Serbia, Kosovo and EU enlargement

Only Washington can push Pristina to accept a compromise over the north. Yet despite the fact that the Ahtisaari Plan clearly allows them to have a decision-making body, the US says it doesn’t accept “executive powers” for any association of Kosovo-Serb municipalities. Perhaps the US and Pristina should now talk directly with the northerners and stop holding EU membership hostage.

Suggested Reading

Conflict Background


By Gerard M. Gallucci

The EU has problems, lots. The currency union turns out to have been a very effective mechanism for German growth and wealth at the expense of crippling debt for most of the other countries trapped within the euro. Low interest rates in Germany, high rates – and therefore ready cheap money – in the Mediterranean economies simply operationalized the imbalances intrinsic to a single currency serving quite different sovereign states. The Germans reaped the profits and complain of having to bail out the southern European slackers. The German Economic Minister now warns against allowing France to exceed debt limits and the ECB from lending any more money to those Italians.

All things being equal, the euro’s problems should not by themselves lessen the advantages of bringing those European countries outside the EU into membership. The EU per se is not the same as the single currency. Europe has effectively grown larger since the fall of the Eastern Bloc. NATO walked up to the borders of the former Soviet Union and is knocking at the door – for what advantage? – even on Georgia. The EU has added new states as well. It is the natural political and economic counterpart to the military alliance. Both stake their claim on the belief that Europe is more prosperous and more secure if internal barriers come down and it acts in common. The political and economic requirements of EU membership are seen to make democracy, transparency and free market capitalism more robust. By this reasoning, it would be clearly in Europe’s interest to bring in the Balkans (and Turkey) as soon as possible. Let the process of becoming EU members catalyze progress in these countries and cement them into the Western world.

Yet there is no denying a certain lack of eagerness for EU enlargement, perhaps with reason. Things don’t appear to have worked out so well with Romania and Bulgaria. But there may be deeper causes too. Electorates remain instinctively nationalistic and increasingly wonder about the costs of the union – including not only money but hosting “foreign” workers. Germany especially appears to be resisting EU enlargement for reasons quite apart from problems with the euro and they relate directly to its position on Serbia and Kosovo. Berlin’s policy toward the two has long appeared to be focused on keeping Albanians happy by giving them what they want outside Germany. An independent Kosovo cost Germany nothing and allowed the “return” of Roma and Albanians that no longer could cite war and persecution. It also conveniently made it less likely to have to deal with Serbian accession.

Germany has been singled minded in its effort to find reasons to keep Serbia from moving forward on membership. Despite occasional obfuscation, it clearly has conditioned getting even a date for membership talks on Belgrade surrendering the north to Pristina and recognizing Kosovo. Whatever the other European Quint members might be ready to accept, Berlin seems dug in. Chancellor Merkel just doesn’t want to add Serbia. The US appears pleased to play along with the Germans. (It’s been mostly the troops from both countries that sought to use force to bully the northern Kosovo Serbs in 2011.) The US can keep Kosovo a European problem by steadfastly supporting Pristina and letting Berlin take the lead.

Only Washington can push Pristina to accept a compromise over the north. But the US says it doesn’t accept “executive powers” for any association of Kosovo-Serb municipalities. This despite the fact the the Ahtisaari Plan clearly allows them to have a decision-making body. Thus the Serbian government remains caught between the demand to surrender Kosovo and its wish to move forward on EU membership. Prime Minister Dacic reportedly told the press that the EU and US seem to want his government to make a deal and then enforce it on the north. But as it can’t work that way, why should he negotiate over this. Let the US and Pristina talk directly with the northerners. Now there’s an idea.  And stop holding EU membership hostage?

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 recently-released policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

To read other articles by Gerard for TransConflict, please click here.

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



65 Responses

  1. Fadil


    Why, for instance, Serbia is not making “compromise” with Albanians in Presevo valley (southern Serbia)?? There are much more Albanians livigg there than Serbs in northern Kosovo. I think Serbia should give an example of “compromise” in Presevo valley then Kosovo would consider the same.

  2. Bob

    Great article. As always Serbia needs to be very aware of American continuous distortion of justice and human rights. Kosovo Serbs live in an effective ghetto since Albanians only desire to form mono-ethnic, retrograde “greater albania”. There are no Serbs in Kosovo’s southern towns (Pristina has about a few dozens, other towns almost empty of Serbs). So the only place where Serbs live freely in Kosovo is the north, away from Albanian provocations and nationalistic madness. That’s why Albanian nationalism is so focused on the north. They want to expel Serbs and ethnically cleanse this region. The main focus should be preventing Americans and Germans from meddling in Serbian politics, including their arrogant ambassadors in Belgrade. Serbs as a nation dealt before with heinous powers.

