Balkans: The Kosovo Deal

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January 14, 2008: Since the Russians are opposing complete independence for Kosovo, the European Union is developing yet another political plan. The new plan included several ideas that have been floating around for at least three years. One of them is a form of "international independence." It provides for a high degree of local autonomy in Kosovo but the EU (instead of the UN) would have "supervisory powers" over Kosovo. Kosovo would still be nominally part of Serbia. The EU would provide extensive financial assistance to Kosovo and maintain a large advisory team in Kosovo. A military peacekeeping forces would also remain in Kosovo. Frankly, this would make Kosovo a European Union protectorate. The EU plan would likely include signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo and Serbia. The association plan would provide the basis for eventually admitting both Kosovo and Serbia to the European Union. What's in it for the Kosovars? Money, local control, and defense against any military moves by Serbia. EU membership is another plus. What's in it for Serbia? Securing Serbian access to Kosovo's historically important sites and assuring protection of Kosovar Serbs (by EU or NATO security forces). EU membership will interest the Serb business community. The strong EU civil and police advisory presence would help keep an independent Kosovo from becoming a "smugglers state" (a fear many Kosovar Albanians also share). Russia would have something of a diplomatic victory (Kosovo did not gain full independence). Russia would use this result to reinforce its diplomatic position that unilateral independence is a bad idea in Eastern Europe. Russia isn't the only country concerned about unilateral independence. Cyprus doesn't like the "Kosovo Precedent" either, given that the island remains split into predominantly Greek and Turk sectors. Cyprus doesn't want its Turkish north seeking independence. Would the Serbs buy this plan? Not at the moment. The Serb government and a majority of the Serbian people remain opposed to severing Kosovo from Serbia. What could sweeten the deal for Serbia? Possibly allowing the Bosnian Serb statelet, the Republika Srpska, to join Serbia. But that might reignite the Bosnian War.

As for the Cyprus situation, for the past month the government of "Turkish Cyprus" has been indicating that it wants to renew unification talks with the rest of Cyprus. However, the diplomatic language includes references to "last chance" and "last initiative" if the new discussions fail. The Turkish Cypriots appear to be making a veiled reference to Kosovo when they mention "seeking new alternatives" via the United Nations. Cyprus will be holding a presidential election in February.

January 13, 2008: Turkey continued to have troubles with Iran over natural gas shipments. Iran is experiencing internal shortages and has cut Turkey's supply. The gas disruption has left many Turkish customers without heat and is already causing economic worries in Turkey. Turkey has had problems with gas deliveries from Iran in the past. That is one reason Turkey announced on January 11 that it wants to transport Iraqi natural gas to European markets. That will mean upgrading existing oil and gas pipelines and possibly building new ones.

January 8. 2008: In the fall of 2007 Macedonia told Greece that it wants to resolve the "name of Macedonia" issue via direct, face-to-face talks. At the moment discussions concerning "the name war" go through either the EU or NATO. Macedonia wants to get the issue resolved because Greece continues to threaten to veto Macedonian membership in NATO. This angers Macedonia, which has begun modernizing its security forces and participating (to its limited ability) in international deployments (including Iraq) as part of a bid to join NATO. One Macedonian government official called Greece's threat to veto its NATO membership similar to a claim by Greece that it had "the right to a nuclear weapon." Yes, that is war-like rhetoric, but in the Balkans "the name war" is serious business. A statement in December floated the idea that Macedonia would let Greece use a different name for the Republic of Macedonia in Greek-Macedonian bilateral relations. Macedonia, however, insists that its proper name (for all other nations except Greece) is the Republic of Macedonia. Greece insists on calling Macedonia "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM, for short).

January 7, 2008: Kosovo's two largest political parties, the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) and the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), finally agreed to form a new government – seven weeks after the elections. The new coalition government then reaffirmed its commitment to Kosovo independence as a "democratic state." Between them, the two main parties have 62 seats in the legislature. The PDK's Hashim Thaci will serve as prime minister. His party will control seven other ministries, including the important Interior ministry. The LDK (which is headed by Kosovo's president, Fatmir Sejdiu) will have a deputy prime minister and control five ministries, including the Justice ministry. Interestingly enough, Serbs will control the Social Welfare ministry. Serbs will also be in charge of the special ministry which deals with Kosovar Serb refugees and returning them to Kosovo. It is worth remembering that in 1998 Thaci was one of the Kosovo Liberation Army's (UCK) senior commanders.

January 2, 2008: Serbia's President Boris Tadic said once again that Serbia won't "fight senseless wars." He said that sending Serb troops into Kosovo would mean the end of Serbia's moral claim to Kosovo. It was also lead to war with "the international community" (ie, the EU and NATO). The Serbian government remains concerned about threats issued by both Kosovar Albanian militias and Kosovar Serb militias, as well as Serb extremist groups inside Serbia. Tadic also must deal with the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party which is now calling for the deployment of Russian military units in Serbia to act as a deterrent against NATO.

Austria said that it plans to be one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo's independence when that occurs. The Austrian statement triggered a rebuke from the Serbian government. Serbs still resent Austrian "meddling" in the Balkans. Austria's chancellor has called the issue of Kosovo's "final status" the "last big unsolved issue of the 20th century."

January 1, 2008: A Serbian bank in Dragas (near the Kosovo-Macedonia border), Kosovo, was a bombed. The bank was a branch of the Komercijalna Banka, which media sources described as a bank which "channels funds from Serbia" to Kosovar Serbs.

Slovenia is now the European Union's first "former communist" member to serve as president of the EU. The EU rotates its president every six months. Slovenia's presidential term comes as the Kosovo issue continues to frustrate EU diplomats. Slovenia was once a constituent republic of Yugoslavia.

December 31, 2007: A spokesman for the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) said that "under certain conditions" Serbia should send troops into Kosovo. The SRS spokesman did not state what those conditions would be. The SRS supports the introduction of Russian troops into Serbia. Call it a "Cold war strategy."

December 29, 2007: Mikhail Gorbachev criticized the EU for practicing a "poorly disguised tyranny" in Kosovo. Gorbachev, the former leader of the USSR, said that making Kosovo an independent state without Serbian agreement was "a dangerous (international) precedent." This is also the government of Russia's diplomatic position vis a vis Kosovo.

 

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