Kosovo – so what is Plan B?

It is about the time to settle the issue of the north as a continued frozen conflict is good for no one. Indeed, stalemate leaves everyone on edge and unable to begin living a normal, peaceful existence. The best outcome would be a compromise solution of the sort that the Quint refuses to support. But any effort to use force – or allow the Kosovo government and security forces to do so – would lead to the worst outcomes.

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Conflict Background


By Gerard M. Gallucci

The Quint policy of painting Serbia into a corner and forcing the leadership to surrender north Kosovo to Pristina control does not appear to have worked. Having presented Serbia with the choice between EU membership in the foreseeable future or putting the northern Kosovo Serbs into a corner, Belgrade could go no further than its proposal for autonomy. Pristina – claiming the full support of the US – kept to its position that its “sovereignty” had to be extended to the north and on its terms. It hid behind0 a false argument over “executive” authority and the Quint ignored the possibility of implementing the Ahtisaari Plan in a practical manner taking into account the northern reality. The details of the discussions and the proposals put forth by Serbia, Kosovo and the EU remain unclear. All parties will have their say and the unvarnished truth will probably remain their secret for now.

The Germans and others made clear that this means EU accession talks for Serbia will not happen. Berlin may be pleased at the outcome since Chancellor Merkel won’t have to face this year’s elections carrying another EU expansion problem on her back. EU Foreign Policy chief Ashton perhaps thought she could force a one-sided “solution” on Belgrade given the EU leverage. She may have also figured she had no choice but to try, given unwavering US support for Pristina. (It has been US policy for years to appease the Kosovo Albanians and leave the problems to the EU.) In any case, the Quint seemed oblivious to the position of the northern Kosovo Serbs themselves. Many “old” Balkans hands – inside Quint governments and out – apparently see north Kosovo through the optics of what happened with Krajina and Eastern Slavonia in Croatia. On this account, the northern Kosovo Serbs – no matter what they say now about resisting Pristina – would have no choice but to acquiesce if Belgrade ordered and then withdrew support for local institutions. However, this view ignores the fact that everyone knows the history that followed. Why would the northern Kosovo Serbs expect any better fate than the eastern Croatian Serbs (any Erdut-type agreement aside)? Anyway, what Serbian government or which Serbian politicians would like to be seen simply cutting the north Kosovo Serbs off and tossing them to “Albanian control.” Intentionally or not, the Quint gave Belgrade little real choice at all.

What now? The US ambassador in Pristina reportedly called the recent talks a “final chance” to settle the issues between Serbia and Kosovo. Prime Minister Thaci told the local press that he said “yes” to the EU proposal and that Belgrade’s choice was to accept it or not. He warned that without an agreement, his government would extend its authority into the north with the help of his international supporters. And this raises the possibility that Quint policy makers might now be thinking “Croatia, 1995.” The blogosphere has been full over the last months of Kosovo Albanian references to a “Storm 2.0” as their preferred Plan B. It’s not so much the danger of a NATO attack on the north but more provocations by Pristina aimed at causing a crisis there that then justifies armed intervention by the internationals (KFOR and EULEX).

Many have said that this was the time to settle the issue of the north as a continued frozen conflict is good for no one. Indeed, stalemate leaves everyone on edge and unable to begin living a normal, peaceful existence. The best outcome would be a compromise solution of the sort that the Quint refuses to support. But any effort to use force – or allow the Kosovo government and security forces to do so – would lead to the worst outcomes. Efforts by NATO and EULEX to force the northerners to accept Pristina control have failed. Any further attempt to enforce Pristina “authority” north of the Ibar would be unlikely to fare better now. Force could lead to violence and, if that gets out of hand, the outcome remains what it always has been – partition and/or ethnic flight. The best Plan B might be for the Quint to reconsider now as the opportunity exists. If one or the other Quint country blocks this, then maybe its time for the issue to revert to the UN Security Council and the full Contact Group.

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

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29 Responses

  1. Gzim

    The mistake here is following an agenda dictated by those who wanted to use this as an opportunity to make Serbia make greater concessions. It was obvious as soon as the US and Germany failed to put any pressure on the Albanians.

    In order for there to have been a success, an intelligent person would first address the easy things that would benefit both sides (e.g. removing court fees and taxes being charged to Serbs who made claims to return to their homes, joint projects on reconstruction of destroyed homes).

    No instead they had push the HARDEST issue first and it was doomed to failure, So now EVERYONE looks bad. Ashton, Reeker and Merkel must take the blame for this, as they only wasted everyone’s time and made things worse for Albanians, Serbians, Gorani and the others living in Kosovo.

  2. Mirel

    Tuesday gonverment of Serbia will agree with Ashton’s plan and all serbophiles like Gallucci will sing a different song.
    40 thousand people in North or 4 twon halls will impose their will to 1.7 milion people.Is like four towns halls in California or Massachusetts, to impose their will to the entire state.
    A RS plan which have advocated Mr.Gallucci before is already failed.

    Serbs never learn from the past.If they would have accepted partition in 1999,theyr would have taken the North,if they would have accepted Ahtisari Plan in 2008 they would have enjoyed a lot of rights today.
    Every day goes by and Serbia gets worse offer.Serbs never know how to cut the losses.they think they are rulers of the region and still think that they run thinks in Kosovo.

    …If one or the other Quint country blocks this, then maybe its time for the issue to revert to the UN Security Council and the full Contact Group….

    R u serious Mr.Gallucci?You want another Syria or Rawanda?

