For more than a year the negotiations’ process of normalization of bilateral relations between Kosovo and Serbia to reach a lasting agreement that would produce and ensure the mutual recognition of sovereignty and territorial integrity between the two states, is halted.
The reasons are plenty. Among the principal causes the controversial political developments in Serbia, Kosovo, are the most critical. Furthermore, the two fundamental local factors, Serbia and Kosovo, are relatively kept aside, marginalized from the Western diplomacy.
In 2019, the European Union had to deal with general elections, with the challenges of Brexit as well as with other crisis such as that of immigrants coming from the areas of conflict in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan and in the countries of Maghreb. These challenges kept the EU temporarily away from the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. In these circumstances, we have a greater engagement initiated by individual countries, such as Germany and France, acting as strategic intermediaries of the European Union’s Foreign Policy.
Last year, the foreign policy of United States of America was characterized by causing a number of priorities being “shoved away”. From the careful attention towards the Middle East and the Far East, from the Trade War with China to the intense confrontations with Iran, from withdrawal of US troops in Syria and Iraq to the severe negotiations with North Korea. Such a “diverted attention” in US foreign policy, also, left in the remotest sidelines the solution of bilateral relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
The diplomatic proverb is well known and that encompasses the following, when big, influential international actors maintain away their attention from those areas in crisis, then local actors take advantage and move in a way that is best to their advantage. Such a situation, the French writer, Molière describes it well in his Miser’s plot in a figurative way… “When the cat is taking a walk outside, mice are dancing in the house floor.” This is exactly what happened with the pending crisis between Kosovo and Serbia.
Last year 2019 brought a full suspension of formal dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. Instead of such a highly vital dialogue we had an escalation of confrontation and deterioration of diplomatic ties among the parties. Serbia restored its growing diplomatic aggression against Kosovo in International Relations, especially with its exerted pressure en route for securing official withdrawal of Kosovo’s independence recognition by a few countries.
Faced with the Serbian aggression in the international platform, the Government of Kosovo decided to impose an elevated tax on 100 percent of Serbian commodities and agricultural products that were imported by Kosovo’s private sector. This consequential measure of self-defense taken by Kosovo, attracted the attention of Western Diplomatic corridors, of EU and USA, making the latter two actors become more involved in solving this dispute. The general elections of October 6th, 2019 in Kosovo and their results were determined from the Kosovo-Serbia crisis. The Kurti Government was voted to implement the option that was contrary to that of President Hashim Thaçi.
But there were official, public and political exchanges. Meanwhile according to many sources and distinguished diplomats and respected experts such as D. Friedman, Daniel Serwer, Janusz Bugajski, Tim Judah or the prestigious newspapers including Der Standard, The Guardian and New York Times, during this time was employed a conspiratory diplomacy, through local actors of Serbia and Kosovo, specifically between the two presidents: Aleksandar Vučić and Hashim Thaçi, as well as through regional initiatives including the peripheral Balkan’s “mini-Schengen” customs area.
Conspiratory diplomacy, is widely articulated and is not publicly undermined, it has designed a final agreement that embodies the formula of territorial exchange, obviously in favor of Serbia and against Kosovo, as it is a great menace to peace and stability in the region.
Western Diplomacy started to activate its channels once the chimes of bilateral friction between Kosovo and Serbia were rumbling in their own backyard and only when conspiratory diplomacy of Vučić – Thaçi and other local supporters was blatantly revealed. However, this time Western Diplomacy appears to have abandoned its previous priorities and does not maintain the same wave length.
Diplomatic coincidences between the European Union and the United States, even certain channels inside the United States, have experienced certain diversions in connection to many aspects related to ensuring a sustainable solution in the Serbia – Kosovo crisis.
Divergences between the EU and USA in relation to their approach of solving the Kosovo-Serbia crisis has emerged due to changes in US Foreign Policy and Diplomatic pursuit, similar strategic shifts have not taken place respectively – with a symmetrical advance – inside the Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Channels of Europe.
