Peace plan or sovereignty trading: Threats of the new crisis in Kosovo

Author : Natalia Ishchenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

May 10 Kosovo Parliament expressed vote of no confidence in the government led by the leader of "Democratic League of Kosovo" Isa Mustafa
12:39, 16 May 2017

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May 10 Kosovo Parliament expressed vote of no confidence in the government led by the leader of "Democratic League of Kosovo" Isa Mustafa. 78 deputies voted "for", 34 voted "against".

As a result, June 11 the semi-recognized country would hold early elections. The results of these elections can significantly change the situation in the Balkans. Why?

First, although the consideration of the question was initiated by the opposition, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (its leader - President of the Republic Hashim Thaci) also supported the resignation of the government.

Even the "native" party expressed no support, this means negative reaction to the signing of the formation of the so-called Serb municipalities and demarcation of the border with Montenegro. This agreement was signed under pressure from the EU, but Kosovo extremely disapproves it.

Related: Kosovo is afraid of Crimean scenario: Hybrid version of Balkan war

So, resignation of the government could threaten peace in the Balkans - and this is the issue at least of the European scale. Not coincidentally European politicians expressed hope that the new parliament and a new government would continue the policy of predecessors, would listen to the advice of European officials, negotiate with Serbia, Montenegro. But it seems that Europe itself has some doubts about this.

Two areas of Kosovo society are under threat of radicalization. Firstly, the agreement with Belgrade on a special status for northern Kosovo region, which is fully controlled by Serbia. Secondly, demarcation of the border with Montenegro, which determines granting Kosovars visa-free regime.

Radical politicians and their supporters stated that in both cases official Pristina made arrangements and acted contrary to the national interests of Kosovo, organized mass protests and demanded to reconsider or do not fulfill previously reached a decision.

But the controversial agreement could be negotiated in moderate political environment. For example, deputy chairman of the Democratic Party, Professor Faculty of Law University of Pristina, a former first deputy prime minister of Kosovo Hajredin Kuçi criticized the government's position on the negotiations concerning the border with Montenegro. According to him, Kosovo government had a chance to negotiate with Montenegrin colleagues more favorable decision on Kosovo border issue, but failed to do it.

Related: Montenegro parliament approved NATO membership

Speaking about implementation of the European plan granting special status to Serb areas in the north of Kosovo, there is generally hard to find in Kosovo politics and social forces that definitely support legal recognition of actual government of Serbia in northern Kosovo.

Escalation of the debate around this issue took place after the famous scandal provocative "Kosovo is Serbia" train, which visualized the real intentions of Belgrade.

Then President Hashim Thaci accused Serbia of trying to connect the northern part of Kosovo "on the Crimean scenario" and spoke of creating its own army. However, under pressure from the international community, Thaci later refused from plans to form the Kosovo army. But he continues to stress: the threat from Serbia, including the risk of deploying power scenario would not just go away. 

Related: Lavrov called claims of Russia’s involvement in Montenegro coup unfounded

Earlier Europeans managed to keep Kosovars from “sudden movements,” using promises of European integration.

But in the absence of tangible progress towards the EU, this method is losing its effectiveness (this is about Serbia too, where the process of European integration is too slow).

Since independence, Kosovo authorities took the course of European integration. Brussels from Pristina signed an Association Agreement, promising EU membership (unlike the Ukrainian version of this document). At the finish line - visa-free for citizens of Kosovo. But at this point, the remarkable achievements are over.

In the nine years since 115 countries have recognized independence of Kosovo: 111 of 193 (57.5%) UN members and 23 of 28 (82%) of the European Union. Five EU countries still continue to consider Kosovo part of Serbia (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Spain). Brussels urges recognize the independence of the republic, but these calls are ignored.

This lack of real European integration perspectives provokes distrust in Kosovo society and politics. This, in turn, contributes to the popularity of radical views opposed to European tolerance, reconciliation and compromise.

Recently France added fire to the fuel, earlier this year it arrested and planned to extradite Serbia the top leader of the Kosovo opposition (party "Alliance for the Future of Kosovo"), the former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UPC) Ramush Haradinaj (who at one time was tried but acquitted in the Hague tribunal). Finally, Ramush Haradinaj was released, but the incident further strengthened by the anti-European and radical sentiment in Kosovo.

Related: Revolution of “high pensioners:” Protest against Serbian president

Regional politicians called elections in Kosovo "overture to radicalization." Balkan media comment on events in Kosovo in terms of the expected collapse of arrangements and relationships that are built in the region with the assistance of the EU.

In particular, the head of "Alliance for the Future of Kosovo," Ramush Haradinaj during the party conference expressed dissatisfaction with the way Brussels decides on the relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and invited the United States to return to the Balkans to join this process. Or, according to Ramush Haradinaj, Albanians could again take matters into their own hands.

In this situation, Europe, represented Federica Mogherini, can only call "all political leaders and institutions of Kosovo not to lose sight of the huge problems facing Kosovo". It is, above all, about the dialogue with Serbia under the auspices of the EU and visa liberalization with the EU grant, which is connected with the ratification of agreement on the border with Montenegro by Parliament of Kosovo.

Therefore, voting to take place June 11 in Kosovo. This is a kind of test for the level of adequacy and effectiveness of the European approach to resolution of existing conflicts and measuring the level of confidence in the Balkan countries (in this case, Kosovo) to the current European policy in the region.

The coming to power in Pristina of politicians unable to negotiations and compromises, means "yellow card" and a new challenge to Brussels, to which the EU is not exactly ready.

Related: Serbian politician visits Crimea, says ‘peninsula belongs to Russia’

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