Actually, the settlement of the most acute contradictions in the Balkan region has received a chance to resume efforts thanks to a series of diplomatic successes in Serbia. Is Kosovo ready for a compromise, or are we on the verge of another round of tension?
Last week, interesting figures 97:96 appeared on the UN scoreboard — the ratio of countries recognizing and not recognizing Kosovo’s independence, which is still in Pristina’s favor.
Meanwhile, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic announces that the Republic of Togo will not be the last on the list of countries that have canceled their decision to recognize Kosovo. Recall that at the moment there are 15 states that recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Thus, Belgrade was both able to fulfill the “plan” to reduce the number of recognized to less than a hundred, and, if we use sports terminology, almost equalize the score.
“We will continue until we understand the seriousness of the situation and agree to a compromise in Kosovo”, — Dacic said.
At the same time, the Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo under the former government, Enver Khojay, said that Pristina should have set the condition for Belgrade: the abolition of 100 percent duties on the import of goods from Central Serbia (draconian measure in force since December last year, which Serbia seeks to cancel ) only if the campaign to cancel the recognition of independence is terminated. This proposal has little political prospects due to the current anarchy in Kosovo reigned after the resignation of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradin. However, it demonstrates that, firstly, in Pristina they take this project quite seriously, and secondly, they are not able to use diplomatic methods and even with the assistance of influential foreign policy patrons to oppose it, without sitting at the negotiating table with Belgrade .
The continuation of the series of foreign policy defeats was for Pristina to a new round of the domestic political crisis and the struggle for power, and therefore now the opportunity to miss the majority will be a painful blow, even just psychologically. Obviously, in the period of anarchy in the disputed region (by the way, and not previously distinguished by a strong system of statehood), fresh decisions will not be made regarding the settlement of the protracted conflict with Belgrade. Nevertheless, it is very likely that we will hear more than one statement, proposal or even a demand on this topic — but focused on the local audience with the goal of self-affirmation in the domestic political arena.
Elections to the European Parliament and the appointment of new ministers did not fit into the hands of Kosovar supporters: Josep Borrell, who headed the European Foreign Ministry, is a Spanish politician (and Spain does not recognize Kosovo’s independence), an ardent opponent of Catalan separatism and any similar tendencies in Europe. He reiterated his views at a recent EU and Western Balkan summit in Helsinki, where he boycotted an event with the participation of representatives of the Kosovo authorities.
Now the Kosovars are waiting for the presidential campaign in the United States, hoping to get even more support in the face of a new leader in Washington than they received from Donald Trump. This is another factor that is currently holding back the Kosovars from real settlement decisions, and indeed the dialogue with Belgrade.
In a situation where both Belgrade and the international community are calling for an early resolution of the conflict, there is only one effective way to stop negotiations — to aggravate the situation. Pristina has already used a whole arsenal of political, economic, and economic levers along this path, and perhaps holds a few more in reserve. But the most “effective” for this purpose invariably remains violence. In 2017, negotiations were frozen for a long time in connection with the murder of the Serbian politician Oliver Ivanovich in the city of Kosovsk-Mitrovica; in 2018 — with the detention in the same city of Minister Marco Djurić; at the same time, special forces of the Kosovo police conducted several operations in the north of the disputed region, the last and most brutal of which, using military equipment, took place in May this year. Then an employee of the UNMIK (UN mission in Kosovo and Metohija) received serious injuries.
Such operations are carried out under the guise of an anti-terrorist action, the detention of dangerous criminals, for example, illegal suppliers of weapons and drugs. Pristina even created a “counter-terrorism list” — a document that can be used for any involvement of ROSU special forces. For anyone who is even a little familiar with the specifics of the region, this sounds at least strange. Kosovo as a public entity has grown on drug trafficking, the black market for weapons and human organs. If you look for criminals, then you need to do this in Pristina, and not among the poor Serbian enclave villages.
At present, Serbia is pushing for dialogue not only in words but also in deeds, systematically reducing the number of Kosovo supporters. And in the same week in the city of Kosovsk-Mitrovica there was an attack on a Serbian child by a group of Albanian radicals. The attack is very similar to the planned one: the minor received severe injuries from blows, as well as a knife wound. The boy spent several days in the intensive care unit.
Belgrade clearly appreciated the incident: it is a campaign to intimidate the Serbian population in order to «squeeze» it out of the region. The head of the Serbian Chancellery for Kosovo and Metohija, Marco Djurić, recalled the examples of Dzhakovitsa, Prizren, the same Pristina, where there were no Serbs left at all. At the same time, the cautious and exclusively verbal reaction of Belgrade is explicable. Any drastic actions, including mass demonstrations, may serve as a pretext for another police operation in the northern Serbs of Kosovo, which is in no way in the interests of Belgrade.
In this light, Khojai’s call for an “exchange” of fees for a series of confessions is interesting. Of course, it was made in the spirit of the ultimatum familiar to Pristina, but nevertheless it finally contains a probability of concession from the side of the Kosovars, and this is a step forward. Pristina is hoped not to immediately take two steps back, postponing for an indefinite period the possibility of dialogue by force or other methods.