PDK freezes ties with UNMIK
Hashim Thaçi, head of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), has frozen relations with the Interim Administrative Council and the other United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) led institutions in a sign of protest over the recent agreement of understanding signed between UNMIK head Bernard Kouchner and moderate Kosovar Serb Bishop Artemije.
Thaçi's party is home to members of the now disbanded Kosova Liberation Army (UÇK), of which Thaçi was the political leader. His move was a blow to Kouchner, and Thaçi remained steadfast in his decision despite pressure from international diplomats.
At a briefing after UNMIK complained about the move, Thaçi said the international community was "spoiling the Serbs," adding that moderate Serbs were not sincere in reaching accommodation with UNMIK. PDK spokesmen added that Serbs should fully participate in Kosovar institutions and consider themselves as part of it instead of remaining dependent on ties with Belgrade.
PDK members point in particular to the northern town of Mitrovica (Mitrovice), where local Serbs continue to maintain ties with Belgrade in running their portion of the municipality. Local Albanians fear that the creation of temporary Serb-run municipal offices will translate into another division of Kosovo.
UNMIK spokeswoman Nadia Younes tried to calm local concerns by saying that the offices were only a temporary step until local elections this autumn.
Thaçi's PDK highlighted the divisions existing throughout the Albanian political spectrum, as Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) leader Ibrahim Rugova was said to have silently approved of the agreement and did not join Thaçi and other groups who denounced it.
UNMIK said it regretted the decision, adding that Kouchner was hopeful Thaçi would end his boycott. Younes said Kouchner met briefly with Thaçi and they agreed to meet again to continue "bilateral discussions."
She added, however, that the "understanding with the Serbs" would not be changed, noting that some of the measures have already been implemented.
Austrian President in for a visit
Austrian President Thomas Klestil made a one-day visit to Kosovo during which he met with local and national Albanian political and community leaders.
Besides the usual topics of Kosovo's general security and development, Klestil took part in a heated debate over Thaçi's boycott of UNMIL institutions. He also discussed Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) projects in the province, as Austria heads the organization this year, and visited Austrian troops in Suhareke.
Registration campaign continues
With less than two weeks to go before the first phase of civil and voter registration ends, the campaign to convince Kosovars to register to exercise their democratic franchise is gaining steam. More than 800,000 people have added their names to the register, but thousands more still have not.
Registration will ensure citizens the chance to vote in the upcoming municipal elections this fall, but the deadline expires on 15 July. Registration also will allow people to obtain United Nations identity cards and the right to apply for UN travel documents.
Ombuds office signed into law
The Ombudsperson's Institution, created by the OSCE mission, is soon to be opened after UNMIK chief Bernard Kouchner formally signed a resolution establishing it this week.
An ombudsperson has a special role in a democracy, investigating and mediating complaints from individuals, groups and organizations about the authorities, abuses of power and human rights violations. It provides, for example, means of redress if an individual citizen feels he or she has been discriminated against by a police officer or civil administrator.
"The Ombudsperson's Institution will be multi-ethnic," said Sonsoles Montero of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo's Ombudsperson's Support Section. "It will work in an atmosphere of transparency but keep confidentiality when necessary to protect complainants, witnesses or others. It will be free of charge."
To perform its job successfully, the Ombudsperson's Institution will remain independent. The OSCE has helped to establish it, with additional funding from the US government, but the institution will not be part of the OSCE or the UN and it is slated to remain part of the local infrastructure when the international eventually leaves.
Kouchner has yet to nominate someone to head the office, but the OSCE and Kouchner both reiterated their commitments to the project as "another step in the slowly evolving democratic structure of the region."
Llazar Semini, 8 July 2000
Based in Priština, Llazar Semini is Kosova Project Manager for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Jailed IWPR correspondent Miroslav Filipovic was named European Internet Journalist of the Year this past week.
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