Kosovo: Europe can’t fix impasse with Serbia
Europe’s biggest players have failed to mend the increasingly bitter rift between Kosovo and Serbia, said Matthew Karnitschnig in Politico.eu. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron met in Berlin last week with the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia to try to persuade the two neighbors to settle their differences. Kosovo, populated mostly by ethnic Albanian Muslims, declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nearly a decade after the two fought a bloody war that left more than 10,000 people dead—a conflict that was ended by NATO airstrikes on Serbian forces. But Serbia, backed by Russia, has never recognized Kosovo and still considers it “a renegade province.” Kosovar President Hashim Thaci and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had earlier suggested that a final peace settlement could include an exchange of territory, and the Berlin summit was supposed to address that idea. But Serbia won’t talk about it until Kosovo lifts the punitive tariffs it recently slapped on Serbia—and Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj refused to do that. The former nightclub bouncer demanded the ultimate prize upfront: Serbian recognition of Kosovar independence. Macron tried for hours to persuade Haradinaj to see reason, and ended by “raising his voice” and snapping, “You’re in no position to ask for anything.”
The impasse is clearly tiny Kosovo’s fault, said Richard Morrison in France’s Mediapart.fr. Angry that Serbia continues to block Kosovar efforts to join international institutions such as Interpol, Kosovo put a 100 percent tariff on all Serbian imports, hurting both Serbian businesses and the Serbian minority in Kosovo that depends on those goods. Yet rather than denounce the Kosovars for creating this “monstrous situation,” the Western Europeans did nothing. They continue to be “blinded by the 1990s rhetoric that the Serbs are always to blame for all the troubles in the Balkans.”
Actually, the Europeans are guilty of “Serbocentrism,” said Enver Robelli in Koha Ditore (Kosovo). They are eager to give away Kosovar land inhabited by ethnic Serbs to Belgrade. Fortunately for us, the Europeans are “incompetent.” Only U.S. mediation will produce results. But the U.S. is fatally blinkered, said Politika (Serbia) in an editorial, as even its former ambassador to Serbia admits. William Montgomery, who was stationed in the Balkans for much of the 1990s and early 2000s, said recently that the American foreign policy community persists in seeing the resolutions of the Bosnian and Kosovar wars as success stories. “In fact, both are failures,” he said, noting that ethnic tensions remain high in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Still, a stalemate is better than a conflict, said Michael Thumann in Die Zeit (Germany). And changing Kosovo’s borders so that there are fewer ethnic Serbs in Kosovo and vice versa, as Macron seems to want, is “the recipe for a new war.” The smaller minorities remaining would be further persecuted, and their larger states would seek to protect them. If we try to “move the borders for every population” enclave, we will “soon be back at the Armageddon of 1918.” ■