Veton Surroi, president of the Foreign Policy Club in Pristina, told his audience at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies December 6, 2010 that Kosovo’s upcoming talks with Belgrade should not be regarded as a technical, bottom-up effort but rather should be viewed as negotiations working towards the strategic goal of EU membership for both countries sometime around 2020.
The negotiations should resolve three interlinked problems:
- normalization of Kosovo’s internal arrangements by progressively eliminating Belgrade’s illegitimate presence in the North, creating normal border posts between the North and Serbia, and establishing EULEX on the same basis in the North as its presence south of the Ibar River;
- building of a cooperative framework, short of mutual recognition, between Pristina and Belgrade, one that will enable both countries to have a future in the European Union, and Pristina to play the same roles as other countries in the Central European Free Trade Agreement and the Council of Europe;
- clarification of the relationship between Pristina and Brussels, putting Kosovo on an equal basis with other countries in the Balkans and opening up the possibility of a Stabilization and Association Agreement.
While hoping for resolution of these issues, Surroi noted that the preconditions for a “historic accord” of the type that France and Germany joined in after World War II do not yet exist: there has been no acceptance of responsibility for past actions, there is little will to reconcile, and there is no vision of a common future.
The United States has a critical role to play in the Belgrade/Pristina dialogue: only its co-leadership with the EU of the negotiations can get the Europeans to strengthen their relations with Kosovo and enable completion of Balkans state-building, giving the U.S. an important success story.
The dialogue will not begin until after the December 12 Kosovo elections, followed by convening of parliament, election of a new president and formation of the government. The president and prime minister would then name a broad-based negotiating team that would need to get a clear mandate from parliament. Talks then cannot begin until next year and will likely last no more than six months before Serbian election fever forces either their failure or their suspension. They would then be renewed after the Serbian elections and government formation.
Asked why more countries have not recognized Kosovo, Surroi said some see Kosovo as a product “made in U.S.A.” and do not welcome the prospect of another successful Islamic democracy. He also blamed the failure of Kosovo institutions to do the required diplomacy.