Politicians planning after changes in Belgrade
Kosovar Albanian political leaders are now starting to formulate options for Kosovo's political future in the wake of the fall of Slobodan Milošević. While opinions on paths and mechanisms vary, the goal is common—independence.
All hold that normal, peaceful municipal elections at the end of this month are the first step, and most have begun to raise their voices to call for a temporary constitution for Kosovo—something that, for now, seems difficult to achieve.
Politicians are also unified regarding the holding of general elections next spring in order to have institutionalized representation for discussions on Kosovo's future with both the international community and Belgrade.
Local media have devoted considerable attention in the past few days to the American idea of turning Kosovo into a republic like Serbia and Montenegro. Albanians think the idea has merit, but only in a loose confederation, not a centralized federation as before.
United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) head Bernard Koucher has continued his efforts in Kosovo and abroad. This week, Kouchner was in Zagreb for talks with Croatian President Stipe Mesić and he has met with Kosovar Serb and Albanian leaders individually in the past few days to learn their views on developments in Serbia.
The Interim Administrative Council (IAC) has held a special session to discuss the changes in Belgrade in order to ensure all points of view are discussed by the full membership.
The IAC has expressed its hope that the changes in Belgrade could be the first step of a democratization process that will contribute to the stabilization of the entire region. It underlined that many challenges remain ahead for the people of Kosovo, and for the international community working here.
Meanwhile, thousands of Albanians from all over Kosovo gathered in the centre of Priština to call for the release of Kosovar Albanian prisoners in Serbian jails. Democratic Party leader Hashim Thaçi said that, together with the United Nations, Albanians will apply pressure on the Belgrade regime in order to resolve the situation of Albanians who had disappeared or been imprisoned.
Kouchner opened the Priština Resource Centre on Detainees and Missing Persons, where people can get assistance for their efforts to locate missing or detained persons. The effort is being led by UNMIK, with the participation of the OSCE and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The fate of the detained persons in Serbia and of missing persons from all ethnic communities remains a most pressing problem.
The IAC has also called for the hand-over of all indicted war criminals to the Hague Tribunal (ICTY).
Speaking in Zagreb after meeting with Mesić, Kouchner suggested that next month's Balkans summit would be a good occasion for the UN to start talks with the new Yugoslav leadership on the future of the province.
"It will be a good, good occasion to start discussion between the newcoming democrats and the people representing the...UN," he told reporters.
Kouchner said he is, so far, the only person who will represent Kosovo at the November 24 summit in Zagreb between the European Union (EU) and former Yugoslav successor states. Kouchner added, however, that the Kosovo delegation might include some "political leaders," but was no more specific.
KFOR change of command
Italy's LtGen Carlo Cabigiosu succeeded Spanish LtGen Juan Ortuńo as Commander of the NATO-led Kosovo Force (COMKFOR) on 16 October.
Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Joseph W Ralston took part in the change of command ceremony at KFOR headquarters in Priština, presenting LtGen Ortuńo with the KFOR service medal.
Cabigiosu began his military career as an Alpine officer, and attended the General Staff College at Camberley in 1978. Since then, he has held a variety of postings at the General Staff level, was Military Attaché in Germany and commander of the Alpine Brigade "Taurinense." Since November 1999 he has served as the Chief of Staff of the Naples-based AFSOUTH Regional Headquarters.
The new headquarters KFOR for staff is drawn from Joint Command South in Italy, and Joint Command Southeast in Turkey.
Parties oppose election day flag ban
Representatives of Kosovar political parties have reacted angrily to an UNMIK announcement that no national flags are to be displayed during the upcoming local elections. The decree allows only the display of OSCE and UNMIK flags.
A variety of political leaders challenged the decision, saying it was wrong, anti-democratic and inhumane. They said that no one should prevent people from displaying their own flags on the day they go out to elect their own representatives.
In the upcoming 28 October municipal elections, voters will cast their ballots at some 1464 polling stations in 380 polling centers, OSCE spokesman Roland Bless said Thursday.
Each polling station, he said, is designed to handle up to 700 voters.
The OSCE Mission in Kosovo also published this week the second set of financial disclosure reports by political entities contesting this month's municipal elections.
UN urges halt to forced return of refugees
UNMIK head Bernard Kouchner urged governments hosting Kosovar Albanian refugees to halt returns until March 2001 because of lack of adequate accommodation in Kosovo.
Lack of adequate accommodation and the potential overcrowding of temporary shelters are critical issues facing UNMIK and international donors as another winter approaches. In all some 82,000 Kosovars, mainly ethnic Albanians, have returned this year.
Criminal justice system falls short
An OSCE report claims that Kosovo's criminal justice system still falls short of international standards, despite recent improvements.
In less than one year, a functioning judicial system has been established. The appointment of international judges and prosecutors has, in a number of cases, helped obviate concerns raised in the report and improve the criminal justice system. UNMIK has provided guidance to courts on applicable law, including international human rights standards, and translation and interpretation support services.
However, despite these achievements, the current system has a long way to go to meet the necessary standards.
The report recommends the international community should significantly increase funding and resources to the criminal justice system.
And in other news...
- The Governing Board of the European Agency for Reconstruction broadly agreed on proposals for reconstruction assistance in Kosovo for 2001, EU spokesman Mike Todd said. He said specific budget figures will now be drawn up.
- Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo visited Priština on Wedsnesday, meeting with all political leaders and international representatives. Milo said the 28 October local elections represent a big step forward toward Kosovo's future democracy.
Llazar Semini, 21 October 2000
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