The referendum makes clear that the northern Kosovo Serbs reject the imposition of Pristina's institutions that has been the centerpiece of Quint policy for Kosovo since 2008.
Reactions to the referendum in the north suggest that it may be time to invite representatives of Serbs in Kosovo to sit at the negotiating table alongside Belgrade and Pristina.
Ahead of a referendum in the north on attitudes towards Pristina, there are growing signs that a number of actors - particularly KFOR and the EU - are beginning to grasp the realities of the north, including the need to treat the local leaders as legitimate interlocutors.
Should the Kosovo government end funding of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Administration in Mitrovica (UAM), it will cut-off one of the few institutional linkages between north Mitrovica and Pristina.
Having achieved its aim of demonstrating that the northern resistance to the imposition of Pristina institutions is a genuine popular response, and not the result of criminal coercion, it is now time to reconsider the planned 15th February referendum.
Self-congratulatory remarks by the International Civilian Representative for Kosovo juxtaposes oddly with demonstrations on both the Serbian and Kosovar Albanian sides that underscore that the situation... Read More
With the ISG saying it plans to leave by the end of 2012, even whilst outstanding issues - including the north - remain, the UN must be prepared to play an essential buffering role between the two sides in the status dispute.
The recent "four-point proposal" by Serbia's president, Boris Tadic, may providethe foundation for a lasting solution; one that could be accommodated within the framework of the Ahtisaari Plan.
The departure of EULEX from Kosovo would leave a vacuum in the international framework for rule of law which - in the absence of changes to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 - the UN would be required to fill.
A conference in Priština, entitled "How I see it" , provided young Serbs and Albanians from both Kosovo and Serbia, respectively, with an opportunity to discuss issues concerning reconciliation, transitional justice and EU integration.
Though various factors suggest a strong effort to remove north Kosovo as an element of contention between Serbia and the West, the possibility of continued stalemate remains and the danger of renewed conflict cannot be excluded.
Europe seems to be allowing Germany to lead it into a historic blunder by freezing Serbia out rather than bringing it in.
A peace initiative by Kosovo Serbs in the north opens the door to backing awayfrom further confrontation, and seems to suggest that they are prepared to enter a dialogue on the future of the north.
The new agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on the crossing points, plus the removal of some barricades, may provide an opportunity to finally end the current crisis in the north that began on July 25th.
By refusing to act within their UN peacekeeping mandate, but instead trying to change the facts on the ground through the use of force, EULEX and KFOR are pushing north Kosovo to the brink.
Beset with enormous - perhaps insurmountable - economic and political problems of their own, the Europeans seem uninterested and/or unable to support real solutions in the central Balkans.
TransConflict hereby presents the testimony of Gerard M. Gallucci, the former UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, for a hearing on the Balkans by the Sub-committee on Europe and Eurasia, part of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House of Representatives.
TransConflict is pleased to present a new policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, authored by Gerard Gallucci, the former UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica.
It is increasingly apparent that the respective parties - including the Quint - are talking past each other and reacting more to what has happened, rather than what might be done to move away from conflict.
Having eschewed violence and successfully prevented the one-sided outcome in the north pushed by Pristina and its international supporters, the Serbs should now consider removing the barricades at the two main Gates in order to allow a practical test of KFOR and EULEX's status neutrality.
If KFOR's request - for complete freedom of movement for everyone - is to be taken seriously, it must go on record that it will prevent unilateral and provocative actions by both sides, and act strictly within its UN mandate.
The decision to allow freedom of movement for KFOR suggests a readiness among the northern Kosovo Serbs to find a way to defuse the threat of violence created by Pristina's efforts to unilaterally change the situation on the ground.
With the situation in the north having reached a dangerous stalemate, the need for a compromise - one that would help defuse tensions, and allow Belgrade and Pristina to resume negotiations on practical matters - grows ever more apparent.
Though Kosovo Serbs have been called upon to accept the ‘reality’ of an independent Kosovo, it is the reality of past and present experience that continues to motivate their peaceful resistance.
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.