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NO 153-154

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Helsinki Charter No. 153-154

July - August 2011


Kosovo "topic" again on the agenda


By Ivan Torov

The latest and, as it seems, the most dramatic crisis in and about Kosovo since independence declaration probably has put a final curtain on some dilemmas but reopened other - as if to show that not a single problem in this neuralgic Balkan region could be solved without fresh turmoil and disturbance. Though Pristina's attempt to take control over border-crossing points in the north by the use of special police forces and local Serbs' response with strong support from Belgrade officials resulted only in the exchange of intimidations and threats, there is no doubt that situation will further sharpen: in the Kosovo-Serbia-international community triangle in the first place.

Actually, the July-August episode - first the embargo on exports from Serbia, then the ROSU action and "log" response to it, along with torching of the Jarinje border station, and finally the intervention by KFOR, which took over full control - testified of the fact known for long but usually camouflaged or swept under the carpet: an obvious balance of impotence among all the three parties involved. First Kosovo, where old-new Premier Hashim Thaci used the action to compensate for his failure to politically, economically and democratically transform his new state and buff allegations for the organized crime, corruption and war crimes made against him and some most outstanding officials in his government. Then Serbia that believed that its large-scale diplomatic campaign put an end to new recognitions of Kosovo, that its main goal was about to be attained, and that, with the assistance of Dik Maarti, it has made life miserable enough for "Albanian separatist movement." But what it refused to acknowledge was that today's Kosovo was further away from it than it had been yesterday and that reliance on its own influence in Kosovo's "runaway" north would sooner or later have a boomerang effect. And it hoped that by fueling tensions and theses that the Kosovo issue has not been settled yet it would at least manage to impose the idea about a possible partition of this former Serb province on the international agenda. The third party - Brussels and Washington in the first place - plagued by growing socioeconomic problems of its own, seemed to forget that the chronic Serb-Albanian conflict in the Balkans was still simmering and that turning the blind eye to the realities would cost it more than necessary. It seemed unprepared for and confused by the latest developments in Kosovo, as if mislead by the idea that Belgrade and Pristina were aware of the delicate situation and would not take any risky moves.

The post festum intervention from the "outside" that came in the form of warning to both parties not to play with fire but promptly resume the dialogue in Brussels, warned Pristina that it should not delude itself that it could possibly integrate Serbs in the north by the use of force, and Belgrade that it should clean forget about any partition scenario for Kosovo. The statement by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the beginning of his latest Balkan tour that any new change in borders was out of question in the region, only a day later reiterated by Chancellor Angela Merkel on her visit to Serbia (August 22) messaged Pristina that it should not draw maps of some Greater Albania and messaged Belgrade that it should start normalizing its relations with "neighboring" Kosovo and working on prosperity of all Kosovo citizens, Serbs and Albanians.

Brussels will most probably take upon itself the delicate task of convincing Belgrade officials that Serbia's further movement towards EU - now that ICTY preconditions were fulfilled - largely depended on its attitude towards Kosovo. Such warnings are coming at the point when in Serbia - where election campaign is already in full swing and the ruling Democratic Party incapable of finding a way out of the deep economic and social crisis - the issue of Kosovo is again at a premium with all the rhetoric associating Milosevic's and Kostunica's eras. EU officials are eager to learn what's brewing behind this tangible change: are bombastic statements by Serb officials (Tadic, Dacic or Jeremic) that Serbia "would never trade off its vital national interests" for the sake of European integration only an election campaign marketing to last till the next parliamentary elections scheduled next spring or an indication that Serbia slowly but surely renounces its European course?

Though no one from Brussels has ever spoken about the necessity for Serbia to recognize Kosovo, on the contrary, Belgrade keeps fueling this delusion, even speaking about an ultimatum, and channeling the public opinion to the conclusion that Serbia "would never get rid of pressure and conditioning" and should, therefore, consider alternatives in due time. And for leaders of the ruling coalition that's a tremendous alibi (in the election campaign) for their inability to cope with the present economic and social crisis.

Today we witness the same or similar wheeling and dealing as the one of some years ago when the Kostunica-Tadic tandem, with abundant assistance from the nationalistic opposition, played games with the country's fate by turning a virtual goal ("Kosovo has always been and shall always be a constituent and unalienable part of Serbia") into a constitutional preamble meant to hush up the truth that Serbia had lost the war for Kosovo in Milosevic's era. People are still being deluded that, regardless of all, Kosovo is an attainable goal. In other words, should be have to choose between Kosovo and EU we would opt for Kosovo. And then the ruling "elites" will be explaining to people that such motives and reasons have created a situation in which - apart from losing Kosovo forever - we are have no choice but to let go Serbia's European prospects.

Belgrade will refrain from stamping all this officially while expecting to get the date for the beginning of EU accession negotiations along with candidacy by the end of this year. In the meantime domestic officials will be parroting that Serbia can join EU only with Kosovo as its integral part and hoping that under the pressure of such a mantra EU officials would begin to waver or at least radically soften their request that Belgrade and Prishtina have resolve their disputes and establish "neighborly relations" on their road towards EU. In other words, Serbia is expected to do the same as, say, Macedonia about its dispute with Greece or Turkey about Cyprus.


NO 153-154

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