9 February 2008 – Yesterday ended the final deadline for the the public debate on the constitution for an independent Kosovo. Meetings were organised in several municipalities throughout Kosovo, and the constitution discussed in TV, but the draft has not been made available to the public yet.

“Kosovo debates “Mystery” constitution”, the online magazine BalkanInsight wrote on 5 February. The Kosovo constitution website, http://www.kosovoconstitution.info/ includes references to several national constitutions, but even the “constitutional provisions” proposed by the international mediators under the leadership of Martti Ahtisaari as a compulsory element for Kosovo’s future constitution are missing.

“We are aware that there were many requests for the constitutional draft, and I consider that initially is appropriate to tell us what we should write and afterwards we will provided in written,” the head of the constitutional commission, Hajredin Kuçi, said at the opening of a meeting in Kosovska Mitrovica on February 4. According to him, the content of the constitution will be discussed only in the second phase.

His statement is contradicted by other statements according to which the draft is almost ready, and just waits for the revision by a linguist, as another member of the Commission, Ramë Manaj, said in a meeting in Podujevo the same day.

A working group including representatives of the international community, most notably, the International Civilian Office, has been working on the document since Summer last year.

The Constitutional Commission comprises 21 members, of which six represent non-Albanian communities. According to Mahir Jagçilar, the representative of the Turkish community in the drafting process, the Commission involves representatives of the Egyptian community, whereas the Serbian community has decided not to participate.

The proposal submitted by the international mediators in March 2007, conceives Kosovo as a multiethnic society based on the respect of “internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the promotion and protection of the rights and contributions of all its Communities and their members.”

While introducing a clear distinction between the majority ethnic Albanians and Kosovo’s smaller communities, it includes a number of safeguards for the rights of the Kosovo Serbs who are granted a large amount of autonomy in the political and cultural field. Together with Albanian, Serbian will be considered as official language of Kosovo.

As opposed to this, the rights of Kosovo’s smaller communities are much less well defined. Roma are hardly mentioned in the text. In terms of political representation, Roma will share rights with the Egyptian and Ashkalija communities. The Romani language will be considered as an official language at local level in places where this community is present.

In the field of education, but also in other areas, the benefit of certain rights is made provisional on the fulfilment of certain thresholds, which could make them void for communities which have been decimated by war and ethnic cleansing. There is thus a clear risk that Kosovo’s smaller communities will pay the price for a tactical arrangement taking into account the interest of the two largest groups.

However, it remains all together questionable whether Kosovo’s political elite is actually committed to accommodate Kosovo’s non-Albanian communities. During a meeting in Vitina, a participant asked a member of the Commission to explain the meaning of the word “multiethnic” having in mind that Kosovo Serbs might leave Kosovo after the declaration of independence.

“In the new constitution of Kosovo it is not stated that Kosovo is a multiethnic state, but it is multiethnic society,” Kadri Kryeziu, Chairman of the working group on Security and order said. “We are here to create good preconditions for them to stay, but if they want to leave, we can’t stop them.”

Romano Them