Serbia offers a Kosovo smorgasbord

Eager to ensure that Kosovo does not inhibit its EU membership aspirations, the Serbian government – facing elections next year – has recently offered a veritable smorgasbord of possibilities for reaching a “historical” compromise.

By Gerard Gallucci

Over the last several weeks, Serbian president Boris Tadic has been pulling out all the stops in his effort to gain EU candidacy status this year. He needs the political boost of prospective membership as he faces elections next year as the proponent of joining Europe. Tadic finally found Mladic and officials of his government have offered a veritable smorgasbord of possibilities for reaching an “historical” compromise over Kosovo. Tadic believes that Serbia is keeping its international commitments and he has called on the EU “to fulfill its part.” Stating his position as strongly as he ever has, Tadic said in an interview that Serbia, “should be given the same path to EU membership accorded to…Croatia” and “simultaneously be given the date for the start of the entry talks and not just the candidate status.”

Despite efforts by Pristina and others to move the goalposts by making recognition of Kosovo a condition for EU membership, Tadic says he does not expect the EU to do so. Domestic politics make it politically impossible for Tadic to simply give Kosovo away by recognizing its independence. Nevertheless, he and other senior officials have put almost everything else on the table. Belgrade has repeatedly stressed readiness to reach agreements on technical issues in talks with Pristina. The chief of Belgrade’s negotiating team was also first to raise the possibility of discussing the partition of Kosovo in the talks. The charge was then taken up by deputy prime minister Ivica Dacic, who publicly suggested resolving the Kosovo issue – in the interests of Serbia’s EU membership – by separation (or partition) of Kosovo. More recently, he raised the possibility of treating the Kosovo issue as a matter of border adjustment with Albania, thereby explicitly accepting the notion put forth by Albanian nationalists – such as Kosovo’s Self Determination movement – of a Greater Albania. In this scenario, Tirana and Belgrade would agree on splitting Kosovo along ethnic lines with most of it being absorbed into Albania. According to Dacic, “separation, followed by living peacefully side by side” is the “only realistic solution.” Former Yugoslav president Dobrica Cosic goes even further, proposing an exchange of territories including the Presevo Valley. (Early in 2010, a report circulated that Belgrade made such an offer – Presevo for northern Kosovo – to the Americans, who refused to carry it to Pristina.)

The Albanians and their Quint allies have rejected the idea of partition as they believe the question of Kosovo’s independence and territorial integrity have been settled. Many Balkans experts remain loudly opposed to the idea of partitioning Kosovo along ethnic lines for fear that it will spread to the rest of the region. But leaving aside that giving northern Kosovo a special status need not include partition and that Kosovo independence is already an ethnic partition, what especially is wrong with allowing the formation of ethnic majority states? The formation of nation states is the story of European political development since Napoleon. Drawing lines may not always be neat, even in the best of cases leaving ethnic minorities somewhere. But most European states have such minorities, either indigenous or immigrant. Ensuring equal treatment, opportunity and prosperity without borders is one of the things the European Union is all about. Size cannot be an issue, as Bosnia without the Serb and Croat cantons would still be larger than Luxemburg and Kosovo.

In any case, President Tadic has not disowned any of the ideas recently raised. Indeed, he has said that nothing should be “written in stone” and that “unconventional moves” may open “a chance to find some new solution.” This seems to leave the EU (and the US) with a range of possibilities for putting aside the Kosovo issue that revolve around finding some formula for not forcing Belgrade to either recognize or abandon the north to Pristina. Should this not be doable?

Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. He is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Gerard is also a member of TransConflict’s advisory board. The views expressed in this piece are his own and do not represent the position of any organization.

To read other articles by Gerard for TransConflict, please click here.

