SUN, 18 NOV 2001 23:54:48 GMT
The Haekkerup-Covic Document under Fire
AIM Pristina, November 9, 2001
"The Serb community in Kosovo will enjoy safety, freedom of movement,
access to all public services and justice; Kosovo will not be declared
an independent state by institutions that will be created after
elections of Nov. 17; Yugoslavia's territorial integrity is
reaffirmed..." This is the gist of the agreement reached by Kosovo
administrator Hans Haekkerup and Belgrade officials cemented by a
document signed by Haekkerup and Nebojsa Covic, Serbian vice premier and
special envoy for Kosovo... Almost all reactions say that this was the
price Haekkerup paid to have Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica urge
Kosovo Serbs to participate in Kosovo's general elections.
The document was the result of marathon negotiations between UNMIK and
Belgrade officials in which neither Kosovo Albanians nor Kosovo Serbs
participated. The former awaited the results with apprehension,
convinced that "concessions were being given to Belgrade," and the
latter were equally apprehensive and suspicious, afraid that they could
once more "be sacrificed" by Belgrade for "political purposes,"
although the promises made in the document are common, everyday things
that should hardly be addressed by a treaty...
The news of the deal reached Kosovo together with administrator
Haekkerup, who set aside 15 minutes to show Albanian representatives the
document. Afterward he held a special press conference to explain with
balanced words that it is no more than "a reaffirmation of UNMIK's
mandate within the framework of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244."
The fact is, however, that the presentation of the agreement provoked an
explosion of emotions and fierce reactions among ethnic Albanian
politicians. As soon as its contents was made public in Pristina, on
Kosovo's Public Radio & TV a debate was organized to explain to the
population that the document was totally unacceptable. The local press
responded more or less in the same vein, both through its articles and
editorials. Not fully informed about what the document contained, the
Kosovo public took for granted that it was against its interests and the
interests of Kosovo. Fear of a possible "return of Serbian and Yugoslav
jurisdiction over Kosovo" only made the Kosovo Albanians' resentment
Leaders of all Kosovo Albanian political parties spoke out against the
document, and the three groups that are mostly likely to win seats in
the future Kosovo Assembly were crucial in forming public opinion.
Hashim Thaci, president of the Democratic Party of Kosovo and the former
political leader of Albanian guerrillas, said the document was totally
unacceptable. He made it the focus of his election campaign.
"The protagonists of this document should realize that Kosovo has opted
for integration with global democratic processes, instead of a
regressive process of returning Kosovo to Serbia," he said. He claimed
the paper was in violation of Resolution 1244, and that it marked the
beginning of the "disgraceful Constitutional Framework for Kosovo,"
adopted last May 15. Thaci was particularly offended by the fact that
the Serbian vice premier, Nebojsa Covic, was called in the document "the
head of Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija," a toponym that is
loathed by Kosovo Albanians. Thaci was probably referring to this when
he said: "Everybody needs to understand that Kosovo is Kosovo, and not
Kosovo and Metohija."
The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, led by Ramush Haradinaj, believes
that the Haekkerup-Covic agreement is detrimental and dangerous for the
future of Kosovo and the region. "We do not recognize the agreement, it
does not oblige us, and we will pay no heed to it," said his clear and
curt message. Haradinaj, on the other hand, said his party was in favor
of democratic processes in Kosovo and is working towards "building
democratic institutions of an independent state of Kosovo, fully
separated from Yugoslavia, whatever the price."
The Democratic Alliance of Kosovo also reacted to the agreement. The
party president, Ibrahim Rugova, addressing his supporters, said the
paper was unacceptable and told them not to worry: "... We are here
together with UNMIK, KFOR, and the international community." The party's
press service said the following: "The document perfidiously undermines
the essence of Kosovo's independent institutions and their right to
exercise power inside of Kosovo, thereby providing for a true system of
representative democracy." Numerous editorials said among other things
the following: "Albanians and NATO did not wage and win the war in
Kosovo so that the sovereignty of Yugoslavia could be reaffirmed and to
support Serbia's plans to retain Kosovo and Montenegro under its rule,
or to make Kosovo an administrative entity. The true essence of
Resolution 1244 is to make Kosovo's position outside Yugoslavia/Serbia
as legitimate in the transitional period, until Kosovo's status is
finally resolved, taking the will of the people of Kosovo into account.
And the will of the people is well known -- self-determination
transformed into independence..."
It all indicated that the beginning of a political crisis between UNMIK
and Albanian leaders was in sight, and only two weeks before the vote.
The main issue was: Does UNMIK have a solution for the crisis, as it did
when the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the elections was in question?
Tension subsided within 24 hours...
Politicians launched a campaign against the document on two fronts: on
one hand, they criticized UNMIK and blamed each other, but
simultaneously called for national unity. Analysts hurried to warn that
Kosovo leaders should not be allowed to blast one another during the
election campaign in order to obtain greater support thanks to a
document that was not "theirs." They even believe that the document is
worse that the Constitutional Framework for Kosovo. This was given a
specially prominent place in a joint declaration issued by the
Democratic Party of Kosovo and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, at
a meeting convened by Thaci that was not attended either by Ibrahim
Rugova or any representative of his party.
UNMIK, on the other hand, was confused by Albanian leaders' reactions
and its officials hastened to stress the document did not violate U.N.
Resolution 1244 or the Constitutional Framework, but merely confirmed
UNMIK's efforts to improve the position of Kosovo Serbs. They insisted
that the document did not envisage Yugoslavia's return to Kosovo, and
Haekkerup himself said that "neither the document nor Resolution 1244
rule out a single option for resolving the final status of Kosovo."
UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel was even more direct: "The document does
not mark an end to Kosovo Albanians' dreams of independence." One other
thing that certainly contributed to calming tensions was the fact that
UMNIK officials clearly rejected the interpretation of the agreement
given by Serbian Vice Premier Nebojsa Covic, who tried to convince the
Serbian public that "the document ensures the return of Yugoslavia and
Serbia to Kosovo." "That is simply not true," said Haekkerup.
Still, the authority of the head of the U.N. Mission in Kosovo was
challenged. Maybe this is why immediately upon his return from Belgrade
Haekkerup asked assistance from Contact Group representatives located in
Kosovo. After a meeting they all spoke in favor of the agreement. The
U.S. Office in Pristina issued a press release saying: "The document
signals a clear determination of both sides to intensify attempts and
reach the goals set forth in U.N. Resolution 1244. In relation to that,
we would like to stress the importance of elections that are to be held
and their significance in building democratic self-government in
Kosovo." This was a rather brief but clear message.
The debate, however, continued and Kosovo Albanians' views are
increasingly divergent. Independent observers and parties with more
critical views towards Albanian politics, claim that Albanian reactions
were mostly an attempt to take advantage of the document during the
election campaign. Thus certain circles believe that leaders who kept
promising Kosovo's independence throughout the campaign now have to find
someone to blame for the failure of this plan, although they were fully
aware that the institutions that will be created after the Nov. 17
elections are not authorized to determine Kosovo's status."
The fact is that all three sides -- the Albanians, the Serbs and UNMIK
-- are taking the same stance: they all unconditionally defend U.N.
Resolution 1244, although the first two consider it an ominous document,
threatening to their aspirations. What Kosovo Albanians are fiercely
against is their participation in a joint group to monitor the
resolution's implementation. They view this as recognition of Serbs'
demand that Kosovo be administered jointly, which for them is "the
beginning of turning Belgrade into a key factor in determining the
status of Kosovo."