Kosovo – an opportunity for agreement on the north?

The recent “four-point proposal” by Serbia’s president, Boris Tadic, may provide the foundation for a lasting solution; one that could be accommodated within the framework of the Ahtisaari Plan.

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By Gerard M. Gallucci

Perhaps the events of last year – Pristina’s failed attempt in July to seize the northern boundary and the mangled efforts by EULEX and KFOR to support that effort – have finally convinced at least a few of the Quint that force won’t work?  Recent statements by the UK and France (Italy already would go along with anything) indicate readiness to accept less than Serbia simply surrendering the north to Pristina.  The two EU members have greeted positively president Tadic’s recent “four-point proposal,” suggesting it could be accommodated within the framework of the Ahtisaari Plan.

Tadic suggested an approach leaving aside the question of Kosovo’s status but including a special solution for the Serbian Orthodox monasteries, special guarantees for the southern Kosovo Serbs, resolution of Serbian property claims and a special solution for northern Kosovo.  The British ambassadors in Belgrade and – more to the point – in Pristina both reportedly said the proposals are in-line with the Ahtisaari Plan and London supports the approach.  The French ambassadors to Belgrade and Pristina took the same line, reportedly suggesting that the proposals offer “a solid foundation” that “could open the door to a lasting solution.”

Both the French and British repeated the standing formula that Kosovo’s “territorial integrity” had to be respected.  The British – echoed by the US – reaffirmed the demand that the barricades in the north must come down, “parallel institutions” be dismantled and progress made in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.  The British statements, however, as reported, offer some interesting nuances as well.  The British ambassador to Belgrade reportedly clarified that the “parallel institutions” in the north were not expected to be abolished “soon” but would “begin to function properly in time.”  His colleague in Pristina noted that the Ahtisaari Plan provides for the formation of a new municipality for north Mitrovica and expressed confidence that “a number of issues regarding the north can be resolved by expanding the jurisdictions and responsibility, all in keeping with the Ahtisaari plan.”  “In keeping” is an interesting formulation.  It is also heard that some in London have been studying the recent outline of how the Ahtisaari Plan might be implemented in the north.

The UK/France and US may be playing a variation of “good cop/bad cop.”  While the two EU members point to a possible Ahitsaari-based approach to the north, the US claims it has “no specific position” on the Tadic proposal.  The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, however, called Tadic this weekend and surely said something more than the publicly acceptable line about being ready to help Serbia and Kosovo “normalize” their relations.  The net affect may be to provide Belgrade space to engage on a “status-neutral” approach to Ahtisaari while also not fencing in too closely Pristina’s bargaining space.

On the ground, KFOR has stopped calling the local Serbian institutions “parallel” but has not given-up entirely trying to force EULEX past the barricades.  EULEX has itself still refused to commit to a status neutral approach to the boundary crossings (i.e., to not bringing Kosovo Albanian customs to the Gates).  NATO says it is helping to “create room” for a “political solution” for the north.  For such room to exist, everyone will have to be open to compromise and resist the temptation to force events by trying to bully the northern Kosovo Serbs into submission.  Has the Quint really taken on board that reality?

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.

To read TransConflict’s recently-released policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

To read other articles by Gerard for TransConflict, please click here.

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