The current negotiations on the status of Kosovo are to determine whether Kosovo will gain independence or remain an autonomous province of Serbia.
By Blerta Foniqi-Kabashi for Southeast European Times in Pristina – 15/12/06
UN envoy Kai Eide's assessment of Kosovo led to the current status process. [Getty Images]
In 2005, UN envoy Kai Eide assessed that Kosovo's undefined status is a factor for regional instability. The review spurred the UN Security Council to issue a Presidential Statement to endorse Eide's assessment and launch a status process.
Belgrade's position is that Kosovo should be highly autonomous, but not independent. Serbia's negotiating platform, often characterised as "more than autonomy, less than independence", envisions granting sweeping rights of self-governance, but denies Kosovo a role in international affairs, defence or representation in Serbia's central governing institutions.
"We are looking for international guarantees for the protection of Serbs, Serb property, Serbian monasteries in Kosovo, and we are insisting that no borders be changed", said Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic.
He says, serious politicians should not give ultimatums, but also should not allow Serbian territory to be taken away. "With the Kumanovski Agreement, Serbia lost all rule over Kosovo, and the Contact Group said that there is no going back. We see that the solution is somewhere between our demand to maintain territorial integrity and the Albanian demand to receive full independence," Draskovic said.
Pristina's position is that Kosovo should be fully independent, but subject to robust institutional protections for Kosovo's minorities. Pristina also asserts that Kosovo's independence be the result of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and the actions of former President Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990's.
"We are not looking for a creation of an Albanian state, but for an independent, multiethnic Kosovo, protecting the rights of all minorities," Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku has said. He describes independence as the only viable solution for Albanians.
In November 2005, the Contact Group released a set of "Guiding Principles" for the resolution of Kosovo status. Among these was the requirement that there be no return to the situation prior to 1999, that there be no change to the Kosovo borders, and no union of Kosovo with any neighbouring state.
At a January 2006 meeting, the Contact Group further declared that a settlement "needs, inter alia, to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo," and that "all possible efforts should be made to achieve a negotiated settlement in the course of 2006."
The negotiations initially focused on issues important to Kosovo's long-term stability, especially the rights and protection of minorities, in particular the Kosovo Serbs.
Most international observers believe these negotiations will lead to some form of independence, which Serb leaders still reject. The Contact Group has said in numerous public statements that regardless of the status outcome, a new international mission will be established in Kosovo to supervise the implementation of the settlement and guarantee minority rights.