its influence in Belgrade and possibly seek a more energetic role in southeastern Europe."

United Press International: "U.S. Undersecretary Nicholas Burns was commenting on Russian Ambassador Alexander Alexiev's statement in Belgrade Monday claiming Moscow will veto a decision on Kosovo unless it is acceptable to both the Serbian government and the leaders of Kosovo ethnic-Albanians in Pristina."

CNN: "Ahtissari's plan faces an uncertain future in the Security Council, which is split on the issue. Russia supports Serbia and has implied it could use its veto power if Belgrade's interests are not addressed."

The Washington Times: A Russian diplomat to the European Union said last month that Moscow would oppose any "imposed solution," and the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday that an independent Kosovo would "impose severe and serious complications on the stability of Europe."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Kosova Independent by Summer, Support by the USA

“Kosova independent by summer”

By Daily Jutarnji List
Published: April 17, 2007

ZAGREB -- Ahtisaari’s deputy Albert Rohan says Kosova will be granted supervised independence, while Russia will not use its veto at the UN.

Rohan told Zagreb daily Jutarnji List he did not wish to speculate on whether Serbian and Russian efforts to delay the United Nations Security Council decision on Kosova’s future status would lead to incidents escalating into violence, creating “negative press” for the province’s Albanians.

However, Rohan told the newspaper he agreed the situation in Kosova, although currently stable, was so volatile any incident could spark off more serious violence.

“The sooner we have a decision, the better. We oppose unreasonable delays,” Rohan said.
Rohan explained he expected negotiations over a new Kosova resolution to take place during May, while the resolution itsel! ! f would be adopted at the end of that month.
“In any case, Kosova should be independent before the summer,” he added.

Rohan told the daily Ahtisaari’s proposal “had no alternative”, as well as that after eight years of uncertainty Kosova’s status needed to be resolved.

“Miloševiæ is the one who lost Kosova, everybody knows this. The fault is not with the current Serbian leadership and this fact needs to be faced at last,” Rohan said.

Rohan also said he did not believe Russia would reach for its veto in a council session discussing a new Kosova resolution.

“Permanent Security Council member states have been responsible in the past, rarely using their veto powers,” Rohan explained.

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- ------
Burns said: "USA will support a declaration of independence by the people of Kosova"

By Associated Press
Published: April 17, 2007

In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, the Undersecretary of State said that the U.S. considers independence “the only option for the province,” the Associated Press reports.

Letting go of Kosova would allow Belgrade to move toward greater integration with Western Europe and beyond troubled relations with Washington, Burns said, while gesturing toward Ivan Vujaèiæ, Serbia's ambassador, who was sitting in the front row.

Burns said that the United States hoped that a plan proposed by chief United Nations envoy for Kosova, Martti Ahtisaari granting the province supervised statehood would be debated by the UN Security Council within weeks.

Under the proposal, Kosova would have interim period of international supervision with its own army, flag, anthem and constitution, before achieving full statehood.
"We are on the verge of a major development with the looming independence of Kosova as a new state in the international system," Burns said.

"It is very clear to the United States that the future of Kosova should be one of independence and we will lead the way as authors of a resolution that would allow that to happen."
Serbia has rejected the proposal and has been supported by Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power.

During a question period following Monday's speech, Ambassador Vujaèiæ (serb-origine) asked Burns, why the U.S. would not consider Serbia's proposals for extensive autonomy for Kosova.
"There is every reason to believe that that solution put forward by Russia, put forward by the Serb government itself, would lead to more violence, rather than less," Burns replied.
"You put forward the proposal of autonomy. We think that is 10 to 12 years too late," Burns said.

Vujaèiæ also asked Burns whether the United States would rule out unilateral recognition of Kosova.

The question is sensitive because some have suggested that if Russia carries out threats that it has made to veto a resolution on the Ahtisaari plan, other countries, including the United States, should recognize Kosova's independence anyway.

"We will support a declaration of independence by the people of Kosova," Burns said.
But he made clear that the United States expected that UN resolution would pass and that recognition would follow.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Montenegrin Parliament adopts new draft constitution

PODGORICA, Montenegro -- Parliament approved the new draft constitution on Monday (April 2nd) by a vote of 65 to 2. However, the measure includes several alternative amendments, regarding the regulation of state symbols, official languages and religious communities, as the ruling coalition and the opposition failed to agree on common definitions. The draft is now subject to 30 days of public debate, after which a parliamentary committee will hammer out a final version of the proposal. If it fails to attract a two thirds majority in parliament, a referendum will be held at a cost of up to 1.5m euros. (Vijesti - 03/04/07; Mina, RTCG - 02/04/07)

