Summary: EU Parliament urges Kosovo to continue along Rugova's path of peace (25 January 2006: Brussels)
Kosovo must continue to pursue a peaceful settlement for its political problems following the untimely death of President Ibrahim Rugova from lung cancer, European Parliament President Josep Borrell said in a statement relaying his condolences to Mr Rugova's family and to the people of Kosovo: "It is crucial that the political authorities in Kosovo live up to his legacy."
Mr Borrell highlighted Mr Rugova's non-violent efforts to obtain independence for Kosovo, adding that the people of Kosovo "expect from their leaders that they close ranks and pursue efforts towards finding a political settlement for Kosovo's future status."
Doris Pack, who chairs Parliament's delegation for relations with the countries of South-East Europe, said that it was "tragic that Mr Rugova has died just before the negotiations on the independence of Kosovo were about to start". She called on all political forces in Kosovo to remain calm: "The solution which the international community is working towards is a unique chance for peace in the region. This should not be sacrificed by personal or factual differences."
Mr Borrell noted that although Mr Rugova strove for independence and was a staunch supporter of the rights of the Albanian population in Kosovo, he opposed the use of force and was convinced that self-determination could come only in a climate of peace. It was for this reason that Parliament awarded this "man of peace the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought in 1998. The European Parliament "acknowledged and honoured his firm commitment to finding a non-violent political solution to the status of Kosovo, which would allow its citizens to exercise freely their fundamental rights," Mr Borrell said.
Ibrahim Rugova was born in 1944 in Crnce. He studied Albanian literature in Priština and attended the Sorbonne university in Paris. In the late 1980s he was one of the founders of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). In 2002, after the Balkans war, as leader of the LDK, he was elected President of the Serbian province of Kosovo under UN rule. He became famous for wearing a red sweater and a scarf, which he vowed to take off only when Kosovo achieved independence.