Kosovo: Is the Ending Close?

RTA expert Sergey Isaenko is confident that the outline of a political solution to the conflict in Kosovo will become clear very soon

On May 27, the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic spoke to the members of the Serbian Parliament at a special session devoted to the relations of Belgrade with Kosovo. The leader of Serbia made a bold but apparently overdue statement: according to the President, it must be recognized that Belgrade does not have any control over Kosovo. During his speech, he urged the deputies to choose between ‘sweet lies and bitter truth’, so as not to deceive the public of their country. According to Vucic, it must be recognized that Serbia suffered a major national defeat, lost territory and suffered significant economic losses.

At the same time, the Serbian leader said that there are two scenarios for solving the Kosovo problem. The first is to preserve the status quo and the ‘frozen conflict’, the second is to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina. At the same time, the President stressed that he supports the second way, and if an agreement is reached with the Albanians, the citizens of the country can express their views about this document in a popular referendum. He also noted that Albanians will be able to unfreeze the frozen conflict literally at any time: by simply attacking the Serbs. According to Vucic, it is a matter of days.

Ironically, this phrase by the leader of Serbia became a guide for Pristina. The very next day, Kosovo armed groups invaded the north of the region, arresting 13 ethnic Serbs and a dozen other civilians. Since the situation complicated, Aleksandar Vucic ordered to place the armed forces of Serbia on full alert.

It is noteworthy how the NATO-led mission in Kosovo (KFOR), responsible for stability in the Balkans, behaved. KFOR notified the Serbian authorities that it did not intervene in the operation in the north of the region. In fact, NATO thus warned the Serbian authorities against the idea of planning any military action in Kosovo. According to representatives of the North Atlantic Alliance, it is about the fight against corruption and crime, so the authorities of independent Kosovo will receive support in this fight.

The EU position was even more reserved: Brussels only called on the parties to throw all their forces to prevent the escalation of the conflict.

The events of 27 and 28 May 2019 marked a turning point in the history of the Serbian-Kosovo settlement and launched irreversible processes in the Balkan region. Apparently, the plan for the exchange of territories is a failure, Pristina with the support of the collective West has taken a virtually uncompromising position and simply pushes Belgrade to the final settlement.

It is interesting that in his speech, Aleksandar Vucic demonstrated an absolutely constructive, if not ‘pliant’ attitude and in fact offered to face it, recognize Kosovo and silently live further next door to each other. It is all the more significant that after this speech the Kosovo Albanians launched pressure on the Serbs inside Kosovo.

In fact, what happened means that Pristina received a clear directive: they may no longer go easy on the Serbs. At the same time, Pristina will try to turn against Aleksandar Vucic all his attempts to play the treaty-making and diplomacy. Suffice it to recall the theses of the Serbian leader about the possibility of holding a referendum on the ‘deal’ with the Albanians. If such a referendum takes place, there is a high risk that the Serbs will not support the independent status of Kosovo and will not vote to remove from the Constitution the reference to Kosovo and Metohija being part of Serbia.

The Serbs will especially not support such a decision if, while preparing the plebiscite, the Albanian security forces continue ‘operations’ against the Serbian population. The referendum and the Kosovo topic itself may cost Vucic people’s support, and after that the allies of Kosovo, primarily Washington, will simply ‘push’ the President to any, even the most unfavorable solution to the conflict.

It is unlikely that Vucic himself does not understand it. In such circumstances, the President is unlikely to decide to risk a political career and would prefer to negotiate on the terms of Pristina – especially, realizing the inevitability of what is happening. The end of the Kosovo settlement is very close.

It should be recalled that following the April summit of the heads of state of the Balkan region in Berlin, where the central theme was the Kosovo issue, the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci agreed to resume negotiations and meet again in Paris in early July. Taking all the factors into account, it can be assumed that in France we can expect a more productive discussion and, perhaps, clear outlines of a final settlement of the conflict.