By Linda Karadaku
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule late last month, suggesting that talks on northern Kosovo be split.
The goal of the parallel talks would be to better extend a hand towards the Serb community in Kosovo. This would be done by dividing current talks into a Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and an EU-Kosovo structured dialogue.
Anna Charlotta Johansson, press secretary to Bildt, told SETimes that his office would not comment on the reported letter.
“I can confirm we got the letter,” Maja Kocijancic, Ashton’s spokesperson, told SETimes. “It is an input into the debate we will have this and next week and where all member states will participate.”
“I also want to make clear that we have an ongoing dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina that has the support of the international community,” Kocijancic said. “The [European] Commission made a clear recommendation that Kosovo needs to launch a comprehensive agenda for the north.”
Kocijancic said questions regarding the substance of the letter should be addressed to Bildt.
It was reported on November 28th that Bildt sent the letter to the EU institutions after visiting the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica, which he described as “more tense and more divided today than it has been for a very long time”.
“While we must be firm in rejecting any notion of partition, we should also be realistic enough to admit that there will be no easy solution to overcoming an existing division that is currently growing stronger and more hostile by the day,” Bildt wrote, according to the EUobserver.
“A way ahead stands certainly in the further dialogue on the north between Pristina and Belgrade, and I believe the time has come to move beyond narrow, defined technical issues,” Bildt’s letter reportedly stated.
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said that Bildt’s idea is “totally unacceptable for Kosovo and not implementable”.
“Kosovo has been in dialogue with the international community in Vienna for three years for political status. The independence of Kosovo was proclaimed in close co-ordination with the European Union and the United States of America. Kosovo is consolidated now and it is strengthening as a state,” Thaci told Kosovo media.
He also said that Sweden has been part of negotiations for political status and recognised Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state. He expressed his readiness to talk to the Kosovo Serbs in the north, but declined the possibility of talking to the heads of the parallel structures there.
In Belgrade, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic told Serbian news agency Tanjug that Bildt’s proposal on separate talks regarding Kosovo’s north “was a step in the right direction”.
He described it as one of the elements that Serbian President Boris Tadic presented in September at the UN General Assembly, Belgrade-based B92 reported from Brussels.
However, analysts in Kosovo and Serbia disagree about political dialogue on northern Kosovo. Dragan Popovic, director of the Belgrade-based Policy Centre, said “political dialogue on the north should be set in the wider context of dialogue on Kosovo decentralisation and the position of national minorities.”
“That is what some analysts call the ‘Ahtisaari Plus’ plan. This dialogue should finally secure normal coexistence between the two states without obstructions for Kosovo from Belgrade, but also probably without the formal recognition of Kosovo independence from Serbia. The EU has to have a leading role in this dialogue,” Popovic told SETimes.
But Mentor Vrajolli, a senior researcher for the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS), told SETimes that “for the Kosovo side and for the international side, starting talks on political issues would not be fruitful at all and would be destabilising.”
“[Talks] would bring about disappointment and much larger riots than those in the north,” Vrajolli said. He believes that such negotiations would result in recreating a Bosnia and Herzegovina model in Kosovo and probably even worse, which risks producing a domino effect and “reviving the idea of the creation of homogenous states”.