Kosovo – trust and distrust

That the EU dialogue has made certain progress – not all of it implemented in the north due in large part to the distrust – should not lead to excessive optimism. The northern Kosovo Serbs may some day come to accept something like Belgrade’s platform, but they almost certainly won’t go beyond that.

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Conflict Background

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By Gerard M. Gallucci

EU sponsored talks between Serbia and Kosovo continue. An encouraged International Crisis Group sees the possibility of an agreement emerging on the north along lines long suggested here. The EU seems pleased with itself for using its leverage over Serbia – prospective membership – to press Belgrade forward. Since the advent of the post-Tadic government, Belgrade has moved more briskly toward an accommodation over Kosovo. It proposed an approach in which Serbian municipalities would have a certain autonomy within Kosovo – certainly more pronounced for the north – but also links with Pristina as well as Belgrade. The issue of sovereignty would be put aside, with Serbia talking about an “autonomous” Kosovo and Pristina claiming Kosovo’s territorial integrity.

Significantly, Belgrade’s platform explicitly accepts the participation of Kosovo Serbs in central institutions. Should there be an agreement that proves to safeguard local self-governance for the northern Serbs, they might well participate in central institutions such as the legislature. Serbs could be king-makers in Kosovo politics given the various disputes among the Albanians. But all happy endings imagined for Kosovo must first overcome the considerable distrust that northerners have of the Albanians. They fear that any role in their communities given to Pristina will be used against them. Such an outcome remains exactly what Pristina seeks. The conflict remains zero-sum.

Prime minister Thaci has highlighted his government’s expectations from dialogue. It wants parallel institutions abolished – including municipal administrations, the courts and the police – and Pristina’s “authority” extended to the northern border on the terms of the Ahtisaari Plan as it has been (haltingly) applied south of the Ibar. Thaci claims there is no pressure from the internationals to go any further.

The way the southern Kosovo Serbs were bullied into submission and treated afterwards – land grabs, attacks, desecrations – does not engender trust. But beyond that, Pristina’s continued demand that its control be extended into the north underscores the fundamental reason for the distrust. The northern Serbs believe that Pristina will use any opening to exercise authority on their side of the Ibar to advance the Albanian agenda of replacing them, first in north Mitrovica and then elsewhere. The Ahtisaari Plan as written would give Pristina the ability to interfere and block transfers of funds from Belgrade, over-rule local decisions, take part in choosing local police commanders and have its courts and judges replace those now operating. The role in the transfer of funds could allow Pristina to put a stranglehold on the northern municipalities. Its ability to overrule local decisions could allow it to “nullify” local government and even create a seeming crisis of “legality” justifying intervention. Making local police commanders dependent on its approval could place Pristina in the position of injecting its police (or “army”) into the north without organized resistance. Placing its courts and judges in the north could allow the “legal” enforcement of one-sided property claims and returns.

Whether one finds credible or not the scenario of Pristina using any authority it gets to enact an agenda against the northern Serbs, it is how the northerners see it. They do not trust Pristina to do otherwise. That the EU dialogue has made certain progress – not all of it implemented in the north due in large part to the distrust – should not lead to excessive optimism. The northern Kosovo Serbs may some day come to accept something like Belgrade’s platform. They almost certainly won’t go beyond that. Belgrade understands this – even if the EU does not – and has made clear it will not simply disband its institutions in the north and hand them over to Pristina. The Nikolic-Dacic government has gone far in suggesting an open-ended framework with autonomous local institutions working under internationals – the UN, OSCE or a neutral EU? – within the Kosovo context. But Pristina would have to keep its hands off. That would require real EU/US peacemaking and probably continued peacekeeping.

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.

 

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32 Responses

  1. PEN

    As you have quite rightly stated in the past this is a conflict between two groups of people who by and large loathe each other, and who are basically incompatible barring a few noble exceptions. This part of the world cannot be viewed through the prism of Western liberal multiculturalism and social engineering. Moderate Albanian opinion such as it is, was long ago high jacked by the nationalists and extremists with their noxious brand of clan criminality. There are many in the world who now realise Kosovo independence was a disaster. It unleashed anarchy and the terrorising of those left behind. An entire culture has been vandalised and left at the mercy of terrorists. And although there are those who are adamant there is no going back, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some states actively re-assessing there rushed decisions. The Serbs in the north still able, unlike their brutalised brethren in the south, to defend themselves through their sheer weight of numbers will undoubtedly refuse to knuckle under. They’re not stupid. You and I would do the same thing in their place. And Belgrade knows it.

