Europe seems to be allowing Germany to lead it into a historic blunder by freezing Serbia out rather than bringing it in.
By Gerard M. Gallucci
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited Kosovo on December 19th and encouraged the Kosovo Albanians to fight corruption, “behave responsibly” and not “stir up tensions.” Her main message, however, seemed more focused on Serbia. She made clear that for Germany, there is no way for Serbia to enter the EU unless it surrenders Kosovo.
Merkel did not say that Serbia must recognize Kosovo. Indeed, it seems that the EU is anxious to make clear that formal recognition is not required. (Five EU states themselves don’t recognize Kosovo.) The conditions Merkel did lay down, however, would amount to a complete Serbian withdrawal from Kosovo. Germany requires that all barricades be taken down, ways found to regularize trade, joint “border” control and the abolition of all Serb “parallel” local institutions in the north – including municipalities, courts and schools.
Merkel also visited German NATO troops and told them that “our security and our peace back home are down to troops serving their country here.” (German security depends on subduing the Serbs in northern Kosovo? Why would that be?)
In sum, Merkel’s message was for the Kosovo Albanians to behave and while German political and military pressure on Belgrade takes care of the north.
It seems clear that while some in the EU may be uncomfortable with putting Serbia into a corner – surrender Kosovo or lose the EU – Germany is not. And Germany commands the EU at this historic juncture because it seems only Germany can bail out the Euro.
It also seems clear that Serbia cannot meet Merkel’s conditions. On the issue of so-called “parallel” institutions, Belgrade has responded that perhaps it would be better if the internationals accepted them as it is impractical to imagine them disappearing. Many in Serbia are talking as if they believe EU candidacy is now unlikely and not the end of the world. Serbia’s President, Boris Tadic – still clinging to his mantra of both Kosovo and the EU – is stretching his rhetoric as far as he can since he too understands he cannot meet Merkel’s conditions.
During a visit to Macedonia, he told the press that there is no way that Serbia can bring Kosovo back into its “state system” as it was before and there is no support for partition. He suggested perhaps some dual sovereignty approach might work.
The continued German effort to “bludgeon” Serbia and the northern Serbs into surrender is either based on a stubborn belief that force can work or is a cynical way of keeping Serbia outside. In the coming weeks and months – as it becomes clear that the barricades won’t come down without agreement on KFOR/EULEX status neutrality and Serbian local institutions in the north won’t be abolished in any case – how with the Quint react?
Will the US and Germany, for whatever reasons, up the military pressure and perhaps seek a solution through use of force? Or will Serbia (and Tadic) be left to simply wither on the EU vine? Either way, Europe seems to be allowing Germany to lead it into a historic blunder by freezing Serbia out rather than bringing it in. Is progress on corruption, migration and ethnic conflict, etc. more likely that way?
Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. Gerard is also a member of TransConflict’s Advisory Board.