Kosovo – more negotiations

For progress to be made, there needs to be a second set of negotiations, this time with the northern Kosovo Serbs. As long as they resist implementation, little can be done peacefully. The EU should support Belgrade in finding a negotiated result rather than continue to threaten progress on membership, whilst the US can help by making clear to Pristina that further flexibility may be required.

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By Gerard M. Gallucci

It’s too early to say that last month’s agreement between Belgrade and Pristina is unraveling.  But the way forward is certainly not clear.  Pristina is fidgeting but so far patient while Belgrade seems to be getting nowhere in convincing the north Kosovo Serbs to cooperate.  Belgrade has alternated between warnings of consequences for northern leaders who don’t follow its lead and suggestions that it is open to working with them on defining the details for implementation.  Back-and-forth about a possible referendum has given way to a possible constitutional court challenge.  Meanwhile, the EU keeps reminding Belgrade that it expects implementation and the clock is ticking down to June.

As noted before, the change being demanded of the north Kosovo Serbs needs more time than the next two months to be absorbed.  The northerners need space to consider their own bottom lines.  And everyone needs more time to fill in crucial details of an agreement that seems to place the north firmly within a Kosovo framework.  Clarity about how continued links to Belgrade – and Pristina’s exact role in funding northern structures (without controlling them) – fit into the overall approach might help the northerners think about their options.

Implicit behind the 15-point agreement has been elements already contained within the Ahtisaari Plan, such as continued funding from Belgrade and “enhanced” competencies for North Mitrovica with university education and a hospital.  The Plan also adds depth to an understanding of how the Association of Serb Municipalities could work.  In some ways, the Belgrade-Pristina agreement seems to go a bit further than Ahtisaari – such as the separate regional police commander and northern appeals court – but it doesn’t explicitly incorporate important pieces of the Plan.  The EU should stop fussing over deadlines and instead focus on bringing the outline agreement into the context of what the Ahtisaari Plan already provides and adapting it into a framework for implementation.

For such progress to be made, there needs to be a second set of negotiations, this time with the northern Kosovo Serbs.  As long as they resist implementation, little can be done peacefully.  Belgrade faces this challenge directly as it cannot simply run over the northerners.  It may threaten measures against those who resist but the most likely immediate result of cutting support or trying to remove local leaders would be to cast the north off on its own.  This could lead to violence and/or partition.  As the the EU presumably does not want either, they should support Belgrade in finding a negotiated result rather than continue to threaten progress on membership.  The US can help by making clear to Pristina that further flexibility may be required.

Everyone else can help by refraining from painting the agreement as some form of recognition by Serbia of Kosovo statehood.   The agreement should be seen instead as a possibly useful practical approach to the continued disagreement over Kosovo status.  Yes, Belgrade’s decision to be practical about its loss of control over Kosovo is a step forward.  But it does not abandon Serbia’s position that Kosovo is not an independent state.  Indeed, it offers the only real approach that allows practical adjustments while both Belgrade and Pristina remain unable to agree on fundamentals.

This is how it works:  Belgrade can allow the northern Kosovo Serbs to be subject to Kosovo’s legal and political framework – but not to Pristina’s actual control – by seeing it not as an independent state but, in effect, as a province beyond control.  The northern Kosovo Serbs can accept being part of Kosovo in the same light and also as a way to keep alive Serbia’s presence in the territory.  Meanwhile, Pristina can continue to assert its statehood.  This might be seen as a form of self-deception.  But it might be more productive to view it as artful ambiguity, the kind that allows movement forward while people on both sides of the Ibar continue to fundamentally disagree about which country they live in.

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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24 Responses

  1. Benkt

    While I agree with most of the article, I do not agree with the part where the Albanian post-2008 laws are implemented in the North. They were not promulgated by the SRSG and are in violation of UNMIK Regulation 1999/24 and are thus invalid. Letting the Albanians get away with violating this will simply let them run rampant. No, the only solution is the right to self-determination for the Northerners. If they keep resisting they will accomplish this.

    1. Fadil

      UN SC resolution 1244 is valid in the entire territory of Kosovo and clearly abolished all Serbian laws. UN SRSG Zarif CLEARLY stated that local elections of Serbia in Kosovo were in VIOLATION of UN SC resolution 1244 and hence ILLEGAL ones.

      Even Serbia did accept (by Brussels agreement) that the Kosovo laws are exclusively applicable in Kosovo.

      As for right to self-determination i never heard a very small minority could realize such right. We can just imagine the world if such right would be applicable to every minority group. Nevertheless, if you think 40K Serbs in the north have right to self-determination why that was not applicable for 100K of Albanians in southern Serbia??

      Lastly, northerners may still resist and harm themselves in continuation until they destroy themselves. I don’t think this is good advice.

      Their “resistance” would be meaningful if they would consist large group but they are just 2% of total population in Kosovo.

