The President of the Socialist International, George Papandreou, Leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Greece; Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev, Leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Co-Chair of the SI Committee for South Eastern Europe; Mircea Geoana, President of the Social Democratic Party of Romania and Co-Chair of the SI Committee for South Eastern Europe; and the Secretary General of the Socialist International, Luis Ayala, visited Belgrade and Pristina on 20-21 March to hold discussions with political leaders and authorities on the future status of Kosovo and the process undertaken by the international community on this issue.
The delegation held talks in Belgrade with the President of the Republic of Serbia and President of the Democratic Party, Boris Tadic; with acting Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, and with the leadership of the Social Democratic Party of Serbia. In Pristina, discussions were held with members of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK); with Hashim Thaçi, Leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo; with the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Agim Çeku, as well as with representatives of the Serbian community in Kosovo.
Among the main issues raised by the Socialist International delegation was the need to advance the process of the international community's involvement in Kosovo in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of June 1999, to arrive at a definition of the future status of Kosovo which would secure peace and stability for the people of Kosovo, Serbia, and the whole region.
Following more than a year of negotiations, direct talks and contacts involving the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General Martti Ahtisaari and the political actors in Belgrade and Pristina, which regrettably resulted in a lack of agreement or common ground between the two parties with regard to Kosovo’s future status, the Socialist International delegation expressed its hope that the common values and principles fostered by all the partners of the social democratic movement in the region would lead to promoting greater understanding and ensure democratic, inclusive, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and culturally open societies in the Western Balkans.
During the talks, President Tadic conveyed to the SI leaders Serbia’s position on Kosovo, favouring autonomy over independence, and outlined his reservations in regard to the proposals put forward by the UN Special Envoy, particularly on matters concerning decentralisation, communities' rights, protection of Serbian holy sites and on property. Acting Prime Minister Kostunica presented his reasons for opposing any propositions that would result in the possible independence of Kosovo. In Pristina, Hashim Thaçi emphasised that the Kosovar community had been actively participating in the international process underway to define a future status for Kosovo, in pursuit of their aspirations for independence. Prime Minister Çeku pointed out that the institutions were working normally, and it was necessary now to prepare for the future, indicating that without a defined status, development was being hindered by uncertainty.
The members of the delegation highlighted the responsibility of the international community in maintaining peace and stability in the region, particularly as the UN Security Council was due to discuss the report of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General in the coming weeks, and underlined the important role of Europe in opening a new political dimension in its relationship with Serbia and Kosovo as well as opportunities for more social and economic development. The Socialist International leaders, before their departure, reaffirmed the full engagement of the organisation to the region’s future as well as the SI’s commitment to remain fully involved in developments in the region.