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0 Response

  1. George Vaughan

    I imagine Tadić is correct in assuming that Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo will not be a condition of EU membership. It is, however, worth pointing out that he would be hardly likely to say otherwise. Also, it is difficult to believe that Serbia’s position in relation to Kosovo will not be a tacit consideration both in accession negotiations and the speed at which they take place.
    As for the penultimate paragraph, I am rather cofused about what the point being made actually is. When is an ethnic majority state – something I had assumed Kosovo already was under its present borders – better as one with a different level of ethnic majority? Or how large (or acceptable) can an ethnic minority be? And nation states do have a long history, but were they (and this history) as positive a creation as is so often assumed, the EU would probably not exist.

  2. Betty

    As always, you write some amazing stuff. Too bad you left Kosovo. I think with you at the table, instead of Tom Countryman, a settlement that would appeal to all sides would have been found.

  3. Pingback : Half a Big Mac is not a smorgasbord | peacefare.net

  4. Jerry Gallucci

    As to the question of an ethnic majority state: In the case of Kosovo, within the borders recognized under UNSCR 1244, it is already over 90% majority Albanian. Taking out the Serb majority north — it’s probably not practical to carve out much else — would hardly change that. But it would apparently make a difference to the northern Kosovo Serbs. In the case of a Greater Albania, it would also not change the status of the majority and minorities much.

    In general, it may come down to two factors: do people prefer living in their own national community/state and is it possible to draw lines that make sense.

  5. Patty

    I hope they can maintain peace in Kosovo. They’ve been fighting for hundreds of years, and the people there need a break. Right before this article, I just read a US soldier’s short memoir on Kindle, “The Princess of Kosovo”, I never really knew how bad it was in 1999, even after NATO went in. I remember it on the news, but the reports seemed to vanish after the Columbine shootings.

  6. AdamNY

    What an utterly dishonest piece of yellow journalism.

    this author (quite consistently it seems) attempts to paint a false picture of serbia’s behavior and intentions… and inadvertently reminds us all of serbia’s inherit Dishonesty when it comes to kosovo.

    The current talks between kosovo and serbia are not status talks. There is No compromise to “offer”… in fact, by taking it upon itself to offer a “compromise” on status, serbia is intentionally running contrary to the very point of this dialogue.

    Kosovo is not a “signatory” of any sorts… it is a willing participant. As serbia again and again attempts to convert dialogue into status talks…

    This author is not doing serbia any favors by painting this blatant dishonesty as being anywhere near positive. Serbia will harm itself terribly by essentially slapping the EU in the face as it contradicts its own joint EU-Serb resolution.

    Kosovo has already declared independence. It is understandable why Serbian politicians still need to cater to it’s extremist minority with the Hysterical idea that it can ever somehow negotiate a theft… where the use of force and violence has already failed them.

    But to describe “offering” to take just a little (partition)… as a smorgasbord? quite a bizarre and more than a little out of touch.

    I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that this author is retired, and is no longer relevant.

  7. ICJ

    AdamNY – As ever, the particularly unpleasant voice of rabid nationalism! (Yes, others can do ad hominem attacks as well.)

    Can you please show me where the resolution calling for dialogue explicitly rules out discussions on territory? It simply calls for steps to improve daily life. If an agreed separation resulting in the Kosovo Serbs remaining a formal part of Serbia in return for Belgrade recognising Kosovo as independent – or joining with Albania – is on the cards, then this would certainly be an improvement for many people on both sides.

    The fact is that the independence project has stalled. Something needs to be done to let all sides walk away with something. If you don’t want to accept that, then so be it. Serbia may not be in control of Kosovo, but it a fully recognised state with all the benefits this brings. Kosovo is not. I know which situation I would rather be in.

    You can be as hard line and uncompromising as you like from the comfort of your exile, but this reality will not change for the people actually living in Kosovo. Hopefully, Pristina will see this and finally start to show some common sense and negotiate a final settlement with Belgrade.

  8. AdamNY

    @ICJ

    “as ever”? perhaps you have me confused with someone else?

    To your question as to where the resolution calling for dialogue explicitly rules out STATUS… come now, you cannot be ignorant of the great pains the EU went to remove any mention of status despite serbias insistence.

