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Further Progress in Kosovo Demands International Attention

(Washington, DC-- February 3, 2005) The international community must accept responsibility and take a more active role in resolving the final status of Kosovo, according to a regional monitoring organization. During a recent RFE/RL briefing, International Crisis Group Kosovo program director Alex Anderson summarized the results of a report, released by the group on January 24, 2005 that recommends urgent attention to Kosovo.

Anderson said that Kosovo, which is administered by the UN civilian administration known as UNMIK, is approaching both "political and economic exhaustion," because of the demands placed on its local government at a time when unemployment rates in Kosovo range from 30 percent in urban areas to 60 percent in rural areas.

There is additional tension, Anderson said, caused by the so-called "standards before status" formula imposed on Kosovo by UNMIK, which implies the possibility of independence for Kosovo if it can implement "rock solid" international standards to protect its minority population of mostly ethnic Serbs, who make up ten percent of the population. According to Anderson, "one hundred percent of Kosovar Albanians want independence," and this goal can help to leverage progress in Kosovo, even though, as noted in the ICG report, Kosovo still needs a "social transformation." Anderson noted that cooperation is still lacking from the Serbian government in shaping minority guarantees in Kosovo.

The ICG report suggests altering the "standards before status" formula by having the international community pre-negotiate conditions for a new constitution that would guarantee minority rights in Kosovo. While a national infrastructure is created in Kosovo, international support should be maintained and the twin goals of standards and final status should "advance in parallel," according to Anderson. International support would include providing international judges at the regional, supreme, and constitutional court levels in Kosovo; the continuation of international monitoring missions; and a permanent NATO presence.

Anderson stated Kosovo is at a "fragile," yet critical junction. Leaders must create stable institutions, despite the many future crises awaiting them. He warned that renewed violence is "highly possible" this spring, due to the "political limbo" in Kosovo, the upcoming dates significant to Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commemorations, or the possible indictment by the Hague Tribunal of former KLA commander and current Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.

Anderson warns that various partition plans for Kosovo that have been put forward would negate the work done to unite a multi-ethnic country and also raise questions of legitimacy in other multi-ethnic nations, such as Serbia and Montenegro, and Macedonia. He said that, although the international community is "disconnected" and preoccupied with other crises around the world, achieving progress in Kosovo requires comprehensive review and high-level political involvement, no later than this summer.

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