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Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 17:22 GMT
Tough task for new Kosovo chief
Mr Haekkerup
Hans Haekkerup is considered to be quiet and methodical
By south-east Europe analyst Gabriel Partos

The new head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Hans Haekkerup, has said he will not fix an election date for the province until a legal framework has been put in place.


Mr Haekkerup's hope is to establish stability and a reasonable standard of inter-ethnic relations in the province

Mr Haekkerup's cautious approach is in contrast with that of his predecessor, Bernard Kouchner, who was keen to press on with elections in the coming months.

But beyond their views on the timing of elections, there are other differences between the two officials.

Mr Kouchner, who set up UNMIK 18 months ago, is a charismatic, flamboyant and publicity-seeking figure.

He first became known as one of the founders of Medecins sans Frontieres - the French medical charity that operates, often in highly dangerous conditions, in many conflict-ridden parts of the world.

By contrast, Mr Haekkerup - Denmark's defence minister over the past eight years - is quiet, methodical, and has already said that he wants "to take Kosovo out of the world's headlines".

In other words, his hope is to establish stability and a reasonable standard of inter-ethnic relations in the province so that without the ongoing violence, it no longer attracts international media attention.

Experience

Mr Haekkerup's has a formidable background in terms of his long-standing and varied experience as a competent official.

Soldier in Kosovo
Kosovo is a province driven with ethnic conflict
Born into a family of prominent Social Democratic politicians 55 years ago, he became a teenage party activist.

After university he served as an officer in the Danish army for six years before - an experience that taught him the virtues of discipline.

After army service Mr Haekkerup gained post-graduate qualifications in economics and moved into the state administration where he dealt with social and labour affairs.

Mr Haekkerup's political career began 20 years ago when he was elected to parliament.

His expertise in military matters contributed to his appointment as Danish defence minister in 1993.

Nato bid

During the Kosovo conflict Mr Haekkerup was a firm supporter of Nato's military intervention.

This helped him gain the support of senior officials, including President Clinton's Defence Secretary, William Cohen, in his bid in 1999 to become Nato secretary-general.

Although Mr Haekkerup was the initial front-runner for the post, the job eventually went to the then British Defence Secretary, George Robertson.

Britain, as one of the main European pillars of Nato, carried more weight both within and outside the organisation than Denmark.

But if Mr Haekkerup failed in his attempt to run Nato's administration, he is now facing a real challenge in trying to restore public order and bring the majority Albanian and minority Serbian communities together in some kind of workable partnership.

Once a legal framework is in place, he will proceed with elections for Kosovo-wide institutions following October's municipal ballot.

Difficulties

In the longer term it will also be part of Mr Haekkerup's task to mediate between the new democratic leadership in Belgrade and the independence-seeking Kosovar Albanians' representatives.


Mr Haekkerup is now facing a real challenge in trying to bring the majority Albanian and minority Serbian communities together in some kind of workable partnership

Mr Haekkerup, who speaks fluent English, French and Russian, is known as a consensus-builder.

But Kosovo's history of long-standing ethnic rivalries and political oppression makes it a more difficult testing ground than Danish politics.

Mr Haekkerup is aware of the difficulties ahead of him.

He explained recently that one of his main tasks in Kosovo was to create a secure environment, but he added straight away that this "might take some time yet".

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See also:

15 Jan 01 | Europe
Kosovo UN boss makes poll pledge
15 Jan 01 | Europe
Kosovo boss faces tightrope walk
09 Dec 00 | Europe
Dane named as new Kosovo chief
12 Jan 01 | Europe
Kouchner calls for fresh start
01 Aug 99 | UK Politics
Robertson poised for top Nato job
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