2 February 2007 The Albanian-majority Serbian province of Kosovo will have the right to govern itself and conclude international agreements, including membership in international bodies, with an international civilian and military presence supervising the new arrangements and helping to ensure peace and stability, under United Nations plans released today.
But the executive summary of the plan, presented today to the Serbian and ethnic Albanian Kosovo authorities by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy for the future status process, Martti Ahtisaari, does not specifically mention independence for the province, which the UN has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid brutal ethnic fighting.
Serbia rejects independence, a goal sought by many Albanians in Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1. Mr. Ahtisaari will now discuss his plan with the parties before finalizing it and sending it to the Security Council.
“The settlement package that I have presented to both parties today represents a compromise proposal,” he told news conferences in Belgrade and Pristina, the Serbian and Kosovo capitals. “I am willing to consider constructive amendments and I’m willing to integrate compromise solutions that the parties might reach.”
Under Mr. Ahtisaari’s proposals, a European Union (EU) Special Representative would act as an International Civilian Representative, with ultimate supervisory authority over civilian aspects of the settlement, including the power to annul laws and remove officials whose actions are determined to be inconsistent with it.
A European Security and Defence Policy Mission will monitor all areas related to the rule of law, helping to develop efficient, fair and representative police, judicial, customs and penal institutions, and having the authority to assume other responsibilities to ensure the maintenance and promotion of the rule of law, public order and security.
An International Military Presence, led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999, will provide a safe and secure environment and support of Kosovo’s institutions until such time as those institutions are capable of assuming the full-range of security responsibilities.
Other provisions address the demands of a multi-ethnic society, with a constitution enshrining the needed principles, to protect the rights of all communities, including culture, language, education, and symbols, as well granting specific representation for non-Albanians in key public institutions and requiring that that certain laws may only be enacted if a majority of the Kosovo non-Albanian legislative members agree.
The plan calls for wide-ranging decentralization, focusing in particular on the specific needs and concerns of the Serb community, which will have a high degree of control over its own affairs such as secondary health care, higher education and financial matters, including accepting transparent funding from Serbia. Six new or significantly expanded Kosovo Serb majority municipalities will be set up.
Kosovo’s justice system is to be integrated, independent, professional and impartial, ensuring access to all, with the judiciary and prosecution service reflecting its multiethnic character.
Provisions on religious and cultural heritage will ensure the unfettered and undisturbed operation of the Serbian Orthodox Church and more than 40 key religious and cultural sites will be surrounded by Protective Zones to prevent any disruptive commercial and industrial development or construction. The Church will be granted inviolability of its property, freedom from taxation and customs duty privileges.
All refugees and internally displaced persons will have the right to return and reclaim their property and possessions, with Kosovo and Serbia cooperating fully with the International Commission of the Red Cross to resolve the fate of missing persons.
In 1999, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians fled, returning only after NATO’s intervention, when an estimated 250,000 Serbs and others left after the withdrawal of Serbian forces. Only some 16,000 of these have so far returned.
The plan provides for a multi-ethnic democratic security sector with significant local ownership while retaining a level of international oversight necessary for ultimate success in this sensitive area. The Kosovo Police Force will have a unified chain of command, with local police officers reflecting the ethnic composition of the municipality in which they serve.
A new multi-ethnic Kosovo Security Force will be set up within a year with a maximum of 2,500 active members and 800 reserve members.
Once the settlement enters into force, there will be a 120 day transition period during which the mandate of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) will stay unchanged. During this period, the Kosovo Assembly, in consultation with the International Civilian Representative, will be responsible for approving a Constitution and the legislation necessary for the implementation of the plan.
At the end of the period, UNMIK’s mandate will expire and all legislative and executive authority vested in it will be transferred to the Kosovo authorities. Within nine months general and local elections will be held. The International Representative’s mandate will continue until the International Steering Group of key international stakeholders who appoint him or her determines that Kosovo has implemented the terms of the settlement.