Pristina, 29 January 2008 – Kosovo’s authorities have launched a public debate about the draft constitution which will be enacted once the UN-administered territory declares its independence from Serbia.

Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci, one of those closely involved in drafting the document, said at the launch of the public debate on Monday that “it is important that the constitution should not be imposed on citizens”.

He called the public “not only co-owners of the constitution but also its co-drafters”.

Until February 8, people in 18 of Kosovo’s municipalities will have a chance to hear presentations about the document and voice their comments on it, before the text is recast for approval by the Assembly.

The draft constitution has been drawn up according to the proposals of the former UN envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, whose plan – blocked by Russia at the UN last year – envisages internationally-supervised independence for the land Serbia insists remains an integral part of its territory.

It will constitute Kosovo as “an independent parliamentary republic,” and outline the new country’s intention to join Euro-Atlantic and worldwide integration processes, while placing a strong legal emphasis on the protection of minorities.

“A very crucial element will be the adoption of the Badinter majority,” Nekibe Kelmendi, one of the drafters of the constitution, said with reference to the principle that French constitutional lawyer Robert Badinter developed for Macedonia, which requires the approval of both the majority and minority ethnic communities in legislative issues of key importance.

She added that “many laws will undergo that procedure, particularly those relating to the issues of communities”.

Kelmendi also explained that “the President of Kosovo will have increased powers,” under the new constitution, and “will be the Supreme Commander of the Security Forces”.

The new constitution is expected to replace the Constitutional Framework that has been in place following the establishment of a UN administration in Kosovo in 1999.

Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-dominated Assembly is set to declare independence in the near future.