Calmy-Rey pushes for closure on Kosovo

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Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has repeated her calls for "formal independence" for Kosovo, ahead of talks on the status of the Serbian province.

This content was published on May 19, 2006 - 16:28

Calmy-Rey made her comments at a two-day seminar in canton Graubünden at which a delegation from Kosovo was studying the political set-up of the trilingual canton.

On Tuesday the fifth round of United Nations-mediated talks between Serbian and ethnic Albanian officials are set to begin in Vienna.

The talks are to determine whether the province becomes independent, as demanded by its ethnic Albanian majority, or remains part of Serbia.

"The status of Kosovo must be settled as quickly as possible," Calmy-Rey told the delegation, made up of Serbians and Kosovans, in the town of Laax.

The seminar, which took place on Thursday and Friday, was organised by the Swiss foreign ministry. The focal point was the experiences of the citizens and authorities in Graubünden, in which Swiss German, Italian and to a lesser extent Romansh are all spoken.

In addition to issues of health and education, the delegation also looked at the distribution of responsibilities at cantonal and communal levels and at linguistic issues concerning administration.

Experts say any form of independence for Kosovo would be conditional on its reforming local government and respecting its minorities.

Slow progress

Also on Friday Serbian negotiators in Belgrade called on the international community to begin talks on the future of Kosovo "at the very highest level".

In a letter to the foreign ministers of the countries in the contact group, Leon Kojen, one of the Serbian negotiators, said they wanted to go straight to discussing Kosovo's future status "as negotiations regarding decentralisation have never managed to result in anything concrete".

Switzerland is not a member of the contact group, which comprises Germany, the United States, France, Britain, Italy and Russia, but it is actively involved in the debate.

Switzerland wants to contribute expertise in the areas of democracy, federalism and the protection of minorities to the Kosovo reform process – a stance which has not always gone down brilliantly with the Serbian authorities.

Until now there has been negligible progress at the previous four rounds of Kosovo talks, with both sides digging their heels in.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up around 90 per cent of the province's two million population, want Kosovo to gain full independence from Serbia. But Belgrade wishes to retain at least formal control over the region.

Kosovo has been run by the UN since Nato drove out Serb forces in 1999, amid international condemnation of ethnic cleansing carried out by Serbs in the province.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

There are 370,000 immigrants from the former Yugoslavia in Switzerland, of which 36% are from Kosovo.

Since 1999 Switzerland has given around half a million Swiss francs in aid to the region.

The Swiss army has taken part in the Nato peacekeeping mission since the end of the war.

Switzerland has also declared its support for a form of independence for Kosovo and deemed the issue a focal area of its foreign policy.

Kosovo is inside Serbia and Montenegro but has been administered by the UN since 1999.

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Key facts

Population: 1.9 million
Ethnic Albanians: 91%
Serbs: 5%
Other minorities: 4%
Unemployment rate: placed at 40%-80%
Poverty rate: around 50%

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