With KFOR's extended deadline for the Serbs to remove the barricades in the north set to expire, there is a distinct possibility of violence should the use of force once again prevail over dialogue and status neutrality.
With support for EU membership in Serbia dropping, the Kosovo Albanians refusing to compromise and no sign that Serbs in the north are ready to surrender, it remains far from clear what the Quint's Plan B may be.
The EU appears to be under pressure from Germany to only grant Serbia candidate status - without a date to start accession negotiations - and only under specific conditions that would push Belgrade to surrender the north on Pristina's terms.
The example of the Brčko District, in the north-east corner of Bosnia and Herzegovina, could serve as a sustainable solution for the disputed status of the north of Kosovo.
Primer Brčko Distrikta, u severno-istočnom delu Bosne i Hercegovine, mogao bi poslužiti kao održivo rešenje spornog statusa severnog Kosova.
Finding a compromise solution on customs and the North - one that would help de-escalate the current confrontation - will require both Serbs and Albanians to abandon their maximalist positions, and the internationals to pursue a genuinely status neutral approach.
Through its illegal, illogical and immoral actions, NATO is reducing the Serbs' room for cooperation and peaceful rejection of Kosovo institutions, and setting the stage for more violence and perhaps full partition.
It seems clear that KFOR and EULEX were responsible for the initiation and escalation of violence in Jarinje in north Kosovo on September 27th, and an independent inquiry is urgently required to establish the facts.
A number of myths about the north of Kosovo - including that there is a military/police solution to its refusal to accept rule by Pristina and that EULEX is acting legally in seeking to impose Kosovo customs in the north - continue to jeopardize peace and security.
A speech by Lord Hylton, opening a debate on Kosovo in the House of Lords on September 15th 2011, in which he calls on the British government to support a peace building process centered around the monasteries of Pec and Decani.
With KFOR clearly acting in violation of its UN Security Council mandate in supporting Pristina's ban on Serbian imports, Kosovo Serbs are within their rights to expect EULEX to follow status neutral procedures should it insist on doing customs in the north.
A European solution to the Kosovo issues requires that boundaries be broken down through negotiation and compromise, rather than reinforced through unilateralism and the use of violence.
Though Serbia and Kosovo have reached a compromise agreement on customs seals, Pristina's efforts to impose its customs officers and fee collection at the northern boundary will likely became a further source of violence.
KFOR's imposition of Pristina's trade blockade and General Buhler's role in 'negotiating' political agreements both exceed NATO's UN mandate; a mandate that the Quint countries – led by the US and Germany – have chosen to disregard.
Creating positive relations between Serbia and Kosovo requires a patient process of peacebuilding; one that the international community is ill-equipped to conduct and unprepared to support.
The myth of the “hoodlums” does an injustice to the northern Kosovo Serbs and seriously underestimates what is at stake in the north, and what cost may have to be paid for the Quint effort to hand the north to Pristina before leaving.
Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, recently executed a dangerous gamble in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo by seizing the border posts between the region and Serbia. His actions illustrate the changing balance of power between Americans and Europeans in the region, and the important role of Serbia’s primary opposition party in resolving the Kosovo conflict.
Though the EU has attempted to exploit the Kosovo crisis to begin openly pressing Belgrade to give up the north in order to enhance its membership prospects, it seems most likely that the Quint's attempt at blackmail will not work.
The demands of the Serbian population in Northern Kosovo - which Pristina has misleadingly sought to characterize as a parallel structure plagued by crime and instability - are simply to enjoy the same right to self-determination as the Kosovo Albanians.
An interview with Gerard Gallucci, the former UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, in which he discusses how the actions of Pristina and the support of NATO has - by hardening the line between Serbs and Albanians - made partition ever more likely.
The behavior of all sides in the current customs dispute demonstrates that — as far as the locals are concerned — the question of who has sovereignty is an indelibly zero-sum dispute; one that the respective local elites must be left to settle on their own.
In light of the unilateralism and brute force employed by Pristina in the north, Serbia must escape the stalemate that currently defines its policy towards Kosovo and adopt a stronger policy towards both the Quint and the EU.
Though talks between Pristina and Belgrade are likely to continue at some stage in the near future, the recent violence is an important reminder that negotiations are determined not just on the negotiating table, but also on the streets of the north of Kosovo.
An 'Ahtisaari Plus approach', offering a form of special autonomy for the north, could provide the basis for a compromise between Belgrade and Pristina; one that might also win sufficient support from the northern Kosovo Serbs to be viable.
‘Ahtisari Plus’ pristup, koji bi ponudio oblik specijalne autonomije za sever, mogao bi biti osnova za kompromis između Beograda i Prištine - kompromis koji bi takođe mogao dobiti dovoljno podrške od strane kosovskih Srba sa severa kako bi bio održiv.