"Balkans powder keg" will crash out Europe

Written by Richard Morrison

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The participants of the Kosovo negotiations that ended last Monday in Berlin seem to agree on only one thing: the conversation was difficult, and no solution was found and is unlikely to appear in the foreseeable future. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic at the press conference said philosophically that “miracles do not happen”, although out of politeness he thanked the organizers Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron for the opportunity. The leader of the partially recognized republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, turned out to be a lesser diplomat and criticized the European level of negotiations: according to him, Pristina expects more US participation in this process.

Thus, the outcome of the meeting, which, by the mere fact of the meeting between Vucic and Thaci, provoked violent reactions in the region, turned out to be insignificant, although eloquent: in the heart of Europe, in Germany, there was a vivid demonstration that the current format of the Kosovo settlement had outlived itself.

“The dialogue of Belgrade and Pristina”, if it can still be called that, is frozen after a series of provocative steps by the Kosovo leadership; the Brussels format is not performed by the same party. But the western sponsors of Kosovo’s independence are, in fact, still blinded by the nineties rhetoric that the Serbs are always to blame for all the troubles in the Balkans, or simply have no political will for real measures that could influence Pristina and return the negotiations to peaceful course.

Obviously, the main stumbling block – the imposition of a 100% duty on imports of goods from Serbia into Kosovo – was delivered by Pristina. This measure combines the pressure on the Serbian minority living in the province (through depriving them of their usual necessities) with a gross reorientation of the economy: Serbian business unreasonably and illegally bears multimillion-dollar losses, and at the same time, importers from Albania and Albanian-populated areas of Northern Macedonia gain profit. There is a financial interest of the Kosovo leadership and even not a political, but an ethnic principle of influencing the economy. But there is not a word about the threat of sanctions or other measures that demonstrate Europe’s attitude to this monstrous situation not in words but in deed.

Other important points that Belgrade and Pristina cannot agree on are the recent formation of Kosovo army, as well as the creation of the Association of Serbian Municipalities, envisaged by the 2013 Brussels Agreement. For more than five years Pristina cannot fulfill one of the key points of the international agreement signed by it, but in a few months makes a decision on the army, contrary to UN Resolution 1244 (on the post-war state in the province). And where, in relation to the current situation, can we insert accusations against Serbs that were relevant in the American media 20 years ago?

At the same time, it would be naive to assert that after the proclamation and partial recognition of Kosovo as an independent state which is responsible for its decisions and foreign policy. According to the Kosovo Constitution, the commander in chief of KFOR (the NATO contingent) has the highest political and legal power. As a media confirmation of this, we can recall the recognition by the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, that Pristina "does not conduct foreign policy, but belongs to a club run by America. "Thus, if NATO (we read the United States) really would be worried about the formation of the army, or they were striving to fulfill Pristina's Treaty of Brussels, it would not be difficult to put pressure on the "wards". But in the alliance, obviously, as in the EU, they do not intend to solve the real problems of the disputed region, including security issues.

A small shred of territory is guarded by all imaginable and inconceivable international peacekeepers and observers: the UN, NATO, the EU (EULEX mission), and this land is still a “powder keg of the Balkans”.

There is no unity in the international community on the Balkans problem, the former US ambassador to Belgrade, William Montgomery, acknowledged in a commentary to the Serbian agency Tanyug.

“For decades, BiH and Kosovo were talked about as successful projects, and it is difficult for the West to recognize the reality that they failed,” the American diplomat said.

It is dangerous that the mistake voiced by him is not just a failed laboratory experiment that can be isolated or thrown into the trash of recent history. Kosovo issues are the cornerstone of Balkan politics and security. This topic is crucial for Serbia’s relations with the world community as a whole and in the matter of European integration in particular, and the agreements between Belgrade and Pristina will necessarily affect the demands of the influential Albanian political factor in Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Central Serbia and even Greece – the EU member state.

Kosovo is one of the routes of migrants’ movement through the Balkans, and there, according to expert data, at least five camps for training ISIS militants are located in a disputed, conflict territory with unclear international legal status...

The settlement of the Kosovo problem is, of course, a matter of more than one day. Too knotted knot, from too many differently directed threads, is woven in these places. But as far as this question is complex, it is just as important: not for Serbia and Kosovo, not for the Balkans – for the whole of Europe, if it cares about its own security above all.

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