AIM: start

MON, 30 APR 2001 01:42:03 GMT

Where Does Kosovo's Legal Framework Lead?

AIM Pristina, April 21, 2001

After a draft legal framework or a temporary constitution was made public and received mostly negative reactions, the Albanian public in Kosovo is confused as to the next stages in the preparation and adoption of a final version. Several days after the version jointly drafted by a group of Kosovo and international experts was published, on April 19, a UNMIK version surfaced of which Kosovo representatives claim they knew nothing and that it was not debated at all at their meetings as one of the possible proposals. They say that the UNMIK proposal was unfair because the mission organized the group so that an acceptable draft could be prepared, but had its own secret version all along. Because of that, two ethnic Albanian group members resigned, and the others refused to sign the harmonized document on which they reached about 99 percent agreement. At a meeting of the Interim Council of Kosovo held on April 18, representatives said they feared that the confusion and dissatisfaction of the Albanian public could be taken advantage of to postpone the document's adoption. Possible delays could further influence the scheduling of general elections, which could lead to the straining of political relations inside Kosovo, and especially between the international administration and Kosovo Albanians. Although time is running out some analysts say that it is in the interest of both UNMIK and the Kosovars not to compete over power in the final version of the paper.

The sources of the confusion was the content of the document, especially after both sides said they had almost reached an agreement. Still, after the working group's version was published, it turned out, however, that several issues have remained unresolved: will the document be called a legal framework or temporary constitution, will Kosovo's president be elected, what about the constitutional court and the possibility of the people to express their will. All in all, it appears that there is much that has yet to be resolved. Albanian representatives and representatives of all other parties except for Serb parties signed at the mentioned Interim Council meeting a joint declaration in which they asked that international factors both in Kosovo and abroad resolve open issues in accordance with the will of Kosovo's majority.

Criticism of the version prepared by the joint working group included also the 99 percent of what politicians and political parties do not question, considering those issues as resolved. Thus, Kosovo Albanian representatives in the group are also being criticized for telling the public about things that are not part of the document and are making their own interpretations of certain solutions pertaining to local bodies in Kosovo. The other objection pertains to the fact that in a legal document, which should be completely clear, they have used certain vague formulations. They were not criticized for incompetence, however, or for making numerous compromises.

It appears that now, after April 19, when the paper was adopted and when two Albanian experts resigned, and some members refused to sign the document, the matter assumed unpleasant political proportions. This was present all along because of the approach of the Kosovo Albanian members and of UNMIK -- they said that they will prepare a document that could play a major role in determining the future status of Kosovo. Albanian ambitions increased, and UMNIK proudly declared that institutions that should make decisions on major questions in Kosovo should finally be turned over to Kosovars. In this way the framework of the document and its true scope at this point were exceeded: it was expected to provide for the holding of general elections in Kosovo. Elections, in fact, are supposed to provide the forming of local bodies in Kosovo to operate together with UNMIK, and to elect legal bodies of Kosovo that should negotiate on all problems in Kosovo, including its final status. This is why there should have been much less noise about the legal framework.

Even the harmonized part of the document, however, shows that local government bodies in Kosovo will either not have any substantial power, or will have powers not clearly divided and defined, and therefore will not be serious partners to UNMIK in resolving problems in Kosovo. Their authority, which is not envisaged to include the issues of security, defense, and foreign affairs, will, in fact, be further limited. Thus, it would not no longer be possible to accuse the Kosovo side of not carrying out its responsibilities in Kosovo. The chief administrator has a final say in all matters. He would be able to veto, whenever he finds it necessary, any bill passed by the future parliament of Kosovo. This means that if he does not endorse them, they will not go into effect, and he will not be obliged to explain his decisions. The jurisdiction, operation and responsibilities of the government are also quite vague.

There are many indications that Kosovo's bodies will have only formal decision-making rights. Instead of preparing a document that would enable the forming of transitional democratic institutions, the two sides -- Kosovo Albanians and UMNIK -- did their best to secure as much power for themselves as possible. Instead of finding a way to act rationally as partners to the benefit of Kosovo, their major goal was to find the best interpretation of UN Resolution 1244 and ways to make it work. It appears that the resolution is more important than the general well-being, democratization, and social and economic progress of Kosovo. Thus, a mishmash was created in which there is and there is not any constitutional content. And that mishmash is highly unlikely to bring together two purported partners in resolving Kosovo's problems. Furthermore, this document does not appear to be democratic either. Both its spirit and its letter imposes undemocratic relations between the Kosovars and the international administration, and, according to domestic analysts, albeit with some exaggeration, it strives to install a monarch with absolute powers. The chief administrator would be the head of all Kosovo bodies and services, it is being said, and the only power he would lack is that of spiritual leader of all Kosovo's confessions. He is not envisaged to be accountable to anyone in Kosovo. This, it is said, will not lead to establishing democracy and making local institutions democratic.

Thus the seeds of rivalry and confrontation between the Kosovars and international representatives have been sown from the outset. Given what it says, the document does not contribute to building sound relations between partners in a common task. Rivalries and confrontation are detrimental to both sides and can only add up to the challenges awaiting Kosovo on the long path to normalization and stabilization. Having this in view, it would be better not to promise the moon in advance, so as not to disappoint and displease anyone. Now, however, is too late to plan a modest approach to the trials Kosovo is currently facing.

Fehim Rexhepi