Kosovo – an approach to settling the north emerging?

Dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade has moved surprisingly well since the new – supposedly radical nationalist – Serbian government took up its side late last year. The Quint will now have to convince Pristina to stop the violence against Serbs already under its authority.

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Conflict Background


By Gerard M. Gallucci

Dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade has moved surprisingly well since the new – supposedly radical nationalist – Serbian government took up its side late last year. The two Prime Ministers have met various times and the two Presidents may meet next month. Not all they have agreed to has been implemented as yet but progress has been made on “normalizing” their relations. Names are floating to serve as the agreed representatives in each other’s capitals, joint presence at the boundary crossings has begun (in some fashion) and now there seems to be an agreement on customs collection in the north. Along the way, Belgrade offered a “platform” that appears to open the door to further normalization in the context of finding a formula for local autonomy for the northern Kosovo Serb communities.

It’s been clear for a long time that at some point, Serbia and Kosovo would have to return to the Ahtisaari Plan as the basis for a compromise that avoided continued conflict or partition. Together with the UN Secretary General’s “six points,” it offers a number of pragmatic measures relating to policing, customs, the courts and infrastructure, plus local autonomy in education and culture, and special features for Mitrovica (the University and Hospital). The Plan provides mechanisms for ensuring transparency in Belgrade support to Serb municipalities in Kosovo. The continued refusal of the northern Kosovo Serbs to any involvement by Pristina in their local affairs points to the necessity to go a bit beyond Ahtisaari by filling in the details of implementation in a way that would provide linkages between the north and both Belgrade and Pristina while preserving local autonomy. This can be done if both sides approach the practical issues with compromise in mind.

The Kosovo Albanian side has long used threats of instability to seek to keep its Western supporters from entertaining any thought of compromise. Acts of violence against Kosovo Serbs in the south and provocations in southern Serbia and Macedonia have been slyly used to underscored the threat. But the Quint – mainly the US and EU – appear to have taken the point that force will not work in the north. Thus perhaps they have pressed Pristina to be more “pragmatic.”

The deal on customs may be the first fruit of this new Quint approach. Belgrade and Pristina have reportedly agreed to collect customs fees in the north on goods bound for the north (customs are already collected on goods for the south once they cross the Ibar). The fees will go into a fund to be used for development in the north. The fund reportedly will be held at a commercial bank under EU control with decisions made jointly by it, Pristina and Belgrade.

Details must be worked out. Belgrade says its side will be represented by a northern Kosovo Serb. Pristina reportedly wants the fund to be used as well for three Kosovo Albanian municipalities on the south side of the Ibar. (Would customs now collected in south Mitrovica then go into the new fund?) Agreement must also be reached on how the three parties will reach decisions and whether any of them will have a veto. The northerners will be especially sensitive to any sign that Pristina will be able to block use of funds in the north that are collected in the north. (There is already some differences within the northern Kosovo Serb community over whether to accept the fund.) But this apparent breakthrough could resolve one of the three remaining thorny issues concerning the north.

This would leave the other two: the local security and political structures in the north, and North Mitrovica. Both sides say that the local structures were discussed at the recent Dacic/Thaci meeting. Belgrade appears open to making them formally autonomous bodies within Kosovo with linkages both ways. The Quint will have to really push Pristina on this one and also convince the Albanian side to stop the violence against Serbs already under its authority. That would leave Mitrovica.

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, written by Gerard and entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.




17 Responses

  1. Dejan

    Why is only Belgrade and Pristina involved in the fund? If it’s a fund for the North it should have a representative from the NORTH involved!

    1. Gerard Gallucci

      According to the press, Belgrade intends for its rep to be a northern Kosovo Serb. But it’s not clear all details are firmly agreed between the two sides. Pristina seems to be claiming, for example, that the bank to be used for the fund will be one registered in Kosovo rather than some neutral one available to the EU.

  2. John

    Not a smart idea for Serbia to let the EU hold onto the money. Look what happened to the privatization money from Kosovo from Pillar IV. $400 million stuck in a bank in Frankfurt for years and now apparently some of the money has been given to the Albanians, without any discussion with Belgrade. I have a bad feeling that the Serbians are sending people with no ADR training to negotiate.

