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Kosovo Is Divided Concerning Opening Of Dialogue With Serbia And Substance Of Final Agreement – OpEd

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The Republic of Kosovo is recently experiencing a difficult political, diplomatic, institutional, economic, and social situation. Even after the Constitutional Court’s decision in late May 2020 to establish Avdullah Hoti’s Government, the country appears to be re-entering in a much more complex crisis cycle. The epicenter of the crisis is the opening of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue to reach a comprehensive agreement on the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Political parties in Kosovo have different approaches to the opening of negotiations. In principle, everyone in Kosovo is in favor of negotiations, as the best way to solve problems with Serbia. The political controversy in Kosovo is related, primarily, to the procedures for opening these negotiations; secondly, to their content; thirdly, to the international mediators; and fourthly, to the speed of the implementation of the agreement.  This analysis tackles the first two items. 

The Procedure of opening discussions 

In negotiations, including dialogue and diplomatic negotiations, the procedures have a particular importance. Regarding the procedure for opening the negotiations, the last three governments in Kosovo have held different positions on this task, compared to previous governments. The AAK government with Prime Minister Haradinaj applied a 100 percent tariff on Serbian goods, in response to the opening of negotiations. This blocked the negotiations’ process.

The VV government with Prime Minister Kurti lifted the Haradinaj Government’s tariff and imposed a measure of reciprocity, again in response to the opening of negotiations.  Even Kurti’s measure continued to block the procedure of opening negotiations with Serbia. The LDK government with Prime Minister Hoti is following the approach of removing all these barriers of the two previous governments, both the tariff of Mr. Haradinaj and the reciprocity of Mr. Kurti, in order to proceed with the opening of negotiations with Serbia. The cause of this incoherence and government clash in Kosovo is President Hashim Thaçi, who from the very beginning has insisted on the unconditional removal of any barriers that, according to his thoughts and Serbia’s approach (but not only) prevent the opening of negotiations.

Now Kosovo has removed all the so-called obstacles to opening a dialogue with Serbia, or more precisely, it has been subject and succumbed to the conditions set forth by Serbia. It is time to wait for the reaction of Belgrade, that has the upcoming political elections on June 21st, 2020.  So, everything will be left for later. The elections, the establishment of the new post-election institutions, the containment of Covid-19 and of the hot summer, the agreement with the international mediators and the further opening of negotiations with Kosovo. It seems that it will be again Belgrade that will decide on the timing of the opening of negotiations, without any arrangement with Kosovo.

Kosovo needs to be ready with the draft agenda, strategy, basic principles, priorities, negotiation tactics, possible scenarios, establish its negotiating team, support expert teams, role-sharing within their team, mandate their leader and shape the most acceptable final options of the agreement. Some of these elements must be approved by the National Assembly of Kosovo, at the maximum degree of consensus, and with a greater political backbone. The rest is up to the negotiating team to implement these tactics and carry out its mission in a classified mode, throughout this progress.  

The substance of discussion issues 

In talks, dialogue and diplomatic negotiations, content is the fundamental matter. Regarding the content of the negotiations, the political controversy in Kosovo is even deeper, the controversy is even greater. At the heart of this controversy is the approach to violating the territorial integrity of the State of Kosovo for the benefit of Serbia. President Thaçi is also primarily responsible for this enduring crisis in Kosovo.

Former Prime Minister Thaçi, who later became President, allowed numerous procedural and substantive variations during the talks. Thaçi went beyond the technical character of the talks and entered into politics without a mandate; negotiated un-constitutionally for inappropriate aspects, such as the inviolability of Kosovo’s territorial integrity; did not report and was not transparent as a negotiating authority before the National Assembly of Kosovo; conducted secret personal talks with the Serbian side; and transferred the main negotiating authority of the Kosovo side, from the Executive Government, which is charged by the Constitution and the resolution of the Assembly of 2012, to the President (i.e. to himself), who has no constitutional authority or parliamentary mandate to lead these negotiations on behalf of Kosovo.

These deviations from the Constitution and from the resolution of 2012 (approved by the National Assembly of Kosovo) are the responsibility of President Thaçi, who has become the main object of controversy in Kosovo. This controversy has polarized politics and institutions, brought one-after-another government changes, and have blocked formal talks with Serbia since 2018.

It is President Thaçi who, during secret personal talks with Serbia, without the constitutional authority and without the mandate of the resolution approved by the National Assembly of Kosovo in 2012, negotiated the territorial integrity of Kosovo. President Thaçi seems to have accepted the Serbian version of President Vučić, in cooperation with the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Edi Rama for the ‘territorial exchange’, which basically consists in partitioning the territory of Kosovo. President Thaçi has tried and is trying to introduce these ‘territorial exchanges’ as a matter of ‘reciprocal territorial exchanges’ between Kosovo and Serbia.

In fact, this is not the case. The Vučić – Thaçi – Rama plan removes about 15 percent of Kosovo’s territory, and this, converted into an economic indicator, is about 25 percent of Kosovo’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is important to note that the territories intended to be given to Serbia are the wealthiest in raw materials, minerals, fresh-water reserves, and natural resources. With these territorial and economic concessions, Kosovo will risk its viability of economic growth and lose the balance of renewable resources and economic health; therefore, become solely into an agricultural and livestock economy. A fragmented and poor Kosovo is easily fragile and submissive, as such, it has been and remains to be Serbia’s main strategy.

The aforementioned Serbian option agreed and supported by President Hashim Thaçi has been opposed by the vast majority of the political parties in Kosovo, such as VV, LDK, AAK, NISMA, including the public opinion, mass media, civil society, academicians and powerful international factors such as the EU, Germany, France , Great Britain, the countries of Western Balkans, neighboring states around Kosovo and Serbia, as well as prominent personalities of Albanian, European and American diplomacy. The Vučić – Thaçi – Rama project concocted with other geopolitical and diplomatic influences standing behind them is said to have been buried. But I do not think so. The idea of this plan is alive again. As long as this idea is alive, the risk remains high for Kosovo, as well as for peace and stability in the Balkans and Europe. 

This article was translated from Albanian language by: Peter M. Tase 

Source of the original publication: https://kohajone.com/kosova-e-percare-per-hapjen-e-bisedimeve-me-serbine-dhe-thelbin-e-marreveshjes-perfundimtare/  (June 9th, 2020) 

Dr. Lisen Bashkurti

Dr. Lisen Bashkurti

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lisen Bashkurti is the Dean of the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences (FLSS), Epoka University, Tirana, Albania. In 1992-1993, Bashkurti was the ambassador of Albania to the Republic of Hungary.

One thought on “Kosovo Is Divided Concerning Opening Of Dialogue With Serbia And Substance Of Final Agreement – OpEd

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    June 12, 2020 at 2:03 pm
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    Kosovo and Metohija’s final agreement analogous to its inception will be of a military character. Once the combats are exhausted it will clarify who is worth talking to and in what capacity. The West desire a quick solution because the West is atomizing and its vassal (Kosovo) is not viable as a state.

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