"Kosovars expect fast a better life"
Ducthman Pieter Feith will supervise Kosovo's government from next week.
The UN withdraws from Kosovo, the EU takes over the mission - under the guidance of Dutchman Peter Feith. A mighty man, who can abolish laws and fire officials.
By our reporter Petra de Koning
Brussel, 16 febr. The Americans - and not the Europeans who now come to help - are the heroes of the Albanians in Kosovo. „They are still seen as the liberators of the repression by the former Serb president Milosevic”, says the Dutch high diplomat Pieter Feith. „But that is going to change now.” From next week he will supervise Kosovo's on behalf of the EU and the international community.
If Kosovo declares independence from Serbia next sunday it is expected that the government of prime minister Hasim Thaci will ask the EU officially for support. But the nearly 2000 cops, judges, prosecutors and officials from EU member states that will travel to Kosovo wiill not be received with flowers like the American soldiers after the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. Nine year of UN rule did not bring the inhabitants of Kosovo the prosperity and freedom that they had hoped.
If any Kosovar will be waiting along the roadside when Feith arrives next week in the capital Pristina, they will mostly want to ask the special EU representative something: „The expectations are high”, says Feith. „It is expected that their quality of life and economic circumstances will improve rapidly.”
Feith (63), who prior mediated on behalf of NATO between Serbs and Albanians in South-Serbia and Macedonia, will not only be a representative of the EU . He will also be ‘international representative’ in Kosovo – he leads the international civilian office in Kosovo - in which also Amercicans participate. They pay a quarter of the budget of his office (the EU pays half) and his deputy is an American, Fletcher Burton.
The Kosovaren think that in the end their former liberators will determine what happens. The Americans, says Feith, have „unmistakenly” more authority in Kosovo than de Europeans. „But the EU nor the Amerikans will be able to fullfill their high expectations.”
The Kosovo mission is by the EU. The Kosovars will address the EU when they are not contented.
„That is right.”
The Americans stay their heroes.
„I told prime minister Hasim Thaci already once that Kosovo will never be the 51st state of the United States. But Kosovo does have a chance to become a member of the EU. The memory of 1999 will fade, the future is to the EU. But we will have to explain clearly that durable improvement of life circumstances can only come from the Kosovo government. They have to address the corruption and organised crime.”
What is Kosovo's biggest problem?
„Kosovo must consolidate like a multi-etnic state. The rights of minorities must be respected and fixed in legislation. Another big problem is unemployment of 44 percent. There is little initiative: obviously Kosovo has been too long under UN rule.”
And then, as europarlementarians said previously, arises a ‘protectorate mentatlity’?
„A mentality of dependency: ‘The administrators from outside will have to solve it for us.’ That should change by independence.”
Kosovo must ‘consolidate’ as multi-etnic state, you say. But does it function now? The Serb minority in Kosovo is afraid.
„Maybe they are safer than they feel. The KFOR soldiers are still there. But the feeling of safety should not only depend on that, there must come a natural basis for it. We have also the problem of the return of Serb refugees to Kosovo. That process is manipulated.’’
Serbia blocks the return?
Serbia will certianly not stop to do that after Kosovo's independence.
„That is very likely. But must we reign to that? Serbia wants to be a part of the EU too.”
Will you as a EU representative in Kosovo also jusge whether Serbia behaves well enough to become a EU member?
„As EU we want to project our values, like those about a well functioning multi-ethnic state. If serbia keeps rejecting that you can wonder whether it qualifies for the next step towards Europe.”
In your contact with Serbia that will be your source of power: you are the forward EU post that looks if Serbia satisfies.
„That will indeed give me some preponderance, when you assume that my recommendations will be followed in Brussel. It can not be that the Serbians isolate Kosovo and also continue towards Europa.”
Will they understand that fast?
„I think that after an initial period of obstruction the moods will calm down.”
Inside Kosovo too your power will be based on the wish to become a EU member.
„I have executive powers. I can annul legislation, fire corrupt officials, cancel government decisions. But I am impressed with the intentions of Kosovo's politicians. Today or tomorrow a constitution will be published, that will be checked by me and my organisation and will be approved by parliament tomorrow.”
But also without special powers you would have authority by your judgement of Kosovo as a prospective EU member.
„Yes, and Kosovo gets offered a treasure of experience. The future is to the Kosovars, I don't want them to have excuses not to help the country forward. But we will do it differently than in Bosnia where the international community still takes important decisions. We are concerned to hand over responsibilities.”
A French ex-general leads the mission of police and jurists. You are the highest international representative. Who is the boss?
„If it concerns politics, I advice the french commander.”
Can you imagine that in a couple of years Serbia and Kosovo will be EU members?
„Over mány years. It is primarily about the perspective. That is an encouragement to keep reforming. The willingness to help them is large.”
Because of their conflict.
„Yes, but one of the first conditions will be to improve their mutual relations. It would be a serious mistake to add two new member states who have a conflict.”
The EU already has Cyprus, that has a conflict with prospective member Turkey. That is complicated enough.
„You say that.”