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.
By Stefan Dragojević
Recent events in the north have shown that unilateralism and brute force cannot solve any issue related to the Kosovo dispute. Moreover, if the use of force is blessed and backed by a number of states – such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, captained by the United States – it shows that the Kosovo issue is far from being solved and even worse scenarios might be imminent.
These events have demonstrated a number of things. First, the US still has the primate right in deciding what will happen and how. It is quite clear – as a number of diplomats and analysts have reported – that Pristina could not act in such a way if there was no backing or blessing from the United States. Second, the EU’s own disunity over the Kosovo issue has again been exposed; not only on the matter of recognition, but also on the matter of involvement in resolving crises. Germany, Great Britain and France have contributed to the downfall of European influence over Kosovo, and especially Pristina. Not that I support the EU’s involvement – it is clear that the EULEX mission does not operate in a status neutral manner and has shown signs of integrating the (illegal) rule of law of Pristina – however, it seems that the US has cast EULEX as a mission of secondary importance.
The hypocrisy of NATO (KFOR) was further highlighted with the helicopter support provided to Pristina’s unilateral actions, not to mention General Buhler’s move to declare the check point on the administrative line a “military zone”. It seems that in withdrawing the UN from Kosovo, the international community consented to a policy of force and anarchy.
Unlike Pristina, Belgrade does not have the benevolent support of the Great powers, except Russia and China. Due to the policy chosen in 2008 – ‘Europe has no alternative’ – Belgrade is currently trapped in a stalemate. The obvious demand of recognizing Kosovo as a condition for joining the EU will be on the table soon, the arrest of Mladic and Hadzic did not particularly improve the position of Serbia and, moreover, Serbia will again be blamed for what is happening in Kosovo today. The Western media have forgotten how it all started – with ROSU units moving to the north.
Serbia has made some particular tactical mistakes in the past couple of years – demanding an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that led to defeat, the confused Serbia-EU resolution at the General Assembly and permitting EULEX’s deployment. Each was motivated by a desire to move closer to the EU; forgetting or being blind to the statements of certain European officials and politicians. The simple truth is that the EU will demand recognition, and it is up to Serbia to respond. However, in order to give a positive answer to the Union, changing the constitution is demanded, which requires the support of a vast majority in the Serbian Parliament.
What will happen next? Stefanovic and Bogdanovic are meeting with Robert Cooper in the Raska region; the location again symbolising Serbia losing its ground in Kosovo. If the talks were held in Kosovo, an important message could have been sent to the world. It seems that the EU is searching for a balance that will again back Pristina instead of treating Belgrade on equal terms. Once again Serbia is afraid to show a more direct and stronger policy towards the EU and the Quint regarding the Kosovo dispute.
The Kosovo dispute is far from being solved; instead, many years and generations will be required in order to settle the conflict down. At this stage, Serbia has little choice but to freeze the dispute with Kosovo and wait for a more favorable international environment.
Stefan Dragojević is currently a third-year student at the Faculty of Law at the University of Belgrade. He was born in the United Kingdom and was raised in Italy. Stefan – whose fields of interest are international relations, the Kosovo dispute and Balkan relations – is a member of the Student’s Parliament at the Faculty of Law and has published articles for TransConflict, the Slobodan Jovanovic Foundation, Novi Standard and others.
This article is published as part of TransConflict Serbia’s initiative, ‘Serbia’s Future on the Future of Serbia’.