Kosovo – separate tracks
It is increasingly apparent that the respective parties – including the Quint – are talking past each other and reacting more to what has happened, rather than what might be done to move away from conflict.
By Gerard Gallucci
There comes a time in some conflicts when people on both sides come to understand that they cannot get what they want by further violence, or may in fact lose more than they might gain by continuing to fight. If they are lucky, some outside third-party may take an interest and help the two sides to move into a negotiating framework. This is the moment that they all begin to move on a single track toward the possibility of an agreement that freezes the conflict and perhaps leads toward a political resolution and a stable peace.
There is a counterpart to this moment in the lead-up to more violence. It happens when everyone begins to see only their own grievances, their own version of history, their own agenda. They lose the ability to hear each other and to be able to consider anything new; anything that might require compromise. Everyone starts down separate tracks to stalemate or a new collision.
It may be that north Kosovo is reaching one of these moments. It seems that almost everyone – Kosovo Serbs, Albanians and the internationals – grasps at some level that the situation in the north as it is now has become untenable. The latest report by the UN Secretary General makes this clear. It may also be that there is increasing willingness to consider possible modes to resolve the current crisis and perhaps even find an approach that would help return things to a more normal life for everyone.
It seems increasingly, however, that people are talking past each other and reacting more to what has happened rather than what might be done to move away from conflict. The tracks may be separating.
The two local parties – Serbs and Albanians – are the least likely to be able to rise above their history. They believe too that any acceptance of some compromise position would be a sign of weakness. They feel the ground may be shifting beneath them – Belgrade may sell them out, the EU may want new approaches. Without outside help, nothing good is likely to emerge.
Unfortunately, the outside helpers – the Contact Group – also seem trapped by their history and political agendas. KFOR and EULEX find it impossible to commit fully and openly to peacekeeping, instead of continuing to seek a one-sided political outcome at the northern boundary. They have stopped – for now – using force, but seem unable to address in any way the deep distrust their actions have created in the northern Kosovo Serb community. The Quint seems to be stuck in place, without the ability to offer anything new. Russia sees it has no reason to change its support for Serbia, even as the Tadic government remains mesmerized by the slogan of both the EU and Kosovo.
Winter is approaching and hopefully the cold, cold Balkans weather will prevent everyone from doing anything really dumb. The potential for accidents persists, however, and life for everyone in Kosovo will remain suspended in this local cold war. And time moves forward. People will either have something new to consider or find themselves listening more and more to the old voices in their heads. The internationals are still the responsible peacekeepers and the only real potential peacemakers at this time. They need to get on track.
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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As should be obvious to all, the first ones who chose violence were USA-led NATO, in 1999. In order to plunk down yet another huge military base (Bondsteel) on foreign territory, that entity did not care about a ‘negotiating framework’. USA-NATO were/are the problem for meddling in a sovereign country’s affairs with bombs to achieve ‘their own agenda’, and it had absolutely nothing to do with humanitarianism. The law of the jungle sufficed when they flexed their muscles, thus creating a real mess in that corner of Europe. It is yet to be decided if there will be a pipeline built (Nabucco), to carry gas via that route. In recent times, USA-NATO jump into the frey when it’s about oil and gas. Their interests did not lie with the Kosovo tug-of-war between Serbs and Albanians, but that’s what they have exacerbated via their greed for oil.
It may be that the current situation is tenable–if not desirable–for those running the show in the north. The local Big Men are making money and are in even more control than usual over makeshift roads and smuggling routes. Belgrade largely has lost control of the situation. Pristina is hanging on by its fingernails (keeping Kosovar officials at even blockaded gates remains the sine qua non for its effort to establish a symbol of sovereignty). The internationals want all three sides (the Serbs in northern Kosovo are their own side)to accept a solution whereby KFOR and its EULEX tail, Serbia, and Kosova all maintain some sort of presence. Winter, in my view, will not work against patient bridge, blockade, and gate watchers.
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David Kanin, re your comments, who do you think ‘has control of the situation’ in all of Kosovo, in 2011?
Seems more than obvious that USA-NATO messed up big time when they opted for bombing Serbia, in 1999, and all of it was about establishing a military base in Kosovo to control a pipeline that may or may not be built.
Corrupted Kosovo government has nothing to do with the northern Kosovo. Neither local Serbs will ever allow Albanians to walk in free to administrative lines. While facilitating and helping the creation of the “greater albania” USA has lost Serbia and Serbs as partner for many decades to come.
It looks like Chris Dell really screwed things up this time for all sides. He should be sent home.
It’s time for everyone to face the reality on the ground; the North has never been under Albanian control, nor UNMIK, nor Eulex. It always has been under Belgrade authority. Time to leave the people there alone and decide under who’s flag they want to be under.
The lesson learnt from this text should be that actors of the situation need to adapt to the newly created conditions and show respect to one another rather than rejecting each other.
The Citizen of Serbia….I dont know whether you know that all this situation that is tolerated now by the Kosovo government is tolerated in order to think well if Serbia can do so by December 9 to make major changes in policy towards Kosovo, otherwise If not, and If we have the same situaton in the north than the government is obliged to use force to scour the streets and enable the free passage of citizens to the northern border with Serbia neighboring state, than you can to come back and block roads!