Unequal partition

Talks on the final status of Kosovo have reached an impasse. Backed by the United States, Kosovo Albanians are insisting on nothing less than independence while Serbia has proposed a status of increased autonomy for the divided province. The UN plan, which offered supervised independence for Kosovo, was not really a compromise solution. It was essentially a way of legalizing the de facto secession in place since 1999. Naturally, it was embraced by Pristina and detested in Belgrade. International supervision is no problem to the ethnic Albanians as it will be transient and will not really obstruct the full Albanization of the region. Russia’s veto threat on the Security Council blocked the US strategy. The Kosovo wrangling reflects the broader antagonism between the US and Russia in the search for a new equilibrium. Faced with a stalemate, Washington is threatening to recognize unilateral independence but such a move could open a can of worms in other countries dogged by separatist ambitions. Saying that Kosovo is a special case and that it will not set a precedent will have little political effect. The current impasse will be resolved only if the solution of (unequal) partition is put on the table. Serbia must be given the northern part of Kosovo and guarantees for monuments in the area. Moscow has indicated the limits of Russian support, encouraging Belgrade to accept partition. But the West has ruled out such a settlement. And US recognition of independence without UN approval will have side effects. Serbs in Mitrovica and the Bosnian Serbs could incorporate themselves within Serbia. On what political grounds could the West prevent this from happening? In other words, the solution that has been ruled out for Kosovo and Bosnia could return via the back door.