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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0 Response

  1. PEN

    I suspect that there are some in the US administration who had originally hoped that the Serbian population of Northern Kosovo would simply up stakes and depart en-masse, when faced with military pressure. After all, traditionally that’s what the Serbs have always done when faced with such a threat. The southern enclaves would have been neutralised, and the Serbian question in Kosovo solved as far as the West and the Albanians were concerned. The fact that that didn’t happen and the Serbs held their ground, now means the approach has to be re-evaluated. The powers that be realise that the Serbs aren’t going anywhere. They must be commended for their bravery and stoicism. NATO can’t be seen to be battling civilians at the barricades. Awfully bad PR. I think they’ll come to an arrangement that allows the Serbs to run their own affairs. Would you agree Mr. Gallucci?

  2. Possible but not certain. Not clear that London is actually trying to play a role in reaching such a negotiated solution. (Being open to it is not the same as working to make it happen.) And the US might simply be allowing London (and Paris?) to spin their wheels until spring.

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  4. Another

    There are People who think that a good way to allow the Majority Albanian Areas in South Kosovo to be represented in regional forums, is under the name of Serbia’s Territory Of South Kosovo, or STOSK, and that a United Nations Security Council Resolution be made for this after both Parties agree.

    It is very important that the words Serbia’s Territory, and not Serbian Territory is used, because Serbia is a Country, and Serbian is a Race, and so there must be no Racism implied in the name.

    The terms Serbia and Serbia’s need to be defined several times as the English way of saying the recognized United Nations Country with Belgrade as its Capital, and Kosovo as its Province as United Nation Security Council Resolution 1244 says.

    North Kosovo should not be included in this matter, because they and other Serbian Majority Areas will be represented by Serbia.

    There needs to be a negotiated agreement to agree on the Reality on the Ground as of December 31 2011, on where those Majority Albanian Areas in South Kosovo are, and where the Majority Serbian Areas in South Kosovo are, and that should be fixed, unless otherwise mutual agreed to in the future.

    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 allows for hundreds but not thousands of Serbian police and soldiers to return to Kosovo.

    We know that the minimum for thousands in 2,000, and that hundreds can be 19.99 hundreds, and so that means that 1,999 Serbian police and soldiers can enter any part of Kosovo to see to it that a Referendum in Northern Kosovo can be delayed for a while, as North Kosovo should directly join Serbian Administration, and not the Evil Racist Criminals in Pristina.

    All of South Kosovo will continue to be Serbian Territory, but the Majority Albanian Territories in South Kosovo can be represented as STOSK.

    I think that any STOSK Official in any forum should have a Serbian Official for Provincial Affairs be present, so that the World will know that Kosovo belongs to all the People and all the Races of Serbia, and its Province of Kosovo.

    The so called International Community and the Kosovo Terrorist Government in Pristina, say that only a few criminals in North Kosovo object to being brutalized and murdered and driven from their homes and land, and they say that a Referendum is not necessary.

    Then there are the Bribed Vichy Serbian Politicians in Belgrade who Desperately and Greedily Crave the promise of the European Union Gravy Train with its Mega Millions of Dollars, who say that the Referendum Result is known, and that it should not proceed.

    If the Referendum Result is certain, then that would mean that the Serbian Quisling Government should tell EULEX to sign an agreement to leave North Kosovo.

    Many Non-Biased and Non-Bribed Legal Academics say that the Kumanovo Agreement is Illegal under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and that it is Illegal under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, and therefore the Illegal Kumanovo Agreement that was signed under American Duress should be scraped.

    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 allows for hundreds but not thousands to return to Kosovo, and that that means 1,999 Serbian police and soldiers can see to it that a Referendum in Northern Kosovo can be delayed for a while.

    Serbia has as President and it has as a Government, a Person and Parliamentarians who are a Disgrace to the Human Race, because they should tell America and all the other European Union Liars that they will not tolerate any more lies against the Serbian People who all informed People of the World know that are the Most Innocent of any Race in the former Yugoslavia.

    The Albanians of Kosovo have been scheming to steal Kosovo since the 1878 Prizren Declaration, and the Americans, the Germans, and the Albanians of Kosovo only regret will be that they did not killed more People if they cannot achieve Independence which will be one of the truest ever Euphemisms for Land Theft.

    Germany does not want Referendums in Europe, because Hitler never did believe in Referendums for the Sub Humans of Europe, and the People of North Kosovo can print the forms using A4 computer paper, with the Question, and the YES or NO answer, unless the Kumanovo Agreement, and STOSK are agreed to, along with 1,999 Serbian police and soldiers to enter any part of Kosovo to see to it that a Referendum in Northern Kosovo can be delayed for a while.