    “Uncle” Putin, cut run out of Balkan in 2003.
    Few days ago showed Cyprus the door.One year ago left Gaddafi died on the hands of Bengasians.The only thing they are concern about is Syria,not Serbia.And they are losing ground in Sryria too.

    I am not advocating another Storm,unfortonately if serbs say NO like they did in Croatia,the Storm is the only option left.

  3. PEN

    This is a very volatile situation. This isn’t 1995 or 1999, but 2013. Even if Belgrade opts for humiliation over northern Kosovo for the sake of some nebulous EU entry date, there is absolutely no guarantee the Serbs in Kosmet would play ball. In fact the opposite is probably the case, given their determination not to be driven out by the Albanians. The Kosovo Albanian leadership is desperate for Belgrade to sign up to the ‘plan’ because they know their EU aspirations are inextricably linked with those of the Serbs. Like siamese twins one isn’t going anywhere without the other so far as the EU is concerned. Even if the trick fails, NATO is not prepared to go to war with the northern Serbs as it would generate bad publicity. If there were serious incidents and Serb casualties or ethnic cleansing, Serbia would be forced to intervene instead of the usual pathetic hand wringing. The Albanians on the other hand wouldn’t dare lift a finger without American help.

  4. Fabio

    Gerry, it wasn’t really the Quint that has been pushing the recent agenda. Just 2 of the 5 really (okay maybe also the UK, but they’re starting to see the Kosovo paradigm effect on them now as well vis-a-vis Scotland). I think the Italians are starting to get a little sick of it all, as the delays are now affecting their investments in Serbia.

    1. Fadil

      @Lt Rinas,

      “Well, it seems it’s time to polish boots”.

      Yes of course. Probably want to say this means 40,000 + 1 +1 +1 …….

  5. John O'Brien

    It is heartening to finally read an intelligent and pragmatic analysis of the situation. There is very little informed comment available for public consumption. Well Done, Gerard.
    I am an English management consultant and Jungian analyst living in Belgrade.

    1. Fadil

      @John O’Brien,

      Its hard to find something “pragmatic” in Gerard’s observations. He wants to say, for example, that Serbs in northern Kosovo may oppose integration in Kosovo institutions more than Serbs in eastern Croatia. Given the situation this is very strange. As it is known, Serbs in eastern Croatia (Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and western Sirmium), which are bordered with Serbia signed peace agreement with Croatian government once it was agreed previously by Croatian and Serbian presidents Tudjman and Milosevic. Just remember Vukovar and we know what happened there.

      The same situation in northern Kosovo in regard to geographical position. Northern Serbs oppose integration (peaceful one) since they are supported to do so. Mr. Gerard can not make people fool since we live in the region and know perfectly that this is not true. Personally I have a list of some 4,000 Serbs from northern Kosovo signing contracts based in laws of Republic of Kosovo. Just from one institution and not counting other institutions plus demands from Serbs in the north for services from Kosovo administrative office in the north.

      And they are behaving NOW in such way even though threatened from Belgrade. What would they do if there was no more support from Belgrade to oppose Pristina??? Apart of several people who would oppose that, mainly would have acceptance as to the new situation.

  6. Lt Rinas

    Gerard, I believe that it is obvious that these two cases (Eastern Slavonia in Croatia and North of K&M in Serbia) are hard to compare due to different status of these two entities. Eastern Slavonia was a region inside the state which was universally recognised (Croatia) and north of Kosovo and Metohia is a region of an entity which has still udefined status ranging from wannabe state and an autonomous province in Serbia. The pressure from USA and EU on Belgrade to accept “agreement” only confirms the latter sentence. I also strongly believe that it is not a good moment now to speak about final settlement for the north of K&M.
    Anyway, I’m still polishing my boots, somebody said that it will be “storm 2.0″…lol

    1. Fadil

      @Lt Rinas,

      “Kosovo and Metohia is a region of an entity which has still udefined status ranging from wannabe state and an autonomous province in Serbia.”

      OK, but if Kosovo authorities want to show you something else why you have complains against “autonomous province in Serbia”??? Secondly, OK you polish your boots since there some other guys in Kosovo who already polished boots and wait for such people like you so “bela kuga” of 40,000 in Serbia is adding more. You are welcomed but how you will get back, there is a question. Of course, if you come in peace, you will get back normally. In some other circumstances, as I said, some guys will give you proper welcome.

  7. PEN

    The Serbian government degenerates into a panic stricken mess when it comes to EU integration. Even if some vague promise of joining the so-called much coveted club is granted next week or whenever, Serbia won’t gain entry for the foreseeable future. The Germans and Brits will make damn sure of that. As for Kosovo, well forget it. Nobody wants a crime infested black hole in their midst. Belgrade needs to display some backbone for a change. Brussels can’t afford to ignore business opportunities in Serbia where an intelligent young workforce is at their disposal. The funds will still be there. There is a principle at stake. Abandoning the northern Serbs to the wolves in Pristina will backfire spectacularly. And it won’t achieve anything. Play hardball with the Albanians. It’s the only language they understand. Continue negotiating but on your terms.

  8. John McNewman

    This problem about Kosovo is just the shame for the whole world ! There is no independence country called Kosovo(Kosova) , that is Serbian teritory where Serbs were already living before centuries ago , so long before Albanians came from the Middle East . Albanians are destroying ortodox monasteries , and Serbian graves , that cryme can only do someone , who is a dirty animal . Albanians killed so many Serbian kidds , and they hide the black market , where they are trading Serbian organs . Any state that is on the side of the Albanians is making a big mistake by supporting that terrorists . The true must be revaled to the world !

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