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Platform for Kosovo Talks

The Government’s position weakens

By Vladimir Gligorov


Things are pretty clear when it comes to the newly publicized “Platform for Kosovo talks.” True, it is treated as a draft or a non-paper, which could mean that its real meaning would emerge only once politically implemented.

First, let’s see what’s in. The basic idea behind it is to transfer competences to Kosovo authorities in line with appropriate constitutional provisions on establishment of autonomous institutions of the Serb minority and the status of the Serb Orthodox Church. This would solve the following problems:

There would be no need to amend Serbia’s Constitution since transfer of competences can be taken as specifying constitutional provisions on autonomy for Kosovo the sovereignty of which is not recognized;

Serb autonomy in Kosovo would make it possible to nominally dismantle parallel institutions, while formalizing the autonomy’s political and financial relations with Serbia;

Relations between Serbia and Kosovo would normalize given that all forms of cooperation could be treated as relations between central authorities and their autonomous province;

The obstacles to Serbia’s and Kosovo’s accession to EU would be removed and, consequently, the obstacles to their relations within the region or at international level;

Finally, even in the case of Kosovo’s membership of UN and eventually of EU, Serbia would not have to formally recognize its independence though their mutual relations – in everyday life and from a legal point of view – would be the same as relations between any two states;


How do they plan to accomplish this or what is the policy behind the platform? One of suggested measures is to abandon “technical negotiations” that are seen as step-by-step recognition of Kosovo’s sovereignty without ensuring national interests. Then comes the stance that everything should be negotiated on but nothing agreed until the whole package is agreed on. A possible decision by the Constitutional Court on unconstitutionality of the agreements reached so far would strengthen this stance, limited the government’s competences in technical negotiations and sharpen the platform’s demand for political negotiations. Political negotiations are logically necessary because nothing from the platform could be accomplished without consent from Kosovo authorities.

The contents of the platform and the policy it advocates lead to the conclusion that Serbian authorities are offering solutions that are in line with EU demands in the first place and hence look forward to its political support to negotiations and their outcome: the change of Kosovo’s constitutional order. Should EU deny its support, they would put an end to technical negotiations, which would actually lead toward postponement and then toward abandonment of negotiations on EU accession.

What are political implications and possible outcomes of a platform as such? First and foremost, as stated in the platform itself, the ruling coalition as a whole has to reach a consensus on it. And then one runs into the problem of political interpretation. Namely, its demand for putting an end to technical talks seriously challenges the government. The schedule and agenda of the talks have already been set: the government cannot end them just like that, the more so since ending the talks would deprive it of the opportunity to affirm the platform’s claim that these talks benefit Kosovo authorities to the detriment of Serb national interests. And indeed, some governmental officials have already remarked that the end of technical talks was not in Serbia’s best interest. So if the talks continue the platform will be nothing but a dead letter. The goals it quotes can still be aspired to, but there will be no political mechanism for their effectuation. On the one hand, should the government adopt the policy of the platform, the balance of power within the ruling coalition could change considerably, including the position of the biggest coalition partner. On the other hand, a shelved platform would produce negative consequences on its authors and their followers. Of course, there is always a room for a compromise: to accept the platform’s political solutions but continue technical talks.

Noting that publication of the platform was postponed until EU decision on the date for Serbia’s accession negotiation makes sense. Probably the reasoning was that the platform’s stance on terminating technical talks would impair Serbia’s prospects for obtaining the date. However, such effect is still valid given that EU will be deliberating the issue in the first half of 2013. No doubt that a possible end to technical talks would postpone a positive answer from EU. And even should technical talks continue one can hardly predict the impact of the platform’s adoption on EU readiness to set an as early as possible date for Serbia’s accession negotiations. Movement toward EU accession and normalization of relations with Kosovo are two parallel and harmonized processes: stalling the later could not but affect the former.

This means that authors of the platform and its policy have implicitly put giving up of the membership of EU on the table. Though in its introductory section it describes Serbia’s political and economic context as unpropitious and suggests that the room for political maneuver is limited, the platform clearly reopens the question about yet another defeat for Serbia to suffer: so, Serbia can opt either for giving up the platform’s goals and policy or for giving up the existing forms of cooperation with major international factors. Hence the platform increases rather than decreases political risks.

What are the chances the platform stands bearing in mind the problems it causes within the ruling coalition and then in political sphere in general? The answer to this question is clear – and definitely negative. What is good in the platform is that it raises the questions of Kosovo North and constitutional status of the Serb minority. These are the questions that must be solved regardless whether talks on them are labeled technical or political. However, the problem is that the platform’s proposal for the establishment of a Serb state within the state of Kosovo is meant for consideration of international factors but implies nothing that would be in the interest of Kosovo authorities. This was the biggest problem of all proposals Serbia has made for political settlement of the Kosovo issue so far. None of them have given a reason good enough for Prishtina to accept. What would be in Prishtina’s interest when it comes to this one? Judging by initial reactions, Prishtina considers this platform a provocation.

Indeed, what’s in it for Prishtina if it accepts political negotiations based on the platform? It will get a process doomed from the very beginning but enabling Serbian authorities to improve their international standing. Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect Prishtina to nod the political process the platform propounds, let alone its outcomes. If the ongoing political process really plays into the hands of Kosovo authorities, as the platform claims, it is obvious that the platform stands no chances in Prishtina. As it seems, its authors have not given thought to what it was Prishtina had not and could be offered therefore. Prishtina already has inner sovereignty under UN SC Resolution 1244, while the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice invests it with international sovereignty. The platform accepts these circumstances, explicitly or implicitly. So the chances for a positive answer from Prishtina are null.

And what response is expected from the international community? It will hardly support termination of technical talks, probably comment nothing on the proposed constitutional order for Kosovo and commend Serbia’s readiness to recognize Kosovo’s inner sovereignty. In other words, one can hardly expect anyone to be impressed with the platform. The international community will be waiting too see whether or not Serbia will condition the continuation of technical talks so as to assess its eligibility for accession negotiations. In this context, the platform is irrelevant from the international point of view – except for the extent to which it can be considered the manifestation of readiness to recognize the reality of Kosovo’s independence.

What EU attitude will be once Kosovo signs SAA and develops relations with EU is another story. In many cases so far EU wanted SAA signatories to provide guarantees for the respect of minority rights – though more in the context of protection of human rights in general – but also for the right to minority self-government and the safeguard of collective goods, especially in the domains of culture and education. In this context, Serb and other minorities will have their say in all agreements between EU and Kosovo. But all this is beyond the framework of the platform.

All in all, the platform undermines the political standing of the Serbian government, whereas prospects for its longstanding political effect depend on the readiness of its authors – the President of the Republic in the first place – to persist on termination of technical negotiations and, consequently, on renouncement of integration into EU.



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