Der Spiegel: Peace in Kosovo Was Never More than a Ceasefire
Former guerilla leader Hashim Thaci has won elections in Kosovo and says he intends to declare independence by December. German commentators say that could mean that war is on the horizon.
Former rebel leader Hashim Thaci is likely to become Kosovo’s next [provisional] prime minister following the resounding victory of his Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) in elections on Saturday.
The initial results indicate that the PDK won 34 percent of the vote, eclipsing the [so-called] moderate League of Democratic Kosovo (LDK) which only won 22 percent of the vote.
Ethnic Serbs, who make up 10 percent of the province’s 1.5 million inhabitants, boycotted the elections, but turnout overall was alarmingly low at just 45 percent. Doris Pack, a member of the Council of Europe’s election monitoring team, said it was a reflection of people’s “profound dissatisfaction.” “People in Kosovo are really fed up with their political situation,” she told Reuters.
Thaci’s PDK will now be expected to try to form a coalition with their rivals in the LDK, whose late leader was the pacifist Ibrahim Rogova. Thaci was a former leader in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which fought Serbia is the 1998-99 war during which almost a million civilians fled Serbian repression.
Thaci has said that he would declare independence from Serbia after Dec. 10, the date on which international mediators are due to report to the United Nations on their efforts to resolve the province’s final status. “With our victory today begins the new century,” Thaci told cheering supporters on Sunday. “We showed that Kosovo is ready to move forward towards freedom and independence.”
Since 1999 Kosovo has been under UN control and Serbia has offered broad autonomy to the region but the Kosovo Albanians say they will accept nothing less than independence. European politicians urged Kosovo not to rush to declare independence in the light of the PDK victory. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said any hasty moves could lead to Kosovo’s international isolation. “Mr. Thaci has to understand there is a difference between being a politician in opposition and a responsible prime minister,” he told Reuters. “I don’t think they [Kosovo Albanians] want to be independent from the international community.”
Wolfgang Ischinger, the German diplomat who is leading mediation along with American and Russian officials is due to meet Serb and Kosovo Albanian leaders in Brussels on Tuesday.
German commentators on Monday are pessimistic about Kosovo’s future and many newspapers predict that violence will once again flare up in the region.
Berliner Zeitung: Mock-Democracy, Thacis Party Mixture of Criminals and Extremists
Masked Kosovo Albanian terrorists, photographed and interviewed in the Serbian province on November 13, 2007.
“The landslide victory of the former rebels PDK will not lead to a radicalization of Kosovo. But neither does the result point to the triumph of a stable democracy …. Kosovo is not a democracy. Power is not with the people but is exercised by international diplomats. The elections only imitated democratic techniques. The stifling domination of the bureaucrats leaves little room for responsibility, ideas, change, productive crises or true reconciliation.”
“It is little wonder that the turnout has dropped below 45 percent. Hashim Thaci’s PDK … is a clientele party with mafia traits. …Thaci has taken some measures to counter this but he hasn’t still hasn’t succeeded. And the partly criminal, partly extremist scene near the northern and southern borders have at least indirect links with the PDK.”
Süddeutsche Zeitung: Corrupt Kosovo Albanian Pseudo Elite Propped by UNMIK, NATO and EU
“Hopes of a better life have been disappointed far too often in the UN protectorate and the people are tired of hearing hollow words. That is why more than half the voters stayed at home on Saturday. Eight years of constant uncertainty about the future of the province and the dominance of a corrupt Kosovo-Albanian pseudo elite have paralyzed the people. The fact that the godfathers of democracy — the UN, NATO and the EU — have tolerated these offenses so as not to endanger political stability has made the crisis worse.”
Die Welt: Provisional Elections Set the Stage for War
“The elections do not mark the end of the Kosovo crisis, rather they mark the way towards difficult conflicts, which could become violent. The consequences will not be confined to the Balkans.”
“Washington has already announced that it will recognize Kosovo, as has the majority of EU countries. Russia is giving the hardliners in Belgrade encouragement and support not only because of the pre-1914 sympathies and affinities due to their shared Orthodox religion, but much more because Moscow fears the uncontrollable effect on other national and ethnic egos.”
“If the north of Kosovo, which is mostly inhabited by Serbs, splits off from Kosovo and rushes into the open arms of Serbia, then the forces will be unleashed that showed their strength during the wars that marked the break up of Yugoslavia from 1991 and which could only been subdued from the outside — with force.”
“Is the EU and NATO ready for this? And where will the frontlines form? Firstly the Republika Srpska will break away from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Europeans are involved there as they are in Kosovo — in order to preserve a peace that was never anything more than a ceasefire.”
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HE KOSOVO FAILURE
Mission Impossible in the Balkans
By Gerhard Spörl
For four months, three diplomats tried to get the Serbs and the Kosovo Albanians to find a compromise agreement. Both sides, though, proved unwilling to budge. A look inside the failed negotiations.
It was a beautiful summer day in late July, and German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger was heading out for a well-deserved vacation. As he sped down the Autobahn toward the Austrian city of Salzburg, his phone rang. Ischinger picked up, thinking it was a friend he and his wife planned to meet to attend the production of “Everyman” at the Austrian city’s famous culture festival. But he was wrong. The phone call marked the premature end of Ischinger’s vacation — and a temporary hiatus from his comparatively uncomplicated life as Germany’s ambassador in London.
Kosovo Albanians are biding their time for now. But a declaration of independence is almost a certainty.
On the other end of the line was German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The two men had met many years before at the beginning of the administration under Gerhard Schröder; they trusted each other and were on a first-name basis. Wolfgang, Steinmeier said, getting right to the point, I’m about to make you an offer you cannot turn down. We are resuming the negotiations over Kosovo, and we would like to form a trio of negotiators, consisting of you, a Russian and an American. But instead of negotiating on behalf of our country alone, you will be the voice of all 27 members of the European Union. And because Kosovo is a European problem, you will also be the lead negotiator. Come to Berlin and we’ll discuss the rest.