  3. Mirel

    Ahtissari Plan is giving serbs in North special status,but not a RS status wich proved to be desastrous for BH.
    Imagine if serbs have their way, and for example Kosovo gonverment want to sign a agreement with USA or England,Krsimir Pantic or whoever is the mayor of N.Mitro will veto…5% can not impose their POLITICAL will to the rest of 95%.
    As far as I know serbs will have the same status as Germans in Belgum,in return for Serbia not to block Kosovo entering UN.
    Anything more for serbs will be wrong.We dont need anothe RS in Balkan.

  4. Artan

    The special status the Serbians propose for the North is a lot less than that already existing for the people in Quebec or even Hong Kong. Come to think of it, such a model would be good for Kosovo as well; Kosovo to be able to administer it’s own affairs within Serbia’s borders, and the North to do so within Kosovo’s boundaries. This way checks and balances are created for all sides. No, there isn’t independence in the strict meaning of the word, but there is de-facto independence for the Kosovo Albanians from any interference from Belgrade and they would be in charge of the territory in which they live, they’d even get their own passports, if they want them.

    Here’s the problem with Ahtisarri, and I mentioned this once before; trusting the international “neutral” party with the control in key areas. Can you imagine if an international such as Peter Feith, Borg-Olivier or even Jolyan were appointed? and that’s exactly what the quint would do and you know it.
    No, the proposal for the Region of North Kosovo is a compromise in and of itself. It’s a HUGE concession by the Serbians. One that I personally don’t agree with (I still say partition is the only solution or we’re going to end up with the ugly twin of FYROM or worse…Gracanica 2013.)

    At the end of the day the Serbians need to be in control of the money collected at the gates, money donated by Belgrade and in control of their own territory in which they live.

    The Serbians in Kosovo have seen how much ordinary Albanians in Kosovo are being robbed by the politicians in Pristina, they don’t want to have the same thing happen to them. Otherwise Thaci’s guys will put a strangle-hold on them at the first opportunity.

    1. Fadil


      This is common Albanian name but seems you are to much misinformed. Kosovo is independent state and that is finished once for all. Even Serbian leaders say it very openly. The north of Kosovo already has many rights, never seen in any part of the world for such small group of people. There are much more Albanians living in southern Serbia but don’t have even 5% of rights offered for Serbs in Kosovo.

      Serbs should realize, once in their life, that they are just ordinary people as the others and can’t be more privileged as they are now already too much privileged. They can speak their own language in Kosovo Assembly which is not the case with 400K of Hungarians in Serbia who can’t imagine that i.e speaking Hungarian in Serbian Assembly.

      As for robbing, Serbia is second to none. Just recalling for Saric and his billions of money laundering and tons of cocaine. Then billions stolen in cases such as Agrobanka (more than 300 million euro), affair with drugs (more than 400 milion euros stolen), “patriotic stealing” of more than 2 billion euros, Kolubara (more than 100 million euro stolen), NIS (more than 2 billion EUR) etc etc.

  5. Mr. Gallucci suggests “Let the U.S. and Pristina talk directly with the northerners.” There is an explanation why U.S. and Germany do not want that. Any attempt to forcibly impose Pristina institutions to Serbs in the north, would lead to organized armed resistance of the Serbs and destabilizing the region. Germany does not want to accept that risk. The only way to reduce risk and break the resistance of the northerners is if the Serbian government denies any support for their compatriots in the north. This is why Serbia is the main target of the pressure.

    1. The latest news on discussions between Belgrade, Pristina and the EU suggest a possible deal developing. It seems the Serbian government is attentive to the realities of the north in seeking local competency for police and courts and commitment to keeping Pristina security forces out of the north. The local competencies are already outlined in the Ahtisaari Plan and would require only tweaking to take into account that northern Kosovo Serbs would not accept any direct Pristina role. But any deal reflecting northern realities would be difficult for at least some Albanians to accept. It remains a good idea to include northern Kosovo Serbs in the discussion and also to begin educating the Kosovo Albanian public to the need for compromise. The US could play a lead role in this.

      Part of a deal would have to include, however, clearly limiting the role of the association of municipalities to local matters and some level of participation of northern Kosovo Serbs in central institutions. Belgrade would not need to formally recognize Kosovo independence but would have to drop efforts to block Kosovo membership in international organizations. The international community would also have to accept playing a continued and, most importantly, clearly neutral role vis-a-vis linkages between the north and Pristina.

