Kosovo – the EU demands surrender

By accepting Berlin’s ‘Kosovo conditions’ for further progress by Serbia towards EU membership, the EU is in effect acting to impose Pristina’s rule in the north and pressuring Belgrade to simply surrender.

By Gerard Gallucci

The EU – in the form of the European Commission annual report and statements by officials – has apparently accepted Berlin’s ‘Kosovo conditions’ for further progress by Serbia toward EU membership. The Commission report on Serbia was overall quite positive, suggesting that “Serbia would be in a position to take on the obligations of membership in the medium term.” However the EC’s “Communication” to the EU Council recommends granting candidacy “taking into account progress achieved so far and on the understanding that Serbia re-engages in the dialogue with Kosovo and is moving swiftly to the implementation in good faith of agreements reached to date … [and] that progress continues and that practical solutions are found to the problems with Kosovo.”

The Commission recommended that:

“negotiations for accession to the European Union should be opened with Serbia as soon as it achieves further significant progress in meeting the following key priority – Further steps to normalise relations with Kosovo in line with the conditions of the Stabilisation and Association Process by: fully respecting the principles of inclusive regional cooperation; fully respecting the provisions of the Energy Community Treaty; finding solutions for telecommunications and mutual acceptance of diplomas; by continuing to implement in good faith all agreements reached; and by cooperating actively with EULEX in order for it to exercise its functions in all parts of Kosovo.”

Spelling it out:

“Further results remain to be achieved to implement, as a matter of priority, the principles of inclusive and functioning regional cooperation and to provide sustainable solutions on … energy and telecommunications. All sides need to play their part in defusing the tension in northern Kosovo and allow for free movement of persons and goods, for the benefit of the people of the region.The Commission will keep Serbia’s progress under review and will “present a report … as soon as sufficient progress has been achieved.”

Belgrade is expressing pleasure at the positive EC evaluation while insisting its position on Kosovo won’t change. The EU is spinning positively while underlining that its evaluation of Serbia’s progress would be in the hands of its facilitator for the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue, and that there is no deadline for reporting on progress. This last point suggests there is also no target date for granting Serbia candidacy.

What does all this mean? That the EU has moved far ahead of making eventual rapprochement between Serbia and Kosovo a condition for actual membership for Serbia – something that would not be relevant for at least a few years in the best of circumstances – into a demand that Serbia surrender the north now if it wishes to be granted even candidacy. The EU requires Serbia implement all agreements reached so far – presumably including customs in the north – as well as reaches agreements on telecoms and electricity. Serbia must also “allow for free movement of persons and goods” in the north and cooperate “actively” with EULEX so it “functions in all parts of Kosovo.” This seems to demand that Belgrade get the local Serbs to end the blockades in the north and allow EULEX to implement Kosovo rule of law – customs and courts – there. The EU says it will track how both sides approach the dialogue, but there is no indication that the Quint and its EULEX/KFOR agents in Kosovo will work in a status neutral manner or apply any pressure on Pristina to accept compromise solutions.

As long as the EU acts as an agent to impose Pristina’s rule in the north and presses Belgrade to simply surrender, Serbia will remain without candidacy. The Quint appears to expect now that the Tadic government will find a way to cave. But the essential problem with this scenario is that Kosovo and the north are not for him to surrender. Tadic lacks sufficient political tools and support to deliver what the EU demands and the northern Serbs still do not seem ready to roll over. Perhaps this was just the EU’s way of saying “we really don’t want any more members.”

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. Gerard is also a member of TransConflict’s Advisory Board.

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