KFOR's imposition of Pristina's trade blockade and General Buhler's role in 'negotiating' political agreements both exceed NATO's UN mandate; a mandate that the Quint countries – led by the US and Germany – have chosen to disregard.
Creating positive relations between Serbia and Kosovo requires a patient process of peacebuilding; one that the international community is ill-equipped to conduct and unprepared to support.
The myth of the “hoodlums” does an injustice to the northern Kosovo Serbs and seriously underestimates what is at stake in the north, and what cost may have to be paid for the Quint effort to hand the north to Pristina before leaving.
Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, recently executed a dangerous gamble in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo by seizing the border posts between the region and Serbia. His actions illustrate the changing balance of power between Americans and Europeans in the region, and the important role of Serbia’s primary opposition party in resolving the Kosovo conflict.
Though the EU has attempted to exploit the Kosovo crisis to begin openly pressing Belgrade to give up the north in order to enhance its membership prospects, it seems most likely that the Quint's attempt at blackmail will not work.
The demands of the Serbian population in Northern Kosovo - which Pristina has misleadingly sought to characterize as a parallel structure plagued by crime and instability - are simply to enjoy the same right to self-determination as the Kosovo Albanians.
An interview with Gerard Gallucci, the former UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, in which he discusses how the actions of Pristina and the support of NATO has - by hardening the line between Serbs and Albanians - made partition ever more likely.
The behavior of all sides in the current customs dispute demonstrates that — as far as the locals are concerned — the question of who has sovereignty is an indelibly zero-sum dispute; one that the respective local elites must be left to settle on their own.
In light of the unilateralism and brute force employed by Pristina in the north, Serbia must escape the stalemate that currently defines its policy towards Kosovo and adopt a stronger policy towards both the Quint and the EU.
Though talks between Pristina and Belgrade are likely to continue at some stage in the near future, the recent violence is an important reminder that negotiations are determined not just on the negotiating table, but also on the streets of the north of Kosovo.