03 June 2007

Ceku: Serbs to live "with dignity" in Kosovo



UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari's blueprint for Kosovo's status contains specific provisions -- including the use of two official languages, guaranteed seats in parliament, and special status for Serb Orthodox monasteries -- meant to ensure a multiethnic future, Kosovo's prime minister told Belgrade media.


By Blerta Foniqi-Kabashi for Southeast European Times in Pristina - 05/02/07


Kosovo Albanian police officers patrol near the Kosovo government building as UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari meets with leaders in Pristina on Friday (February 2nd). [Laura Hasani]


UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari's plan for resolving the Kosovo status issue is balanced and gives concrete guarantees to Serbs and other minorities in the province that they can live safely, Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku told the Belgrade daily Glas javnosti.


In an interview published on Monday (February 5th), Ceku cited concrete provisions in the roadmap, including the use of two official languages (Albanian and Serb), legislative mechanisms for protecting the national interests of Kosovo Serbs, guaranteed seats in parliament for minorities, a special status for Serb Orthodox monasteries and cultural and historical monuments, and other privileges related to decentralisation.


The roadmap ensures that Serbs will be able to remain in Kosovo and live there with dignity, Ceku said. He added that if Kosovo becomes independent, it would pursue economic co-operation with Serbia, without any prejudices. Ties between Belgrade and Pristina will improve greatly once the status issue is finally settled, he said.


Ahtisaari's proposal, presented Friday in both Belgrade and Pristina, does not specifically mention independence, but would give the province "the right to negotiate and conclude international agreements, including the right to seek membership in international organisations". Meanwhile, supervision by an international civilian and military presence would ensure peace and stability.


At a press conference in Pristina on Friday, the UN envoy said his blueprint aimed to set out the provisions needed for a future Kosovo that is viable, sustainable and stable.


The plan "includes detailed measures to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of communities and their members, the effective decentralisation of government, and the preservation and protection of cultural and religious heritage," he said.


A number of new Kosovo Serb majority municipalities will be established with additional competences, particularly in the areas of education and public health, he said. "More than 40 key religious and cultural sites will have Protective Zones to ensure that the Serbian Orthodox Church will remain a living religious community," he noted.


The plan includes specific representation mechanisms meant to safeguard and encourage the participation of non-Albanians in public institutions.


"To protect the rights of Kosovo non-Albanian communities in the legislative process, the settlement also provides that certain enumerated laws may only be enacted if a majority of the Kosovo non-Albanian members of the Assembly agree to their adoption," Ahtisaari said.


Belgrade and Pristina are expected to present their remarks about the blueprint by February 13th. The envoy will then begin a new set of consultations in Vienna, with the goal of getting a final document before the UN Security Council within the coming months.


"I want to give both parties the chance once again to make their points," he said on Friday, adding that he is prepared to consider constructive amendments and is willing to integrate compromise solutions that parties might reach.