AIM - Administrative Agency of Kosovo established

The Albanians also decide?

By Ana Bardhi

SAT, 25 DEC 1999

AIM Pristina, 21 December, 1999 -  after several weeks of difficult negotiations with representatives of relevant political leaders of Kosovo Albanians at meetings of Kouchner's Transitional Council of Kosovo (but in secret encounters), the civilian administrator managed according to the formula known only to him to convince Ibrahim Rugova, Hashim Tachi and Rexhep Qosja to finally sign the agreement on creation of a joint international-Kosovar executive agency which will operate until the elections and which will be called the Interim Administrative Agency of Kosovo. It is known that Kouchner had to invest more effort in convincing some of them, but what matters is that he finally succeeded in his intention.

The next day, press in Albanian language appeared with the central news on front pages: Agreement Signed! There were photographs to confirm this: the main protagonists sitting at a table and signing the paper in the presence of Bernard Kouchner, Dennis McNamara, Dan Everts, and of course, members of the press. There was also the photo of young Thaci shaking hands with Rugova, the two rivals. Despite the surprise it caused, it would have passed in apple-pie order if it had not been for the sharp eye of a cameraman which registered Thaci unusually firmly squeezing Rugova's hand. Thaci's hand is almost swollen while he has an apparently innocent smile on his face and Rugova is watching in the direction of the hand with amazement, while Kouchner is also noticing it. Although at a distance from the two, his look is also turned in the direction of of their hands. Hushed gossip that spread around in the few days that followed shows that this is not just in the imagination of the rare ones who have immediately noticed it. "Rugova's hand was crushed" people simply said to describe what had happened. What was the message, somebody who has never lived in Kosovo would certainly ask. A threat - "watch what you're doing!" or perhaps the message was: "I am stronger"?!.

What sort of "relations" will be developed from now on between the young and very active man who has just entered into politics and the more experienced and more moderate but "passive" politician will very soon be clear. Hints of what will follow have already appeared at the joint press conference. To the question of a journalist whether they both would give up their former posts (Rugova - president of Kosovo; Thaci - prime minister), Rugova stressed that he was doing it for the benefit of the people of Kosovo, that the post would be "on ice" until the forthcoming elections, although it is known that he can be replaced only in the elections. Thaci understood this as "violation of the agreemnt just three minutes after its signing". But he nevertheless replied that his government would be transformed and added cynically and evidently in contradiction with his previous remark about Rugova's breaking of the just signed agreement, that "Rugova's presidency has already been integrated in the Administrative Council of Kosovo" (!) It remains to be seen, however, whether the signed agreement will actually be carried out. The deadline for transformation is 31 January next year, by when the former offices should be dissolved and representatives of political parties should be integrated into new Transitional Administrative Council which will as of the mentioned date become operational - although interim, it will be executive. Therefore, there will be no president, prime minister, chairman of the assembly, any more. The Transitional Council of Kosovo will continue to exist and maintain its consulting role, but according to the agreement it will be broadened (to include representatives of other political parties or respectable individuals), and judging by the fact that heads of 14 departments will be obliged to submit reports about their work to the Transitional Council, in other words that it will have the possibility to reject some decisions, it appears that it will have the role of an assembly. Kouchner will continue to have the right to veto if a decision in the Administrative Council of Kosovo is not reached with a three-quarters majority or consensus. Eight members will head this Council, four from UNMIK and four from Kosovo. Each representative of Kosovo will be co-chairman for two months.

Speaking about the signed agreement, Bernard Kouchner said it was historical for Kosovo, for its future "in order to create, among other, substantial autonomy and self-administration and conditions for the first free elections which is in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1244". Later, representatives of Kosovo declared themselves in favour of independence, but that day this was utterly in the shadow of the information that the agreement was reached.

And while the agreement was presented to the public as entrance of the Albanians in the process of decision-making, there is one fact that mars the general impression. Kouchner has the right to veto decisions. Judging by the so far expressed mutual political but also personal animosity among signatories of the agreement, it will be difficult to ensure three-quarters majority in reaching possible decisions, least of all consensus, if not concerning decisions of general significance or issues against which nobody would dare vote if they did not wish to lose their positions (security, protection of minorities, condemnation of kidnapping, appearance of certain "organisations", liquidation of political opponents and similar). Therefore, executive power is again in the hands of Kouchner. It means that it is better to agree with him and "be cooperative" than demand something that is not in accordance with the security Council Resolution or that is in the interest of only a single political group. It remains to be seen to what extent Kosovo Albanians will really participate in decision-making. Indeed, according to Security Council Resolution 1244, nobody except the UN civilian mission can have legal and executive power in Kosovo. Those well-informed claim that signatories of this agreement have signed the same as at the Paris Conference. It actually seems that somebody just "reminded" them of that signature in this way.

