Serbia SITREP: Kosovo – the endless game

Serbia SITREP: Kosovo – the endless game

August 15, 2020

by Mavro Orbini for The Saker Blog

Although expected, call for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue at White House on 2nd of September[1] is suddenly getting on importance after Trump administration masterpieced (unexpected) Israeli-UAE Peace Deal.[2] It seems that US diplomatic coupe is on the way just before US presidential elections. Trump sent letters in 2018 and 2019 to Belgrade and Pristina urging them to reach a “historic accord” for a “comprehensive peace” that would include as its central element “mutual recognition”! [3] What did change from the first cancelled meeting between US mediator Grenel with Serbian/Kosovo parties on 27/08 and one that is just scheduled? Based on Vučic complain that Grenel announced negotiation while he expected talks on economic normalization, it seems that Trump administration is quite serious in its attempt to solve this Balkan dispute for good!

Maybe that was information conveyed by Lavrov to Vučić during June meeting? Vučić was pretty grim during press conference later on. Visit of FM of Russia Lavrov to Belgrade in June might brought warning note to President Vučić as opposition media and politicians claimed (such public statement or warning would be quite undiplomatic from grandmaster of Russia´s diplomacy!). That warning note made it clear that “Kremlin would only support solutions to the Kosovo question acceptable to Belgrade and approved by the UN Security Council.”[4] That note was also directed toward EU and US that there are two inseparable locks for which EU, US and Vučić should find keys. Even if they come to some agreement, on the end of that process is UN Security Council that will ultimately decide on the future of possible agreement.

So where are we?

Over 20 years there were several proposals on the table and the process of negotiation has clearly two phases:

1. Period from 2000-2012 marked Pristina success on all fronts! Everything went smoothly – in 2008 Pristina declared independence from Serbia, in 2010 the International Court of Justice issued its opinion which found that Kosovo’s declaration of independence “did not violate international law”[5] and finally Serbia, with a gun at its head, signed with Pristina on April 2013 Brussels agreement that was an inch from full recognition of Kosovo as sovereign state! Serbia was, then, weak after 12 years of full economic destruction (forced but uncontrolled, wild privatization that first of all, completely destroyed the most important parts of its industry). At that point, it resembled situation of August in 1995 when ethnically cleansing of 250 000 native Serb by Croatia did not gathered more then few thousands protestors in Belgrade! In 2013 population of Serbia was demoralized, with low income, without any hope for better future. It was right moment to force Serbia to recognize independence of Kosovo without any fear of possible public backlash or violent riots against selling of “cradle of Serbia”! By some divine intervention it did not happen! That divine intervention was brought new hardline government in Pristina that wanted to further humiliate Serbia…

2. Period from 2013 to present day marked stalemate that did not work well for Pristina. Suddenly from dead end Serbia, bit by bit, opened up more and more space to try to save what is possible to save. More then dozen of countries, cleverly motivated by Serbia, withdrew their recognition of Kosovo as a state. Kosovo did not get any new recognition (at the moment, at most 92 countries recognize independence of Kosovo). Serbia managed to block several attempts of Kosovo for acceptance at UNESCO, Interpol, etc. Those were painful moments for politicians in Pristina that provoked many irrational decisions that did not serve them well. Most importantly, for the first time Serbia did manage to break monolith Pristina political elites into conflicting parties. It was cleverly done by rising issues that divided Pristina political parties. One of those issues was floating of idea for swap of territories. On Albanian side, eager for such solution was Hashim Thaci[6], president of “Kosovo” and Democratic Party of Kosovo, at the moment indicted for war crimes. That started intra Albanian infighting between Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj[7], then PM of “Kosovo”, president of Alliance for the future of Kosovo, also indicted war criminal that was released from Hague due to lack of witnesses against him (more then 20 of them killed by unidentified executioners). That turmoil was also evident between EU and US making rift in, until then, unified front against Serbia. Another rift between Albanian political parties on Kosovo just surfaced, few days ago, when parliament in Pristina rejected proposed legislation which was intended to enshrine in law support for the Kosovo Liberation Army’s wartime values[8]. For the first time we have civilian political parties having majority in voting over ex- KLA veteran political parties. It is fair to expect that these infightings will serve confronting EU and US interests so at the end of the day Serbia also might have some benefit from it?

What is on the table for negotiation?

SERBIA WILL NEVER RECOGNISE KOSOVO!

It is clear from election in 2000 of the first government of Serbia (after demise of Milosevic) that no prime minister or president of Serbia was willing to sign declaration of independence for Kosovo! Even the most West leaning ruling parties declined to do it. Especially from 2012 until today, ruling party SNS and its supportive media persistently fueled public opinion that there is no way to recognize independence Kosovo! Even that there will be referendum that will decide instead of politicians. No compromise on Kosovo issue is presented every day in many newspapers, TV and radio stations inclining toward ruling party! Today, public outcry would be much louder then in 2012 in case of independence of Kosovo!

SERBIA WILL RECOGNIZE KOSOVO!

It is clear that Serbia is ready to recognize Kosovo but not what is considered Kosovo today, not its territory, nor its independence! Serbia’s political elite knows that it was wrong to incorporate the whole territory of Kosovo (today when speaking of Kosovo it includes two regions Kosovo and Metohija for simplicity) into Serbia in 1912! Unlike Metohija, Kosovo had parts without single Serb and for many years Serbia did not enter its, these de facto, territories![9]

In the last 20 years there were several suggested models for resolution of this conflict:

1. Nebojša Čović , Serbian vice PM, proposed in 2001 that two entities, a Serbian and an Albanian, be established on Kosovo and Metohija. The Serbian entity would be under the protection of the Yugoslav Army and police, while the Albanian entity would have the highest grade of autonomy and stay under the protection of international powers.

