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News Archive 1999

NATO Expects Separate Kosovo, Without Yugoslav Police or Taxes


The New York Times June 11, 1999

COLOGNE, Germany -- Although the political future of Kosovo is left vague in the settlement that ended the war, American and NATO officials say they envision an international protectorate that will in theory be part of Yugoslavia but that may well, after a few years, become independent.

As refugees return and society is rebuilt, a senior NATO official said Thursday, Kosovo will become virtually "walled off" from Yugoslavia. People living in Kosovo would not serve in the Yugoslav Army or pay taxes to Yugoslavia; a new police force and judiciary would have to be created without Serbian influence; the currency would probably be either the German mark or the American dollar, and trade would turn south and west toward Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro instead of north toward Serbia.

None of these points are spelled out in the settlement that President Slobodan Milosevic signed. Indeed, in framing a political solution to the war, the NATO allies had been careful to state that Kosovo would remain within Yugoslavia.

The emphasis on keeping the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia and not allowing Kosovo to break away immediately was an essential ingredient for winning the agreement of Milosevic and the Russians to a peace accord. And West Europeans are generally wary of the possible consequences of a breakaway Kosovo.

But the resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council today includes the phrase "taking full account of the Rambouillet accords," a signal that can be interpreted to infer that down the road independence is a probability, Administration officials said.

Under the Rambouillet accords -- which Milosevic refused to sign, a move that led directly to the air strikes -- the future status of Kosovo was to be decided by calling an international conference in about three years. The views of the conference, as well as the "will of the people" of Kosovo and views of Serbians, would determine the final status of the province, according to those accords.

The accords offered a detailed blueprint for an autonomous Kosovo, including a 120-member parliament, election rules, an independent judiciary, local government structures, a police force and border security.

Under the plan approved this week, Kosovo will become increasingly separated from Serbia, the dominant republic in what is left of Yugoslavia, and the likelihood of Serbs having a significant say in the status of Kosovo will diminish, officials said.

The physical reconstruction of Kosovo was addressed briefly today at a meeting here by the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrial countries and Russia, who said that they would soon organize a conference of potential donors to start raising the billions of dollars needed for the task.

The foreign ministers also announced a stability pact for southeastern Europe that is intended to help already poor economies made poorer by the war. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will be called on to provide assistance, the ministers said.

President Clinton said Thursday that because the United States carried most of the cost of the military campaign, the bill for rebuilding the burned homes, damaged roads and torched schools would be paid mostly by the European Union.

The Clinton Administration has requested $100 million in a supplemental appropriations bill for Kosovo and the redevelopment of the region, but Congress is expected to approve only a portion of this.

The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, is expected to announce soon his choice to become the world body's Special Representative for Kosovo, a job that will probably resemble that of a Governor General.

A spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry, Anne Gazeau-Secret, said today that her Government had requested that Annan appoint a European to the post. This would be appropriate, she said, because most of the money for reconstruction would come from the European Union. Clinton Administration officials have said that, despite doubts about the efficiency of United Nations programs, they were resigned to the United Nations taking overall responsibility for Kosovo, with the European Union playing a major role as financier.

The United Nations was a preferred choice as the dominant player, the officials said, because the United States has influence there but not in the European Union.

Another organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a 54-member trans-Atlantic body based in Vienna, would also play a central role in rebuilding Kosovo, officials said. In particular, the group would organize elections for a time yet to be set and could assist in forming a police force.

In recent months, Clinton Administration officials have been careful not to rule out independence for Kosovo, even though European countries are more apprehensive about the idea; the possibility of independence is considered important as an inducement for rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army to disarm.

As a moral question, the possibility of independence is important to the Kosovo Albanians, who before the war made up more than 90 percent of the province's population. Balkans experts say it is very likely that many Serbs still left in Kosovo will move to Serbia proper, leaving almost only Kosovo Albanian.

For Western Europe, an independent Kosovo, or a Kosovo adjoined to Albania, is less conceivable than for the United States, European diplomats said.

First, they say, a breakaway Kosovo would set a precedent for other separatist groups in Europe. A second and less openly expressed factor is the fear of Kosovo, whose Albanian population is mostly Muslim, becoming an Islamic island within Europe.

As preparations get under way for Kosovo's reconstruction, comparisons were being made Thursday to the efforts made in Bosnia after the 1995 peace accord. By most accounts, the reconstruction in Bosnia has been hampered by poor management, competition among international agencies and slow funding from the European Union.

(c) The New York Times 1999

Source: The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research

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