Are the Borders Between Serbia and Kosovo to be Changed?


Bygone are the days of the Rambouillet Agreement and few remember John Pilger’s comment in New Statesman: “Anyone scrutinizing the Rambouillet document is left with little doubt that the excuses given for the subsequent bombing were fabricated. The peace negotiations were stage-managed and the Serbs were told: surrender and be occupied, or don’t surrender and be destroyed.”

Now the former Yugoslavia has fallen apart and the idea of Greater Serbia is buried. However, there are still traces of questions like what makes the support of Albanian separatism, the oldest nationalistic movement in what used to be Tito’s Yugoslavia, a better cause to support than a powerful Serbia. From today’s perspective Serbia has been “disciplined” to follow the will of the international community since now the country has learned from the lessons of the past. Even more Serbia is determined to become a full-fledged member of the European Union and build a more secure future for its war-tired nation, which was erroneously named “Milosevic”. However, the Serbia of today is not likely to give up Kosovo, not only for historical reasons but simply because it has suffered a lot and paid a costly price to keep it.

Historically, the demand for Kosovo’s independence led to the repression, the repression led to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA or UCK in Albanian), and terrorism. Terrorism led to Serbian military and police intervention, and it led to NATO’s assault on what was left of Yugoslavia. And afterwards, Kosovo’s status has remained “pending” and the international community has showed reluctance to address the matter in a decisive manner.

As it is proven by history, that everything which has remained unsolved re-emerges and takes more energy and resources than originally required to be fixed in a timely and reasonable way. After 25 July, the Kosovo issue has made its way back on the news headlines and has remained there until today. The conflict started when Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci sent the special police force ROSU to take control of  border crossings with Serbia and enforce an embargo on Serbian goods in retaliation to Belgrade’s denial to recognize Kosovo customs stamps. However, the real meaning of this string of events is the Kosovo government’s ambition to block Serbia’s EU accession and at the same time legitimize its existence as an independent country enjoying the full support of EU, NATO and the USA. The overlapping of the geopolitical interests of EU and the United States in the case of Kosovo is a striking fact.

Thinking of Kosovo, the young de Gaulle’s observation nicely fits the context, “Is it really likely that the present balance of powers will remain unchanged so long as the small want to become great, the strong to dominate the weak, the old to live on?”

Recently,  Erhard Busek, the Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, said that Serbia should come up with a proposal to change the borders in Kosovo. In his view, the international community would back up a solution reached through an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina.

“That would be the best solution for both sides and the draft document on partition should be delivered directly to Pristina and talks on the issue should be opened likewise,” the former Austrian vice-chancellor has told the Belgrade-based weekly magazine Novi. “Brussels and Washington say that the borders cannot be changed, but if Pristina and Belgrade reached an agreement, they would accept such an idea,” Busek said.

Busek’s comment came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first visit to Belgrade during which she raised the question about the necessity of closing Serbia’s parallel institutions in Kosovo. This was not a big surprise and Belgrade has responded that as long as there are four municipalities populated by Serbia in Northern Kosovo, the institutions will be kept in place.

Serbian President Boris Tadic has said the idea of Pristina institutions establishing rule of law in northern Kosovo represents the ultimate level of hypocrisy, having in mind that the these institutions themselves are not immune to the dealings of organised crime. Reacting to a statement of Kosovo Prime Minister Thaci, that the parallel institutions in northern Kosovo are connected to terrorism and are backed by Serbia, Tadic said this is an announcement of new violence.

This verbal fights shows  that tensions in Kosovo are far from easing, the UN Security Council’s meeting has not been very helpful either as it did not come up with a categorical statement against unilateral actions of violence in Kosovo.

If a solution of Kosovo issue is dragged on for too long, the world will see another conflict in the Balkans and the battle field will be at the doorsteps of the European Union. The change of the existing borders seems to be the only way out of another crisis in the Balkans, but the highly recommended dialogue has to be mediated by the international community so that  a repetition of history can be avoided.

(Analysis by Mariela Zamfirova, MBA; 1 September 2011)

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About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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