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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 16:28 GMT
Kosovo Albanians seek independence
LDK posters cover windows in the centre of Pristina
LDK posters covering windows in the centre of Pristina
By Arber Vllahiu of the BBC Albanian Service in Pristina

Kosovo's Albanians have been hoping for independence for 11 years, and they still are.

It is the main goal of all Albanian political parties, moderate or radical.

"The Albanians' national objective is recognition of [Kosovo's] independence by the USA and EU, with the aim of calming the region and our neighbours, and then walking towards Europe and civilised western world", says Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).

Hashim Thaci
Hashim Thaci: His PDK is less radical than last year
In fact, the distinctions between moderate and radical are not as clear cut as they once were.

All major parties are encouraging minorities, including Kosovo Serbs, to take part in the elections.

All objected to the pre-election agreement between the UN's Kosovo head of mission, Hans Haekkerup, and the authorities in Belgrade - which seemed to them to be pushing Kosovo into Serbia's arms.

There is no way any of them will be persuaded to discuss Kosovo's future with Belgrade.

Optimism

The difference between them is a difference of approach, rather than of ultimate goals.

Ramush Haradinaj
Haradinaj: The parliament will create peace and stability
The LDK is prepared to go through a complicated process to get there, while the others - the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) - demand immediate recognition.

However, none of the parties has clearly explained how it aims to achieve independence.

These elections have not been accompanied by the scenes of excitement seen before last year's municipal elections, when people were taking part in a democratic election for the first time.

Then people would go to political rallies, and pour into the streets afterwards to shout and sing. Now they disperse and go home.

After 45 days of campaigning, people are rather tired.

Many nevertheless believe that this election will bring something better.

"The people of Kosovo will freely elect the parliament, who will lead Kosovo toward peace and stability, a prosperous economy, democratisation, independence and integration with the Nato structures", says a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Ramush Haradinaj, now the leader of the AAK.

Step-by-step approach

But the institutions which will result from this election will not have the right to determine Kosovo's future or political status.

Hashim Thaci
Hashim Thaci: His PDK is less radical than last year
Kosovo's Albanians and Serbs will be able to move towards self-government but the UN will remain in control, and will be able to punish those who do not obey its rules.

However difficult relations with the UN may become, conflict between Kosovo Albanians and the UN can be ruled out - that would clearly only prolong a resolution of Kosovo's political status.

In order to convince the world to support independence for Kosovo, it is crucial to create a new relationship with minorities, especially with the Serbs.

It is the most important issue to be resolved in post-war Kosovo.

As the political analyst Blerim Shala puts it: "The citizens of Kosovo and their leaders knew that independence has to be achieved step by step, by addressing the main political and economic problems and trying to resolve them."

See also:

15 Nov 01 | Europe
Kosovo prepares to vote
14 Nov 01 | Europe
Kosovo gears up for elections
17 Jun 01 | Europe
UN takes peace mission to Kosovo
04 Feb 00 | Europe
Analysis: Protecting the Serbs
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