The Riddle of Kosovo

After Seven Years of Talks , the UN Security Council Is Unable to Find a Solution

Opinion | Anna Claessen | March 2007

On Feb. 2, Kosovo Albanians waited in front of their televisions to see what would become of their province. For two years Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leaders had met with other nationalities to discuss the future of the troubled Serbian province and U.N protectorate, but with no resolution.

Chief U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari presented leaders in Pristina and Belgrade with a plan for qualified self-rule. It included the rights to a flag, an anthem, an army, a constitution and the right to apply for membership in international organizations. Kosovo’s Serb minority would have a high degree of control over its own affairs. It would also block Kosovo from joining Albania or having its Serb areas split off to join Serbia. NATO and EU forces would still be in charge of military and policing roles.

The plan did not specifically mention independence from Serbia, but implied self-rule.

Serbia’s President Boris Tadic was outraged. He said that Athisaaris proposal violated the UN Charter. Serbia would never accept the independence of Kosovo.

Ethnic Albanian officials accepted the plan; they saw it as a chance to bring self-determination to Kosovo.

But Ahtisaari´s plan will not only affect Kosovo Albanians and Serbians but the Balkans as well. Kosovo claims more than 2,000 hectares of land in Macedonia. Still, Macedonia’s president Branko Crvenkovski supports the plan: "It is our interest to have political stability, efficient institutions and standards which will be respected in Kosovo," he said.

Russia is most afraid of the affects if would have on other regions in Europe, that it could spark a "chain reaction" among other breakaway regions not only in Europe but former Soviet Union (like Russian republic of Chechnya). Slovak and Serb officials have had similar concerns, as has Spain regarding the  Basque region or Catalonia. Russia, however, would accept the proposals as long as Serbia and Kosovo agreed to them, according to Russian’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

The plan needs approval by the U.N. Security Council to come into force, now including Russia, China, U.K, U.S, Italy, France, Slovakia, South Africa, Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Panama, Peru, Qatar.

But therein lies the riddle: The central decision is in the hands of Serbia and Kosovo, and Serbia is unlikely to let go so easily. This could mean another war in the province, and the Security Council shouldering the weight of a decision that is not really theirs to make.

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