Kosovo – implementing the agreement

Brussels should delink EU accession from implementation of the Pristina-Belgrade agreement. Granting Serbia a date in June would still leave many years to track the normalization process between Kosovo and Serbia. Emphasis could also be given to reassuring the northerners that while change is coming, they will be included in the process of determining their future.

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By Gerard M. Gallucci

Both Belgrade and Pristina have formally accepted the 15-point agreement on north Kosovo initialed April 19. But it remains only an outline with many important details to be determined. Defining these details in a way that may ease acceptance by the Kosovo Serb majority living in the north would be key to any chance of peacefully implementing the agreement. Bringing the northern Serbs into the process before terms are put into concrete would be vital. Gaining their participation would, in the best of circumstances, take time. But time does not seem to be what the EU has in mind. Brussels – led by the Germans – seems intent on conditioning a start date for EU accession talks with Serbia on complete implementation by late June. An implementation plan is to be drawn up by April 26. But a rush to force the pace of change over the north may simply lead to further conflict.

Pristina is already counting on the “dismissal” of Serbian “parallel security structures” by June and the “incorporation” of “illegal civil defense” elements in the north into Kosovo’s nascent military. Kosovo’s deputy prime minister reportedly said that “concrete steps” for “interruption” of the “illegal” structures will be undertaken, with building “legal structures” starting “immediately.” Pristina has hinted that it expects NATO support in enforcing the agreement. Meanwhile, the northern Serbs have rallied en mass against the agreement with leaders announcing refusal to cooperate in any way with implementation. Any effort by Pristina to introduce its security forces into the north – or simply take command of local police still in Kosovo uniforms – is likely to stir conflict and lead to violence.

The Quint – at least Germany and the US – may still expect Belgrade to simply order the northerners to fall in line. Perhaps they count on Belgrade to immediately cut support and otherwise threaten to abandon the northerners if they do not cooperate. It cannot be ruled out that Belgrade might seek to do so in its haste to win EU approval. Many northerners believe that Belgrade already gave away too much, too quickly to Pristina. But Belgrade cannot easily be seen to be completely isolating the northern Serbs and it cannot enforce immediate surrender. Quint/Pristina/Belgrade haste in the face of almost universal rejection of the agreement in the north is a recipe for failure and conflict.

What could be done to ease the path to peaceful change? Patience and time, for a start. Brussels should delink EU accession from implementation of the Pristina-Belgrade agreement. Granting Serbia a date in June would still leave many years to track the normalization process between Kosovo and Serbia. Emphasis could also be given to reassuring the northerners that while change is coming, they will be included in the process of determining their future. Most Serbs in the north understand that the situation cannot remain as is. But they fear that the direction of events now threatens their continued existence in Kosovo. With no one apparently on their side, they feel they have no choice but to resist. Finding ways to change that perception and offer space to those willing to consider alternatives to resistance requires time and confidence building efforts from Pristina and the internationals.

Pristina and the EU can begin by offering assurances on five core issues: Pristina could pledge that any role it has in choosing the regional police commander and appeals courts judges would be exercised with the advice and consent (and through) a neutral international, such as the UK. Pristina and the EU could outline a transparent process on funding from Serbia that goes through a non-Kosovo bank and includes full public reporting. Pristina could pledge that its special police (ROSU) will stay south of the Ibar with local policing to be trusted to the regular Kosovo police from both sides of the River. Pristina could accept that the boundary between the two Mitrovicas is the Ibar and disband its present administration office in the north. Finally, Pristina could call a halt to unilateral returns to the north pending a global agreement on property and returns. Leadership of this kind would stake Pristina’s claim to a real commitment to a multi-ethnic Kosovo.

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.

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

To read other articles by Gerard for TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in responding to this article, please do not hesitate to contact us by clicking here.

To learn more about both Serbia and Kosovo, please check out TransConflict’s reading lists series by clicking here.