It appears that the Foreign Policy and Diplomacy of United States does not have the inner cohesion between the White House and the Department of State when it comes to solving the Serbia – Kosovo dispute, as well as between the Executive Branch and US Capitol. Obviously different factors, constant shifting of influences and infinite lobbying channels are seriously harming that very same cohesion that existed many years ago in the U. S. Foreign Policy and Diplomacy towards Kosovo and Serbia.
It is evident that diplomatic factors, especially in the White House, are trying to find a ‘balance’ between Kosovo and Serbia, they are supporting, or at least are not against the option of territorial exchange, openly in favor of Serbia; that is harmful to Kosovo and to peace and security in the region, they are also eager to finalize and accelerate prematurely the process of Kosovo – Serbia final agreement.
These diplomatic factors in the White House, starting with John Bolton all the way to Richard Allen Grenell, in the international public perception, have marked setbacks, made retrograde movements, diversified the foreign policy strategy of the United States and have influenced, with all their potential, the disagreements between Washington and Brussels for the ultimate solution of Kosovo-Serbia crisis.
However, as Bolton was a conservative and consistent with his vision of revising US Foreign Policy; Grenell is pragmatic and likes to take advantage of the occasion and explore quick solutions as the only international gift for his boss that directly benefits him in the upcoming November elections for the White House.
Observed from experts, distinguished diplomats and international western media, the growing diplomacy of lobbying in Washington recently has leaned towards conspiratory diplomacy of local Serbian and Kosovar actors and their respective secret options.
This tolerance of American diplomacy towards Balkan’s Conspiracy, has awakened a powerful political reaction across the legitimate institutions and public opinion in Kosovo, in the networks of official EU policies, among the western experts and groups of renowned diplomats and in prestigious world media.
This powerful international reaction demands and supports with a single voice a public diplomatic action taken from western diplomacy in EU and USA and is against actions of conspiratory diplomacy. Conspiratory diplomacy is the product of systems before the Treaty of Versailles, when monarchs, emperors and princes of the old world, were reaching deals and were trafficking many nations’ destiny for their own benefit.
This Conspiratory Diplomacy produced unfair, unnecessary and very harmful solutions. Conspiratory diplomacy was ignoring people, their legitimacy, peace and international security. For this reason conspiratory diplomacy has encouraged conflicts and fanned bilateral wars, regional and world turmoil.
The Balkans has been the laboratory and victim of conspiratory diplomacy. From this concept it was euphemized as the place of ‘Gun Keg Power’. All Balkan wars were shaped and accompanied by conspiratory diplomacy. Even though now, the Balkans is living one of its best periods; the partisans of conspiratory diplomacy are roving around and operating like shadows.
The supporters of conspiratory diplomacy are mainly in the areas of crisis, and precisely in Kosovo and Serbia, with Serbian representatives Vučić and Ivica Dačić and Kosovo’s representatives Hashim Thaçi and some other sneaky – underhanded individuals in Prishtina and Tirana that keep throwing stones and hide their hands. In a wider context, conspiratory diplomacy in the Balkans is supported by the successors of Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great and Stalin in today’s Kremlin.
For almost one hundred years public diplomacy has earned legitimacy in international affairs. It is established from democratic principles, legitimate, that are necessary and viable for democratic societies and states. Based on this concept is shaped the Theory of Democratic Peace, that produces peace within national borders and peace in the world. Public diplomacy is enshrined by the legitimacy: of democratic institutions, from the international norms and principles, from the support provided by the people, news media, civil society and world opinion.
In relation to the current Serbia – Kosovo crisis for a long time were juxtaposed two diplomacies: conspiratory diplomacy and public diplomacy. Conspiratory diplomacy with its roots in the Balkans and the East. Meanwhile public diplomacy mainly prevalent in the West. The most troublesome fracture, based on opinions at large, emerging from the national and international public perception, underlining that a few diplomatic actors and lobbyists with influential ties in the White House, are leaning towards Balkanic Conspiratory Diplomacy.
