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.
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.
Though the EU - seemingly motivated by the US and "led" by Germany - rejected Serbia's candidacy over its continued 'refusal' to surrender Kosovo, it is increasingly apparent that the EU needs the Balkans inside even more than the Balkans needs to get inside.
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.
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.
By accepting Berlin's 'Kosovo conditions' for further progress by Serbia towards EU membership, the EU is in effect acting to impose Pristina's rule in the north and pressuring Belgrade to simply surrender.
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.
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.
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.