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38 Responses

  1. Fadil

    Gerard,

    Your observation go totally in the direction most of critics in Kosovo say. You are still insisting that the north remain as parallel world or parallel state. You are still exaggerating, extremely, tho power of northerners. Actually you are contradicting yourself. The only reason why northern Serbs were so resistant was their geographical position and support from Serbia.

    What needs to be done is just implementing the agreement. Serbia agreed to withdraw its security forces IMMEDIATELY. There will not be any kind of problems since in the north anyway we have KFOR, EULEX police and Kosovo police comprised almost 100% of Serbs. There will not be neither ROSU nor Kosovo security forces. So Serbs in the north can’t say they are threatened.

    Secondly, Serbia must cut funding of any security forces or members of Serbian intelligent service (BIA) in the north IMMEDIATELY.

    Serbia should be cooperative with KFOR, EULEX police and Kosovo police in closing of ALL “alternative crossings”.

    These ate just few steps that will convince Serbs that accepting the deal is the only alternative they have.

  2. Troll Hunter

    Fadil, You say “immediately” as if it was a magic incantation. Nothing will happen immediately. Reality is more complicated than your simple view. Stop living under bridges, they seem to block your view.

  3. Fadil

    @Troll,

    I am not saying “immediately” stop paying salaries for Serbian teachers and doctors in the north of Kosovo. Including them in Kosovo system will take more time. If they wish Kosovo will be able to pay theme even next month.

    The point what Serbia CAN DO immediately and will not be an issue is ordering its security personnel to stop their activities and stop paying them.

    Secondly, I don’t see any problems closing “alternative crossings” so close them immediately as official crossings are operational.

    Look, we know Serbs, we know the resistance in the south, which was not smaller than in the north. Why Serbs in the north behave as they do is because they are supported to do so. Once such support is missing, northerners will do the same as their compatriots in the south.

  4. PEN

    The article amply demonstrates the precarious situation the northern Serbs find themselves in. They regard themselves as Serbian citizens first and foremost. Adopting the trappings of a ‘state’ that has done nothing but menace them rightfully seems insane. They now feel abandoned by Belgrade. There are many unanswered questions. For example are the Serbs of Kosovo entitled to Serbian passports and ID cards, or are being forced to adopt Albanian documents. Will they have to contend with Kosovo ‘security personnel’ in their towns and villages? What will become of Trepca and Gazivoda, assets the Albanians are desperate to get their hands on. It will be a very tense next few months.

    1. Fadil

      @PEN,

      Although you comment frequently you are showing your ignorance here. Serbs in Kosovo are entitled to have Serbia’s passports as they are entitled for dual citizenship, both Kosovo and Serbia’s citizenship. They were also allowed to vote in general elections for Serbian Assembly in Belgrade.

      There are no “Albanian documents” bu just Kosovo documents in Albanian and Serbian (Cyrillic alphabet), or you want to say that Cyrillic writing is Albanian??!!

      Serbs can be part of security personnel (Kosovo military, Kosovo police).

      Trepca and Gazivoda belong to Republic of Kosovo and Serbs will participate in working and managing them as all other citizens of Kosovo.

  5. PEN

    Given that representatives of your ‘state’ are doing their utmost to re-designate Serbian spiritual and architectural heritage as ‘Kosovan’ I quite purposely wrote Albanian for documents and ‘police.’ The Albanian ‘police’ in Kosovo showed quite categorically how they treat people of Serbian nationality last summer. A fist and a baton are the usual methods. If you’re lucky. The fact that ‘Kosovan’ documents have Cyrillic text on them is mere window dressing and you know it. In fact I’m surprised Cyrillic hasn’t already been designated ‘Kosovan.’ Hang on though, people from the Caucasus can’t be ‘Kosovan’ I forgot. And yes you’re right about dual citizenship. There appear to be an awful lot of Albanians from Kosovo running around with new Serbian passports. I suppose loyalty doesn’t extend beyond Schengen does it. No the only ignoramus here is you unfortunately. By the way you really are a serial troll aren’t you. Your name seems to crop up everywhere from the Economist to Transconflict. You really are quite sad aren’t you.