    Serbia has a real advantage here because Germany is desperate to build its Fourth Reich, and Elections and Referendums are not part of the Fourth Reich Scheme.

    If Europe had rejected the Lisbon Treaty, then Germany could not have schemed to create the Euro Crisis and the Financial Crisis in order to have another Treaty that Establishes the Fourth Reich.

    I hope that Russia insists that Every European Citizen And Every American Citizen Must firstly Be Thoroughly Saturated, and then Thoroughly Oversaturated, and then Thoroughly Oversaturated With The True Knowledge Of Albanians And Kosovo, and the Kosovo Albanians will have to Confess these things Over and Over and Over, before Russia will allow South Kosovo to become a Country.

    It Could Be that after European and American have the true knowledge, that Economic Genocide for all the Albanians in Albania, FYROM, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia, along with the Albanians of Kosovo will be that Price that this Criminal Project costs the Albanians.

    SOPA stands for Stop Overseas Piracy by America, and the People of North Kosovo should hold their Democratic Life Saving Referendum, because it is their Democratic Right, and it will reverse the Fourth Reich in Europe.

  5. Diza Kosovar

    @PEN
    Its very interesting how some people call the others in their “bravery”. Isn’t that pathetic? I should remind in some relevant points. Resolution 1244 remains in force, which means no military presence from Serbia in any part of Kosovo because it is not just conflict with Kosovo authorities but also with NATO. Serbs in the north of Kosova have blocked themselves with their barricades. Such situation is impossible for normal life. Nobody says that Serbs will leave Kosovo for a month or so. No, they will do that for years to come. If Serbs in the north of Kosovo continue their “bravery and stoicism” most probably will be much less in years to come. Kosovo authorities don’t need to use force at all because its not necessary. This means that Serbs will be blamed for ethnically clean Kosovo and obviously because of their unrealistic approach as well as their “bravery and stoicism”.

    Solution is that Serbs in the north should accept reality as their compatriots from the south did. Serbs in the north of Kosovo have opportunity either to accept Ahtisaari plan or continue living with illusions. If they choose Ahtisaari plan then normal life may continue. If they choose “bravery and stoicism” they will destroy themselves.I am saying this because nobody in the world can blame Kosovo authorities why they want to have their custom officers in the borders.

    Having this in mind then Mr. Tadic’s proposal is not acceptable until Serbia recognizes Kosovo.

  6. PEN

    @Diza Kosovor
    You appear to interpret the provisions of Resolution 1244 in a way that suits your agenda. The resolution clearly stipulates the return of a certain number of Serbian security personnel to guard shrines and religious sites. Obviously that is not going to happen given the circumstances on the ground. But don’t make things up as you go along. It’s tedious. The Serbs of Kosovo have not ‘blocked themselves’ as you claim. They are adjacent to their motherland, and come and go as they please. And you’re right ‘Kosovo authorities’ don’t need to use force because a/ they usually get somebody else to their dirty work for them, and b/ they are incapable of achieving their aims without outside help. Finally you may regard the fight for their rights as ‘pathetic’ but I think a lot of neutral observers would commend their resiliance against overwhelming odds. So therefore, given your dismissive comments, I doubt you would understand that.

  7. Diza Kosovar

    @PEN
    You clearly didn’t read UN SC resolution 1244. As for Serbian security personnel it says “an agreed number will be permitted to return” and clarifies “hundreds not thousands”. So first of all there must be “agreement” for that return and second that personnel may “be permitted”. To my best knowledge there was neither agreement on that issue nor permission to do so.
    As for Serbs in Kosovo the question is: who is denying their rights? Is any part in the world that minority has such right as Serbs in Kosovo? If they don’t want using there rights, its their problem. I don’t regard “their fights for their rights” as pathetic but rather your claims, which unfortunately bring to Serbs only suffering.
    As for resolution 1244 (again) I don’t interpret anything that is not written there. It is based on legal opinion from the body (ICJ) that is supposed to interpret international legal order. And it did. So rather than speaking in general I like quoting what is said from relevant documents and bodies. I wish to give you advice that rather than Monty Python way of thinking you should choose reality. And reality is that unfortunately Serbs in the North of Kosovo live with their illusions as they are part of “motherland Serbia”. They are not and will not be. If Albanians in the south of Serbia are part of Serbia or Bosniacs in Sandjak are part of Serbia or Hungarians in North Vojvodina are part of Serbia then Serbs in the North of Kosovo are part of the state of Kosovo. This is very simple.

