Global Policy Forum

Ahtisaari Can't Win as 'Kosovars' Protest His Plan


By Matt Robinson

February 8, 2007

The United States calls it a "historic document" and an "excellent proposal". The European Union says it's the first page of a "new beginning". Those it is written for do not share that enthusiasm.

This week in Kosovo, Serbs and ethnic Albanians -- wary enemies known collectively to some as "Kosovars" -- will be almost united, in protests against the U.N. proposal that may give birth to a strange new state in Europe. Many Albanians feel the blueprint drafted by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari and unveiled last week gives them too little, although they are unlikely to reject it. Serbs say it takes away too much, and their resistance will be much harder.

The two communities, divided since NATO bombs wrested control of the province from Serbia in 1999, will each demonstrate in their respective strongholds -- Serbs on Friday in Mitrovica, Albanians on Saturday in their capital, Pristina. "They tell us we'll have a flag, symbols and anthem. Well, even football teams have flags, symbols and anthems," says wild-haired activist Albin Kurti, a Kosovo Albanian hardliner whose supporters say there should have been no negotiation. Kurti and his "Self-Determination" movement speak for those of Kosovo's 2 million Albanians who complain that Ahtisaari's plan falls short of the full independence they believed they had won in 1999 and been promised by many a Western diplomat since. Kosovo Albanian leaders, corralled into a "Unity" negotiating team, are filling column inches and airtime to sell the plan in the dusty streets and smoke-filled cafes of Kosovo. Even a cursory read of the plan makes it clear: Kosovo will be separated from Serbia, which in 1998-99 killed 10,000 Albanians and tried to drive the rest out in a counter-insurgency war that goaded NATO into its first military intervention war. But the 'I' word -- independence -- is missing. And the plan foresees a powerful foreign overseer as well as considerable Serb self-government. Both are an affront to Albanians tired of eight years of Western supervision and Belgrade interference.


"The Ahtisaari Plan does not create an independent or sovereign Kosovo," says Kurti's group. "It divides Kosovo into two entities: one with an Albanian majority, ruled by the EU; the other with a Serb majority, ruled by Belgrade." "This is anti-Kosovo and pro-Serbian," says Kurti. "The only solution I see is on the streets." Kosovo Albanian leaders insist Kurti's followers are a fringe group. But thousands are expected to turn out in Pristina. Last time, in November, police fired teargas to disperse a mob lobbing stones and bottles at U.N. headquarters. Albanian patience is wearing thin, but Western powers are reluctant to rush Serbia for fear of driving Belgrade too far into the arms of ultranationalist right-wing parties. Ahtisaari wants to send his plan to the U.N. Security Council in March. If Russia consents, a resolution setting up the new Kosovo could be adopted by June. Never would be too soon for Kosovo's 100,000 Serbs, who have borne the brunt of postwar violence and fear for the future. To the inevitable songs of medieval battles and Serbian knights, Serbs will demonstrate on Friday in the northern half of Mitrovica, a rundown mining town divided at the River Ibar between Serbs and Albanians, and a frequent flashpoint.

The Serbs see their religious homeland slipping away, and vow to oppose it at every step. "This plan is anti-Serb and pro-Albanian," said political leader Milan Ivanovic. "Ahtisaari has overstepped his mandate." (Additional reporting by Shaban Buza and Fatos Bytyci, and Branislav Krstic in Mitrovica)

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on Kosovo


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