DW, November 21, 2007
Serbia Proposes Finnish Province Model for Kosovo
A proposal by Serbian officials attending talks in Brussels with their Kosovo counterparts and the EU-US-Russia mediating troika envisages Kosovo as an autonomous province modeled on a Swedish-speaking archipelago.
"Today we have presented another case of successful, functional autonomy, it is the case of Aland Islands within Finland," said Slobodan Samardzic, Serbia's minister for Kosovo. The proposal follows previous Serbian proposals inspired by East Germany and Hong Kong designed to dissuade Kosovo from declaring independence from Serbia.
Aland is an archipelago of more than 6,000 islands in the Baltic Sea, about half way between Sweden and Finland. Its population of nearly 27,000 speaks Swedish. In 1917, its residents asked to join Sweden, but their bid was blocked by the League of Nations, which decided that the archipelago should remain Finnish but be granted greater autonomy.
"Once again Belgrade has come up with a fresh idea on the table," said Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, who also urged his Kosovo counterparts to stop talking about independence and show "an open mind" during the negotiations.
Earlier Tuesday, Kosovo's prime minister-in-waiting, Hashim Thaci, had said he was willing to consult with the United States and the European Union before proclaiming his province's independence from Serbia.
"We will take a decision on Kosovo [independence] after December 10, together with the US and the EU," Thaci said. The United Nations set a deadline for Dec. 10 which would see the conclusion of diplomatic efforts led by the US-EU-Russia troika.
The troika is struggling to negotiate a solution on the final status of the predominantly ethnic-Albanian province, which is aspiring to become an independent state.
Thaci indicates a softening tone after EU talks
Tuesday's talks in Brussels mark the first time that Thaci will have met face-to-face with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica since he won the elections held in Kosovo on Saturday.
His latest comment appeared to suggest that the Kosovo leadership was willing to soften its stance after coming under pressure from the EU not to be too hasty about declaring unilateral independence after Dec. 10.
His position was mirrored by similar remarks made by Kosovo's president, Fatmir Sejdiu. "We will coordinate each and every step that we take with the international community," said Sejdiu, adding that Kosovo had a strong interest in having its state of independence recognized by the world's main powers.
Kosovo's plans for independence are strongly opposed by Serbia, which enjoys the backing of Russia in the UN Security Council. So far, both parties have made little progress on proposals put forward by the troika's leader, German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger.
Russia has also already threatened to veto a deal granting Kosovo independence put forward by UN mediator Martti Ahtisaari.
Troika's leader more optimistic of success
EU Representative Wolfgang Ischinger Bildunterschrift: Gro▀ansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Ischinger hopes to have an agreement by the Dec. 10 deadline
Despite widespread pessimism about the outcome of Tuesday's talks, Ischinger said he was in "good spirits" as he arrived in Brussels. "We will have a good troika session today and I am quite confident it will be a productive one," he added.
Such comments contrasted with remarks made by Ischinger on Monday, when he appeared to concede that no settlement was likely to be agreed by the Dec. 10 deadline.
Kosovo, whose population of about 2 million is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, has been under UN administration since 1999, when NATO bombing raids drove Serbian troops out of the province.
While the US has said it is ready to recognize an independent Kosovo, Russia is opposed. The EU is split on the matter, with all but a handful of its 27 member states willing to side with the US.
The troika is expected to hold a new, and probably final, round of talks in Vienna on Nov. 26, officials in Brussels said.