26 June 2007 - DECISION ON KOSOVO CRITICAL
The time for Kosovo's independence is now, and the situation on the ground is critical, a number of speakers told the 66th Rose Roth Seminar held in Dubrovnik, Croatia from June 24-26. However, the seminar also confirmed that the international community has not yet reached the consensus needed for a new UN Security Council Resolution defining the future status of Kosovo. This has created an impasse with worrying implications for the security of the entire region.
The Seminar brought together parliamentarians from NATO countries and their counterparts from throughout South East Europe, Croatian, Kosovar and Allied officials, EU and UN representatives and independent experts to debate the security of the region. The seminar focused on a range of issues affecting the present and future of Southeast Europe, including Kosovo's future status and the possible enlargement of NATO to include Albania, Croatia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*. The discussions were led off by presentations from a number of prominent speakers, including Joachim Ruecker, Special Representative of the Secretary General at the UN Mission in Kosovo; Agim Ceku, the Prime Minister of Kosovo; Vice Ministers of Foreign Affairs of each Adriatic Charter country; technical specialists on issues such as border policing, communications strategies, and energy security; and senior officials from NATO and the European Union, as well as from the NGO and academic communities.
In Kosovo, time is of the essence: pressure is building under the political leaders who have supported ongoing negotiations, and radical views could find increasing resonance among the wider populace. There is a real danger that the Albanian population of Kosovo will lose trust in the UN process and in their local leaders, potentially unraveling the achievements of the past eight years of UN administration and local institution-building.
Kosovo's Prime Minister argued that local leaders are ready to take on all relevant responsibilities from the UN. The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has achieved all it could under its current mandate, as recognized by UN Secretary General's Special Representative Joachim Ruecker. The near international consensus on the Ahtisaari plan, which represent the best possible plan despite its imperfections, makes this the right time to resolve this question definitively. Continuing negotiations risks squandering the political momentum which is now in place. Resolving Kosovo's status would free Kosovo, Serbia, and the entire region to continue progress towards full international integration.
However, Kosovar Serbs and Serbian parliamentarians in attendance expressed strong opposition to the Ahtisaari plan and to allowing Kosovo's independence. Russian parliamentarians repeatedly drew parallels between the Kosovo situation and a number of others such as Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia, and expressed the conviction that any decision on independence for Kosovo was likely to set a dangerous precedent and possibly violate international law. In response to such assertions, Mr. Ruecker stated that it was categorically inconceivable that the UN Secretary General, NATO, the European Union, among others, would support a plan which would not fully adhere to international law.
The Assembled NATO Parliamentarians reaffirmed their support for NATO's Open Door policy. Although no one could predict what the governments of NATO member states would decide in the run-up to the 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest, the governments of Albania, Croatia, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were encouraged to continue accelerating the progress of their reform processes to the furthest extent possible.
Croatia appeared to be making significant efforts and some progress on the key issue of public support for NATO accession. Although there was no specific checklist that would guarantee an invitation to join NATO, the bar was high and each country should make the strongest possible case by ensuring that reforms were not only sustainable, but irreversible. Successful regional cooperation, including with the new members of Partnership for Peace, was widely praised and NATO officials encouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia to apply for Individual Partnership Action Plans.
Discussions on Bosnia and Herzegovina brought forth widespread and grave concern about the current political situation, which was termed the worst in many years. The seemingly incompatible aims of the Bosnian Serbs, Bosniacs, and Croats in the country have led to a severe deterioration in the political atmosphere, which culminated in the failure of proposed Constitutional reforms and police reforms, which are a prerequisite for further progress towards the European Union. Despite these concerns in the political arena, the security situation was assessed as showing gradual improvement, which has allowed for a reduction of EU troops in the country to 2,500.
The next Rose Roth Seminar will take place in Belgrade in October 2007.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly brings together members of parliaments throughout the Atlantic Alliance to provide an essential link between NATO and the parliaments of the NATO nations, helping to build parliamentary and public consensus in support of Alliance policies. It also facilitates parliamentary awareness and understanding of key security issues and provides greater transparency of NATO policies. Since the end of the Cold War the Assembly has assumed a new role by integrating into its work parliamentarians from those countries in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond who seek a closer association with NATO. This integration has provided both political and practical assistance and has contributed to the strengthening of parliamentary democracy throughout the Euro-Atlantic region, thereby complementing and reinforcing NATO's own programme of partnership and co-operation
* Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name