Ministry of Education in Montenegro refuses to allow school textbooks from Albania and Kosova

The quality of education to which Albanian children in Montenegro have access has not improved and has even declined in some places. Segregation of Albanian communities has increased, further harming equal access to education.
In a recent declaration that demonstrates the cleavages in society, the Ministry of Education has rebuffed numerous pleas from Albanian educators in Montenegro to consider importing licensed textbooks from Albania and Kosova in efforts to broaden the historical and cultural realization of Albanian students that have been saturated with the Slavic point of view from primary school all the way through high school.
The ramifications of cultural and historical bias in the classroom has had its negative effects, where Albanian students only spend 2.7% of their curriculum on Albanian history and 97.3% on the history of other nations, including heavy emphasis on the Slavs. This problem is further damaging to the quality of Slavic tests that do exist in the classrooms today; according to the Ministry of Education and Science (MOE) in Montenegro, textbooks in use are still those produced for the previous Yugoslav curricula, thus making most of the content obsolete and discriminatory against minorities and women, and they have not picked up on political changes within the country. Furthermore, many of the textbooks are badly written, as if produced by writers who have little understanding of how teachers teach or how children learn, or in many cases how learning takes place through the process of accretion.

Many of the writers have no regard to the language competence of the child – the books are, therefore, not only dense in factual data but also incomprehensible in many places. Even adults have difficulty in understanding texts which the children dutifully learn by rote and reproduce on demand.

There is no involvement of teachers in the production of textbooks. For example, there is no process of a team collaboration with a writer, or being set up as a team with a commission to produce a textbook.

For those Albanian students wishing to enroll in secondary institutions, the problems are complicated even more. The organisation of entrance exams and the appointment of the authors of these exams make it impossible to do the entrance exam in Albanian, as all entrance exams have been in the Montenegrin language only.

An example for improvement in this sector can perhaps be taken out of the pages of the Hungarian Ministry of Education and Vojvodina, where the low number of pupils makes domestic textbooks in Hungarian an illusion, but this is why this problem can only be solved by imported textbooks. Minister Knezevic has promised to license imported textbooks for vocational schools from Hungary, the content of which corresponds to the Serbian syllabus to a great extent. In February the Executive Board formed a work group that deals with the import of foreign textbooks. In great part due to the help of the Hungarian Ministry of Education, the work group looked into and analysed 400 textbooks from Hungary in various educational branches, and after a great deal of professional work a request for the licensing and legal use of 83 titles in Hungarian classes of vocational schools was addressed to the Serbian Ministry in December. At the same time, on the initiative of the Education Committee, a request for the licensing of textbooks published by the Hungarian Apáczai Publisher for first-year classes of elementary schools was forwarded to the Ministry as well.

cc. World Bank Team Lead in Montenegro, Nina Arnhold
EU Commissioner for Education, Jan Figel
Open Society Institute chairman, George Soros

Monday, April 02, 2007

European Parliament and EU foreign ministers demand supervised sovereignty for Kosovo

On Thursday (29 March) European Parliament came in 319-268 support for independence of Kosovo. Dutch green MEP Joost Lagendijk deserves a boulevard named after him in Pristina.On

Friday EU foreign ministers did the same thing.

MEPs demand supervised sovereignty for Kosovo
29.03.2007 - 17:41 CET By Renata GoldirovaEUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS -

Members of the European Parliament have adopted a report demanding that the disputed province of Kosovo be granted "supervised sovereignty."

It is the strongest expression of EU pro-independence feeling yet, with the European Commission and member states remaining shy of such a strong term.

319 MEPs on Thursday (29 March) voted in favour of having a clear label on post-status Kosovo, while 268 - mainly from Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Romania and Slovakia - were against.

The vote comes just days after UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari proposed "supervised independence" for the territory, which is currently a province of Serbia administrated by the UN.

Dutch green MEP Joost Lagendijk, who drafted the report, expressed his satisfaction over the fact that the European Parliament chose to send an unambiguous signal to EU capitals, while saying it is the "first step" to a "united Europe" over the Kosovo issue.

He stressed that if the EU fails to act as a bloc, Russia will "cleverly" use member states' divisions as an excuse to postpone or veto the UN decision on future status of Kosovo.

The EU will face a key test for its united stance on the issue on Friday (30 March), when foreign ministers are due to discuss Kosovo's future at a meeting in the German city of Bremen.

Some member states - notably Slovakia, Spain and Greece - remain against Kosovo being put on the road to independence. Slovakia has recently emerged as a vocal opponent of independence, with its parliament this week adopting a declaration saying "the future status of Kosovo must respect Serbia's legitimate demands." Bratislava currently has a seat in the UN Security Council - the body entitled to carry the ultimate decision on Kosovo.

