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Tensions as Kosovo inks Constitution

The document, signed Sunday, is seen as key to stability. But many issues remain unresolved.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 17, 2008

Inked: Kosovo's President Sejdiu (l.) and the head of parliament signed the Constitution in Pristina Sunday.

Fisnik Dobreci/AP

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Pristina, Kosovo

A new Kosovo Constitution signed Sunday represents another milestone for the disputed nation in the heart of the Balkans.

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But this next step toward legitimacy for the 90 percent Albanian state, while applauded by the European Union and the US as a step toward normalcy, takes place in the middle of what many senior diplomats describe as a "mess."

There is no agreement by Russia over how the UN mission here will hand over police and civil duties to the EU in the volatile region. Nor has the EU mission, described as crucial in Brussels after Kosovo declared independence Feb. 17, started to deploy some 2,200 police needed to avoid Serb-Albanian violence.

Indeed, Serbs in north Kosovo responded to the Constitution by declaring a "parallel" parliament, to start June 28. Russia and Serbia still assert that Kosovo is an illegitimate state. One UN official here says that Serbia and Russia are "trying to create dust-ups and dissonance in order to scare other nations away from recognizing [Kosovo.]"

Kosovars declared independence after nine years in limbo, following NATO's bombing of Serbia. On Sunday, the new state was legally born in a room with a picture of Kosovo father figure Ibrahim Rugova meeting with Pope John Paul II, and sealed in a ceremony where the Kosovo Philharmonic debuted a national anthem, titled "Europe." No United Nations officials were invited, and yesterday it was unclear under what terms the UN would continue its presence, which has been deeply unpopular. "I think you are going to see the UN vehicles get a lot of parking tickets," said one local.

The Constitution day was called "historic" by US diplomats who offered congratulations along with representatives of the 43 states that recognize Kosovo. Kosovo abandoned its unofficial and controversial intelligence service and created official state ministries of foreign affairs, defense, and intelligence.

Optimists say the Constitution will speed Kosovo's recognition. Kosovo is recognized by 20 of the 27 EU states. A Constitution is seen as vital for political legitimacy and investment.

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