Serbia and Kosovo – the EU condition

Though the EU has attempted to exploit the Kosovo crisis to begin openly pressing Serbia 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.

By Gerard Gallucci

However and whoever was involved in – or encouraged, or turned a blind eye to – Pristina’s decision to send special police into north Kosovo, it seems that the EU has decided to use the occasion to begin openly pressing Belgrade to give up the north in order to get candidacy with a date. On Thursday, there were further discussions about the KFOR agreement on partially opening the two northern crossing points while KFOR at the Gates was still blocking cargo traffic on and off. To be clear on this last point, there are no legal grounds whatsoever for KFOR to be enforcing a general cargo blockade in the north. If Belgrade does not take this to the UN Security Council, then Russia and China should because of the precedent it sets for NATO disregarding UN obligations.

But let’s step back for a moment and consider possible scenarios as the Americans, EU and Pristina seek to push Belgrade to abandon the Serb-majority north. Let’s assume that the Quint does not use NATO and the Kosovo security forces to actually invade the north. Instead, they continue to press the northern Serbs by constant harassment and enforcement of Pristina’s blockade while mounting full political and diplomatic pressures to force President Tadić to choose between the EU and Kosovo. The EU facilitator for the “negotiations” has suggested that it is not important to assign blame for the crisis but to find solutions within the “wider context.” EU policy seems to be based on not learning anything from the recent past – e.g., on the need to thwart Pristina provocations – but on pushing Serbs to the wall.

In response to the EU effort to blackmail Belgrade, the first possible response is for Serbia to decide it can do without the EU. Even in the best case, Serbia was unlikely to be given a date for entry before 2018 or 2020. Between now and then, much can happen. The EU itself is having rather a rough time over the Euro and possible bailouts for even Spain and Italy. Indeed, Brussels might be cynical enough to demand of Tadić what it knows he cannot give in order to not have the additional headache of another country in the Union.

Or Tadić might decide to meet the US/EU demand to give up the north. It would be very difficult for him to do so, certainly openly. He wants EU candidacy for his re-election bid. But would he stand a chance if he got that but also gave up Kosovo? Perhaps all the Quint needs is a quiet agreement that Serbia will not respond to further efforts in the north and will tell the northerners they will have to accept the ICO and Pristina? It seems unlikely that Tadić could go even this far but it appears to be what the Quint is counting on.

So, let’s say Tadić agrees. He sends Borko Stefanović and Goran Bogdanović (Oliver Ivanović probably wouldn’t do it) to the north to tell everyone that they will have to live with Pristina but, if they behave, they can have the ICO and the Ahtisaari Plan (with no “plus”) and Belgrade will continue some support. If they refuse, Belgrade will cut them off entirely. How would the northern Serbs react?

They might accept the inevitable, with those that can afford moving elsewhere eventually. Or they might accept the reality of Belgrade’s abandoning them, but still refuse to accept the ICO and Kosovo Albanian officials and police in the north. Or the northern Serbs might decide to respond politically by declaring their own independence. This would not gain the same degree of recognition as Kosovo, but perhaps more than Abkhazia and South Ossetia. What would the Quint do in these cases?

Here we get to the core fallacy of the Quint machinations – how do you enforce the rule of one people over another without force? If you use force, how much for how long and at what price in blood? Does the Quint send in the tanks like al-Assad at Hama?

It seems most likely that the Quint’s attempt at blackmail will not work. It is more likely that Tadić could win re-election by standing up to EU pressure, rather than by caving in to it. Having promised Pristina the moon, what does the Quint then do to contain the frustration that results when they cannot have it?

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. Stevan

    Mr Gallucci, I am afraid you got it wrong with Tadic’s re-election bid. He can’t run for president any more, this is his second and last term, unless they change the Serbian Constitution and allow him to run one more time. Parliamentary elections are coming up.

  2. M

    Who should know Kosovo situation better than Mr Gallucci. Lies and missrepresentions of reality of Tachis corrupt government, by the west, are ubbeliable.

