ISSN 2330-717X

Serbia Proposes Dayton-Style Conference On Kosovo

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By Bojana Barlovac

Members of the Serbian government have proposed running an international conference in the hope that it would help create lasting peace in the region.

One government source, who spoke to Balkan Insight on condition of anonymity, said that there was a feeling that “only an open discussion of all possible models may lead to a solution that is sustainable in the long-run.”

The source added that were an international conference to be held, it would likely take place under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council and would include three players in the talks: Belgrade, Pristina and Brussels.

“Such an agreement would regulate all areas and responsibilities of all units within Kosovo in great detail, from the distribution of money to the police and judiciary,” the source said.

Traces of this view were also expressed one week ago when Dragoljub Micunovic, an MP from the ruling DS party in Serbia, presented views on the situation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE.

“A solution to the Kosovo problem can only be found in an international conference if stable peace is desired, because any imposed solution will always be a source of future crises,” Micunovic told the Belgrade-based daily Politika.

He said that many European MPs supported the idea.

Tension has escalated in the predominantly Serb-populated northern part of Kosovo over the past two months following changes of control at two border crossings in the area.

Up until 25 July this year, only international peacekeepers, KFOR, and members of the EU’s rule-of-law mission, EULEX had maintained an on-the-ground presence at the two checkpoints in the area.

However, a decision by the Kosovo government in July resulted in members of the government’s mainly ethnic Albanian police force being deployed to the checkpoints to enforce a recent ban on goods from Serbia.

Serbia had introduced a similar ban on goods from Kosovo entering Serbia after the country declared its independence in 2008.

The presence of ethnic Albanian police officers in the mainly Serb populated area sparked a confrontation in August which resulted in the torching of one checkpoint and the death of one police officer.

A significant diplomatic effort then ensued, with EU mediators working around the clock with representatives from both Kosovo and Serbia to find a workable solution.

A temporary arrangement saw international peacekeepers and EULEX resume exclusive presence in northern Kosovo until early September.

Then, in accordance with a new agreement which had been announced in advance, some members of the Kosovo authorities returned to the area to be present, alongside EULEX and peacekeepers, at the checkpoints.

The return of Kosovo authorities sparked renewed anger in the area and local Serbs erected roadblocks to protest and prevent vehicles from travelling along some of the area’s busiest main roads.

On 28 September, hundreds of local Serb protesters attempted to breach a security barrier being manned by NATO peacekeepers at the Jarinje border crossing.

A spokesman for the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR, said troops had been forced to respond to indiscriminate acts of violence after shots were fired in the direction of KFOR personnel and explosive devices were thrown at KFOR soldiers.

In total, 16 people were reported as injured.

At present, there is no consensus between Belgrade and Pristina on whether the problems in northern Kosovo should be formally discussed between the two sides. However EU mediator Robert Cooper is currently in the Balkans attempting to reconcile the two sides and bring them back to the negotiating table.

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Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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