Sunday, March 06, 2011

A repeat of the Ahtisaari debacle?

As new negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo are planned to start this week, it is good to remember why the Ahtisaari negotiations failed. It had to do with the "principles" of the Contact Group (that included that the borders of Kosovo should not be changed) and of Ahtisaari himself (who demanded that Kosovo should never again be under Serbian rule). Those "principles" meant that Kosovo's Albanians already had their de facto independence and didn't see a need for concessions while the Serbs who saw all their demands thwarted had no other option than saying "no".

Now we see again that Western diplomats are hurrying to invalidate any Serb demand as a violation of Kosovo's sovereignty while they simultaneously support Albanian demands that Serbia sees as a violation of its sovereignty. If these diplomats get their way the coming negotiations are just as doomed as Ahtisaari's.

You can't negotiate about Kosovo's access to the international phone network without also discussing the right of Kosovo's Serbs to phone to their relatives in Belgrade without paying some expensive international tariff. You cannot talk about Serbia accepting Kosovo's institutions without also talking about Kosovo accepting the autonomy of its North tip. And you cannot talk about Serbia accepting Kosovo's privatizations without also talking about exceptions like Brezovica.

As the attempt to forbid minibuses between the Serb enclaves and Serbia showed most clearly Kosovo has shown itself very creative in harassing its minorities. It will be very hard to overcome the resulting lack of trust that Kosovo is serious about minority rights. It might help when our Western diplomats became less worried about Kosovo's status and more interested in real-life issues.

Postscript: East-of-Center lists the five EU guidelines for the talks:
1 - The dialogue is aimed at bringing both sides closer to integration into the European Union; acquis communautaire will be used whenever possible
2 - The dialogue will take place without prejudice to the status of Kosovo by any party
3 - Serious and concrete steps will be taken on the basis of “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”
4 - The EU will be responsible for the entire process and will define the agenda
5 - There will be a coordinated and common approach to the media by all the parties

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