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German UN Administrator for Kosovo

Michael Steiner is the UN’s new administrator in Kosovo. In an exclusive interview with Deutsche Welle, the German diplomat explains what he hopes to achieve there.


"Paternalism inappropriate"

Steiner will be the UN’s third administrator in the Balkans. He has his work cut out. That much he knows from a spell as a high-ranking diplomat in Bosnia.

Public administration is virtually non-existent in Kosovo. Two months after the first free elections, there is no government in place. And the election of the province’s president has been problematic. The political process has been deadlocked since.

Kosovo's moderate Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugovahas been unable to get the required majority because the other two Albanian parties are refusing to support him. They say they won't back him unless he shares power.

Expectations are running high that Steiner will be able to get the ball rolling again. But the people of Kosovo will have to show that they are capable of running their own affairs, says Steiner.

"You can’t say: ‘We want autonomy’ on the one hand, and then fail to create the necessary conditions for that to happen," he said.

The UN has to be careful about imposing itself in the process, Steiner said.

"Experience shows that Western paternalism is inappropriate," he said.

It is more important to ensure that the rules that have been agreed upon are actually stuck to, according to Steiner.

Steiner therefore intends to concentrate his efforts on the economic development of the region.

"People want security and they need a political framework to achieve that," he said. "But they also want work."

Steiner has his work cut out. The Kosovo mission is the UN's largest and most expensive and widely considered to be among its most difficult. He will first have to bring together the majority Albanian and minority Serbian communities together in some kind of workable partnership.

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