Separatist authorities in Pristina no longer hide their intention to force Belgrade, at any cost, to recognize the independence of Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed in 2008. After the unsuccessful vote on the admission of a separatist formation to Interpol for Pristina, ‘Kosovar’ leadership decided to impose 100% duties on the importation of goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the same time, the “Prime Minister of Kosovo” Ramush Haradinaj openly stated that such “measures” would remain in force until the signing of an agreement on “normalization of relations” with Belgrade. And this agreement, as reported, in turn, the “president” Hashim Thaci, should remove any obstacles to Kosovo’s membership in NATO, the UN and the EU. In other words, Belgrade should imply a direct or indirect recognition of Kosovo as an independent state. Elena Guskova is the head of the Center for the Study of the Modern Balkan Crisis of the Institute of Slavonic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a member of the Senate of the Republika Srpska. – ed
By Elena Guskova
Negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina have now come to a standstill. Naturally, the reason for this is, above all, the position of Pristina. Belgrade, since 2000, was constantly losing ground during the negotiations. It ended with the signing of the Brussels Treaty, which was absolutely not in line with the interests of Belgrade – too many concessions were made to the Kosovo Albanians. From the point of view of today’s events, we are interested in the fact that this agreement established the border between Serbia and Kosovo, and the Albanians were allowed to collect duties on all imported goods in accordance with the legislation they introduced – that is, they received the right to establish their laws and decide what duties they charge. Thus, Belgrade gave them enormous rights, which are given to independent states.
Albanians were confident that they would very quickly gain independence. But in 2008 their hopes vanished, they did not receive independence. However, after the signing of the Brussels Treaty, it seemed to them that they were about to fulfill their dream: they were so close according to the documents to independence. Therefore, the separatists were not in a hurry to fulfill the agreements regarding the Kosovo Serbs. This caused great disapproval from both the Serbian population and its leadership. Negotiations continued, but the Serbs stopped making concessions. Recently, Belgrade unexpectedly began to think about the interests of the Serbs and their rights in the territory of Kosovo. What we have today: Albanians have not been able to gain full independence for 10 years, but the patience of the Serbian leadership has expired, and it requires concessions from Pristina.
What do separatists undertake in these conditions? It seemed that they should have already learned the techniques of diplomacy if they were playing independence. But they continue to use their usual methods of violence and provocation – the killing of Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovich, the arrest of Serbian politicians on the territory of Kosovo, intimidation, threats, a demonstrative visit by Hashim Thaci of the north of Kosovo, where mostly Serbs live. As we see, they are not able to conduct a democratic negotiation process and use diplomatic methods. I believe that their last action – an increase in customs duties – also applies to provocative ones. On the one hand, it is a reminder that they “manage the situation in their country”, which is practically independent. On the other hand, this is a political measure, an attempt to avenge Belgrade for not accepting Kosovo from Interpol (Albanians believe that the Serbs were too active in defending their position). Although two weeks ago they already raised customs duties by 10%, and this was not related to Interpol. Now the measures taken will hurt the peaceful population of Kosovo: punishing the Serbs,
It seems to me that with such actions the Albanians would like to again draw attention to the problem of the independence of Kosovo. However, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, met with such disapproval, and very gently suggested that the Albanians rescind their decision. The reaction of Moscow, in turn, was clear and unambiguous: the Foreign Ministry believes that this is the beginning of a trade war “in line with the policy of ethnic cleansing.” Moscow believes that the EU should influence the Kosovo authorities.
If we evaluate the introduction of 100% duties, then we can talk about the blockade of trade with Serbia and BiH. It seems to me that this is an unfortunate measure that will strike, first of all, on the population of Kosovo – both in Serbian and Albanian. Probably, such a regime will not last long; the Kosovo authorities will still have to cancel their decision.
As for the response, Serbia also has its levers, but it has not yet voiced them. It can block roads, electricity, or telephone, but no more. Alexander Vucic has already stated that Serbia will not accept these measures, since they can lead to a trade, economic or customs war and complicate the situation in the Balkans. He very much hopes that the world powers, with whose representatives he conducted negotiations, will find a means of pressure on Kosovo to force the separatists to abandon this step. It would be nice if Russia, China and, possibly, the United States were to tackle the difficult situation in relations between Belgrade and Pristina, since Europe is not coping with this task.