The response of the Kosovo Albanians – who still want to win everything and reject any compromise over the north – to Serbia’s new “Kosovo Resolution” and the Platform is seeking to scare their international friends by raising the specter of Albanian irredentism.
By Gerard M. Gallucci
Recently, it has become possible to believe that the main Western countries supporting Kosovo independence – the Quint – are now reconciled to being unable to resolve the issue of the north through force. The EU and NATO have stopped trying to impose Pristina’s rule on the northern Kosovo Serbs and have instead stood aside to encourage direct negotiations. The post-Tadic government in Belgrade appears to be moving more briskly toward accepting the practical independence of Kosovo by setting aside the question of sovereignty (leaving it to both sides to see it as they wish) and offering to “normalize” relations through practical solutions to practical issues. Its new “Kosovo Resolution” and the Platform behind it offer a way to resolve the north in such a practical manner with a degree of local autonomy that goes a bit further than the Ahtisaari Plan. The Quint may be ready to accept such an outcome to finally shake the Kosovo issue off its shoes. This would not please the Kosovo Albanians who still want to win everything and reject the merest hint of compromise over the north. Their response – the one used successfully in the past – is seeking to scare their international friends back into line by raising the specter of Albanian irredentism.
The Kosovo Albanian side has often hinted that any effort to recognize the uniqueness of the north would lead to regional instability in the form of pressure from Albanians in southern Serbia and Macedonia. Now in the face of possible compromise, the Albanians are again sharpening their regional instability spears:
- The Kosovo representative to the EU reportedly warned that with “Serb and Albanian enclaves in Bosnia, Macedonia and Serbia also aspiring to autonomy … any change to current borders in the region could threaten stability.”
- The Self-Determination movement raised directly the quest for a “Greater Albania” with a call for Albania and Kosovo to become a “federation.”
- The local Albanian majority government in Presevo erected a provocative monument to the “Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medveda” (UCPMB) – which fought for separation from Serbia – and dared the Serbian government to remove it while appealing for help to “internationalize” the issue as NATO did in Kosovo in 1999.
- The so-called Albanian National Army (ANA) in Kosovo threatened armed action reportedly saying that it would “mobilize its members to defend against Serb threats to secede a part of the Kosovo territory and threats to forcibly remove UCPMB monument in Presevo.
This may be mostly bluster to see if it’s possible to scare the Quint. Belgrade would be wise to allow the monument to remain and thus not contribute to it remaining an issue. But provocations and threats of violence should not be allowed to close the door to compromise over north Kosovo. The Serb majority there has made it clear it will not accept rule by Pristina. No Serbian government can yet agree to recognize Kosovo independence. This leaves nowhere to go to settle the Kosovo issue except by the formula now on the table: Set aside the issue of recognition, keep the north in Kosovo but with increased local autonomy, reach status-neutral approaches to issues such as customs, property, telecoms and electricity. Let both Serbia and Kosovo prepare for the EU.
Now, if the two sides should at some point agree on an exchange of territories, Presevo for north Kosovo, why stop them? If the Albanians of Albania and Kosovo then decide to come together, why not? It would be dishonest and counterproductive for the Europeans to oppose the consolidation of a nation state just because they consider themselves “post-modern” and beyond all that. But threats of instability if one side doesn’t get everything it wants, should be clearly beyond the pale.
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.