Kosovo and Kostunica

PRISTINA: “Everything must change so that nothing will change.” That aphorism, from Prince Lampedusa’s great novel The Leopard now seems applicable to Kosovo after Milosevic’s fall. Will a democratically elected president in Belgrade mean that everything has changed for Serbia, but that nothing has changed in Serbia’s relations with Kosovo?

Whether Serbia is a democracy or not, one thing is certain: in the next five years Kosovo has little hope of becoming a prosperous democratic country. The reason is simple: Kosovo has never been such. Today, it is a UN administered territory undergoing a transition from 50 years of communism, 10 years of apartheid-like Serb rule, and the ravages of war. Moreover, Kosovo’s long-term status is undefined: although a UN protectorate it remains formally under the sovereignty of the disintegrating Yugoslav federation of Serbia and Montenegro.

Becoming a democratic, economically prosperous state may, indeed, be beyond the reach of Kosovars for years to come, because Kosovo first needs to become its own state if prosperity and democracy are to take root. UN Security Council Resolution 1244, the supreme law here, precludes this unless both sides – Serbia and Kosovo – agree to it in negotiations. But Resolution 1244 does not rule out Kosovo acquiring a de-facto government that functions like a true national government.

Real possibilities exist for this to happen. The first democratic local elections in Kosovo’s history – which began last weekend – will bring strong pressures from Kosovars to write a provisional constitution and hold general elections. Furthermore, there is also a wide consensus to pursue privatization at full speed.