Lajčák and Grenell – who has a faster plane?

Carl Bildt, one of the dinosaurs of European politics, is the best example of what Belgrade and Pristina are facing these days, as they enter a new phase of negotiations. The former Swedish prime minister and envoy to the Balkans says Serbia and Kosovo have a sovereign right to give Americans an advantage over Europeans when it comes to their negotiations, but that it could “weaken their prospects for joining the European Union”.

Apart from the fact that he really belongs (figuratively) to the dinosaurs of the European political scene, Carl Bildt speaks as if he came to today (figuratively) from the time when dinosaurs lived. His concern over the fate of the Serbian-Albanian dialogue, and to a lesser extent the threatening tone, symbolize all the bad things in the European Union, because of which this best, most successful project of gathering states can fail. The Swede is one of the dozens of European politicians who had the opportunity to bring Europe to the Balkans and take the Balkans to Europe, but with their futile, bureaucratic disinterest, they largely sponsored the situation in which the Balkans are today. Seemingly, well-meaning towards the Balkans, Carl Bildt warns that Belgrade and Pristina could “weaken the prospect of joining the EU” if they decide to make a deal under the auspices of the United States, not the EU.

So, the famous words “European perspective” still stand as something highest and holiest that the EU offers to candidates from the Balkans. Nothing more. In the Balkans, nobody reacts to these words, they have listened to them for too long and they know that they have no meaning. Europe was absent from the Serbian-Albanian process for a year, dealing with itself, its functions and positions. And when they reappeared on the scene, they said – a European perspective. And their newly appointed envoy Miroslav Lajčák did not move far from that rhetoric. Although spectacularly announced by the French and German foreign ministers as the one to solve the problems, Lajčák is again bringing the virus of traditionally slow and inefficient European diplomacy to the Balkans.

At the moment when Richard Grenell announces that Aleksandar Vučić and Hashim Thaci will have a meeting in the White House on June 27, Lajčák in Pristina says that he has a date for the continuation of the dialogue, but he does not want to announce it, because it has to be agreed with European partners!? Couldn’t you at least agree on that in a year, if you don’t already have some essential, concrete idea about solving the Serbian-Albanian knot? His first trip to the Balkans, in a new role, had great symbolism in the fact that on arrival he was “stuck” at the airport in Zurich, so his flight was canceled, and non-EU Switzerland came to his aid and lent him a plane to somehow get to Pristina.

On the other hand, the American table for providing good services works flawlessly. There is not much information about it, but it is clear that things are moving. For more than a year, as long as the EU has been “on vacation”, Washington, through Ambassador Grenell, has been holding together negotiators from Belgrade and Pristina and delivering some results from time to time. First it was an agreement on the resumption of air traffic, and then on railway traffic and the construction of highways… Unlike Lajčák, Grenell did not have a problem with transportation to the Balkans, he traveled from Berlin where he was an ambassador, on a small plane of the American government, which he had at his disposal for his mediation activities.

The meeting in the White House may not bring a turnaround in the Serbian-Albanian dialogue (maybe not on the same day), but it will certainly accelerate and direct it in the direction we have seen several times and which has proven to be successful. This is the direction of intensive negotiations on concrete solutions, in extremely narrow deadlines. Everything is accompanied by firm and tangible promises, if an agreement is reached, or clear consequences if the result is missing. And all negotiators know this well, because the mediators tell them openly. There is no “perspective”, “encouragement”, “open door”, there are not all those carefully thought-out words, which we have been listening to for 17 years (since the Thessaloniki summit EU – Balkan), and which actually mean nothing.

The Balkans today, and especially Serbs and Albanians, should openly accept the good services of the United States, because they will not last forever. And at the same time knowing that only with such mediation can they achieve their European goals. Europe will be there when the solution for Kosovo is reached, with the will of Serbs and Albanians. It will be there to accelerate the transformation of their societies after a resolved conflict into a modern and integrated European community. From that moment on, Europe will do what it knows best. Until then, let’s leave the problem to those who do it best. Don’t forget that the war in Bosnia ended with the signing of the agreement in the Élysée Palace in Paris, but peace was agreed and concluded three weeks before that in America, in Dayton. Even today, a quarter of a century later, no one calls this historical agreement “Parisian”, but exclusively “Dayton”, because that is the only right thing to do.