    1. Fatmir

      Why should those 400$ got to serbs, or ask them what to do.Albanians did work also for those institutions, and factories also.I dont see how a serb from Belgrade have more rights on a factory iin Kosovo , than somebody from Kosovo

  3. Dejan

    If it is left in a non-recognizing state bank it would be at least neutral. (Greece could use some extra money in its banks for example)

    1. theoneisniw

      Few of serbias recent moves-even proposing a Kosovo UN seat- are more Kosovo independence than his one! Pristina would become completely involved in all northern finances! Every penny spent on anything pristina would have enormous power and eventually Belgrade would be phased out!!!

    1. Fadil

      You are wrong. Dacic and other Serbian politicians would rather talk with Albania in relation to Kosovo. All Serbian leader know that Kosovo is lost forever so they want some pieces of it. That’s all the focus is in the north of Kosovo. Serbia, now, simply doesn’t care for Serbs south of river Ibar.

      In this way Serbia wants hitting two birds with one stone. Serbia wants the north of Kosovo, today, and half of Bosnia and Herzegovina, latter. Of course the so called “great Albania” is the way of achieving such goal. Great powers, however, don’t want that since it may create huge troubles in Balkans and elsewhere.

      1. theoneisniw

        I don’t think this is true because why is serbia going along with total involvement of pristina in all northern finances. So they are really abolishing all Belgrade ties with every aspect of Kosovo.

  4. PEN

    I agree ‘greater albania’ would cause huge problems in the Balkans and elsewhere. Given that Kosovo and Albania have deep rooted organised crime and corruption it would be a downright disaster. I see the third attempt to sell off telecoms has collapsed. Even that well known Serbophobe bigot Albright has pulled out! As far as the attacks on Serb civilians and cemeteries is concerned none of it is spontaneous. Somebody is always directing the thugs from behind the scenes. An agreement will be reached in that the Serb populated areas will have special status on a par with the RS. I think then there’ll be some form of acceptance by Belgrade of the reality on the ground such as it is.

    1. Fadil

      Its interesting how you do forget always “paradise” in Serbia. Just for example money laundering of drug dealer boss Darko Saric. It is reported that as much as FOUR billions of euros have been proved from investigators in Serbia and other FOUR billions of euros is suspected to be a part of that huge process of money laundering. More than 600 Serbian companies are involved in this criminal activity. Seems like all activities in Serbia are related to narcotic trading.

      Of course you also always “forget” other criminal activities such as last ones in Serbia like dirty jobs with medical drugs in amount of 300 million euros or stealing of more than 300 million euros in Agrobank. Now we hear some news about investigations in Kollubara case and hundreds of millions of euros stolen as well. These are just few cases since writing all of them in relation to organized crime and corruption in Serbia would require whole books.

      So PEN its just right dealing with enormous crime and corruption in Serbia. Its better for you to clean your yard before you look at the others. As for Serbs in Kosovo, they will have the offer already in place – Ahtisaari plan.

  5. Fadil

    Terrorists in the north of Kosovo today attacked two Serbs who work in Kosovo institutions. A car of Serbian policeman in Leposavic, working for Kosovo police, was hit while it was driven from his wife and a grenade is thrown against Serbian man working at Kosovo administrative office in Mitrovca north. This is continuation of series of armed attacks against Serbs working for Kosovo institutions and one may easily find presence of criminals in the north. Those criminals are in fear that more and more Serbs in the north of Kosovo are being part of Kosovo institutions and thus with grenades and guns want to prevent them.

  6. Fadil

    “The northerners will be especially sensitive to any sign that Pristina will be able to block use of funds in the north that are collected in the north.”

    This is indeed with no sense. By this logic all custom fees collected in Vermica (Kosovo-Albania border) should be used only for municipalities of Prizren and Dragash or fees collected at Montenegro from Peja and Istog etc!!! This is very strange.

    Actually fees collected in the north will be paid from all people in Kosovo, nut just those in the north hence all people of Kosovo should benefit from that money.

  7. Zoltan

    This would be a whole different game if there was a contingent of Russians in the North. The Germans would be on their best behavior. :)

  8. Pencil

    The reality on the ground is that the Albanians from Pristina does not control the North. Neither does Dacic. I think it’s time for everyone to accept this.

  9. Pingback : Kosovo: What About North Mitrovica? | TransConflict

  10. Pingback : Kosovo - trust and distrust | TransConflict

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