Friday, February 02, 2007

Independence...almost? ...moving the ball forward, but not crossing the local goal line.

Today UN Special Representative Martti Ahtisaari presented his plan on the next status of Kosovo to Serbian and Albanian leaders.  The plan includes provisions for the future of the government, economic, constitutional and security framework for Kosovo.

It does not, however, mention the word that every (Albanian) one wants to hear...."independence."  While friends tell me that the military is ready for unrest, which I think is unlikely, the proposal does have some good points.  The document can apparently be read at South East Europe Online.  I say apparently because Bytycci didn't say where he got the information and I haven't yet seen it elsewhere in this form.

On of my major concerns for the future of Kosovo is not so much its independence, but its economic development.  At the end of the day I would rather see hungry people with food, and the jobless with work.  Toward that end the plan announces some pretty key provisions such as:

1.4 Kosovo shall have an open market economy with free competition.

1.5 Kosovo shall have the right to negotiate and conclude international agreements, including the right to seek membership in international organizations.

This would mean that the economic framework of the "vend" (place, country in this case) would be firmly established.  It would also mean that Kosovo could gain assistance from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the EU in new ways.

It would also change another major albatross around Kosovo's economic neck.  According to the document:

8.3 Immovable and movable property of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or the Republic of Serbia located within the territory of Kosovo at the time of this Settlement shall pass to Kosovo.

The agreement, should it be reached, will help settle the question of ownership of all the formerly "Socially-Owned" and "State-Owned" businesses of old Yugoslavia.  As I'm mentioned to many people, this has been a significant problem.  Once functional factories where shuttered at the end of the war as no one could ascertain who legally owned them and thus, their assets, liabilities, contracts, etc.  Most were closed until they began being sold off by the Kosovo Trust Agency several years ago.  This issue of ownership has been problematic for both foreign investment and economic development.

All in all this plan has a lot to commend it.  I'm interested to read the reactions of those much more knowledgeable than I in the coming days.  Interestingly, the Washington Post trivialized the agreement, saying the key obstacles were the identification of a national flag and anthem in their article, Almost independent, Kosovo seeks flag, anthem.  Most people under-state the issues that are bofore us.  At the same time, the UN seemed cautiously optimistic in their press release, "Kosovo to have right to govern itself, join international bodies under UN plan"

The greatest problem for Kosovar nationals, I believe, will be the issue of ultimate status, not the newly defined transitional status.  That's why I titled the post as I did.

The problem is that no one can unilaterally create an independent state from a smaller one; this violates the UN charter.  So the question the international community has before it is how to see a new state created without creating it.  I believe that this plan is designed to create the next set of criteria for a state, assuming that the following would happen:

1.  The local authorities will unilaterally announce their independence.

2.  Other nations would be invited to recognize that status.

3.  At some point a tipping point would be reached at which Kosovo would become a de jure independent state and not just the de facto  one that exists today.

We'll have to see where this goes and, as I said, see what more intelligent commentators have to say.

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