MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Yelena Shesternina)
Hashim Thaci, the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK), which won the parliamentary elections, has left no doubts about the province's future: "Tonight the clock has turned. A new century has begun. Kosovo is ready to move forward on the road that will lead us closer to independence. We have shown the world that we are a democratic country and are prepared to join the European family."
Thaci predicts that the new century will start immediately after December 10 when the Troika of international mediators (Russia, the European Union, and the United States) reports on the results of the talks on the Kosovo status. However, these results do not promise any bright prospects either for Kosovo Serbians, Belgrade or Moscow.
The elections could not have changed much in Pristina's position. All parties urged independence in their election campaigns, not just the DPK (In the 1990s Thaci was one of the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army or KLA; the DPK was formed from KLA factions) but also the runner-up - the Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK), headed by President Fatmir Sejdiu who has been turning down Belgrade's compromise proposals one after another, and the New Kosovo Alliance, which came in third. Its leader, Behgjet Pacolli is the wealthiest Kosovo Albanian with an estimated fortune of $400 million. His company, Mabetex, received a lucrative contract for the Kremlin's renovation and was later charged with money laundering.
The West has accepted the elections as legitimate and conforming to all democratic norms although fewer people voted than ever before (these are third elections since 1999); the Serbs abstained, having heeded recommendations from Belgrade. As a result, their 10 seats (in total there are 20 seats for national minorities) will again remain vacant. Russia has demonstrated its attitude to the elections by not sending any observers to Pristina.
Needless to say, the elections may be ignored or questioned but there is no denying the obvious - there is practically no chance of breaking the deadlock on the Kosovo talks until December 10. Recently, Belgrade has made it clear that it is ready for major concessions if it could keep at least an illusion of control over the breakaway territory.
Almost every week it is coming up with compromise proposals, which seemed unthinkable only a while ago. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica suggested Hong Kong's model for Kosovo. Under his proposal, Kosovo will remain an EU long-term protectorate, while the local authorities will receive more power. The Serbs are going to present this proposal at the next round of talks in Brussels on November 20 in the hope to save face and at least delay Kosovo's independence.
Troika EU mediator, German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger suggested that Serbia proper and Kosovo should regulate their relations by using the 1972 treaty between the two Germanys on economic and political cooperation, which did not rule out their reunification. Apparently, he thinks that Belgrade is ready to fall even for the phantom prospect of reunification.
Despite repeated statements by George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice about the implacability of Kosovo's independence, Washington's position may also change. White House sources are talking about a proposal to freeze the Kosovo issue until 2020 but these reports have not been officially confirmed so far.
It may happen that the victors in the elections will have to wait for a while before proclaiming independence if the West decides to suspend the issue under Russia's pressure. In this case, December 10 will not see the start of the Thaci-proclaimed "new century." Ironically, this date is already the third deadline fixed by the Kosovo Albanians. In the summer, they were ready to proclaim independence before the parliamentary elections because the economic situation was grave and policymakers had to report some achievements to their voters; later on, they mentioned November 28, the Day of the Albanian Flag but nothing is going to happen by that time, either.
We will have to wait for yet another date. We will soon see how far the Albanians and the West are ready to go, whether they will risk setting at stake again not only UN Security Council resolutions but also the future of Spain, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Georgia and Moldova...
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.