2. In 2002, Serbian PM Zoran Đinđić stated that “Serbia has neither the mechanism nor the resources to reintegrate Kosovo into its legal system, or to create a form in which it will be under its sovereignty. The division of the province, therefore, is nothing else than an attempt to rescue what can still be saved.”[10]

3. It seems that in 2008 Slobodan Samardžić, Minister for Kosovo and Metohija, proposed partitioning Kosovo along ethnic lines, asking the UN to ensure that Belgrade can control key institutions and functions in areas where Serbs form a majority[11]. Existence of such proposal was strongly denied by then Serbian government.

4. In 2011 and in 2014, Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dačić proposed the partition of Kosovo as a solution to the Kosovo dispute.[12]

5. Hashim Thaci, president of “Kosovo” was eager for swap of territories with Serbia – taking south part of Serbia in exchange of northern Serbian enclave in Kosovo[13]

6. Special US envoy for Kosovo, Richard Grenel, dropped Molotov cocktail in June 2020 announcing plans “to create a “little mini-Shenzhen zone” between Kosovo-Serbia”![14] It was immediately dismissed by experts and international community, making laughing stock of illiterate Americano who actually meant mini Schengen!? Grenel never corrected himself and Vučić, in above mention reaction, that he ” expected talks on economic normalization not negotiation…” maybe confirms accuracy of Grenel statement?

Economic model of Shenzhen zone for Kosovo is the only viable option for this criminally infested region! Only rapid and from outside directed economic reconstruction gives hope for better future to young generations of local Albanians. Of course, it is difficult to see how part of political elite with background in drug and human organ trafficking could have any say in such process. For that reason it is of great importance recent distancing in Pristina parliament from KLA veterans and its past. It is time for clean start with new people!

But economic model must be followed by political one that will appease political aspirations of political elites of Pristina but also take in account political limitations of their political colleagues in Belgrade. Maybe this is where, otherwise unproductive, EU mandarins could come onboard with a modified

Cyprus model – despite joining the EU as a de facto divided island, the whole of Cyprus is EU territory. Turkish Cypriots who have, or are eligible for, EU travel documents are EU citizens. EU law is suspended in areas where the Cypriot government (Government of the Republic) does not exercise effective control. Cyprus has two official languages: Greek and Turkish; only Greek is an official EU language[15]

That offer on the table, as one of the (best) possible scenarios is an offer to Serbia for quick accession to EU together with Kosovo. Kosovo will have own state that will through Serbia be part of EU and their citizens will enjoy all privileges of other EU citizens. From black hole it will be place for booming economic development. Albanian side in Pristina was reminded who rules in Kosovo when US/Turkish solders invited and patrolled together with Serbian gendarmerie. Despite their protests, KFOR (mostly NATO) announced that such event was in accordance with UN 1244 resolution (that affirms Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo) and Kumanovo agreement with Serbian government (that Serbia has right to send up to 1000 soldiers to Kosovo)!!!

Of course, all experiences so far tells us that it is rational to expect irrational outcome and that we might go back to partition table of Kosovo! Serbian negotiation party will have eyes wide open on outcome of election in Montenegro on 30th of August! That outcome will be closely related with territories that Belgrade will demand. Bear in mind that Vučić, so far, although mentioned border correction, never said that Serbia wants (only) Serbian enclave in the North of Kosovo. Other eye and hand will embrace Republika Srpska without any doubt. Serbian public is prepared for such outcome as well. White house meeting has all potentials for great resolve but then again seeing faces of Lavrov and Vučić in June…

Mavro Orbini

  1. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/08/14/grenell-announces-meeting-between-kosovo-and-serbia-leaders-on-2-september/ 
  2. http://thesaker.is/israeli-uae-peace-deal-marks-tectonic-shift-in-middle-eastern-balance-of-power/ 
  3. https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/06/24/kosovo-serbia-summit-white-house-catastrophe-balkans-peace-process/ 
  4. https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-serbia-kosovo-lavrov-grenell/30679106.html 
  5. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-serbia-kosovo/kosovo-independence-declaration-deemed-legal-idUSTRE66L01720100722 
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashim_Tha%C3%A7i 
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramush_Haradinaj 
  8. https://www.newsbreak.com/news/2040085412775/kosovo-mps-fail-to-pass-law-to-protect-klas-values 
  9. http://www.kosovo.net/sk/rastko-kosovo/istorija/sanu/map3.html 
  10. https://www.blic.rs/vesti/politika/moguca-podela-kim-u-dve-faze/fc68tv0 
  11. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/world/europe/24iht-kosovo.4.11380269.html 
  12. https://web.archive.org/web/20110516154348/http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics-article.php?yyyy=2011&mm=05&dd=15&nav_id=74342 
  13. https://exit.al/en/2020/06/09/kosovos-president-and-ambassador-lobbied-for-land-swap-deal-with-serbia-birn-reports/ 
  14. https://exit.al/en/2020/06/23/us-envoy-grenell-wants-special-economic-zone-between-kosovo-and-serbia/ 
  15. https://ec.europa.eu/cyprus/about-us/turkish-cypriots_en 
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