Friday, July 16, 2010

Serbia’s sovereignty under attack: EU calls on recognition of Kosovo’s independence

The EU’s project on the Western Balkans, which implies the final settlement of the Kosovo problem (namely: the integration of Northern Kosovo where most of the population are Serbs, into “Prsitina government authorities”) is entering its final stage.

On July 8, the European parliament adopted the resolution, which welcomes the recognition of Kosovo’s independence by the EU. The resolution, adopted by 455 votes to 155 calls on the EU member-states to stick to the single position on Kosovo and on the International Court (in late July the court is expected to bring its verdict on the legitimacy of the unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence).

The resolution calls on the European Commission and member states to take practical steps to make the benefits of EU cooperation more tangible to people in Kosovo – such as allowing visa liberalization for its citizens once the necessary criteria have been met. It also urges reforms against corruption and organized crime to decentralization and transformation of the administrative system.

Earlier during the discussion on Kosovo and Albania European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Štefan Füle expressed his support to the resolution. Seeing that not all the EU member-states share the same view on Kosovo’s status. (five countries do not recognize its independence), the European parliament decided to take the matter fully under its control and to use as a geopolitical reference point - “common European future of Kosovo and Western Balkans”.

Füle expressed confidence that the work with “Pristina authorities” will continue whatever the decision of the International Court on the unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence is. The EU wants Pristina to fulfill a number of conditions, first of all “to return displaced persons in satisfactory manner”; and what is required from Serbia is “pragmatic approach to the status of Kosovo”.

Greek deputy Takis Hadjigeorgiou opposed the resolution of the European parliament, saying on behalf of the United Leftists that its adoption is impossible, just like it is impossible to call on all EU members states to recognize the unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence. An independent deputy from Austria pointed out to the fact that the resolution of UN Security Council N 1244 is still effective and the EU has no right to force the recognition of Kosovo’s independence (1).

The West has a plan regarding Northern Kosovo. It is likely that the future verdict by the International Court is already known because once it is announced the talks will begin on the status of Northern Kosovo. The plan implies giving Kosovo Serbs a special status similar to the models applied in Tyrol and Northern Ireland. But the plan excludes an option of talks on the status and division of Kosovo. It claims that Northern Kosovo will not be fully divided from Serbia and the Serbs in the north of Kosovo will enjoy a “wide autonomy”, wider than it was envisaged by the plan of Martti Ahtisaari, with Pristina and Belgrade acting as guarantors of this autonomy.

What is special about the current approach of the Western diplomacy towards Serbia is that the recognition of Kosovo’s independence is not an obligatory condition – what is required is a “constructive position” concerning the participation of Pristina authorities in regional institutions - in other words in means everything except the official recognition of the independence. In return the European Parliament promises Serbia (that has become a sad tradition since 1991) to facilitate its entry in the EU.

The EU proposed Belgrade to jointly elaborate a draft resolution on Kosovo after the International court brings its verdict. But the Serbian authorities rejected the proposal and said they would work out their own draft resolution and submit it to the UN General Assembly in September.

For almost 20 years Serbia has facing threats and this time Germany, France and Great Britain warned it that any attempts to start talks on the status of Kosovo would be prevented. They see the Serbian draft resolution for UN General Assembly as a “campaign of the General Skupstina in the UN against the EU members”, which will have “inevitable consequences” for Serbia’s plans to enter the EU”. But if Serbia obeys, Berlin, Paris and London promise to initiate the procedure of Serbia’s entry into the EU in September (2).

The feelings run high. On July 6, the UN Security Council held an emergency session on the request of Serbian President Boris Tadic. The session was held following following last week's grenade explosion at a flashpoint area in the country's north. An unknown assailant threw two bombs at a demonstration of about 1,000 Kosovo Serbs protesting Pristina's move to open a community service centre in the ethnically-divided town of Mitrovica. A Bosniak paediatrician ( M. Jekovic), who did not attend the rally, was killed in the attack. Eleven others, all ethnic Serb protesters, were wounded. Later one more attack took place in which “Kosovo parliament deputy” representative of the Serbian Independent Liberal Party Petar Miletic was wounded.

