Rüdiger Rossig | Journalist | Novinar

Ischinger's Toughest Task: Kosovo

By Ruediger Rossig

Serbia and the leadership of the province of Kosovo could soon be negotiating face-to-face on the province’s future status, a senior German diplomat said. Wolfgang Ischinger made his remarks after a round of talks in Vienna on September 30, in which the two sides discussed separately with representatives of the mediating “Troika,” the United States, the EU, and Russia. Ischinger is representing the EU in the negotiating process. “I am a realistic optimist”, he said, adding that the Troika had only until December 10 to help find a compromise for the breakaway Serbian region.

Delicate missions are nothing new for 61-year-old. In Dayton, Ohio, in 1995, the Stuttgart area native worked together with chief U.S. negotiator Richard Holbrooke to draft the Dayton Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia. And when G8 foreign ministers adopted the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe directly after the NATO war against Serbia in 1999, Ischinger was there. As the German ambassador in Washington in 2003, he was the one who explained to the U.S. government why the German Federal Republic didn’t want to participate in the war in Iraq. Yet Ischinger’s latest task may well be the most intractable of all. At the end of July, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana appointed Germany’s current ambassador to the United Kingdom to represent the European Union in the Kosovo troika. That body, composed of representatives from the United States, the EU, and Russia, is to accompany the Serbian government and Kosovo Albanian leadership toward a negotiated solution for the region’s future.

Since the end of the war between NATO and Serbia in 1999, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations but still nominally belongs to Serbia. The ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the population of the province, are demanding full independence for Kosovo. The Serb minority and Belgrade categorically reject this demand. The two sides’ positions remained unchanged at the Vienna talks.

Until now, every attempt to hammer out a compromise between these two entrenched positions has failed. The latest saw the UN representative to Kosovo, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, present a draft resolution that proposed internationally supervised independence for Kosovo. The Security Council failed to endorse it in July because Russia withheld its support.