July 3, 2012
The International Steering Group on July 2 announced the end of supervised independence for Kosovo, leaving the country to assume full-sovereignty from September. The news is a significant milestone after 13 years of international administration, however, the end of supervision comes whilst several serious problems remain.
"Today the International Steering Group has taken a historic and important decision on Kosovo," Prime Minister Hashim Thaci told reporters after a meeting of the group, DPA reports. The group's Kosovo representative, Pieter Feith, claimed the young state has become a "modern, democratic, multi-ethnic" country as he announced the decision.
International military and police units will still patrol Kosovo to lower the risk of ethnic violence, according to the plan, with tensions still raw between majority ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs in the north of the country - as demonstrated by sporadic outbreaks of violence.
There are also concerns amongst the Serbs that the end of supervision will mean dilution of the mechanisms for upholding and protecting minority rights that are contained in the Ahtisaari Plan - the status settlement proposal governing the country's process towards full sovereignty.
Thaci hoped to calm those fears by insisting: "I will communicate and cooperate with every single Serb leader elected in the north who respects the institutions of Kosovo," but that is an ambitious statement.
The announcement affirmed expectations that Kosovo will enact remaining legislation guaranteeing and strengthening democratic institutions and human rights by September. Until that time, Feith will retain his power to annul laws put in place by the ethnic Albanian government and sanction or even sack politicians.
Unsurprisingly, Belgrade expressed its displeasure with the decision, which reinforces Kosovo's official independence status. "When any international mission in Kosovo leaves, it can mean a greater danger for both Serbs and Serbia," Oliver Ivanovic, state secretary for Kosovo, told B92 television.
While Kosovo's Serb community rejected the International Steering Group "at the very beginning" and had little contact with it, "[a]ny foreigner or foreign mission is better" as Serbs and Albanians "are not able to function" without international mediation, Ivanovic claimed.