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Kosovo is becoming a pro in the blame game – a vicious circle everyone falls prey to eventually, but by rule, at their own expense. In the case of the current Kosovo Government, the fuel for the game is ample – on the one hand, it actually isn’t to blame for many of the issues it is encountering. Still, on the other hand, a decade and a half of fierce, often unconstructive oppositional activities to almost every government policy will leave you in a precarious position once you yourself have no option but to implement the same policy – best exemplified through criticism, Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti is under now for accepting the * and conditions of the agreement of regional representation in his official visits to the EU.
The EU lost its credibility for failing to deliver visa liberalization for Kosovo. The EU has no credibility to lead the negotiations with Serbia because of the five non-recognizers; the US should take a more significant role in the process of normalization of relation to remedy it.
The two are the most common criticisms directed at the EU by Kosovo political representatives, position, and opposition alike. What is left unsaid when Kosovo comes forward with criticism such as these?
Yes, the Council of the European Union is failing to reach a consensus to put the issue of visa liberalization for Kosovo on its agenda. But, who was it that blocked the ratification of the agreement on demarcation with Montenegro, one of the two necessary political conditions for visa liberalization, for almost three years? Had it not been for primarily AAK’s and LVV’s opposition by non-democratic means, the situation in the Council might have been more favorable in 2016, when the agreement on demarcation was supposed to be ratified, than it was in 2018, when the ratification finally passed in the Kosovo Assembly.
Glauk Konjufca, now full of disdain for those who fail to show up at Presidency sessions and ensure a quorum, has once interrupted the meeting of the same body by throwing tear gas no less to block the calling of the plenary session to vote on this issue. His party colleagues, among them the current Minister of Internal Affairs, Xhelal Sveçla, who is now so concerned with the rule of law, employed the same defense device at the plenary session two years later when the two-third majority needed to ratify an international agreement were present and ready to exercise their right and duty as MPs and vote.
Peacefully protesting, questioning the fairness of including resolution of bilateral issues into criteria for visa liberalization are legitimate ways of fighting processes perceived as unfavorable. They could have been addressed through diplomatic channels, at least the latter. However, stopping the vote by an overwhelming majority using teargas was bound to leave long-term consequences for Kosovo’s image, as did the announcements of Haradinaj’s government related to the revision of the agreement on demarcation after it was ratified with so much fuss and prolongations.
The EU is also not a credible or capable party to lead the Dialogue – it has no leverage and is incapable of convincing its own member states to recognize Kosovo, let alone Serbia.
This criticism lacks Kosovo’s acknowledgment that, were it not for the EU and this Dialogue, it would still be in 2010. This means no IBMs with Serbia, no +383 for Kosovo, Basic Court and Basic Prosecution of Mitrovica still in Vushtrri/Vučitrn, no local institutions of the Government of Kosovo in the north. None of these are Kosovo’s accomplishments or Serbia’s voluntary concessions; they were a result of EU’s diplomacy and pressure on Serbia. No diplomatic action is cost-free, be it pressure, or incentive and Kosovo still fails to account for how much diplomatic efforts the EU has already invested in it during the past decade. On the contrary, Kosovo fails to do its part and implement parts of the agreement it does not favor but has ratified, such as the Association of Serb-majority municipalities.
Much like struggling to ratify demarcation, a technical agreement in which Kosovo experts took part, refusing to implement international agreements that the government signed, and the assembly approved also leaves serious consequences for Kosovo’s image and reliability.
Instead of looking to fix the stalemate in the Dialogue in its own approach, Kosovo politicians expect to solve it by calling for US involvement. But has anyone ever heard a US official say the US wants to get involved in this process but is somehow blocked by someone? On the contrary, the US promised to partner with the EU on this process but made it clear that the EU is the lead. The US is not likely to closely tie its diplomatic reputation to a process that may end up lasting for another ten years. If Kosovo wants full involvement of the US, it will have to be ready to take serious steps forward and start implementing the A/CSM.
LVV made a historic victory in the 2020 national elections, but a strong mandate also means pressure to make the tough decisions. Kosovo had internationals’ support to implement its decision related to license plates in the north, but the support did not come for free – now it is time to show that the rule of law is also important in the case of Visoki Dečani Monastery and the A/CSM.
It is not the task of the EU or US to lobby the nob-recognizers. The fact that they may have done so in the past or may still do it is something Kosovo should be grateful for, but not take it as their obligation to Kosovo. It is not in the interest of the EU to push Pristina to negotiate with Belgrade. The Dialogue may or may not lead Kosovo to recognition or full international acknowledgment, but the absence of the Dialogue will most certainly not.
It is not in the interest of the EU to exert exceptional pressure on Serbia on behalf of Kosovo – not now when major German companies have facilities and economic interest in Serbia and especially not in the future when its car industry may significantly rely on lithium from Serbia.
On the other hand, it is in the interest of Kosovo to show continuity and reliability, not just in international relations but in its relations with potential investors. If every new government breached contracts of the previous governments, why would an investor consider negotiating with any Kosovo government? If every other bilateral agreement can be revised, how can countries rely on Kosovo?
It is also in the interest of Kosovo to take full responsibility for itself. This does not mean being an extreme sovereigntist or legalist but considering the context of your international position. You cannot hypothesize a referendum on unification with Albania that would require a constitutional change while refusing any possibility of changing the Constitution to accommodate ASM and even going further to hide your lack of courage to act on it behind a constitutional review. A judgment which first and foremost found that the “Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities is to be established as provided by the First Agreement, ratified by the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo and promulgated by the President of the Republic of Kosovo”.
Changes of the Constitution are not impossible, as exemplified by Kosovo Assembly, which amended it five times since 2008, and constitutional reviews can also be seen as a roadmap of changes needed to make something constitutional, not just a ban on an action. Which way it goes is a question of the political will of the majority and reasonability of requested changes, but whatever the approach, it is harmful to Kosovo’s standing and people in it if it is selective.
Within Kosovo Collective Op-Ed series
Opinions expressed in this oped series do not necessarily represent those of the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. (BTD), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), or the U.S. Government.
The project is supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. and USAID.