Kosovo senses 'whiff' of independence

There was a “whiff of statehood” in the cold air in Kosovo on Friday, according to the Pristina daily Express.

“The whole world is watching Martti Ahtisaari’s briefcase, which is bringing Kosovo the right to self-determination,” the paper wrote.

The former Finnish president was due in Pristina on Friday afternoon, after delivering to Serbia his much-anticipated, and much-leaked plan to remove the majority Albanian province from Serbia and give it the platform to declare independence.

But the sight of United Nations armoured personnel carriers in the capital reflected concern at how Albanians might react to a plan that falls short of the full sovereignty they hoped for, eight years after Nato wrested control of Kosovo from Serbia.

The plan, if adopted by the UN Security Council, will install a powerful European envoy, a European Union-led police mission, and give the 100 000 Serbs enough self-rule to arouse Albanian suspicion of further interference from Belgrade.

It does not mention the word “independence”, but opens the door to individual countries to recognise Europe’s newest state and the last to be carved from the former Yugoslavia.

The trade-off was not lost on the Iliria Post daily. “Kosovo given a little, much taken from Serbia,” read the headline.

The territory of two million people, cherished by Serbia as its medieval homeland but 90% populated by Albanians, has been run by the United Nations since the West intervened in 1999 to halt a Serb counter-insurgency war that eventually killed 10 000 Albanians and drove out 800 000.

Despite an official wall of denial erected by Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who has refused to receive Ahtisaari, many Serbs realise the inevitable.

“The word independence is not mentioned, but a plan written like this leaves no room for uncertainty,” wrote Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti.

The tabloid Kurir said: “The plan Ahtisaari will present to President Boris Tadic means only one thing—an independent Kosovo.”

Only the staunchly pro-government daily Politika threw out a thin thread of hope in the form of Russia, which Kostunica says has promised to veto independence at the UN Security Council.

“Waiting for Ahtisaari—Russia and China talk about a joint stand,” it said. - Reuters

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