The situation in Kosovo, following the imposition of 100% tariffs on imports of products from Serbia, creates a new reality in talks in search of a definitive resolution of the issue.
The Brussels agreement, signed in 2013 to be the cornerstone for the normalization of Serbia-Kosovo relations appears to have collapsed.
Initially, Pristina’s refusal to allow the formation of the Union of Serbian Municipalities (ZSO) over the past five years, and a recent decision of the Serbian city council to cease any communication with Pristina in response to the imposition of tariffs, render the Brussels agreement dead.
Under these circumstances, the leading role that the European Union has played so far has been tested. High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, proved unable to rise to the occasion because she couldn’t make use of the legacy left on the Kosovo issue by her predecessor Catherine Ashton.
Yet again, Europe proved incompetent in dealing with the handling of the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Europe’s desperate state when it came to dealing with the Yugoslavia issue is now mirrored in the Kosovo issue, with the bloc not knowing what it wants or how to achieve it.
The absence of the US for almost two years – following Trump’s election to office – from the process of resolving the Kosovo issue was not properly used by the EU in order to achieve a purely European solution. Stuck in the Clinton dogma, which dictates that unbearable pressure must be exerted on Serbia to accept Kosovo’s independence as a fait accompli, Europe has shown itself out of place and time.
The persistence in applying this dogma, which is expressed in Europe by Angela Merkel, proved to be a waste of time. Even the “carrot” of a European perspective offered by the German Chancellor did not work, despite being tempting for the Serbian leadership. This is because circumstances in European politics have dramatically changed in recent years.
Russia has ceased to be indifferent to the Balkan region; Kosovo is not accepted as a sui generis case by many separatist movements in Europe; in many European countries, the right-wing and nationalists prevail, while the five EU countries that did not recognize Kosovo do not intend to change their stance.
All this dictated a change of policy towards the issue of Kosovo which did not happen. Instead, Berlin’s view was that Serbia should be forced to recognize Kosovo’s independence in order to eliminate the contradictions within the European Union on the issue. The prospect of a compromise solution never became part of the European agenda and all efforts have focused on promoting a “legally binding agreement on the normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations” that would in fact be Kosovo’s recognition of Serbia. This is a childish approach that underestimates the intelligence of the Serbs, but also points to the lack of seriousness on the part of Europe.
Even now that the intention of the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo for a sustainable compromise on the basis of an agreed land exchange is clear, the EU is failing to respond, pretending to defend the principle of no border change. It is hypocritical, to say the least, for this principle to be invoked by those who supported and imposed the secession of Kosovo from Serbia.
In this climate of confusion and incompetence in Europe, the US appears to promote a solution directly, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after his meeting in Washington with Hashim Thaci yesterday.
The US sees that, in order to reduce Russia’s influence in the region and especially in Serbia, the issue of Kosovo must be solved in a way that does not humiliate the people of Serbia.
The compromise, even with the exchange of territories supported by the presidents Vucic and Thaci, appears to be accepted as a solution by the US. The visit of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci to the United States, from 26 to 28 November, marks the beginning of a dynamic US intervention on the issue of Kosovo. During the meetings he held with US officials, he was offered support for a compromise with Serbia.
“We agreed that now is the time to reach an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia. The US will help both sides achieve this historic goal, “John Bolton, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, tweeted after meeting with Thaci in the White House.
Mike Pompeo also encouraged Thaci to push for a compromise with Serbia, speaking of a historic occasion. At the same time, he urged Pristina to revoke the decision to increase tariffs on Serbian products and avoid actions that cause tension.
This appeal resembles a warning to Kosovo Prime Minister Ramus Haradinaij, who rejects any compromise with Serbia. Haradinaij’s behavior has outraged US diplomats who are afraid the “beast they created” will become uncontrollable. Haradinaij does not seem willing to retreat. Instead, he firmly supports the policy of confrontation towards Serbia, refusing refuses any discussion in search of a compromise.
In a newspaper article hosted by the Washington Post, he called the solution promoting an exchange of land a “peaceful ethnic cleansing”, adding that he will not allow such a possibility. He insists on the correctness of his decision to increase duties on Serbian products, in response to Serbia’s aggressive policy to prevent Kosovo from joining international organizations.
With this policy, Haradinaij is increasing his popularity in his country and winning the support of nationalists. It is doubtful that he will manage to stay in power in Washington turns its back on him, given that US influence in political circles in Kosovo and its society is very high.
The determination of US diplomacy to engage dynamically in solving the Kosovo issue is a given, and in this direction, significant developments are to be expected in the near future./IBNA