  8. PEN

    @Diza Kosovor,
    What’s very simple is that Vojvodina and Sandjak are components of a universally recognised State not in dispute with its neighbours. Unlike Kosovo. As for the Serbs and their holy places in the rest of the province, they live as an oppressed and threatened minority surrounded by barbed wire and NATO guards 13 years after the end of the conflict. Crimes committed against them such as the recent murders are never solved. If you call that rights, well then I pity you. Again you choose to interpret things that suit your agenda. And finally, I express my opinion without resorting to sarcasm and insults. Something you would do well to learn from if you wish to be taken seriously.

  9. Diza Kosovar

    @PEN
    Kosovo is a state regardless of whether is recognized universally. As such Kosovo has duties and responsibilities as a state. As for Serbs, where do you see that oppression and threatening? Serbs in Gracanica for instance protested last year as a free people and called that part of Kosovo as “Serbian land”. Nobody even looked at them from Kosovo authorities. Not to speak for any use of force. Fortunately this kind of propaganda for Serbs living “surrounded by barbed wire” can see all the world. Four years after independence of Kosovo there were only 4 cases where Serbs were attacked. Four cases in four years you see as oppression???!! Obviously you have problem understanding what oppression is. Do you know how many incidents were on the same time? Find any state in the world that can guarantee 100% of security. You speak for crimes against Serbs “that are not solved” but apparently you don’t know that these cases are under EULEX mandate. If we speak about solving crimes look at Serbia. How many cases of crimes committed in Kosovo were processed in Serbian courts. There are only three (Suva Reka, Podujevo, Cuska) but where are other hundreds of such cases?

  10. PEN

    @Diza Kosovar
    ‘Four years after independence there were only 4 cases where Serbs were attacked.’ That’s a joke right. You can’t be serious. And what of the province wide anti Serb pogrom in 2004. Organised bands of thugs rampaging and looting their way through the last remaining Serb settlements left in Kosovo. Medieval churches gutted and used as toilets. Barbarism that shocked the world. That didn’t happen I suppose. How many KLA have been prosecuted in Pristina. Not by EULEX but by Albanian courts. And how many Serbs have been convicted in Belgrade. I wonder. I think you and I are going to have to agree to disagree.

  11. Albanian

    I would like to know your opinions on re-drawing borders or population exchanges. Rep. Serpska and North Kosovo would go to Serbia. South Kosovo, Presheva Valley, and West Macedonia would go to Albania. Please no history lessons or nationalist propaganda, it’s just a simple question based on current majority population on the ground.

    I think it’s a fast and effective solution that would avoid conflict and pave the road for peace and economic development in the region. This option has been suggested at some point by all local ethnic groups, but the international community seems completely against it. Why waste time and energy trying to create a Western multi-ethnic “Balkan paradise”? This approach only seems to postpone conflict, not address it directly. We can be good neighbors, each in their own space. Mr. Gallucci and others, what do you think?

  12. Diza Kosovar

    @PEN,

    How ridiculous is somebody not understanding very simple thing. For your information, Kosovo declared independence on February 2008, four years from 2004. Yes March 2004 was very bad for Kosovo image since some individuals committed crimes. I should remind you that out of 19 dead people on such occasion 11 of them were Albanians. However who is mentioning that period? Those who are from the most criminal state – Serbia. Serbia committed terrible crimes and genocide in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and lastly in Kosovo. Serbia and those who live in Serbia are least people who should speak about atrocities. In fact Serbia is very fortunate because was not punished as it deserved. Nevertheless Kosovo authorities accepted to give rights to Serbs never seen in any part of the world for minorities. I am repeating to you again since I see that you are totally misinformed – UNMIK in the past and EULEX now have authority to investigate crimes and incidents against communities (minorities). Kosovo Courts can’t deal with such cases. But I am repeating question: why Serbia doesn’t process hundreds of committed crimes in Kosovo, raping and burning of more than 200K houses. Who is charged for forcibly deportation and confiscation personal documents of 800K Albanians? If we continue speaking for these things the story will never end. That’s why I am saying that the past is the past and we should go ahead. In this regard I don’t see any reason that Serbs in the north of Kosovo should have any special rights. Are they more special than other Serbs of Kosovo or Albanians in southern Serbia or Bosniacs in Serbia or Hungarians in Serbia etc?