The recent statement of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, as one of the distinguished voices and authorities of U. S. Foreign Policy and World Diplomacy, stated publicly these concerns about the current Foreign Policy of United States and specifically addressed its role in ultimately resolving the Kosovo – Serbia crisis. Congressman Engel stated: “This administration turned to economic penalties just a few short weeks after the Kurti government took office. Rather than letting a new government facing a pandemic, staff its agencies and set up internal procedures, the U.S. contributed to a political crisis in Prishtina over the tariffs on Serbia…While Serbian diplomats are campaigning around the world to “derecognize” Kosovo’s independence, and Serbia is purchasing heavy weaponry from Russia and strengthening the relationship with Moscow, the pressure imposed on Prishtina for its tariffs on Serbia has been “decidedly unbalanced…”.
After this international countenance, and also inside Western and American corridors, were public diplomacy is openly triumphant over conspiratory diplomacy, we observe another approach, pursued by a few diplomats and various lobbyists, let’s say ‘ambiguous diplomacy.”
“Ambiguous Diplomacy” that is observed recently in the public posture, actions and statements of Richard Grenell in connection to the solution of Kosovo-Serbia crisis is neither supporting Balkanic Conspiratory Diplomacy of Vučić – Thaçi nor is supportive of western public diplomacy in Europe and United States.
Ambiguous Diplomacy is an alternative diplomacy, sometimes with or without principles, sometimes with or without strategy, sometimes with or without priorities. Ambiguous Diplomacy is not sustainable, is carefully pragmatic and is based on shortfalls. As such ambiguous diplomacy produces unsuitable solutions, not legitimate, pitfalls in service to specific – existing interests and political underperformance, only narrowly profitable to those implementing and supporting it.
Lobbying groups and diplomats connected to them prefer to embrace ambiguous diplomacy. Such a diplomatic course of action is fair to ascertain as ‘pay to play.’
The current crisis of Serbia and Kosovo has reached a critical point. Over this crisis are operating different and contradictory political interests. The pending viable solution is heavily dependent on diplomacy, as the art of negotiations for a peaceful solution, immune to ongoing crisis as well as overarching inclusion and representation.
In the present Serbia – Kosovo crisis are operating three types of diplomacy. Conspiratory Diplomacy with a local crib in Serbia – Kosovo; supported by regional actors with Eastern orientation. Public Diplomacy with a legitimate democratic foundation and that is rooted in local and international – western principles of EU and USA. Ambiguous Diplomacy that is intensely pragmatic and shortsighted with a few satellite bases in the West and the Balkans, including Brussels and Washington.
This is a diplomatic clash unseen before, unknown and unpredictable. From the victory and victorious parties of this diplomatic clash will depend the future of new diplomacy and the newly shaped diplomacy will influence in a greater extent the new world order.
The ultimate solution of Kosovo – Serbia crisis will certainly conclude the fall of “Europe’s last wall”, as part of the overall scenario intended to end the Cold War and mark the beginning of a New World Order.
This analysis was translated from Albanian Language by: Peter M. Tase
*Prof. Dr. Lisen Bashkurti is the President of Albanian Diplomatic Academy in Albania. Prof. Dr. Bashkurti is the Global Vice President of Sun Moon University in South Korea. As a distinguished scholar of international relations he has received many international awards including: A “Gold Medal” for his research on US-Albanian Partnership,” “Four Silver Medals” for his great contribution during his service as Albania’s Ambassador to Hungary (1992-1993); appointed as “Peace Ambassador” from the International Peace Foundation, United Nations (2009). Prof. Dr. Lisen Bashkurti was a keynote speaker in the “Intercultural Dialogue and Innovations in Diplomacy and Diplomatic Training” of the Dubrovnik Diplomatic Forum in Dubrovnik, Republic of Croatia (2011, 2012, 2013). He is the author of more than 18 books that cover a range of issues including: International Affairs, Negotiations and Conflict Resolution, International Diplomacy, Multilateral Diplomacy and Diplomatic History. He is an honorary professor in many prestigious European Universities and an honorary fellow to a number of prominent International Institutions. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lisen BASHKURTI is the Dean of the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, Epoka University,Tirana – Albania. Previously Prof. Bashkurti has been a Chancellor of various universities in South East Europe and served as Senior Adviser of International Relations to a number of governments.Prof. Lisen Bashkurti is the author of “Crumbled Bridges of the Balkans” a book published in the United States, in 2016.