  2. Maurice

    Your article is a statement to the obvious to anyone who worked in Kosovo with the UN and spent some time in the field. I just hope that the Serbians in the negotiations realize this.

  3. Fadil

    Gerard,

    I am telling you why your predictions will fail. Here you have an article saying that in Banat, veru nice place in Vojvodina (northern Serbia) there are houses offered for only 1,900 EUR (thousand and nine hundred euros). Serbs in Kosovo both in the north and the south need normal life, not life under uncertainty. Apparently you and Serbian extremists as nickname PEN want uncertainty. You because of personal interests and extremists because of need to express their personal frustration.

    So Serbs in Kosovo have an opportunity to live together with Albanians or under uncertainty and one day seek for better life and offer their property to Albanians for 200,000 euros and buy 100 houses in Banat as presented here: http://www.b92.net/biz/vesti/srbija.php?yyyy=2011&mm=08&dd=18&nav_id=532575

    Its in Serbian but google translate may help. The title is “houses offered for 1,900 euros”.

  4. PEN

    @fadil

    Judging by your dysfunctional intemperate language the only frustrated individual here is you. If you can’t express yourself coherently and with any semblance of logic it would be best to not say anything at all. As far as suggesting that Serbs sell their property and relocate to Vojvodina you only prove one thing, that you’re no different from every other Albanian extremist in desiring an ethnically cleansed Kosovo. Finally, if there was ever any doubt in the first place, you show your true colours. You’re an embarrassment.

    1. Fadil

      PEN,

      I am very calm, why I shouldn’t? Obviously you didn’t grasp the point. As I said, Serbs, as all other people in the world, need normalization of their life not life under uncertainty.

      I know Serbian extremists perfectly, they all the time call Serbs “to resist” and after that spend time blaming Albanians.

      I didn’t say with a single word “my desire” to see Serbs in Vojvodina. I said, very clearly, that life under uncertainty is impossible thus Serbs, probably, will seek better life i.e. in Vojvodina and buy very cheap houses.

      As I said many times, Serbs in Kosovo should live normal life as citizens of Republic of Kosovo having special rights so they will be protected more. This is not in any circumstance extremist approach. Extremist approach is extreme favoring of one group (Serbs in the north) and disfavoring another (Albanians in south Serbia).

      So the approach, in which every ethnic, minority group may have equal right will avoid troubles, uncertainty and ethnic cleansing.

      Unfortunately, people like you, don’t want normalization but confrontation and favoring of just one group. That will not solve anything.

  5. theoneisniw

    Of course there is no more Belgrade opposition to Kosovo Independence and now for some reason they are acting like negotiators for Kosovo Serbs and not as the legitimate government of Kosovo and Kosovo is a Serbian province as the Serbian constitution says.

  6. Mirel

    The problem here is that whatever Belgrade and Prishtina will agree the pampered millioners in North will say NO.

    I dont blame them.Living for 14 years without paying any single bill and get double salaries from Belgrade and Prishtina (even Pantic was getting money from Prishtina),smuggeling oil from Serbia to South Ibar ,become millioners overnight and doing everything they want,who wants to pay taxes and get only one salary or stop smuggeling money and oil?

    They dont even want being part of Serbia,because Pantic and co will be some mayors of unimportant towns and they dont get attentions and benefits they are recieving now.They know that well too.

    But what I excpect is that Belgrade will get tired of them( like most of serbs in Serbia) and will give them an ultimatume.Accept our agrements with Prishtina or else(Storm 2.0 for example).
    40 thousant millioners can not hold 8 million serbs hostage.Serbs need to enter to EU.Kosovo need to enter in UN and EU.If 40 thousand millioners in NOrth will stop them they can handle that.In the end of the day those 40 thousand milllioners in NOrth can be accomodate themselves to one of several houses they own in Belgrade.

