Prospect of joining the EU in exchange for abandoning Kosovo? – EURACTIV.com
The long-stalled dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, sponsored by the EU, could be unblocked next year if claims that there is a new EU plan, published in some regional media, are officially confirmed.
Talks on normalizing relations between the two countries have stalled and of the handful of agreements signed, even fewer have been implemented. In 11 years of talks, recognition of Kosovo by Serbia has never been on the table.
Kosovo’s website, the Albanian Post, reported that a new plan had been drafted on normalizing relations after the engagement of German and French envoys.
According to the website, the plan calls for Belgrade to accept, without formally recognizing, Kosovo’s independence, obtaining in return financial benefits and the prospect of EU membership.
The same source said that in 10 years, when the next group of EU candidates is likely to join the Union, a formal agreement on mutual recognition will be concluded and activated before the whole region rises.
This would involve recognition of Kosovo’s independence by the five EU countries that have not yet done so (Greece, Slovakia, Spain, Romania and Cyprus), while Serbia would receive “huge financial aid” and would be recognized as the “first power in the region”. ”.
While the authenticity of the plan remains officially unconfirmed, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic recently said that he had “read this document but, knowing what was going to happen, refused to receive it” from the special envoy of the EU for Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, during his visit to Belgrade .
“I’m experienced enough to know that I shouldn’t take this paper.”
During a debate on Kosovo in the Serbian parliament, Vucic said that during his mandate, that is to say in the next four and a half years, the former Serbian province which declared its independence in 2008 would not be not recognized, nor would it join the UN.
A few days later, during the promotion of the youngest generation of officers of the Serbian Armed Forces in downtown Belgrade, Vucic said that “we will not give Kosovo or any other part of our homeland to anyone “.
“Those who threaten Serbia have never understood how strong our resolve and determination are to protect what is ours,” Vucic said, without specifying who was threatening Belgrade and why he felt the need to reiterate that it does not. would not give up on Kosovo.
What also piqued the public’s curiosity was that in a patriotic song performed during a break in the program, the lyrics about Kosovo as “the soul of Serbia” were replaced with the phrase “to all hero of Serbia”.
The songwriter said the Kosovo track was removed at the request of the Ministry of Defence, which the Ministry later denied, saying there were different versions of the same song.
The plan – a consequence of the EU’s more intense engagement
Albanian Post wrote that the plan is “a new framework” stemming from the direct involvement of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the dialogue after EU leaders apparently concluded that “Kosovo and Serbia will never be able to solve the problem on their own”.
To soften the blow – with Kosovo remaining a very sensitive issue in Serbia – in the first decade of the agreement’s implementation, Belgrade would not have to recognize it but simply accept independence.
That would be enough for the authors of the plan, given that the issue of Serbia’s EU membership will not be on the agenda for some time.
However, this would force Belgrade to refrain from pressing for the derecognition of Kosovo’s independence, as well as to oppose Pristina’s membership of international organizations.
This would allow Kosovo to join the Council of Europe, then Interpol and UNESCO, then NATO and the EU, and finally the United Nations.
This membership in the UN would apparently be the most problematic because it does not only depend on Belgrade but also on the position of Russia, while Moscow continues to express its willingness to veto such an initiative.
For its part, Pristina would agree to allow the formation of the Association of Serbian Municipalities at the end of the 10-year period, just before mutual recognition. The association would see the creation of a Serbian structure in Kosovo, supported by Belgrade, which, according to Pristina, goes against its constitution and has failed elsewhere, that is to say in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The plan would also consider a specific sequence of events in case Belgrade or Pristina do not accept the document, but those details have not been released.
No clear confirmation of document authenticity
Although almost all the parties mentioned in the article, apart from Pristina, have commented on the alleged document, its authenticity has never been confirmed or denied.
Pristina media, however, claim that Kosovar journalist Baton Haxhiu, known for his close ties to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, is behind the article and the website. This is why the document is considered authentic.
The EU declined to comment on the document, but political experts noted that neither the content nor the authenticity of the document has been denied.
EU spokesman for foreign affairs and security policy Peter Stano said the EU generally does not comment on alleged documents released by the media.
Asked about the alleged document, the US Ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill, said that his country supports the EU in its efforts to reach a solution within the framework of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, because this problem has gone on for too long and had to be resolved.
Analysts without a clear position on the options for implementing the supposed plan
There is no consensus among political analysts on both sides on the authenticity of the document, let alone on the feasibility of its implementation, even though they all agree that, for the first time for many years, there has been a certain will within the international community to get the ball rolling.
Belgrade-based political analyst Dusan Janjic believes that several documents are circulating. Vucic said the West was preparing “new reinforcement” for Kosovo precisely because he had seen one of these newspapers.
“The United States insists on a new format, and this document does exist. The timetable mentioned in this document corresponds perfectly to the operating methodology of the American administration,” Janjic said.
He said that if the document was not accepted and the conflict continued, Washington would apply “Plan B,” which involved U.S.-controlled conflict management and destabilization, after which Washington would impose a solution on the two parts.
Former Kosovo Serbian minister Slobodan Samardzic said the published document is not a working platform for a solution, but rather a way to increase pressure on Belgrade.
“It’s a press based on a paper. It’s a new phase on the same subject. It’s nothing new, but what will happen if this story continues is new,” Samardzic said.
On the other hand, Kosovo’s former Deputy Foreign Minister Valon Murtezaj believes the plan has a low chance of success due to, as he put it, “Serbia’s destructiveness”, whom he considers “an unreliable party”.
According to him, one should not wait a whole decade for the recognition of Kosovo because Belgrade would use this period to put pressure against Kosovo abroad.
Former Kosovo diplomat Lulzim Peci found some provisions of the supposed plan highly controversial and suspect, particularly the suggestion that Serbia would be recognized as the political and economic leader.
“This terminology does not exist in contemporary legal acts because it implies the legalization of hegemony and the violation of the principle of international law of the equality of States… It is more like a text to please the sick egos of the regional leaders who think they can become masters of others,” Peci said.
Perhaps the most mysterious segment of the story is the behavior of Pristina, who has remained completely silent on the subject. However, Prime Minister Albin Kurti is known as a supporter of immediate recognition of Kosovo as a condition for any talks with Belgrade.
Analysts believe this could indicate that the international community has sent him a signal that this is a serious plan and that it would not be politically wise for him to reject it even if it does not entirely suit him. .
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Alice Taylor]