Kosovo – still a mess

With Kosovo still a mess, it remains to be seen whether the Quint will push Pristina to accept necessary compromises and whether EULEX will move to prevent a resumption of Pristina’s provocations on the ground.

By Gerard Gallucci

Za tekst na srpskom jeziku, pogledajte ovde

More than a month into the new year – and in the aftermath of disputed elections and the Marty report – the situation remains grim in Kosovo. It appears that the election will produce a hodgepodge government in Pristina of questionable stability and with no apparent program, except to continue waiting for the international community to grant full recognition for the work-in-progress state created by the US and EU.

The Kosovo leadership remains under a dark cloud of allegations of involvement in organ trafficking and corruption. According to leaked US information, a Dutch state secretary in 2007 said Kosovo was run by people “who live off crime”, whilst other leaked documents suggest that NATO sees prime minister Thaci as the “biggest fish” of organized crime there. The EU says that EULEX is ready to investigate the charges contained in the Marty report and EULEX claims to be able to protect any witnesses indicated in the evidence that it is waiting for Mr. Marty to supply. But doubts exist about the ability of EULEX to do an investigation of the Pristina leadership free from the influence of the local Kosovo Albanians. (EULEX already has a questionable record of carrying out its rule-of-law mandate in the status-neutral manner it pledged to the UNSC in November 2008.) Marty does not trust EULEX to be able to protect his witnesses and the Human Rights Watch apparently agrees, as it has called for an independent prosecutor and an effective witness protection scheme.

The Kosovo Albanians meanwhile continue to obsess over the north, with charges that the internationals have not done enough to impose Pristina’s institutions there. They have also shamefully attacked, by name, UN staff working as peacekeepers north of the Ibar. The Pristina press has been repeating charges that the UN sides with the local Serbs and that EULEX has not done enough to bring to justice those behind isolated, mostly symbolic acts of violence against property and empty police cars. (It is worth remembering that the only serious injury associated with political violence in the last 12 months – the death of a local Bosniak doctor, beloved by neighbors, from a grenade explosion – was during the Kosovo government’s provocative attempt last July to open an office in a mixed neighborhood in north Mitrovica. Police have not closed this investigation but locals believe the grenade was thrown from the Albanian side.) Pristina may still hope to stir the internationals to assume control in the north before any possible negotiations can get to the subject of possible special autonomy for the region. The United States is said to be pressuring EULEX to complete the job of subjecting the north to Pristina’s control before November, perhaps for the same reason.

The EU may be finally coming to recognize the problem they have on their hands with Kosovo. Statements from the EU chief in Pristina – as well as the American ambassador – have called for the new Kosovo government to not include those tainted by charges of corruption or crime. The International Steering Group (ISG, the pro-independence countries supposedly supervising Pristina) called recently for the government to respond to all questions and requests from EULEX for its investigation of the Marty allegations. But unless there is an independent prosecutor – something the EU and US have not yet called for – or Marty brings himself to risk his witnesses by turning them over to EULEX, it seems unlikely that any credible investigation – or “official” charges – will ever happen.

It is not yet clear whether the EU will use discussions between Belgrade and Pristina – that may begin in March – to hammer out a real compromise on Kosovo, including an outcome for the north that goes beyond the Ahtisaari Plan. It seems that everyone agrees that the agenda for talks should start with non-political issues, such as missing persons. But as the chief of Belgrade’s team for the talks has already noted, even so-called technical issues – such as telecommunications – are already political. And for their part, it appears from statements from the ISG and the US that the Quint countries – US, UK, Germany, France and Italy – see the talks as a way for Belgrade to come to accept the loss of Kosovo, including the north.

Kosovo not only remains a mess but it seems, for now, that the Quint is no closer to abandoning its effort to impose it on the Serbs through a one-sided outcome favoring Pristina. The first test may be whether they – meaning really the US – push Pristina to accept compromises such as allowing Serbian telecom and electricity providers to offer services in Kosovo, at least to local Serbs. The coming of spring will also provide another test, more directly related to peacekeeping: whether or not EULEX again allows and supports Pristina ‘s provocations on the ground.

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. Gerard is also a member ofTransCconflict’s advisory board. The views expressed in this piece are his own and do not represent the position of any organization. You can read more of Mr. Gallucci’s analysis of current developments in Kosovo and elsewhere by clicking here.

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