How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue
How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue

Kosovo after Haradinaj

Kosovo Albanian society showed welcome maturity in recent months as it reacted calmly to the indictment for war crimes of Prime Minister Haradinaj and the anniversary of the March 2004 riots. However, Kosovo Albanian politics remain fractious and worse.

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Executive Summary

Kosovo Albanian society showed welcome maturity in recent months as it reacted calmly to the indictment for war crimes of Prime Minister Haradinaj and the anniversary of the March 2004 riots. However, Kosovo Albanian politics remain fractious and worse. Mutual distrust between the two leading parties, President Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), is distracting politicians from seeking a consensus position for the approaching negotiations on final status. Recent weeks have seen an escalation in tension between them so bitter that it risks spiralling into killings. It is vital that the international community, as it assesses Kosovo's readiness for final status talks, use the next important months to do a great deal more to help build institutions for genuine self-government. Otherwise, Kosovo is likely to return to instability sooner rather than later and again put at risk all that has been invested in building a European future for the Western Balkans.

Even though the international community is beginning to move Kosovo toward some form of independence, the escalation of internal political conflict and the April 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Haradinaj's younger brother show that serious risks of instability remain. Kosovo Albanians' present peace with the international community is highly conditional, resting on renewed optimism about imminent movement on final status and upon some progress in consolidation of a sense of ownership of institutions resulting from the more vigorous and effective government that Haradinaj ran before he was forced to step down and answer charges in The Hague. Most areas are calm, but Haradinaj's home municipality of Decan is a tinderbox, full of angry armed groups, and isolated from the rest of Kosovo. The next security watershed will be the Tribunal's decision whether to grant bail so the former prime minister can return home while awaiting trial.

Forced into opposition by the coalition of Rugova's LDK and Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), the PDK, the main successor of the Kosovo Liberation Army, may prefer to derail the government rather than act responsibly by helping to forge a joint position on final status. Whether its politicians can cooperate over the next months will have far-reaching consequences for Kosovo's ability to function as a state once the current heavy international presence is converted into a lighter monitoring mission. There is a real prospect of a ruinous factionalism similar to that which has developed in Albania.

Kosovo's rival parties have to work consciously to avoid this scenario or they will bear responsibility for the failure to consolidate statehood. The UN Mission (UNMIK) has a responsibility too -- transfer of power and preparation of Kosovo for final status must go beyond a mere letting go of its six-year holding operation. It must use the period leading up to and including negotiations on final status to take the vigorous action necessary to pave the way for genuine self-government. UNMIK has put aside its inertia but appears to be following more of an escape strategy than a state-building strategy. Much of the work being rushed through at present to get a result in the mid-year standards review is of questionable quality, not likely to stand the test of time. Problems that will come back to haunt Kosovo like toleration of widespread corruption and of powerful, unaccountable partisan political intelligence agencies are being swept under the carpet rather than addressed.

Pristina/Brussels, 26 May 2005

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