OP/ED: The Right Path

OP/ED: The Right Path

By Ditmir Bushati*

Dante Alighieri in “Divine Comedy” wrote “in the middle of the pilgrimage of this life, I found myself in a forest of darkness, that I had lost the right path”. The metaphor of losing the right path explains the situation in which Kosovo finds itself in relation to the statehood process.

In recent years we have repeatedly heard that the liberal international order that created the state of Kosovo is dead; that a new international order will have its origin in the exchange of territories between Kosovo and Serbia; that it is not necessary, two decades after the end of the war, to shed lights into the crimes committed by Serbia, and even to put equal signs in crimes between Serbia and Kosovo and to shamelessly demand their amnesty. All this strategy was constructed in such a way that people were ruled by the weakness of their imagination, and were unable to distinguish sweet deception from bitter truth.

It is true that in the last decade, the international order that liberated and then created the state of Kosovo may have seemed like the sick man in the intensive care unit. The tendencies for fragmentation and regionalization, and in some cases the lack of coordination within the Euro-Atlantic family are also reflected in the reduction of attention and interest for our region.

However, it should not be forgotten that in this different international environment that is projected also in Southeast Europe, the Prespa Agreement was signed and is being implemented, which ended a long dispute between Athens and Skopje, unblocking the Euro-Atlantic path of the latter. An agreement that was negotiated between the two parties, where one was a member of NATO and the EU, and the other aspired to be part of both.

It was not at all an easy process, where the parties aimed to harmonize the positions of the Quint members and not to exploit the differences between them, to limit the influence of other actors of international weight, who enjoy the right of veto in the UN, since the agreement was deposited to UN, for subsequent implementation.

As in any negotiation, the parties face each other because of the mutual need to end a dispute or conflict. In most cases the parties do not have the same international weight or bargaining power.

The whole process that accompanied the Prespa Agreement was built on the spirit of trust between the parties and respect for the principles of international law. This is why the agreement was supported by all the neighbors, who promoted it with the same voice as the signatory parties.

Certainly, the signing of the Prespa Agreement raised expectations for an epilogue of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, despite the differences and specifics of this issue. Unfortunately, this moment was missed. The whole process got into a labyrinth and what is worse, the public opinion was “bombarded” with what is otherwise known as the brainwashing process, attempting to blur the line between reality, fantasy and deception.

Therefore, the central question that needs to be answered is why the patience and faith were lost in the right path? Why did the dialogue on the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia turn into a dialogue on the status of Kosovo and the compensation of Serbia? Why was the old Serbian idea of the partition of Kosovo and the “border demarcation” between Serbs and Albanians promoted by Albanian speakers and presented as a historic opportunity? Why the dialogue for the normalization of Kosovo-Serbia relations was put on equal footing with the Albanian-Serbian relations in the region? Why were transatlantic differences exploited for ethnocentric solutions that run counter to the core values that the US and EU themselves have promoted for decades in the region? What is the price of Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo? Is this a one-sided process, where only Kosovo is asked to make concessions, or a bilateral one with regional and European impact, where both sides need to find a lasting solution and work towards EU membership? Why were ignored the opinions and warnings of friends who have worked with Kosovo and for Kosovo since the first days of the project of its statehood?

Yuval Noah Harari in his book “21 Lessons for the Twenty-First Century” writes that, “Truth and power can travel together only so far. Sooner or later they go their separate ways”. Politicians who think that the statehood project is a personalized sport that you can play by making fun of strategic allies or by waving flags, depending on the needs of the day, ignoring knowledge, history, tradition, critical thinking, are simply wrong. However, errors in this process are like errors in applied sciences. They are difficult to be remedied.

Viewed in this context, Kosovo needs to rediscover the right path. The resumption of the EU-mediated dialogue requires, first and foremost, a sober analysis of achievements and failures over the years, as well as setting important milestones for the future that need to be addressed strategically.

The final solution goes through a process that requires guiding principles, clear objectives and a spirit of trust in the negotiation between the parties, as resolving one issue or dispute inevitably brings the need to resolve other issues. Consequently, thinking must be long-term and systematic, based on the knowledge accumulated by developments over the last two decades.

The successful exercise of the international statehood project depends on objective and subjective factors. Among the main objective factors we can mention good governance, building good relations with neighbors and above all the need for the widest possible consensus on the main directions and guiding principles of this process. A process that requires strategic discipline and a healthy policy making.

Therefore, today is not the time to mourn or to be victimized, but to find the right path./ibna

*Ditmir Bushati, is an Albanian politician and diplomat who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2013 to 2019

Source: Koha Ditore