Kosovo – barricades considered

Having eschewed violence and successfully prevented the one-sided outcome in the north pushed by Pristina and its international supporters, the Serbs should now consider removing the barricades at the two main Gates in order to allow a practical test of KFOR and EULEX’s status neutrality.

By Gerard Gallucci

The current tense stalemate in north Kosovo continues. The local Serbs remain on their barricades, building one to take the place of another that KFOR removed, despite the cold weather and coming winter. KFOR says it refuses to use the partial freedom of movement (FOM) offered by the Serbs until EULEX can exercise it as well. The KFOR commander and EULEX deputy chief tried on October 31st to travel together through the barricades, but the EULEX vehicles were not allowed through and they turned back. Given that some KFOR supply convoys reportedly have used the opportunity to go north in the past several days, the attempt by the senior Quint officials to exercise FOM seems to have been a bit of a stunt.

The northern Kosovo Serbs mounted their barricades as a response to the effort by Pristina – initially supported by KFOR and EULEX – to impose its customs controls on the northern boundary between Serbia and Kosovo. The local Serbs see the effort as an attempt to impose a state border between them and Serbia proper. As they reject the independent Kosovo state, they rejected the effort to establish its northern border. The Serbs saw setting barricades as their only way to peacefully protest and prevent KFOR and EULEX from supporting Pristina by transporting its officials back and forth to the crossing points. The locals also began using alternative roads to avoid the “official” crossings. KFOR at times sought to block those in an effort to force the Serbs to use the crossings manned by Kosovo Albanian officials (brought there in KFOR and EULEX helicopters).

To be clear, all activities by KFOR and EULEX to impose Kosovo customs and Pristina’s officials at the boundary crossings were illegal under their UN peacekeeping mandate. The barricades used by the northerners to resist these illegal efforts were well within their right to peacefully resist. Eschewing violence, even when KFOR fired at them, they have successfully prevented the one-sided outcome in the north pushed by Pristina and its international supporters.

It is fair to ask, however, if the barricades remain necessary. The northerners have successfully made the case that the question of the north will not be settled by force. There is increasing recognition that something more more be done than simply trying to impose Pristina’s control in the north. It even may be that KFOR and EULEX are ready to accept some neutral formula on customs.

So, perhaps, it is a good moment to bring down the barricades at the two main Gates. This would allow a practical test of KFOR and EULEX status neutrality. If no effort was made to collect Kosovo customs at the Gates, there would be no need to remount any barricades. Even if EULEX allowed Kosovo police and customs officers to be at the Gates, as long as they did not seek to control or collect fees there, they could be ignored. And if they did try to collect fees at the Gates, the locals could simply go around. In other words, it might be worth thinking about treating the boundary crossings as if they were not there rather than continuing to block them. This would allow KFOR and EULEX room to return to peacekeeping and their UN mandate without rubbing their nose in their inability to force surrender. It would also relieve pressure on the northerners themselves and on Belgrade.

The barricades along the Ibar may be another matter. The Serbs may find them still necessary to be able to prevent any new unilateral incursions by the Kosovo Albanians until KFOR accepts its responsibility to prevent such, rather than ferry ROSU north by helicopter as it did in July.

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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0 Response

  1. Pingback : Kosovo – barricades considered – TransConflict | Angola news

  2. Perunova straža

    Serbs and every other nation in the world have no need to test the neutrality of the NATO. It was tested so many times before, and it was found that NATO lacks any credibility. Most recent case is Libya where NATO killed innocent civilians under excuse of protecting them.
    It would be foolish and unwise to give NATO yet another chance to enforce its agenda in Kosovo and Metohia, agenda that violates international law , UN charter and UN resolutions.
    NATO has to leave Kosovo and Metohia so police and military of Republic of Serbia can finally bring rule of law and human rights in the troubled southern province of Serbia.

  3. Pingback : Kosovo – barricades considered « Miroslav Antić

  4. Let me note that I am not advising “trust.” Rather I am wondering aloud about possibility that tactically it might be worth considering acting AS IF you trust KFOR and EULEX to return to status neutrality. It’s a sort of test. If they do not seek to then impose Kosovo customs in the north, you win. If they do try to make you pay Kosovo customs at the Gates, you could either use alternate routes or re-erect your barricades. In my view, it is always a good idea to adapt to changing situations and sometime to be the agent of positive change is a good approach.

  5. Drazha

    I think the whole point of this barricade excercise is not whether the Kosovo Albania Customs Officers collect the taxes or not (that is outright not gonna happen, even over certain dead bodies) but whether even their symbolic presence will be tolerated.

    The point is: symbolic presence, means symbolic borders, which in turn means symbolic state, which translates (with so much US and EU support behind it) into a de-facto state.

    So of course Serbia as a state cannot allow not accept it, as they would be participating in the process leading to the unwanted de-facto state. Neither can Serbians (citizens of Serbia, as opposed to Serbs, the ethnic nation) who want to still live in Serbia accept it, in any form.

    Don’t forget, Serbs/ians lived for 5-600 years under the Turks, and managed to survive as a nation under them. Serb/ians are well versed and proficient in all and any form of rebellion, insubordination, passive-aggressive and so on. So, Serb/ians do not have to accept anything, they live on their own land, in their own country, they are just fighting and opposing what is effectively seen as a foreign, aggressive occupation.

    As strange as it might seem, even the presence of ethnic Albanians on Kosovo is seen as a demographic, aggressive invasion: how else can one explain the statistics which showed 300k of them on Kosovo immediately after the WWII and 2 million as they claim there are of them now? Lets not forget all the Albanians (as in citizens of Albania) that ran away from Enver Hoxa in 1945? and immigrated into Kosovo.

    So, no, the suggestion that you are making: ignore them, and let KFOR and EULEX save their face wont work. KFOR and EULEX put themselves in this mess, they should bear the full weight of consequences of it.

    After all, the Kosovo myth and the spirit of knez Lazar still lives: They are sure in this as much as they are sure that the sun will dawn on the following morning: It is better to live in the kingdom of heaven, then sell out for the kingdom on earth. This is not a matter of belief, religion, or what not: in the past 5-600 years this has been genetically inbred into these people, and it is the way they are wired.

    These are the hardcores, the real deal, the right stuff. The sensible and reasonable ones left a long time ago. And to them, what they are doing is the only practical, reasonable and sensible thing to do.

    It is amazing… I think that this proves that we would be communicating with aliens from outer space more easily then inbetween ourselves. So much gets lost in translation…

  6. Having read your comment, makes me realise the consequences of inadequate response. It seems to me as if people would rather react and prevent or act proactive, because desperate times calls for desperate measures and it is never easy to choose between two evils . you choose lesser evil which is the only reasonable thing to do. having in mind all the factors and consequences of it’s actions. You do know history, that’s for sure and everybody should too. But we should all have in mind that the worst kind of a blackmail is an emotional one, one that provokes you on the matter of values and moral issues.

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