The roles we know them for seem to have changed – Europeans from Brussels burst from self-confidence to the limit of arrogance, impose conditions, determine the rules of the game, and see no one but themselves who could lead that game. On the other hand, Americans work quietly and quickly, solve problems on the go, know how to listen to those they work with. What happened to former Americans and former Europeans, as if they had swapped roles?
The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is just about to be renewed. Those affected by the dialogue – Serbs and Albanians – are ready for it. It is paradoxical, however, that there is considerable confusion on the third side of the negotiating table, the one we have learned to “provide good services”. Surprisingly, neither Serbs nor Albanians entered this new unknown “X” into the otherwise complicated Kosovo equation. It was brought in by the Europeans.
The aggressive European approach to the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, which we have witnessed in recent weeks, is the result of their interpretation that these negotiations have stopped at one point and that now is the time to renew them. The word “renew” is of great importance for understanding the current position of the EU towards the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. Namely, the EU believes that there was a standstill, a break, a freezing of the dialogue, and not an interruption, end, or even the collapse of the process, which has been going on under its hand since 2013. For some reason, Europeans believe that the process regarding Kosovo is exclusively their heritage and that it depends exclusively on them whether, when and in which direction it will be continued. This has been clearly demonstrated in recent days, first by the heads of French and German diplomacy, and then by administrators from the European Commission.
“The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is led by the EU”, Peter Stano, spokesman for the EU High Representative, does not want to leave a dilemma about who is in charge of the dialogue on Kosovo. He should not be blamed for his determination, because he is just continuing on the wave of self-confidence of the French and German ministers Le Drian and Maas, who recently, quite triumphantly stated that it is high time to continue the dialogue, because – the virus has passed, and Miroslav Lajčak has taken the office of the EU envoy for Kosovo.
We could not see such egocentrism, which borders on brutal arrogance, we could not witness even from the Americans in the days when their diplomacy twisted hands and ears across the war-torn Balkans in the 1990s. In Brussels, they obviously have a hard time accepting the reality that the dialogue they mediated over the years has ended, at the moment when the government in Pristina mined it with the introduction of a tax on goods from Serbia. So – finished, not “paused”, “frozen” and ready for “renewal”. They themselves decisively contributed to wasting all the years of effort, because for almost two years they not only tolerated Ramush Haradinaj’s taxes, but also actively encouraged him not to give them up. France and Germany, whose ministers are in a hurry to return to the negotiating table these days, have been leaders in encouraging Pristina not to give up taxes.
So where did Brussels get the idea that the dialogue should be “renewed” and not restarted? And where did they get the idea that the whole thing was “in the freezer”, waiting for a year and a half for elections to be held for European institutions and division of functions? Are they really serious when they do not see that during their absence from the process, the conversation continued, but with the participation of another “provider of good services”. The United States has long been the only active international factor in resolving the Kosovo issue. And they are doing it without any drama, without pomposity, outside the big and shiny (Brussels) halls… The United States is working in partnership with Belgrade and Pristina and striving to reach a compromise, which will solve the most complicated Balkan problem in the long run. This time, they want to contribute to a solution that will come “from below” – from Serbs and Albanians, and not from Washington as before, obviously aware that such a manner has not been successful so far. And that they really mean it does not need better proof than a quick change of government in Pristina, as soon as it threatened to undermine negotiations with Belgrade.
Europeans, on the other hand, with their new offensiveness, seem to want to repeat the mistakes that the United States now wants to avoid. What is the imposition of an already prepared solution than the belief of Europeans that the outcome of the dialogue can only be the so-called comprehensive agreement, which will ultimately lead to mutual recognition? Then why any dialogue and negotiations? What if Serbs and Albanians have a different idea for the end? An idea that will be different from the plan that the EU has? In Brussels, they say that decisively – then you will not have a European perspective.
And here we come to the favorite Brussels “carrot”, called – the European perspective. And to the question – does it really exist and if it exists, is it edible after 17 years since it was first mentioned in Thessaloniki in 2003. The self-confidence of the newcomers in Brussels, as well as their bosses in Berlin and Paris, is respected, that both Belgrade and Pristina will freeze if you tell them that their European perspective is threatened. It is admirable that they believe that the appointment of Lajčak is exactly the moment they have been waiting for two years for the dialogue to be “renewed”. Their conviction that they are the only owners of the title deed to resolving the Kosovo issue deserves respect, even if they spent seven years in that business, of which at least two years of doing nothing. And their (Lajčak’s) certainty that reaching a solution is a matter of months, not years, is only fascinating. The Slovak, by the way, has yet to come to Belgrade and Pristina for the first talks by the end of the month, not to mention – getting to know each other, but he also knows that the job will be finished in a few months!? This “lightly predicted speed” can only make sense if they want to do their job in order to go on a collective August vacation in peace, which is one of the traditions to which they are unusually attached in Brussels.
Negotiations can be conducted and be successful only if someone’s mediation is accepted by the negotiating parties, not the other way around. The mediator, admittedly, can also be imposed, most often by force, but then we are not talking about dialogue and negotiations, but about ultimatums. Both Belgrade and Pristina have been accepting the mediating role of the United States for a long time, not because they were blackmailed or forced, but because they got a partner in the world’s greatest power, who shows the will and energy to lead them to a mutually acceptable solution. And they do not, in turn, threaten to abolish some “American perspective”. If they threaten with anything, then it is an opportunity to withdraw from the process and become disinterested in the future of the Balkans, and that would be a real nightmare for both sides. Whatever you think about it in Brussels.