By Linda Karadaku
As the standoff in Kosovo’s north enters another week, the prospects appear poor for a solution that would satisfy all sides. One option that has been ruled out – at least officially – is partition.
“The Kosovo government does not even consider the option of division, because Kosovo is one and undivided,” said Bekim Collaku, senior adviser to Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. “So it was yesterday, today, and forever.”
The Serbian government has also taken a public stance against such a split, although there have been indications that some within the leadership see it as a possibility. Interior Minister Ivica Dacic set off a controversy in May when he suggested that Belgrade should acknowledge the reality of Kosovo’s independence and instead push for separating the north.
“International relations are such that it is unrealistic to expect Kosovo and Metohija to remain part of Serbia,” he told the local B92 network, adding that “the only possible compromise solution is territory partition.”
His statements were later amended by the speaker of the Serbian parliament, Slavica Dukic-Dejanovic, who told the daily Danas that the minister “never advocated a partition of Kosovo, but rather the drawing of a separation line”.
Borislav Stefanovic, the head of Belgrade’s negotiating team for talks with Kosovo, said that while his country cannot accept independence, it is ready to “find a sustainable solution that would protect both Serbia’s state interests and Serbs in northern Kosovo.”
According to Dragan Popovic, director of the Belgrade-based Policy Centre, partition simply entails too many risks to regional stability for it to be considered seriously.
“It would practically mean that the international community is ready to open border issues in the Western Balkans which can cause violence, political instability, even wars,” he said. “Nobody in the international community is ready to risk that much.”
By contrast, the chief editor of the Kosovo daily Koha Ditore says a de facto partition already exists, and Belgrade is seeking to legalize it.
“There are those internationally, even among some Europeans from the states that have recognized Kosovo, who think that a kind of division of the north from Kosovo, a smooth division, such as autonomy, or strong division such as separation, would solve the problem,” Agron Bajrami told SETimes.
While Pristina is right to oppose such a policy, he added, its efforts are frustrated by lack of a real strategy for extending its governance to the north.
Marko Prelec, the director of the International Crisis Group (ICG) for the Balkans, says that proposing a split may have been feasible at one point, but the opportunity has passed.
“Serbia’s Democratic Party (DS) wanted partition, but waited too long before proposing it. Key DS leaders were so convinced that the deal they had in mind – in which Serbia would recognize Kosovo in exchange for partition – was obviously good that there would be no need to sell it,” Prelec told SETimes.
“The big losers in all this are the north Kosovo Serbs, who desperately want to remain under Serbian rule. Their wishes need to be considered. No one is really explaining anything to them or talking to them, which is a shame, because the whole saga of the north should ultimately be about the people who live there,” he said.