    1. Fadil

      I think, today, Catherine Ashton, who should be “neutral” said this (in Serbian, from B92): “Obe države i dalje su na raskrsnici, ali su dva hrabra čoveka već izabrali put mira” (Both STATES are still at crossroad, but two brave people (Thaci and Dacic), have chosen path to the peace.

      So who cares at all whether for you Kosovo is a SATE or not.

      As for passports, Albanians in Kosovo don’t need Serbian one as the EU would not allow them visa free regime. In a year or two the visa free regime to the EU will be granted fro Kosovo. This just second argument of your ignorance.

      How Kosovo police treat Serbian people in Kosovo one may see in Gracanica when Serbs protest for many things. Nobody touches them.

      So in general I may assume your position i.e your blood pressure. It might be very high, isn’t it?

      I am very, very happy that extremists, such as you, say whatever but it remains just a collection of rubbish and nothing else.

  6. PEN

    Well you obviously care otherwise you wouldn’t be paying such great attention to comments that aren’t directed at you, you primitive half wit. And what do you mean Albanians in Kosovo. Surely you’re refering to Kosovars in Kosovo right? If you must use caps, (SATE) at least check your spelling first. I’m glad you’re concerned about my health by the way. But if I were you, I’d be more concerned about the overall health of your ‘state’ It’s not very impressive is it really. Now back to the Economist for more choice comments eh.

    1. Fadil

      @PEN,

      Everybody who reads comments here is witness of of your primitive extremism and chauvinistic propaganda. I understand you perfectly. You are angry with your leaders who are more pragmatic as time passes.

      Of course, extremists and chauvinists, like you, may express just their chauvinistic feelings and hatred but nothing more. Thanks to God’s justice you will never be in situation to ACT.

      As for Kosovo, don’t worry at all. It is MUCH healthier than your criminal state Serbia. Such claims can be verified very easy. There are many missions in Kosovo, either military (KFOR) or civil (EULEX, UNMIK) but there are just few case, very small ones, of corruption in Kosovo while every day in Serbia we read for billions of euros of stolen money in Serbia or money laundering.

  7. PEN

    Here’s a hypothetical question for you. If all the internationals packed up and left tomorrow, how long do you think Kosovo would last. Who actually invests in Kosovo. What is your unemployment rate. What is your fiscal position. What attributes do you possess that can justify being labelled an independent entity. Do you have an efficient judiciary free of political interference. Do you have a political class devoid of corruption, untainted by accusations of war crimes. You live in a parallel universe blind to reality. Cut the bullshit, stop repeating everything I say parrot fashion, and give some credible answers. Ranting about chauvanism and extremism is tedious and doesn’t convince anybody. Be a man, grow up and stop hiding behind your keyboard.

    1. Fadil

      @PEN,

      Let me respond by your questions.

      1. how long do you think Kosovo would last?
      A: Let say for centuries.
      2. Who actually invests in Kosovo?
      A: Many investors, particularly in energetic sector, mines, information technology etc.
      3. What is your unemployment rate?
      A: It is 40%, much, much better than 70-80% when Kosovo was occupied from Serbia.
      4. What is your fiscal position??
      A: Much better than in Serbia. No deficit in Kosovo budget.
      5. What attributes do you possess that can justify being labelled an independent entity?
      A: All attributes by Montevideo convent for the conditions of statehood i.e 1) defined territory, 2) defined population, 3) Central government, 4) Ability to enter into relations (diplomatic) with other states (almost 100 states).
      6. Do you have an efficient judiciary free of political interference?
      A: No so good but much better than in Serbia and surrounding states.
      7. Do you have a political class devoid of corruption, untainted by accusations of war crimes?
      A: Extremely better than in Serbia. Take for example last case of corruption in Kosovo amounting 1.4 million eur vs 300 million eur Agrobanka in Serbia or 4 billion eur money laundering of Darko Saric with 600 firms in Serbia.

      As you can see, Kosovo is much better state than Serbia. There are problems, of course, but there are also improvements.

