Irish Times - Tuesday, November 9, 1999

Teachers to power - workers must be provided

In the second of two reports from Kosovo, Patrick Smyth discovers the proconsuls of the UN are finding governing no small challenge

YUGOSLAVIA: The holding in Kosovo of "provisional" local elections in the spring of next year is likely to be announced shortly by the UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, according to senior UN sources in Pristina.

The polls are an attempt to give some legitimacy to local and national government structures currently monopolised by the small band of administrators appointed by the UN, which governs Kosovo as a protectorate. Senior UN sources make no bones about what they see as the need to implicate Kosovo's divided leaders in many of the difficult decisions ahead.

The move has been given added urgency by the rapid development of unofficial parallel state structures at local and national level under the auspices of the "Provisional Government" led by former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Hasim Thaci. Local "self-appointed" mayors are appointing their own staffs, and even raising unofficial taxes, sidelining the official UNMIK administration. "What we are involved in is nothing less than building up the whole state from scratch," says Daan Everts, the often controversial Dutch representative of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Kosovo. That means every aspect of a state from teachers to firemen to power workers.

Everts, whose pragmatic, personal diplomacy in Albania got him into trouble with the member-states, warns that the challenge of creating a new state for Kosovo is at a "critical point" for the UN and its civil administration, UNMIK.

Undermanned and underfunded, UNMIK is in serious danger of losing its credibility and political control at local level. At the very least, officials in Pristina say, member-states must respond urgently to the call by the UN's senior representative in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, for the $25 million needed immediately to pay 50-80,000 public employees. In truth there are three competing sources of state authority in Kosovo today, none with more than one of the prerequisites of successful statehood, authority, legitimacy, or executive power.

UNMIK has the authority of the UN and the international community, sanctioned by Resolution 1244 of the Security Council, but no real means to enforce it beyond the handful of officials (500) who sit on its behalf in every town hall in the land. A parallel government, led by the moderate Dr Ibrahim Rugova and his LDK, established after widely boycotted elections in 1998, has at least a veneer of legitimacy given Dr Rugova's continued high standing according to recent polls, but does not meet and although experienced in running unofficial schools and hospitals, has no means. The provisional government, established under Thaci by the Kosovo parties after the peace talks at Rambouillet, but then boycotted by Rugova, has seized the initiative, filling the vacuum at local level with its own appointees.

The dilemma for the UN is whether to co-operate with these de facto mayors. Jack Covey, Kouchner's deputy, says "we have found it necessary and useful to work with the realities as we find them." But he insists they will not co-opt them into the official structures - "we will not make a partnership with a oneparty state."

The case for a more pragmatic "pact with the devil" negotiated co-option under UN political direction, is made by Everts and some of the regional administrators. Sir Martin Garrod, in charge of the northern Mitrovica region, is already planning to bring the city's deeply divided self-appointed leaders into a unified municipal administration. "If they are the right people," he says we will select them. If not, we will shut them out. We have got good people on both sides." It is a view broadly shared by the Irish administrator of the eastern sector, Brig Gen Dick Heaslip.

And diplomatic sources suggest a new private willingness by Thaci and Rugova, both desperately short of cash, to co-operate in a single government structure ahead of elections. As for the longer-term problem of Kosovo's ultimate status, despite US hints that it may now support independence, it's a case of "don't mention the war". "The status of Kosovo is on the back burner, where it should stay," Everts says. There is too much else to do. The four pillars of the international administration have a formidable challenge - immediate humanitarian relief under the UNCHR, civil administration, UNMIK, institution-building, the OSCE, and economic reconstruction, the EU. The latter alone has pledged #500 million for its work next year.

The head of the EU's task force, Mark Franco, says that the infrastructure is in a desperate state, the product not only of war but years of total neglect. Vital elements of any modern society, like records, were simply left with the Serbs, or like the banking system, simply do not exist.

External investment is hampered by complete lack of certainty over property ownership. Social ownership of industry was dismantled "legally" by the Serbs to allow Belgrade firms to take over much of business. Some of it has even been sold off to international investors. Many businesses now have three or even four competing claimants to ownership while no one is clear what law applies or who will adjudicate on such claims.

And with up to half the cars in the country said to be stolen from the rest of Europe, an amnesty may be necessary to begin the process of registration, if only to raise some taxes. Currently the only significant revenue to the state is a 10 per cent duty on imports which raises only some 7-8 million euros a month. The build-up of UN police is continuing. Some 2,000 of the expected 5,000 are beginning to take over the role played until now by soldiers and the first class of 175 members of the new Kosovo Police Service has just graduated.

And Kfor spokesmen insist that the KLA has honoured its decommissioning obligations and no longer formally exists. Regular arms finds suggest, however, that this is a far from unarmed society and there is now strong evidence of an influx of mafiosi from Albania. "The difference now is that any weapons found are clearly illegal and we can seize them," a Kfor spokesman says. But street crime in Pristina is now endemic, with foreigners advised to walk in groups.

Many former fighters appear, however, to have been integrated successfully into the unarmed Kosovo Protection Force, largely engaged in reconstruction work but seen by many Albanians as their embryonic future army. What is also clear, however, is that the international community is here for the long run. "Peace is more than the absence of war," the commander of Kfor, Gen Klaus Reinhardt warns. "I only know we have to talk years, not months. . . Our British friends were in Northern Ireland much longer than expected."

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