  7. PEN

    @mirel,

    You’re rapidly beginning to sound like a broken record. 40.000 millionaires in the north, storm 02, 40.000 millionaires in the north, storm 02. Sounds stupid doesn’t it. Mind you, fadil probably approves! Hey what about this; narco state run by drug and prostitution barons in Pristina. If I say it often enough do you think it’ll catch on? But seriously, do you guys think you can conjure up something more original.

    1. Fadil

      Look, look, look, who is speaking for “narco state”????!!!! Come on PEN, are you relative somehow to Ivica Dacic and his men working for Saric??? Dacic is much honest than you, he did admit that contacted collaborators of narco boss Saric who laundered 8 billion euros through 600 Serbian companies. So if your prime minister did collaborate with drug dealers one can just imagine what happens with the others.

      So PEN, you are indeed real follower of father of state of Serbia – Dobrica Cosic. Dobrica says: “We lie to deceive ourselves, to console others, we lie for mercy, we lie to fight fear, to encourage ourselves, to hide our and somebody else’s misery. We lie for love and honesty. We lie because of freedom. Lying is a trait of our patriotism and the proof of our innate intelligence. We lie creatively, imaginatively and inventively.” “Deobe”(Divisions) 1961. Volume I, page 135.

      As for “storm 2.0”, no I don’t approve it. It wont be necessary. It might be an option only in case some guys in the north get mad and start shooting police or Albanians, as they did in the past.

      Serbs in the north, however, want normalization of their life and every day passes they realize that should reject “advises” of extremists like you. More and more Serbs from the north are asking services from the state of Kosovo, in which they are going to live as all other citizens as long as God gives to them life.

  8. Mirel

    @PEN,
    Someone who owns 3-4 house in Belgrade(Dacic has said that not me),gets 2 salaries(one from Prishtina one from Belgrade),doesnt pay one single bills since 1999, is a small millionere in my opinion.
    The others who on top of those that I mentioned above, smuggel oil,drugs and prostitutes is a multimillioner.The drugs in Prishtina come from NOrth Serbia and Serbia and u know that.

    If you dont classify those people above as millioners ,sorry but u either dont know the math or dont want to accept that pampered people in NOrth are playing with both sides,for their own interests.

    1. Fadil

      Mirel,

      Its true that many people in the north got millionairess by smuggling and criminal activities but not all inhabitants of the north. There is a group of people (criminals) getting rich by criminal activities and they have many supporters. According to investigation form B92 more than 2 billion of euros was damage that such criminals caused to Serbia because of smuggling and fiscal evasion so in fact Serbia was more damaged financially than Kosovo. Of course Kosovo was damaged as well.

      In such criminal activities many politicians, police local administrators from Serbia are involved.

      So actually the “fight” for the north is in fact fight for money and all of these who “support” northerners do that exclusively for their own personal benefit. Such people don’t care at all for more Serbs living in other parts of Kosovo.

      1. Troll Hunter

        Fadil & Mirel, you guys are living in some alternate reality and bring down the level of discussion with every post you inflict on us. The simple truth is that the great majority of people in the north just don’t want to live under Albanian rule. They know the plan is to get rid of them. Shame on the EU and Germany too for pushing Pristina’s agenda.

        1. Fadil

          @Troll Hunter,

          Actually, people like you don’t want to accept reality, known even for little children, Even little children know that 60,000 Albanians in southern Serbia (municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvegja) JUST DON’T WANT TO LIVE UNDER SERBIAN RULE. So what?????

          What is so special with 40,000 Serbs in northern Kosovo???

          Who one should deny rights for 60,000 people and give special rights for 40,000 people???!!!

          Secondly, why one should debate with you while you don’t grasp so simple things, which are understandable for little children????

          1. Troll Hunter

            @ Fadil. Kosovo Albanians have broken from Serbia and want to take the Serbs with them. This makes it different from southern Serbia which is part of a country fully recognized by all. No country, not even those pushing Kosovo’s UDI, supports your real agenda of a Greater Albania. Even a child knows this.

  9. Moses

    Honestly, the whole negotiation stinks. It would have been very likely that the Serbians and Albanians could have agreed to a partition, but the State dept and Germans have rejected this. In truth they are trying to get Serbia to recognize an Albanian-dominated independent Kosovo and call it something else.

    A rose is a rose, no matter what else you call it.

