Kosovo passes new constitution amid uncertainty over its future

June 16th, 2008 - 2:09 am ICT by IANS  

DPA
Pristina, June 16 (DPA) Kosovo’s President Fatmir Sejdiu Sunday signed a series of laws putting the new constitution into effect, saying it was rounding off the self-proclamation of independence from Serbia, but the territory still remains shrouded in diplomatic and legal uncertainty. “We reached a historic moment to complete the process of completing our statehood,” Sejdiu said after signing 41 laws under the new constitution, which was passed by parliament two months ago. The ceremony was attended by representatives of more than 40 countries which have recognized Kosovo.

However, uncertainty over Kosovo’s future persists as the United Nations, which had governed the former Serbian province since NATO intervened against Belgrade in 1999, remains unable to let go of it owing to the power of Serbian ally and UN Security Council member Russia.

Moscow is backing Belgrade’s claim of ownership over Kosovo, which Serbs see as their heartland province.

Kosovo declared independence four months ago and was quickly recognized by the major Western powers. Russia, however, threatened its power of veto to block a roadmap to independence designed by a UN mediator, Martti Ahtisaari, in 2007.

The new Kosovo constitution envisaged the transfer of authority from the UN mission (UNMIK) to local institutions. UNMIK was introduced to Kosovo by UN resolution 1244 nine years ago.

But the UN Security Council, deeply divided over Kosovo, now cannot undo the resolution so UNMIK legally remains in place though developments have clearly overtaken it.

The new developments include Kosovo’s proclamation of independence, its recognition by the US and its allies and the EULEX law-enforcing mission sent by the European Union to aid Kosovo in its first sovereign steps.

Because of the “new situation on the ground,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon last week proposed to reshape UNMIK and leave it in Pristina to share power with Pristina and EULEX, instead of moving it out of Kosovo’s way.

The plan angered the Albanians - a 90-percent majority in Kosovo - who want UNMIK to make way for the much smaller EULEX. Officials, such as assembly speaker Jakup Krasniqi, have said that Ban is afraid to recognize the reality of Kosovo’s independence.

At the same time, Serbia dismissed Ban’s plan as an illegal change of the UN mandate in Kosovo and an attempt to allow EULEX - to which Belgrade vehemently objects as a facilitator of Kosovo’s independence - in through a back door.

Adding to the confusion are the minority Serbs, mostly grouped in the northern Mitrovica enclave, who boycott both Pristina authorities and are openly hostile to EULEX. Serbs have said they will launch their own parallel structures of authority in late June.

Neither the international missions nor central Pristina institutions have so far attempted to assert their authority and it may remain so under the new constitution.

The declaration of independence in February was followed by violent Serb protests in the north, which were encouraged and aided by Belgrade. A UN policeman and a protester were killed.
DPA

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