According to the Slovak declaration, "the possibility of negotiations has not been exhausted", while "the full and unsupervised independence of Kosovo is not in the interest of the region".

On the other hand, EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn stressed that the essence of decision on Kosovo is European unity. "We must continue to support president Ahtisaari and his proposal with consistent determination in the UN Security Council", he said.

Brussels believes that only a united European front could get Russia and China on board, as both Moscow and Beijing have objections to supervised independence.

Earlier today, Moscow confirmed its "principled position against imposing on the sides any kinds of scenario, so that a solution is worked out that would be acceptable both to Belgrade and Prishtina," according to a statement from the Kremlin.

The EU's takeover plan unveiled

Meanwhile, an internal report by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and commissioner Rehn has revealed the bloc is well-advanced in planning to replace the 3,000-strong UN administration that has been running Kosovo since 1999.

According to the document, it will take roughly 120 days for the UN to hand over responsibilities to the EU, press reports say. "

The transition period could also be highly sensitive in political and security terms... There could be interest of extremist groups on both sides in provoking security incidents and inciting members of communities to leave Kosovo", the Financial times quotes the Solana-Rehn report.

Mr Rehn speaking to the European Parliament on Wednesday (28 March) also revealed a few details on the operation in post-status Kosovo - which constitutes the EU's largest civilian crisis management mission ever.

The EU's overall presence in Kosovo is likely to run to the order of 1,500 to 2,000 international staff, including police officers and judges, while early estimates suggest that international grant assistance of up to around €1.3 - 1.5 billion may be required for the first three years after the status is implemented."

At the EU foreign ministers' meeting on Friday (30 March), I will stress that resources cannot come from the EU budget alone. EU Member States and our international community partners must share the responsibility", Mr Rehn said.

EU Pushes for Kosovo Independence, Overcomes Internal Divisions
By James G. Neuger and Mark Deen

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- European Union foreign ministers pushed for independence for the disputed Serb province of Kosovo, trying to forge a united front against a possible Russian veto.

Spain, Slovakia and Greece became the last EU countries to fall in line behind independence for the southern Serb province, which has been under international control since NATO's bombing campaign drove out Serb troops in 1999.

``It's never the case that all European partners have the same opinion in advance,'' German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told a press conference after chairing an EU meeting in Bremen, Germany today. ``That's how it is in the Kosovo question.''
EU officials said papering over the cracks is vital to prevent Russia, a longstanding ally of Serbia, from wielding a United Nations Security Council veto that would destabilize the Balkans.

``We're talking to the Russians without succeeding so far in bringing about a visible change in the Russian position,'' Steinmeier said.

A Kosovo settlement would be the final act in the breakup of Yugoslavia after the civil war of the 1990s. It is also the key to future EU membership for Serbia, the largest ex-Yugoslav republic and the slowest to embrace the EU.

``We have no exit strategy, we have only an entry strategy as regards Kosovo and the whole region of the western Balkans,'' EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said.

Region's `Challenges'

The EU has turned a peaceful settlement in the Balkans into a test of its own foreign-policy credibility, a decade after a divided Europe had to rely on the U.S. military to stop the Yugoslav bloodshed.

``European unity? I don't think that's the problem,'' Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said. ``The problem is challenges in the region, which are seriously underestimated so far. I'm worried about that.''

Spain had voiced concern that formally splitting off Kosovo from Serbia would give fresh momentum to the Basque separatist group ETA.

In its biggest civilian crisis management mission ever, the EU will dispatch experts and police to supervise the settlement and estimates the cost at 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to $1.5 billion euros for 2008-10.

The U.S. will provide around 380 million euros, leaving the EU and other donors to pick up the rest of the bill. Also in dispute is what to do about Kosovo's share of Serbia's external debt, estimated at 840 million euros, about a third of the province's gross domestic product.

50% Unemployment

Initially buoyed by an influx of international aid personnel after the 1999 cease-fire, Kosovo's economy has since stumbled. It shrank in 2002, 2003 and 2005, and the official unemployment rate is now over 50 percent.

The UN proposal would grant Kosovo the hallmarks of statehood such as a central bank, an army and a flag, while providing protections for the roughly 200,000 Serbs living in the mostly ethnic Albanian province of 2 million.

The proposal's author, Finnish diplomat Martti Ahtisaari, told the Security Council this week that ``the only viable option is independence'' after Serbs and Kosovars failed to reach a negotiated settlement.

Opposition to a final break with Kosovo unites the two parties set to form the next Serb government, one led by President Boris Tadic and the other by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. The parties face a May 14 deadline to form a government after elections in January.

To contact the reporter on this story: James G. Neuger in Bremen at