      All these amount to a lot of “moving parts” for anything to actually be agreed, accepted and implemented. But the moment seems right. And the key remains the US and its own willingness to accept and and support real compromise.

  6. Mirel

    @ Mr.Gallucci,
    Unfortunately as I anticipated your bodies in North will not accept anything .I told u guys that northen serbs will like the statu quo because is the only way to make millions without working.
    It looks like a Storm 2.0 is likely to happened,since more USA and German troops will arrive in April.

    BELGRADE — It is certain that assemblies of four northern Kosovo municipalities will not accept that a community of Serb municipalities is governed by Kosovo laws.

  7. Mirel

    …But any deal reflecting northern realities would be difficult for at least some Albanians to accept….

    It looks serbs are not accepting the deal and need to be educated,not albanians.

    1. Serbs in northern Kosovo do not want to be ruled by Albanians. Why do Albanians would like to have direct authority over the territory where there is no Albanians? Pristina has to be understood – northern Kosovo inhabited by Serbs, not Albanians. On the other hand, any violent attempt to introduce the Pristina institutions in the north of Kosovo, could lead to an escalation of violence and destabilization of the region. In this sense, as far as the U.S. military to come, the problem will have to be resolved through negotiations.

  8. Mirel

    @Milan Rakas,
    OK,followoing you ligis ,Albanians in South Serbia dont want to be ruled by Serbia and even held e referendum in 1992 for this thing where 99.99% of them wanted to join Kosovo.
    Secondly,North Kosovo is not entirely serb,there are albanian villages there and 20 thousand albanians should return in their apartments and houses after the agreement.
    Serbs are majority in North but but overwhelmenly majority if albanians return back.

    The deal is good for everyone who wants peace and move on.
    Serbs in North want statu quo because they lose money.I bet u that they will be upset if Kosovo and Serbia exchanges territorries.The powerful mayers in North will be some unknown mayers of some town in Serbia.No more smuggeling…

    1. We can not abolish the human rights of Albanians or Serbs, under the pretext that somewhere there is a crime or laziness. As the Albanian south of the Ibar not want to be ruled by the Serbs, and Serbs north of the Ibar River, do not want to be ruled by Albanians. If the Albanians were right then, then the Serbs are right now. It’s easier to Albanians deny control over the territory in which they do not live, than that the Serbs be the subject of ethnic cleansing.

  9. Mirel

    After Storm 1.0 was carried out the region become very stable and Croatia now will be a mamber of EU.Croatia become very stable because of Storm 1.0,and u have to admit it.

    Look at Bosnia, RS is making everything possible to make that state non functional.

    Kosovo can not have another RS in its territory.
    It will be worse than a Strorm 2.0,having 4 mayers of North to veto everything that Prishtina decides from foreign policies to economy.5% can not impose the will to the other 95%.It is not right.

    Get this deal and move on,if u want peace and stability in the region.

    1. Serbs in northern Kosovo do not want to be like the Republika Srpska. They want an order that will unconditionally guarantee that the Serbs would not be asimilated or expelled. The expulsion of Serbs from Croatia was supported by Slobodan Milosevic. Now this is not the case. Serbia supports the will of the Serbs in northern Kosovo at reasonable rates, taking care to achieve true geopolitical balance.

      1. Fadil

        @Milan Rakas,

        You were asked why the same principle doesn’t apply for Albanians living in southern Serbia of Kosovo northern Serb do not want living in Kosovo?? Actually, Kosovo northern Serbs are the last group to deserve anything as nobody attacked them while they attacked the others i.e expelling more than 10,000 Albanians, and killed many of them, doing ethnic cleansing in the north. Nevertheless, Kosovo leaders were too much generous and offered for 40K of northern Serbs very high level of autonomy while Serbia did not offer nothing for 100K of Albanians in southern Serbia. What kind of justice is this.

    1. Now we can expect aggressive nationalist demonstrations by both sides. Mr. Gallucci suggests that the U.S. could help to alleviate the dissatisfaction of Albanian Nationalists. In Belgrade, nationalists must be controled by Serbian government.

  10. Benkt

    Over 2/3rds of the land in Kosovo is legally owned by Ethnic Serbians. That is why the negotiations demanded Serbia transfer it from Krusevac to Pristina; so the Albanians can burn the books like they did to the ones they got their hands on in September 2000 ;)

  11. Fadil

    We have a god news:Co-operative Republic of Guyana recognized Republic of Kosovo as independent and sovereign state thus becoming 99th United Nations member (out of 193) to have recognized Republic of Kosovo as sovereign state.

  12. Pingback : Kosovo: Painting Into a Corner | TransConflict

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