The opening of Pristina’s community service centre is seen as characterizes as the first practical step to establish executive power in order to integrate the region of North Mitrovica. “Kosovo Prime Minister” Hasim Taci said that the attack was “an act by Serbian extremists”, “Kosovo Foreign Minister” Skender Hyseni accused Serbs and Belgrade of what had happened. He expressed confidence that “the community service center as part the Kosovo government will function” because “Kosovo government is determined to establish its power on the entire territory of Kosovo”.

At the session of the UN Security Council the US supported Pristina saying that its move was a “legitimate step of a sovereign state”, the assault in North Mitrovica was “a purely criminal act and not a terrorist attack” and that Miletic was wounded by local Serbs. France's representative at the session said that was a “local scale incident”, the situation in Kosovo is “stable” and that “the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, (EULEX) is successful in keeping peace and order in Kosovo”. The resolution adopted by the European parliament on July 8, states that this last attack in Mitrovica was an act done by uncertain radical groups and organized criminal gangs.

Speaking at the session of UN Security Council Boris Tadic called on the implementation of the Six Points Plan proposed by the UN Secretary General in November 2008, and supported by the UN Security Council. Tadic accused the International civilian service headed by Pieter Feith of establishing an illegal and undesirable regime, said that the attempt to open a service of Kosovo government in Mitrovica was a provocation. He also said that the position of the US which supported the move as “arousing deep concern”. According to Tadic, Serbia will have to reconsider its attitude to the presence of the international mediators in Kosovo if they do not stop to support Pristina’s steps on destabilization. He said that EULEX should investigate all the attacks against Serbs while NATO should keep a certain number of its servicemen in Serbian monasteries to protect Serbian people. He said that Belgrade won't tolerate the establishment of any centers, courts and telecommunication network of temporary Pristina administration in the region. He added that Kosovo problem cannot be resolved beyond the contexts of the region’s status and it is necessary to resume talks with Albanians in order to find a comprehensive compromise solution. (3).

The UN Security Council characterized the attack as a terrorist attack of Albanian separatists and said that Pieter Feith as the head of the International civil service was responsible for it. It said that the terrorists must be punished and any attempts to open temporary institutions of Kosovo administration should be prevented because they threaten the stability of Kosovo Mitrovica and the entire region.

However, “the international presence” itself represented by the administration of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, (EULEX) – urged restraint. Their presence did not hamper the complete integration of Kosovo’s South into “Pristina government institutions”. The main danger is first of all that the “Kosovo style” integration also means assimilation abandoning the national identity (the language, the culture, the history). Besides that, among those who have power in the Republic of Kosovo are the people whose names are connected with severe crimes – murders, tortures, kidnapping; these people took part in the war against the Serbian state and in the expelling of Serbs from Kosmet. Over 11 years the north of Kosovo has been a “non-integrated territory”, plus it is linked with Serbia geographically. But despite angry statements of the Serbian President in reality the Serbian authorities provide almost no help to the Serbian communities of Kosovo (first of all economically and in terms of human personnel), though it is here where the educational and health care institutions are located which are not subordinate to the international authorities in Kosmet. In general the most important and difficult ethnical and state issue – the Kosovo issue – is not the priority on the agenda of domestic and foreign policy of the Serbian government.

Secondly, “Pristina’s integration process” is not limited by Kosmet. The Albanian side is now paying attention to “the problem of Presehvo-Buyanovats-Medvezhya” naming this region the Eastern Kosovo, as well as to the western Skopje, Tetovo and Kumanovo in Macedonia (where Albanian campaigns are regularly held with the demonstration of symbols of the Kosovo Liberation Army), and right to the Montenegrin region of Lake of Scadar…

The goal of the project of “the international community” declared by the current resolution of the European parliament to show that Northern Kosovo cannot be separated from the rest of its territory and the relevant “reforms” should be carried out on the entire territory of Kosovo (first of all on decentralization of the North) with the prospect of the integration, which would inevitably lead to the assimilation of the Serbian population.