  3. milos


    I think that Tadic can run again,given that he’d got first term in Serbia & Montenegro,not in Serbia as independent state..not that i want Tadic again being elected..

  4. Yes Tadic can run again.

    The main concern for me at this stage is the fact that NATO commanders have openly decided, encouraged by the US and UK, to side with the authorities in Pristina. This is a disgrace in terms of the mandate under which they operate, and flies in the face of the importance usually given to ‘the cohesion of the Alliance’.

    At least ‘Europe’ seems to be marginally more honest, if alas terminally muddled as usual.


  5. GSS

    The Serb nationalist extremists in the north of Kosovo are the ones with a history of blackmail. They encouraged and supported Milosevic in his destruction of Yugoslavia. Now they are the last holdout for Serb nationalis extremists. The irony is that the power brokers in this region are only using nationlism and ethno-centrism to rally support from a people weary of conflict. The greater interest of these power brokers are in maintaining the status quo of criminal enterprises involving illegal trafficking of not only commercial products but of humans, drugs, and weapons.

    KFOR is acting in good faith to UNSCR 1244 in supporting the interim civilian administration in Kosovo (Institutions in Kosoovo)as well as Safe and Secure environment. Instituting reciprocal trade measures (not unilateral embargo) is a decision of the Government of Kosovo in response to failure of Serbia to enter into any negotiated solutions in the dialogue in Brussels.

  6. Vis-a-vis “Europe.” Seems the EU (if not EULEX) is now supporting the illegal KFOR move and will use it first to press Serbia to accept Kosovo customs seals in the September session of the talks. The EU facilitator of the Belgrade/Pristina dialogue – Robert Cooper – is now saying that KFOR Commander Buhler has been doing a great job and has support of the international community. (I thought only Washington was so arrogant as to speak for the world, but seems Brussels is too.) Cooper suggests the current EU policy is to use KFOR’s seizure of the boundary in the north to press Belgrade to end its “embargo” of goods from Kosovo. This demand disregards the fact that there is no such embargo. Under the existing CEFTA and UNMIK procedure for Kosovo goods into Serbia, they can pass normally. What the EU is doing is demanding that Serbia accept use of the Republic of Kosovo customs seals. This is a political demand backed by naked military force. In Europe, 2011.

  7. GSS

    CEFTA or no CEFTA, Serbia has an embargo of goods shipped from Kosovo. The use of “Republic of Kosovo”, “Kosovo”, or “UNMIK” as a customs seal is irrelevent to the economic reality of the embargo in place. Serbia has been using economics to achieve a political solution.

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  10. citizen of Serbia

    Without “UNMIK Kosovo” stamps there will be no transfer of any goods via Serbia. No further discussion. Serbia should continue to support Serbs in Kosovo, surrounded by Albanian mobs, just like in March of 2004. There’s an immense amount of distrust that no dialogue can resolve.

  11. I have to thank Mr. Gallucci for the accurate descriptions of possible scenarios. Usually people don’t like to talk about what “may happen”, but I still believe that this is a fruitful analysis.

    Said that, I must underline how the EU is in fact blackmailing Serbia regarding is possible accession. Both the EU as an institution and its Member States (Germany to the fore) are yet following the “easiest way”, i.e. supporting one of the parties position (in this case Kosovo ones) against the other, demonstrating a roughly pragmatic and blind political approach. As we can see, this approach does not help anybody and mostly makes Western peacekeepers work vain and impossible. I challenge the pro-Kosovar followers of this blog to demonstrate me the contrary.
    To gloss Gallucci’s last comment on EU arrogance, I thought European bureaucracy would have borne in mind the thousands years of conflicts on our continent before endorsing such an aggressive behavior. Apparently history doesn’t matter…

    As I said several time on my blog, EU should pay much more attention on the social and cultural consequences of its behavior towards Serbia and Kosovo, planning a more accurate strategy for the relations with Western Balkans.

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