      Who is living in “parallel universe”? Look, when I remember Aleksandar Vucic as a minister of information of Serbian government in 1999 and hearing what he says, and does, now, I can’t believe he is the same person although he is regarded as extreme nationalist.

      When I see your posts here I see totally different approach. You are Aleksandar Vucic of year 1999. My friend, we are now in 2013, not in 1999.

      Time for extreme nationalists, as you are showing yourself here, is over.

  8. Outsider

    Many thanks for the good article. To be honest, I have read many of your comments and have often disagreed with your analysis. Beeing a German and intensively oberserving the current developments, I agree 100% that rushing and building on top-down processes only will not help. I have spoken to many residents and representatives in “the North” and understand their individual situation – as much as an outsider can understand. They do not only need to be integrated in the further process, but they have to have a say and go the way themselves, with support, from Belgrade, from Brussels and European countries, and also from Prishtina, more importantly also from Kosovo-Serbs from the other municipalities within Kosovo. We have to aknowledge that the current developments would not have started without pressure but too much pressure will harm the further processes. Trust needs to be built, among individuals, groups and towards a future for Kosovo-Serbs in Kosovo and specifically in Northern Kosovo, and high pressure is not helpful in that context. I can assure you that many in Germany, also politicians, agree on that. That is why I think that your proposal on delinking the EU accession with the changes in North Kosovo to some extend will be needed in order to not only build on pressure. But having seen that pressure was needed to spark the changes, qualitative steps towards EU accession will only be possible if the relations normalise substantially. (By the way, the initial idea for an “EU birth” was to build trust & reconciliation through a progressive process.) Germany went through that in its own history, had to go a long way from ’45 to today, and it was also not an easy or fast process – that is one of many reasons why Germany is the “bad cop” in that context. But Germany has also learnt that normalisation and reconcilitation takes time and has to come with an internal motivation. I personally wish that this aspect is now also integrated into the process.

  9. PEN

    @fadil

    Just as I thought. You’re incapable of providing credible answers to any of my questions. Emotional diatribes and childish insults are one thing, convincing answers are something else all together. If the internationals; by that I mean KFOR, EULEX, the myriad financial funding mechanisms that prevent the territory going into meltdown pulled out tomorrow, Kosovo would cease to function. Kosovo is not an independent entity by any definition of the word. More than half the population are unemployed and in abject poverty, and the rest survive on remmitances from abroad. There is little self supporting viable economic activity unless you factor in the extensive criminal underground. Fourteen years after the withdrawal of the Serbian administration Kosovo is entirely dependent on the support and goodwill of the international community for its very survival. This has absolutely nothing to do with corruption in Serbia, extremism, chauvanism or nationalism. This about incompitence on a grand scale and an absolute inability to run your own affairs. The reliance on others was self evident in the days of the old Yugoslavia, and it’s the same today. You’re a fraud with no answers. Either on this forum or anywhere else you paste your laughable rants. In fact I find it demeaning engaging with you at all. Full stop.

    1. Fadil

      @PEN,

      As usually, baseless comments and wishful thinking. Kosovo budget expenditures are fully covered by taxes and custom fees. To be the best, Kosovo public debt is at 5% of GDP while that of Serbia is more than 65%. Serbia is sinking into public debt and in clear path to bankruptcy.

      Other macroeconomic indicators: Kosovo GDP per capita PPP = $7,800 vs Serbia’s GDP per capita = $10,000. This is a great success of Kosovo economy and it will likely overpass that of Serbia in 4-5 years.

      As for corruption and criminality, its simply impossible comparing because Serbia is none to second in this regard.

      I understand you perfectly, but regardless of your immense wish to blacken Kosovo you simply fail on it. So don’t care so much for Kosovo as Kosovo advanced just in last five years much more than in last 100 years.

  10. Thanks to Outsider and all those who take the trouble to comment on my pieces in TransConflict. Sometimes the exchanges get a bit heated and clearly we don’t all agree all of the time. But this seems a crucial moment for the people of Kosovo – all the people of Kosovo – and everyone’s patience and mutual understanding is sorely needed.

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