  13. PEN

    @ Albanian;

    There is logic to your suggestion, given the high levels of animosity still remaining between the various ethnic groups. Some would argue that complete seperation is the only formula to eventual reconciliation.
    The liberal West of course wouldn’t accept this because they are convinced that the only civilised way to live is together in a multicultural society. That may work for people who have not recently been at war with each other. But it most certainly doesn’t work with those that have. Again the powers that be are against any notion of a ‘Greater’ state, be that Serbian, Albanian, or Croatian.
    In my opinion it would be better for people to live together in peace like civilised human beings without any borders or flags. For our children’s sake if for nobody else. But you and I know that isn’t going to happen any time soon. Realistically speaking, if the various Balkan tribes are going to continue persecuting each other in their own republics and arguing over independence, then they should be allowed to re-draw borders peacefully and at a major regional conference with no pre-conditions. If it will bring lasting peace to the region than so be it. Everybody needs to move on.

  14. Territory swaps must be considered an option. But territorial divisions would not be easy as the dividing lines between groups are not always clear. And the people involved would have to agree.

    However, many consider the notion of multi-ethnic, democratic states more appropriate to 21st Century Europe. Unfortunately, since the departure of Slovenia from Yugoslavia through to the Kosovo UDI, the Western states have tended to support ethnic states.

  15. Diza Kosovar

    The “liberal West” is right. It doesn’t allow neither great Serbia nor great Albania. Nobody would agree which part of Kosovo would go to Serbia or which part of Serbia would go to Kosovo. Then we have a case of Albanians in Macedonia. If north of Kosovo goes to Serbia who can stop Albanians in Macedonia to ask the same. But which part of Macedonia would be part of Albania? Where to draw new borders? Nobody knows that. Serbs in Bosnia would ask being part of Serbia, then Bosniacs in Serbia (with some parts of Montenegro) would ask being independent then Hungarians would see a chance and so on and so forth.

    In regard to the situation in north of Kosovo there is a question: In which part of Kosovo Serbs have more reason not to participate in Kosovo institutions? The answer is very clear – those who live south of river Ibar. But why those have more reason on rejecting participation in Kosovo institutions in fact do participate? Where is here logic? Of course Serbs in the north behave as they behave (barricades and so on) because they are supported to do so.
    That’s why Ahtisaari plan is optimal solution. There is no single reason why Serbs in the north should have more autonomy than those from the south.

  16. PEN

    @ Diza Kosovar;

    A question for you. (I don’t know whether you actually live in Kosovo, or personally know any Serbs who do) and as you seem to think you know an awful lot about the place, I’d like you to be honest in your reply. Are Serbs able to live, travel, work, and speak their own language free from intimidation and harassment by the Albanian population beyond the safety of their own enclaves. You speak of Kosovo as a democratic society. Well these are some of the pre-requisites for a free country. Freedom of speech and freedom of association for all. Not just Albanians.

  17. Diza Kosovar

    I see that you are totally misinformed and subject to propaganda. I live in Kosovo (Pristina) and work with lots of Serbs. I communicate with them in Serbian even today. I know that Serbs from south of Kosovo or those from north come without any single problem in Pristina almost every day. They did not report any single incident from Albanians but this is not the case with criminal “mayors” in the north of Kosovo who threatened them, even their lives if refuse to obey their “orders”.

    I must repeat what I said in previous comments – there are just few incidents with Serbs since independence of Kosovo when Kosovo authorities have more responsibilities. There is no single state in the world that can guarantee 100% security. Kosovo is a democratic society and I repeat again the case when Serbs demonstrated in Gracanica (near Pristina) and Kosovo police safeguarded them.

  18. Albanian

    @ PEN
    I’m glad you agree on a re-drawing of the borders, assuming you are a Serb? I hope the international community understands that this option would be a lot easier to implement. Judging by the international community’s track record in the Balkans, however, it doesn’t seem us locals are that lucky. The same international community gave us these borders to begin with in 1913.

    @ Gerard Gallucci “many consider the notion of multi-ethnic, democratic states more appropriate to 21st Century Europe”

    I don’t know many examples of European countries that were multi-ethnic when created. Germany, France, Italy, etc. did not have significant ethnic minorities when they were created. N. Ireland and the Basque country were pacified only recently. Apart from Switzerland, what comes to mind is Belgium, and even this one is falling apart due to ethnic conflict. Then why experiment with this concept in the Balkans, out of all places? Seems totally absurd to me. I agree with the ultimate goal of multi-ethnic co-existence, however this might be appropriate for wealthy Western European countries, but almost impossible in the less-developed, conflict-prone Balkans. I think the West is repeating the same mistakes it made with the borders at the Treaty of London in 1913. They should stop using the Balkans as a laboratory where new political systems are tested and experimented with. Mr. Gallucci, from your experience, how popular is this border-redrawing idea in the diplomatic circles?

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