Pandora’s Box opening in Kosovo

In three weeks the Kosovo wound will be re-opened. Despite the efforts of the so-called troika – the European Union, the United States and Russia – the international community has failed to reach a settlement on the divided province. Negotiations will be wrapped up on December 10. The negotiating parties have thoroughly examined all possible scenarios: federation, confederation, broad autonomy, supervised independence. Belgrade and Pristina will never reach an agreement and responsibility for this lies mostly with Washington. Encouraged by the US government, Kosovo Albanians have refused to make any compromises. Instead, they have warned of violence and pledged to declare unilateral independence. The US and most European states are expected to adopt such a declaration, even without a green-light from the United Nations. Nine years after the crisis of 1999, the international community is passively watching as a new hotspot surfaces in the heart of southern Europe. Reassurances that an independence declaration in Kosovo will not set a precedent are unfounded. If the past is any guide, such a move will sooner or later trigger similar claims in other countries. In view of the looming breakdown, Europe, the US and Russia will in the coming days try to persuade the Serbs and the ethnic Albanians to accept some basic principles of coexistence, even in the absence of a concrete deal. At a Washington briefing on Wednesday, European officials made known that they will submit proposals on a «status-neutral» agreement aimed at facilitating day-to-day matters, financial ties, crime fighting and so on. The proposals will be based on the 1972 deal between West and East Germany, although unlike those two states, Kosovo does not constitute an independent entity. The European proposal will not impinge on the positions of either side. Belgrade will continue to consider Kosovo part of Serbia while Pristina will stay the course toward unilateral independence. Moscow has its own reasons to insist on a solution acceptable to Belgrade. Washington rushed to openly back Kosovo’s independence, thus condemning the mediation to failure. A possible agreement between Serbs and ethnic Albanians on a status of complete autonomy and enhanced international rights would ensure the two communities’ smooth coexistence without offending Serbia’s history. At the same time, it would set a hopeful precedent of cooperation between the West and Russia. Nevertheless some have maintained a biased stance, thereby opening a Pandora’s box in Bosnia and FYROM. And that could be just the beginning.