The question that may be asked is why Kouchner insisted on the establishment of this joint agency, that is, what is the interest of Albanian representatives in it if their hands are in fact elegantly tied in it? Kouchner has certainly gained a lot. His civilian administration cannot be accused of having done nothing (or almost nothing) to create institutions, because there are parallel governments (Thaci, Bukoshi) and the president who was elected in the elections of Kosovo Albanians (although the international community has never recognised them). Now the institutions created by Kosovo Albanians do not exist any more. Governments of other states cannot point their fingers at him if they do not approve of some of his moves, because now all members of the council bear responsibility, and a special permit has been obtained for them to do that. Thaci, Rugova and Qosja have for the first time be given the opportunity to be recognised, to legally perform their duties (this time in the Administrative Council) and to be esteemed by the international community.

And while superficially the Administrative Council of Kosovo is believed to be the key thing for increase of security in Kosovo, for creation of institutions and improvement of life in general, the political scene of Kosovo has in a way boiled. Members of numerous other political parties raised their voices refusing to accept the possibility that they had contributed less to the current status of Kosovo, in other words that they are of minor importance in comparison with Thaci's, Rugova's and Qosja's. It is generally believed that the "merciless struggle before the elections" has already begun and that the mentioned three men are considered to be the key figures by the international community which is by creating the field for them to fight for power in, drawn them into the Administrative Council of Kosovo, which eyes of all Kosovo citizens are turned to. Ethnic Movement for Liberation of Kosovo which participated in Thaci's interim government withdrew from it just a day before signing of the agreement in sign of disagreement with it. Bajram Kosumi who was the minister of information in this government but who is also the president of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo broke the coalition with Qosja's United Democratic Movement. The Liberal Party of Djerdj Dedaj announces that from now on it will be the greatest opposition to the Administrative Council of Kosovo if Kouchner continues to refuse to consult other parties from the broad political spectre. This is also announced by Kosumi. Some representatives of parties believe that this was a necessary move, but they expect their representatives to be involved in the Transitional Council of Kosovo which should be broadened. Bajram Kosumi in fact states: Kouchner has done a good thing because he tried to unite rivals, but on the other hand he caused the collapse of the Albanian political scene. Something like that has in fact happened. Although it is necessary to wait for the first steps of the Administrative Council of Kosovo in order to see which parties will be the opposition to whom in this council, in other words, since it is not expected to be united, who will be given public support and who will be condemned. And as each political organisation which has remained in front of the UN building in Pristina plans its own methods of "struggle", a shadow is cast on the new administrative and executive agency by the fact that representatives of the Serb community in Kosovo will not participate in it. In a meeting with journalists Kouchner declared that they were in constant contact with the Serbs, but that they had not been able to convince them to take part in this agency.

On the occasion of this agreement, Momcilo Trajkovic, president of the Serb National Council declared that they were doing their best "to present to the Serb people what is in this agreement, what is in the annex of the agreement, what is the pursued policy like and what is happening behind its back. There is not a single serious Serb in Kosovo who will agree to join the phantom organisation which Mr. Kouchner is creating today". The executive committee of the Serb National Council assessed that by establishment of the interim administrative council the Serbs were put in an unacceptable and humiliating position and they think that with this move the self-proclaimed Thaci's government acquired legitimacy and that the gap between the Serb and the Albanian community is deepened still further. The first commentaries of Kosovo independent analysts to Trajkovic's declaration are that the only self-proclaimed organisaton and the only one that is still operating in parallel with the civilian mission of the UN, is the Serb National Council. They believe that Slobodan Milosevic has murdered the idea on multiethnic Kosovo by his rule on this territory for more than a decade, and not Kosovo Albanians despite, as they say, incidents on ethnic grounds that have been happening lately, which was, they stress, proved by Trajkovic himself by his statement about the refusal to participate in the newly created agency. They also think that the regime in Belgrade is still "holding in its hand" the Kosovo Serbs and that it manipulates them by intimidating them, with the only wish to remain in power. Local chroniclers of Kosovo conditions do not deny that it is difficult to decide to participate in a commom executive agency after "minority Serbs had for years ruled majority Albanians". And while representatives of Kosovo Serbs declare every day that they will not participate in this Administrative Council, Kouchner and representatives of the civilian mission expect this stand to change. If that does not happen, the significance of this new executive agency will not be diminished, it will somehow operate. Forecasts range between opinions that it will not operate well and that it will even be dissolved due to lack of even the minimum of joint platform foundation, and opinions that it is a good move, that it is necessary to stick to it and that this agency might after all succeed in relieving the tensions between the "domestic" political protagonists which according to many even generate crime with political background. Next year, judging by what is expected on the political scene of Kosovo, may be very interesting. It may even be an indicator of the forthcoming long period - of the road Kosovo will take. Rugova has understood this period as an alection campaign. Thaci appeared in Sarajevo and met president of B&H Federation Alija Izetbegovic there. Who is on the move now?