  2. Fadil

    “This could lead to violence and/or partition.”

    Gerard, this is indeed ridiculous. You are not overestimating the power of Serbs in the north, you are multiplying it with factor of 100. They are just 2% of population in Kosovo and they can resist as long as Belgrade supports them. Once Belgrade stops funding them, northern “resistance” simply falls.

    So how such “partition” would occur?? How northern Serbs can live??

  3. PEN

    As usual fadil you’re twisting reality to suit your fantasy world. You interpret the situation in Kosovo from your own prejudiced viewpoint. Theatrically using uppercase caps to emphasise your crass ranting only exposes you to further ridicule. You are clearly underestimating the power of the Kosovo Serbs otherwise you would have ‘dealt’ with them years ago. You tried that once on your own, and were sent packing back to Pristina with your tail between your legs, remember? You guys couldn’t disrupt a barn dance without NATO backing you up. So let’s put that notion to bed for once and for all. The Serbs of the north have the support of powerful factors in Serbia that would not tolerate a mass exodus or serious violence. A solution without them is a non starter. And to quote you; your views and extremists like you, are irrelevant.

    1. Fadil


      Your wishful and manipulative way of thinking is known. Let me say one thing. Kosovo authorities can organize in matter of days 50,000 troops and solve the northern issue by force. If 50,000 fighters were able to fight Serbian army on 1998 and 1999 its not e big issue doing it now.

      Apparently, as usually, you missed the point. Its not a matter resolving by force northern issue. There are other means to solving it. It is huge lie and propaganda saying that 40,000 of Serbs can be a threat to 2 million people in Kosovo.

      Who is right here?? Just remember how many times I said that Kosovo laws will be respected and the north remains part of Kosovo? How many times I said only Ahtisaari and nothing more i.e Ahtisaari plus, special status or partition. Nothing from that. Serbia signed the deal and nothing out Ahtisaari plan.

      So its clear – time told us I was RIGHT, you and Gallucci were WRONG.

      I know, it hurts you but as I said in many occasions I don’t have cure for you. The only cure for you, and other Serbian extremist, is accepting the reality that Kosovo is independent state and the north of Kosovo remains integral part of Republic of Kosovo. Every other dreams will hurt you more. If I repeat American Ambassador to UN on 2007, Alejandro Wolff who (according to wikileaks cable) told to minister Jeremic: “Wolff concluded that he hoped there would be “no more bad Serbian decisions in the offing” and “no more self-inflicted wounds for Serbia. After a long pause during which Jeremic hid his face in his hands, the FM acknowledged the message and the meeting concluded.”

  4. Amer

    Vucic is going down to talk to the good people of the northern municipalities on Sunday. As a former minister of propaganda, he may have some skill at persuasion that can convince the nervous that they’re not being abandoned and the obstinate that resistance is futile.

    While pushing too hard for a deadline might possibly backfire, simply letting the government off the hook seems a bad idea. I’m sticking with my suggestion of a conditional date – as soon as the agreements have been implemented to a stage that makes reneging impossible, talks start.

    Kosovo has essentially won, so if the EU goes ahead as promised with work on the visa-free travel arrangement and the SAA they should have little problem (except with VV’s shenanigans) in waiting for the Serbs to finally decide how they’re going to explain to themselves what they’re doing. Mr. Vucic may be able to help here. Once they’ve made peace with themselves, they’ll be in a better position to talk to Prishtina.

    1. Leaving aside the question of who “won,” no one should be left off the hook, neither Belgrade nor Pristina. Belgrade has work to do with the northerners. But Pristina will still need to prove itself by accepting practical implementation of an eventual plan. Agreeing to a 15 point point outline was just the starting point for both sides. Nothing can be done until the northern Kosovo Serbs feel the future of their communities and linkages to Serbia will remain secure.

  5. PEN

    Oh dear little fadil, grow up. I was RIGHT and you were WRONG, nah, nah ,nah, so there you beastly man! Am I debating with a nine year old here. Striking a triumphalist tone from that stagnant hellhole you call home would be laughable it wasn’t so depressing. Who’s won what exactly? Take a step back and look at yourself and your ‘country.’ You’ve achieved nothing. Life on the ground will change little, if at all. Meanwhile you’re still without a job, or an economy, or a functioning legal system, etc. etc. etc.

  6. Fadil


    You are living, apparently, in another planet. Since you deal so much about Kosovo I would urge you visiting it. Your childish way of blaming Kosovo is not surprising anybody. Just take a look what kind of state you have – Serbia. How many fact I gave for immense crime and corruption there. Just look at the last one since Serbian is your mother tongue: The title is “In Serbia NOTHING WITHOUT BRIBERY” so it seems in Serbia even when you breath the air you have to pay for it to corrupted people there.

    Since you have such corrupted and criminal state you want somehow hiding it.


  7. Pingback : Fear and loathing in Kosovo | TransConflict

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