Kosovo Awaits U.N. Envoy's Plan for Province

In coming days, a U.N. special envoy to Kosovo will address the future of the province. Reports hint at a plan that will allow Kosovo to conduct its own foreign policy and join international organizations, without achieving full independence.

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After eight years as a United Nations protectorate, the United Nations is now drawing up a plan for the future status of Kosovo. The proposal for Serbia's disputed province is expected to ask forced secession from Belgrade, but it doesn't specifically mention the word independence. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Pristina.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: The streets of Pristina are dotted with cafes filled all day long with young people chatting, chain smoking and drinking espressos. They've nowhere else to go.

Seventy percent of Kosovo's population is under 30. And more than two-thirds of the young are unemployed. Sribsa Kamberi(ph), in her early 20s, is eagerly waiting to her details of the U.N. plan for Kosovo.

Ms. SRIBSA KAMBERI (Resident, Pristina, Kosovo): If we are independent, all factory work, all people can find a job. I think in the future, some people can invest at here and business will go on. So important is to work.

POGGIOLI: But some Kosovars say expectations are too high. Albin Matyoshi(ph) works for an NGO that fights against corruption.

Mr. ALBIN MATYOSHI (NGO worker, Kosovo): People are very - emotionally very linked through independence. And they think that that will solve all the problems. The problems will begin. The problems that have been accumulated will have to be dealt with - organized crime, corruption, rule of law.

POGGIOLI: This is the European Union's biggest concern. Kosovo is the only region to have earned a special section on drug, weapons, and human trafficking in Europe Poll's annual report. However, Veton Surroi, one of Kosovo's leading intellectuals, blames the international community for what he calls its benevolent attitude toward the rise of criminality, including the sex slave trade.

Mr. VETON SURROI (Journalist, Politician): If there were the stomach in the U.N. mission to say no to prostitution, they could have done it. But there was no stomach or will to deal with these issues.

POGGIOLI: In 1999, an 11-week NATO bombing campaign ended Serbian repression in Kosovo. NATO troops and U.N. administrators have been in place since then. Surroi says it's not just Kosovo's security that's in international hands; local government is also restricted.

Mr. SURROI: And once you do not have decision-making powers, you do not have, also, the normal relationship in a democracy of being held responsible for interactions - accountability.

POGGIOLI: Kosovo Albanians are keenly aware they don't have a fully sustainable state and will need international supervision for some years to come. But most of all, Kosovars are demanding ties to Belgrade be severed definitively. That's what scares the Romanian Serbs, estimated at 110,000. Most of them live in the north, closest to Serbia.

Mitrovica is the living symbol of Kosovo's ethnic divisions. Serbs live on the north bank of the river Iber, Albanians on the south. The main bridge, under constant U.N. police patrol, has been the scene of violent clashes between extremists of both sides. Oliver Ivanovich, one of the few Serb leaders in contact with Albanian politicians, is worried about the consequences should the U.N. plan contain the word independence.

Mr. OLIVER IVANOVICH (Politician, Kosovo): I'm quite sure that Serbs in the north will declare independence (unintelligible). They will declare his own independency(ph).

POGGIOLI: It's known the U.N. plan will contain strong provisions defending the rights of minority Serbs, including some form of ties to Belgrade. But mutual suspicion between the ethnic rivals has become ever more entrenched. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Pristina.

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