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Kosovo's Landmark Election

21 November 2001

PRISTINA/BRUSSELS, 21 November 2001: The 17 November election in Kosovo was a landmark in the post-conflict development of the province. The new institutions will have only limited powers, and in particular will have no authority on the issue of independence. The powers of the UN administration (UNMIK) remain undiminished. Nevertheless, the establishment of an elected Assembly with a democratic mandate will irrevocably transform the political landscape in Kosovo.

A new ICG report, "Kosovo: Landmark Election", considers the impact that limited self-government will have on relations between UNMIK and Kosovo�s leaders. It also examines the participation of Kosovo's Serbs in the new institutions, and the role of Belgrade in matters concerning the province's Serbs.

ICG�s Balkans Program Director Mark Thompson said: �Any attempt by Kosovo Albanian parties to use the Assembly to move towards independence would be premature at this point. A declaration by the Assembly on independence would only irritate the international community and if anything harden international opposition.�

The main challenges will be to make the new structures work and for Kosovo�s political leaders to show that they can govern responsibly. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), who retains ultimate authority, should allow Kosovo�s new leaders as free a rein as possible within the competencies of the new institutions.

Yet it is unrealistic to expect Kosovo Albanian leaders or voters to shelve the one overriding issue that really matters to them. ICG�s Kosovo Project Director Peter Palmer said: �The newly elected officials will be unlikely to accept for long the tight control of the unelected international administration. Impatience with slow progress to independence may lead to more strained relations between UNMIK and the Albanian parties.�

The participation of Serbs in the election was a positive step, although turnout was depressed by the confusing messages sent by their leaders. While the Yugoslav government eventually recommended Serb participation, some Serb leaders still campaigned against the vote, and would-be Serb voters faced intimidation in some areas. However, Serb representatives should now focus on representing their community through constructive participation in Kosovo�s new institutions.

It is important that the Serb-controlled region north of the Ibar River be properly integrated in the new institutional framework and that Albanian refugees are allowed to return. This will require co-operation between the Serb community, UNMIK, KFOR and Belgrade. Kosovo�s Albanian leaders should also exert their moral authority to stop attacks on Serbs and Roma, and to allow them to return to their homes.

The full report can be downloaded here.

For further information, contact Katy Cronin or Sascha Pichler at ICG Brussels, tel: +32 2 536 00 64 or 70, email: [email protected]

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