Independence foretold

Everything seems to indicate that the looming negotiations for the future status of the contested Kosovo province will be nothing more than a chronicle of independence foretold. The West rejects the Serbian «more than autonomy, less than independence» formula. Instead, it proposes conditional independence, meaning a strong military presence in the area and a local government under international monitoring. Greece is worried that a quick solution without prior fulfillment of the UN standards will destabilize the broader region. The visit by Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, who is in charge of a regional cooperation initiative, to Pristina and Belgrade was supposed to underscore Greece’s concerns and serve as a reminder that regional governments want a say in the status talks. Washington, which has orchestrated the West’s diplomatic efforts, wants to close this case by the end of 2006. The main roadblock is Serbia, which has no interest in rubber-stamping Kosovo’s de facto partition. A deal without Belgrade’s signature will be potentially unstable. This is obvious to the US but it is reluctant to give the Serbs something in return. Although Washington tried to sell Serbs the prospect of EU membership, the mood in Brussels is not promising. The only realistic solution at the moment would be to give Mitrovica, a Serb enclave in northeastern Kosovo, to Belgrade and to promote the establishment of a Serbian Orthodox Monastic Community (as proposed by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, or ELIAMEP). The US seems to favor the latter but objects to the former because of the inviolability of borders. Independence for Kosovo would run against this very principle. Independence will turn Kosovo into an ethnically homogeneous area and peace will be imposed by driving out the Serb population.