IBNA/ Exclusive interview with Daniel Serwer, US expert on Balkan affairs

IBNA/ Exclusive interview with Daniel Serwer, US expert on Balkan affairs

Exclusive interview for Independent Balkan News Agency with Daniel Serwer, professor of conflict management at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies at the United States of America

Pristina, February 19, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Elton Tota

IBNA: How do you assess the negotiation process between Kosovo-Serbia? What are the negative and positive aspects of the talks between Prime Minister Thaci and his Serbian Counterpart, Ivica Daciq?

Serwer: I think the dialogue process has been successful in limited but important ways. I’d like to see it move faster towards what ultimately has to happen: diplomatic recognition and exchange of ambassadors. But Serbia has now accepted the territorial integrity of Kosovo and the applicability of the Kosovo constitution on that whole territory. It has also exchanged liaison officers, under a thin EU cover. Those are steps in the right direction.

IBNA: Is it possible for reconciliation to happen between Balkan nations in the near future, taking into account that it’s a demand that comes from Brussels for good neighboring relations in the region?

Serwer: Reconciliation is different from good neighborly relations. Reconciliation will take a generation, or two. Good neighborly relations are a question of political will. The governing institutions can make that happen whenever they decide to do it.

IBNA: How is Kosovo moving toward the Euro-Atlantic integration? Is this going to be a long journey for the new state?

Serwer: It will be a long journey to the EU, whose requirements are much more elaborate and demanding than NATO’s. Kosovo has the advantage of being able to build its security forces from the ground up to meet NATO requirements. It has already done that for the Kosovo Security Force that exists. It will need to continue in that direction as that is converted into an armed force. Once it has real armed forces, entry into NATO should be quick if Kosovo meets the requirements. The only political obstacle is the non-recognizers, who will need to be convinced that Kosovo in the Alliance is a much better idea than Kosovo outside the Alliance.

IBNA: How is FYR  Macedonia moving toward the Euro-Atlantic integration?  Will the disputes of this country with its neighboring country make the journey of this country toward EU and NATO accession any longer?

Serwer: The only real hindrance for Macedonia is the “name” dispute with Greece, which is really about Greek and Macedonian identity, not the name. Macedonia’s armed forces have served with distinction in Afghanistan and its governing structures meet NATO requirements, if I understand correctly. I would like to see Macedonia enter NATO sooner rather than later under the interim agreement as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. That won’t be possible for the EU, which is still a long way off in any event.

IBNA: Riots and protests took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina against the government and the current political class, is the same is expected to happen in Kosovo and FYR Macedonia?

Serwer: I’m not in the riot/protest prediction business, but neither Kosovo nor Macedonia has suffered the stagnation that Bosnia and Herzegovina has suffered for the past eight years or so. Kosovo’s agreement on the north with Belgrade removes one possible source of instability. In Macedonia, I think NATO membership would contribute a good deal to the sense that the country is moving in the right direction. The normal political process in both Kosovo and Macedonia is in much better shape than it is in Bosnia, which is handicapped with a constitution that enshrines nationalists in power and leaves little room for issue-based politics. But the citizens of Kosovo and Macedonia should watch Bosnia with interest, because it is certainly a model to avoid.

IBNA: What will be the fate of northern Kosovo?

Serwer: Northern Kosovo consists of four Serb-majority municipalities that will now govern themselves in many respects, under the overall constitutional framework of the Republic of Kosovo. Its courts and police will be integrated with the system in the rest of Kosovo, and its municipal authorities will participate in an association of Serb municipalities formed under Pristina’s aegis. With any luck, it will prosper a bit more than in the past and become a happy and dull place.

Daniel Serwer is a Senior Research Professor of Conflict Management, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Formerly vice president for centers of peacebuilding innovation at the United States Institute of Peace (2009-10), he led teams there working on rule of law, religion, economics, media, technology, security sector governance and gender. He was also vice president for peace and stability operations at USIP (1998-2009), where he led its peacebuilding work in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and the Balkans and served as Executive Director of the Hamilton/Baker Iraq Study Group. Serwer has worked on preventing inter-ethnic and sectarian conflict in Iraq and has facilitated dialogue between Serbs and Albanians in the Balkans. /ibna/