Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The "grey" EU brokered agreement on Kosovo.

This week after last month's negotiations, the governments of Kosovo and Serbia have finally agreed to normalize their relationship.

This is apparently great news for both countries and the prospect of their EU membership bids, as well for European integration in general. It looks also as a great accomplishment for Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and her department.

Eventually we saw European diplomacy at work, that has produced some results after decades of a deadlock. Could this be the beginning of a collective European foreign policy? It looks promising but it is too early to say. There are many other issues to resolve and the European states seldom have a unanimous agreement.

Despite the success euphoria, for the moment there is very little information given on what exactly the normalization agreement really changes. The one thing that was made clear is that Serbia agreed to dismantle all its security structures by mid-July. In other words, Serbia is letting go militarily of the Kosovo territory. This clearly brings even closer the country's opening its EU membership negotiations.

The agreement normalizes policing, judicial and local government issues, as well as the representation of the Serbian minority in the above relative institutions. You may read a further report of the agreement here.The two countries also agreed not to block each other from any future international block membership.

A Serbian diplomat though, told euronews that the accord does not amount to Belgrade recognizing Kosovo’s declaration of independence. Then clearly that is not the end of the road, as the whole agreement has many grey areas.

It mainly focuses on ending the partition of the Serb and Albanian communities within Kosovo. I wonder why Europe hasn't focused on doing so with Kosovo itself within Serbia in the first place. This agreement is trying to normalize the relationship of the new Kosovo state with its Serbian minority. Yet for many years there was no effort in trying to achieve the same for the Albanian minority in the Serbian state.

Could we end up going in circles, while trying to deal with minority issues in a previous minority problem? Europe's aim was clearly to partition Serbia's territory and create an independent Kosovo state from the beginning. Serbia needed to get on with its EU accession talks, so it decided to compromise its former nationalist stance and show Europe that is willing to work with it in order to achieve EU membership.

The compromise though leaves the Serbs of Kosovo unhappy and fearing of their future. They have threatened to leave en-mass the Kosovo territory, if the deal does not work. There is clearly a lot of mistrust between the two communities and if there is any relapse of either party, we could be faced with trying to solve the Kosovo issue all over again.

This could lead Serbia to have to accommodate increasing numbers of Serbian refugees from Kosovo, if the agreement is not occasionally respected by either side. Could we have similar incidents like those of Northern Ireland, where violence erupts occasionally despite the Anglo-Irish agreement? The segregation of the communities in this region has not ended, though clearly the political and terrorism issues have widely been resolved.

Europe has always had interests in the Balkans and especially the former Yugoslavia states. It has played an active role in shaping the region and promoting the European powers' own agendas. Their involvement and position in the Kosovo issue has been clear from the start.

Is Europe trying to create smaller, dependent states in order to fulfill its integration and expansion process? Fragmenting totally all former regions of Yugoslavia, has left some of them dependent on European aid, protection or intervention. Kosovo was certainly such case until now. Is this a better solution than trying to keep the regions together?

From history and experience we know that not always Europe's interventions were successful, or if they were they came with side-effects for the local population. Hopefully this time, the EU's foreign affairs department has taken the interests of all citizens into consideration.

 

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