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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06BRATISLAVA406 2006-05-24 14:15:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Bratislava
Cable title:  

KOSOVO NGO'S RECEIVE TRAINING IN SLOVAKIA

Tags:   PREL KDEM SR YI LO 
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1. Summary: A four-day conference May 17-20 brought Kosovo
NGO leaders to Bratislava for training and discussions about
"the role of NGO's in a society undergoing transition." In a
conference partly funded by SlovakAid, the NGO leaders named
the desire for EU membership as the motivating goal for their
reform efforts. MFA PolDir responded to accusations that
Slovak foreign policy was biased in favor of Serbia, and
encouraged the NGO leaders to focus on showing that Kosovo is
ready to take its future into its own hands. The event was
an example of Slovakia's contribution to "transformational
diplomacy," and the MFA plans to ask NGO's active in the
Balkans to increase such programs. End summary.



2. The Slovak NGO "People in Peril" is active in providing
humanitarian assistance and supporting democratic development
in countries outside Slovakia, including Cuba and the Western
Balkans. Supported in part with funding from SlovakAid (the
foreign aid arm of the MFA), People in Peril hosted 27 NGO
leaders from Kosovo, both Albanians and Serbs, for a four-day
series of roundtable discussions to learn from the experience
of Slovak NGO experts on the role of NGOs in a society
undergoing transition. This May 17-20 event was significant
because, although Slovakia considers the Western Balkans a
foreign policy priority, it was the first time a group of
Kosovars has been able to visit Slovakia in the post-conflict
period. There were significant logistical challenges because
Slovakia's Ministry of the Interior does not recognize UNMIK
travel documents, and it took over a month to arrange visas.




3. One element of the visit was a half-day conference on
"Kosovo Today--Views from Inside and Outside." On the first
panel, five speakers from Kosovo-based NGO's described their
work. A common theme was that independence for Kosovo is but
a step on the road to the ultimate goal: membership in the
European Union. All speakers expressed frustration with the
current economic stagnation, restriction of movement, and
incompetence of local leaders. There was pessimism that
Pristina and Belgrade could negotiate a solution, and an
expectation that the international community would "impose" a
final status. All agreed that the best task for NGOs was to
focus on fulfilling the "standards" so that, no matter what
final status looks like, Kosovo will be closer to European
norms.



4. In the second panel, Slovak NGO experts and MFA Political
Director Miroslav Lajcak described Slovakia's views of
Kosovo. Milan Nic of the Pontis Foundation criticized Slovak
foreign policy as unbalanced because although the country has
strong historical links to Croatia and Serbia, as one moves
further south, expertise dissipates. Nonetheless, Slovakia's
knowledge and reputation were improving, and the role of
Lajcak as EU envoy in Montenegro was proof. On the other
hand, Nic said, Slovakia was at a distinct disadvantage in
trying to influence Kosovo policy since it is not represented
in the contact group, nor on Ahtisaari's team. Lajcak
countered that Ahtisaari consulted regularly with UNSC
members and that Slovakia had contributed ideas and opinions.




5. Lajcak's message was consistent with what he recently
told U.S. officials:

--The quality of the process for resolving status talks is
important. All actors must participate. There should be no
big winners or big losers. The talks should not be
artificially prolonged nor speeded up.
--Just as removing Saddam Hussein did not instantly solve all
of Iraq's problems, final status would not resolve all of
Kosovo's problems
--Core values in society, such as tolerance and respect for
the rule of law, depended on Kosovars themselves and not the
international community.

Lajcak was impassioned as he urged the NGO participants from
Kosovo,"Leave politics to the politicians, but be the mirror
for them. Maybe they won't like what they see reflected back
and will change. Focus on improving the lives of citizens.
Show positive signals that Kosovo is ready to be a serious
partner and take its future in its own hands."



6. One Kosovar participant asked whether the opposition of
the Slovak public to NATO airstrikes against Serbia was
reflected in the pro-Serb prejudice of Slovak foreign policy.
Lajcak rejected the accusation and said Slovakia aimed to be
balanced. It ould soon open a Liaison Office in Pristina.
He pointed out the advantage that Slovakia had in being
considered an "honest broker" by Belgrade. He assured the
participants that Slovak leaders have tough, direct
conversations with Serb leaders, including messages like,
"Don't look back. Face reality. Be part of the solution,

BRATISLAVA 00000406 002.2 OF 002


not the problem."



7. The event was an excellent example of Slovakia's own
"transformational diplomacy" efforts. The MFA will follow up
on May 29 by meeting with Slovak NGO's active in the Balkans
to ask them to re-double such efforts.
VALLEE