December 10 deadline has come and gone — what will Kosovo do?

Speculation is rife. Kosovans will wait until elections in Serbia, so as not to help elect extreme Serbian nationalists. Kosovo’s aspirations for independence will aggravate Russia’s relations with the Europeans. And on and on…

Here is one comment from Belgrade, sent to an email list today:

“Kosovo Albanians … support [only] independence, while Serbia’s solution is full autonomy (such as Aland Islands or Hong Kong). Cyprus is not the only EU country to support Serbia. Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Spain and many other countries support Serbia. Kosovo is UN controlled territory now, but they are probably going to declare independence in a few weeks, which will not be recognized by Serbia, nor by many other countries. Hovewer USA supports independence. Serbian leaders are negotiating with EU and UN, which both support democratic negotions. Time will tell…”

After a number of queries and commentary on the email list, this correspondent from Belgrade later posted a couple of clarifications on Serbia’s preferred solution:  “Kosovo’s full autonomy [which Serbia wants] means that they [Kosovars] will have their own parliament, economy etc., but they will remain technically in Serbia (which means that they will not have their own military, for example).  It is very similar status as independence, but they [Serbians] want Kosovo to remain in Serbia, because it remained for almost 100 [sic — I think he or she means 1000] years, and Serbs lived in Kosovo for about 800 years… but now, less then 5% of Kosovars are Serbs. Other Serbian Kosovars immigrated to other parts of Serbia”.

However, Reuters reported from Brussels this week that “All but one of the European Union’s 27 member states are ready to accept independence for the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo without a U.N. resolution, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on Monday. ‘There is virtual unity on Kosovo’, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told reporters ahead of talks in Brussels after a December 10 date deadline set by Western powers for international mediation efforts expired … Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Cyprus was alone in having ‘an enormous problem’ in backing Kosovo independence”. This Reuters report is published here.

A Bulgarian paper is reporting that “On December 10 Kosovo’s prime minister Agim Çeku called upon the EU to recognise the necessity of an immediate and lasting ending of the process of clarification of Kosovo’s final statute, Associated Press reported … The Kosovar prime minister once again assured Europe of Kosovo’s commitment to multi-ethnicity, democracy, international supervision of its independence, international partnership and a European future. The agency said that Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leadership was expected to proclaim independence at the beginning of 2008. ‘I think Serbia has a choice – to walk towards the future with us or to walk back to the past alone. I hope they will make the right choice’, Çeku said … [But] The recognition of Kosovo’s independence would provoke a chain reaction and would have its consequences on the Balkans as well as on other regions, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on December 10, after talks with Cyprus president Tassos Papadopoulos in Nicosia, ITAR-TASS reported. avrov warned that if Russia’s partners recognised a unilaterally proclaimed Kosovo independence, they would violate international law…” The Bulgarian newspaper report is published here.

And, The Daily telegraph reported that “Swedish Foreign Minsiter Carl Bildt, who was heavily involved as a mediator in the Balkan struggles of the 1990s, said that despite the EU reaching a ‘virtual unity’ on the independence question the job of launching Kosovo as a viable state would be long and difficult. ‘We would need … to help and assist Kosovo for a long period of time’, he said. The real problems are ahead of us…We need to tackle massive problems of unemployment, significant problems of corruption, a significant problem of despair among people who don’t think they have any future.” The Daily Telegraph article is posted here.

The Daily Telegraph also reports that former British military commander in the UN peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia, Sir Michael Rose, is expressing grave concern that if Kosovo does go ahead and proclaim independence, British troops could eventually be called into action…

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