With a new UN report recommending final status talks on Kosovo -- despite a slowdown in the democratization process and increasing Serbian frustration -- the Kosovo Albanians got one step closer to independence.
The majority of Kosovo Albanians want independence
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Wednesday he was likely to recommend the launch of talks on the final status of Serbia's ethnically-divided province of Kosovo after receiving a report from his special envoy on the issue.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will recommend final status talks on Kosovo
"I am studying the report and I will make a recommendation to the Security Council very shortly," he told reporters. "And I am likely to indicate that we proceed with status talks."
The Security Council is expected to take up the issue in the second half of this month.
Impleme n ti n g democratic sta n dards
Since he was appointed UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to Kosovo in June, Ambassador Kai Eide of Norway has had extensive consultations in Serbia and Kosovo, as well as with key member states and regional organizations.
UN Special Envoy to Kosovo, Kai Eide, has promised an objective report
Eide's report focused on progress made in implementing democratic standards in the UN-run province.
The standards, whose implementation is being sought by the international community, cover targets to foster trust between majority Albanians and minority Serbs in such areas as building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and establishing an impartial legal system.
Status before sta n dards?
In February, Annan's special representative for Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen, told the Security Council there were good chances that the process leading to final status talks could begin in the second half of this year although none of the necessary standards for such a move had then yet been fulfilled.
Head of the UN mission in Kosovo, Soren Jessen Petersen, does not deny that there are defficiencies in the process of democratization
In July, Jessen-Petersen said there had recently been a slowdown in the implementation of some of the standards.
He stressed the need for a stronger commitment by Kosovo Albanian leaders to move forward on the return of Serbs who fled their homes, on freedom of movement and decentralization, and the need for Serbia's leaders to encourage Kosovo Serbs to participate in the province's political process.
"Co n ditio n al i n depe n de n ce"
Meanwhile, Albania said Monday that "conditional independence" was the only solution to guarantee Kosovo's stability and that talks on its final status should begin by year-end.
Final status talks will also concern the length of the UN mission -- involving German police officers, among others -- in Kosovo.
"Conditional independence could make it possible for the international community to specify how long it will need to stay in Kosovo to oversee the implementation of democratic standards," said Albanian Foreign Minister Besnik Mustafaj. "The conditional independence of Kosovo is the only solution that can give Kosovo the status that can ensure the calm and peace needed to guarantee stability in the region."
He added that the aim of the talks should be independence and that this should be made clear at the start to motivate all parties in the talks, which should begin by the end of this year.
Serbia n frustratio n
Kosovo Serbs are frustrated with the lack of political progress since the outbreak of anti-Serbian violence in Kosovo last year
Albanians, who represent more than 90 percent of Kosovo's population, have an ultimate goal of independence from Serbia, which Belgrade strongly opposes. According to UN resolution 1244, Kosovo is still technically part of Serbia, but it has been administered by the United Nations since a NATO bombing campaign ended the Serbian crackdown on separatists in 1999.
Sandra Raskovic-Ivic, president of the Serbian Coordination Center for Kosovo -- the government body in charge of negotiating the final settlement -- said on Wednesday that the Serbian government will use "all its powers to prevent Kosovo from becoming independent."
"We have the UN resolution 1244, which guarantees our state sovereignty. We are ready for compromises, but no conditional or unconditional independence of Kosovo will come into question," Raskovic-Ivic said.
Bos n ia n Serbs get closer to EU
Politicians in Banja Luka, the capital of Republika Srpska, are taking increasingly pro-European measures
In a separate development, the Bosnian Serb parliament on Wednesday adopted a key police reform aimed at unifying the country's ethnically divided police force, bringing the country closer to joining the European Union.
The bill -- which has been rejected twice by the parliament of Bosnia's Serb-run entity this year -- was endorsed by 55 deputies in the 83-seat parliament. Five lawmakers voted against and 15 abstained.
The reforms involve merging the police forces of the Republika Srpska entity with those of the Muslim-Croat federation, transferring their budgets to a central, state level and creating cross-boundary policing districts.
The European Commission hailed Bosnian Serbs for adopting the bill.
"We welcome the decision by the Bosnian Serb parliament to adopt the bill which is meeting the principles set by the Commission - state-level control over police, its regional organization and excluding political pressures," a European Commission spokesman in Bosnia said.
Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat federation are semi-independent and have their own police forces.