- Of Note:Final Status for Kosovo: Beyond Talking
The final status of Kosovo continues to bedevil the Kosovars, the region, and the international community. After United Nations Resolution 1244 made Kosovo an international protectorate under UN administration, the UN and all interested parties postponed the question of Kosovo's final status indefinitely, and coupled the determination of the status with the achievement of standards such as good governance and minority rights protection. But the conditions for a long-term solution were far more favorable in the immediate aftermath of the 1999 NATO-led campaign against Serbia then they are now. Rising Kosovar anxiety, reemerging Serb nationalism and revanchism, Russian intransigence, and Europe's failure to offer significant incentives, all make the task of achieving a peaceful and lasting solution in Kosovo difficult.
The insistence of the UNMIK after 2002 on preconditions to final status talks has been seen by some Kosovar Albanians as a move to buy more time and has heightened interethnic tensions, resulting in the March 2004 riots which targeted Serb minorities and UNMIK forces. On the other hand, the Serbian government has strengthened its role as the sole representative of the Kosovar Serbs, demanding—as Serbian President Tadic did recently— the detachment of the Serb-dominated areas from the authority of Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG). Meanwhile, incentives for Serb cooperation are scarce. Increasing skepticism on the part of the European public regarding EU enlargement has eliminated the possibility of using EU membership as a carrot in exchange for cooperation.
But a solution is not impossible. Though Kosovar Albanians will never accept a return to their pre-war status as a province of Serbia or even a republic within the rump Yugoslav federation, any talk of outright independence for Kosovo is premature given the state of inter-ethnic relations. According to a proposal by the International Crisis Group, Kosovo could be "granted conditional independence under a form of international trusteeship." Kosovo should also not be allowed to join any neighboring state or territory; and there should be international presence in Kosovo's courts to ensure the protection of minority rights. Lastly, a continued UN military presence will need to remain in Kosovo for some time.
The solution of the status of Kosovo is of primary importance for the region and bears upon the credibility of the involved parties (UN, U.S., EU, and Russia). Positive developments toward the settlement of the final status for Kosovo, a mostly Muslim territory, could also prove to be politically useful [End Page 161] for both the U.S. and European governments as they continue to face increasing resentment by Muslim populations over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and America's war on terror. More importantly, the final settlement of the question of Kosovo could bring peace and stability to a region that is in much of need of both.