    Now if serb leadership is willing to play dumb on that point, as they obviously are… it will do nothing but put serbia at odds with the EU. I am not trying to convince you ICJ… that is precisely the situation serbia finds itself in. The only thing to be questioned… is your almost casual disregard for that very important point.

    Now you accuse me of having a hard line and being uncompromising. How so? Again you need reminding that this dialogue is about technical issues. I am certainly not uncompromising in that regard…

    It seems lost on you that neither the author of this bit of propaganda or yourself… has provided me with any opportunity to poo-poo anything in regards to dialogue.

    The only thing you have mentioned is status… If serbia insists on converting dialogue to status talks, the talks will derail. It is quite transparent ICJ, that it is “your” hardline that is at play here… not mine.

    just keep in mind, that should that happen… the usual cries of unfairness and conspiracy theories by serb apologists as they deftly attempt to avoid any and all responsibilities will fall on deaf ears. The propagandist spew you seem so willing to accept… has not achieved a thing for serbia and serbs in the last few decades… it simply doesnt work.

  9. KOSO

    Gallucci,

    you never fail to paint a dishonest picture of reality on the ground. Your very own actions contributed to the chaos that we now acknowledge as the northern part of Kosovo. Unlike your pseudo-analysis reality is that the EU will condition Serbia to recognize all its neighbors sovereignty. Brussels does not want another Cyprus in its realm. The latest actions of EU’s towards Bulgaria/Romania are a clear indicator that the EU boys don’t want to nanny newcomers. Serbia should kiss its membership boner goodbye for another 5 years.

    Thanks

  10. Pingback : Serbia offers a Kosovo smorgasbord | Linked2Balkan News

  11. Fluid

    Looks like the next installment of Serbia’s deposit hit Gallucci’s account recently.

    Wonder if this meets the FCPA criteria at the US DOJ? It would be interesting to find out.

  12. SaoMagnifico

    Gotta say, Mr. Gallucci, this reads as awfully generous to Serbia.

    The facts of the matter are thus: Kosovo invoked its legal right as recognized by The Hague to declare independence after receiving maltreatment at the hands of Belgrade ranging from casual racism to shelling and bombing of Kosovar civilian populations. Serbia wants to join the European Union. Kosovo and its allies seek a final agreement on status with Serbia that acknowledges its sovereignty and irrevocable independence. Serbia does not want to relinquish its claim to Kosovo or acknowledge it as an independent republic. It behooves both sides to come to an agreement, but time is on Kosovo’s side and its declaration of independence was and is grounded in international law and has the backing of most of the EU.

    While I agree land swaps should be on the table, with the mostly-Serb populace in northern Kosovo appearing to regard itself far more as Serbian than as Kosovar, please do not mistake such ridiculous notions as relinquishing a claim to Kosovo as long as Belgrade can pretend it’s under another nation’s (Albania’s) sovereignty instead as a “smorgasbord”. It’s an insult rooted in assumptions about ethnicity that have little rooting in reality.

    As far as I’m concerned, and as far as Pristina is concerned, Kosovar independence is a done deal. It has been for years now. I think it would benefit both sides for Belgrade to catch up, but if they don’t want to play ball and negotiate in good faith, they can piss into a fan. It will only cost them dearly in Brussels, because the trend in the EU is decidedly not toward a bigger tent – particularly when the countries that want in aren’t willing to play by the neighborhood rules.

  13. Fluid

    Mr. Gallucci,

    Not sure if you will be able to read this, as you are currently in Northern Mitrovica, Kosovo, (does Motel No.1 provide internet access). How did the session of instructing your Serb comrades on resist the EULEX rule of law mission and continue with their smuggling, crime, and tax evasion go?

    How did the meetings with Milan Ivanovic, of the illegal Serb institutions in Kosovo go? How about Marko Jaksic? Any new strategies? I hope they are not violent!

    Now, you claim that you are impartial and not on a payroll? Who paid for this trip?

    Additionally, why can’t you visit the Southern Mitrovica? Do you have something to hide?

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