Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kosovo Negotiating Team Works on State Symbols

Members of the Kosovo Unity Team, a group of politicians and lawmakers who were involved in the negotiations with Serbia, have agreed to meet to discuss Kosovo's new state symbols.  Members of the group, particularly head of the group and opposition leader Veton Surroi, want to have state symbols in place when Kosovo gains independence.  However, Kosovo PM Ceku again has stated that independence is expected in "a matter of weeks" (a resolution is now expected by the end of June) and it is not realistic to expect national symbols to be adopted in that time period.  But Surroi and Hashim Thaci, another opposition leader in the unity team, believe that Kosovo will be able to agree on new state symbols on the day it gains independence. 
One of the reasons why the state symbols needs to be addressed is because after the 120-day transition period, the travel documents issued by UNMIK will no longer be valid and Kosovo will need to reissue documents to its citizens.  I imagine that the identity cards issued by UNMIK will also be invalid following the transition.  Ceku has said that the issue of symbols is delicate and requires political and civil consensus but the clock is ticking!

According to the Ahtisaari proposal, the state symbol must also reflect the multi-ethnic make-up of the flag on the left will no longer be used to represent Kosovo.  I rather doubt that the flag will disappear from use though, it's likely that the Albanian population will continue to use it to represent their ethnic identity.  In contrast, it is interesting to see that Albanian movements in Serbia have developed a unique flag to represent their group.

The EU mission in the news as well.  Officials have reiterated that the EU mission cannot and will not exist unless there is a UN Security Council resolution.  Also, Turkey has blocked NATO-EU cooperation in the future mission in protest for treatment by the EU.  Turkey is a member of NATO but has so far had little progress in its EU ascension negotiations.  Turkey wants more say in EU common defense policy and wants to be consulted more on EU security policies.  Formal cooperation between NATO and the EU has been rocky due to political tensions between countries like Turkey, Cyprus, and Malta.  The two organizations rarely share intelligence or operational information.

NPR published an article that outlines how some Serbs feel about the looming decision about Kosovo.  The article looks at several different viewpoints and emphasizes the complexity of the situation.

Also, Macedonia is looking to Kosovo as ethnic problems continue between Macedonians and Albanians.  A small Albanian party has joined in with the Macedonian goverment after boycotting since January.  The larger Albanian party DUI, an offshoot of the rebel NLA who fought in the nearly civil war in 2000, are still refusing to participate in the government citing abuses by the Macedonians.  The one thing that I find interesting is that the name of the country is Macedonia but still some populations do not consider themselves as Macedonian but rather by Albanians, Roma, or whatever...that's an interesting outlook to say the least.  Would that be like me calling myself a "Montanan" or "Las Vegan" and not American???  It kind of speaks to me as people do not want to identify themselves as patriots of the country they live in...  Not discussed in the article are fears that independence for Kosovo will cause further problems in Macedonia.  The Albanian minority is currently at around 20% of the population and is highly concentrated near the Kosovo border and in certain sections of Skopje (like the Old Town).  It is thought that Albanians in the border areas in Macedonia and Preshevo will attempt to break-off and join Kosovo...even though politicians from Kosovo and Albania say there will not be a "Greater Albania" they have can't control movements in those areas if people want to inflame tensions...but as most things in the Balkans, we'll just have to wait and see!