  10. alex

    i would like to know why do albanians want the north kosovo?
    they think kosovo is a state but it isn’t. not because of serbia(only)
    but neither eu or un didn’t recognise it.

    it would be good to humiliate the serbs,but dont forget that the
    humiliated wants the revenge. the albanians are not liked by serbs,
    grecians,macedonians and montenegrins. once the big brother america is
    gone they will be in trouble. it would be better to give them the north.
    serbs happy,albanians too. no war in future. but that is so simple.

    and it would be easier for serbia to recognise the kosovo.

    don’t forget that kosovo is still ufficialy part of serbia.

    1. Fadil

      @Alex,

      1. I would like to know why Serbia wants southern Serbia and 60 thousands of Albanians there who live in compact territory and territorial linked with other Albanians in Kosovo?

      2. Who said you that organizations do recognize states? Recognition of states is EXCLUSIVELY right of states, not organizations.

      3. Its not goo humiliating Serbs nor Albanians in southern Serbia.

      4. Who said you that Kosovo is “officially part of Serbia”. For your record, MAJORITY of UN member state FORMALLY recognize Republic of Kosovo as independent and sovereign country. De fakto, Kosovo is recognized by many more states.

  11. Fadil

    @Troll Hunter,

    Croatia seceded and took ALL Serbs. Montenegro Seceded and took ALL Serbs. The same is with Kosovo. Nothing different. When Kosovo, de fakto, seceded on 1999 from so called FRY, the so called FRY WAS NOT recognized state but partially recognized state with much less recognition than Kosovo. So this not an argument.

    Whether Kosovo today is part of UN or not doesn’t matter at all since Kosovo fulfills ALL criteria of Montevideo Convent to be a STATE.

    Nobody, except Serbian leaders, is saying something about “great Albania. The fact is that such idea comes from Serbian leaders such as Ivica Dacic who is prime minister of Serbia.

    So you see “difference” of southern Serbia with northern Kosovo, but Kosovars don’t see it as it does not exist.

    Today, from Germany came another CLEAR message so Serbia wont be part of EU without solving issue with Kosovo and that is very clear – withdrawing from Kosovo its illegal structures and recognize Kosovo as its neighbor state.

    Troll off.

  12. Troll Hunter

    Read the news much Troll Fadil? The US and Germany warn Albania against nationalist rhetoric and to stay out of Serbia’s affairs (meaning southern Serbia).

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/15/us-albania-usa-idUSBRE91E0VD20130215
    http://www.dw.de/germany-to-balkans-drop-nationalistic-rhetoric/a-16623276

    A 2010 Gallup survey found 81 percent of Kosovar Albanians support the idea of unification into a Greater Albania. http://www.praguepost.com/news/15550-region-kosovos-neighborly-relations-still-sour.html

    You cannot simply lie your way out of this.

    1. Fadil

      @Troll,

      You are right, USA warned Albania about nationalist rhetoric as did the same, rightfully, to Serbia so Serbia must withdraw from its ambitions to interfere in Kosovo.

      I agree on this approach. But remember that your prime minister Ivica Dacic is big fan of “Great Albania”, of course in case of giving the north of Kosovo to Serbia.

      This is not going to happen. The north of Kosovo remains within Kosovo as all other parts of Kosovo with some higher degree of rights for Serbian minority there.The issue of borders is CLOSED. Now Kosovo and Serbia must normalize relations as independent and sovereign states and go toward EU and NATO integration. For Kosovo such path is known. If Serbia wants that then OK, if no, that is problem of Serbia.

  13. Maurice

    Why is it whenever I read stuff from State they refer to the “Kosovo” authorities when we all know that Pristina is completely dominated by Albanians? No, you cannot have a sell-out symbolic Serbian in office and pretend that there’s some kind of multi-ethnic government going on.

    1. Fadil

      @Maurice,

      You are totally misinformed. “Albanian government” has one vice premier and two other ministers from Serbian community as well as another minister from Turkish community and thus Kosovo government is comprised form 30% of minorities who are less than 10% of total population.

      Serbs and other minorities have 20 reserved seats in Kosovo Assembly (out of 120), which even without voting these 20 seats are reserved exclusively for minorities.

      Maybe when Kosovo government would be completely from Serbs than you would not call it anymore “Albanian”.

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