Tear gas in Brussels

It all went well for Aleksandar Vučić, Miroslav Lajčák, Josep Borrell and their associates in the new round of dialogue on Kosovo in Brussels, because Albin Kurti “only” repeated his old efforts that the Community of Serb Municipalities could not be established. And they could have swallowed tear gas, be covered in white paint, or have someone demolish their meeting room and break their microphones, because these have been Kurti’s constant “arguments” for the position that the Community of Serb Municipalities cannot exist. The man, however, has changed in that sense since he came to power, and that is to be commended.

So, there are still no tear gas, street demonstrations, clashes with the police and destroying of conference halls, but if you are being careful and look at the first reactions of the West to Kurti’s refusal to talk about the Community of Serb Municipalities at all, you cannot rule that out. First, the American, and immediately afterwards, the British ambassador to Kosovo reminded Kurti, in a rather sharp tone, that the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities is an obligation of Kosovo and that this obligation must be fulfilled: You signed, you voted, you adopted – implement, was not at all gentle message from Ambassadors Kosnett (USA) and Abbott (Britain) immediately after the Kosovo Prime Minister returned home from the Brussels meeting in which he participated for the first time.

Indeed, Kosovo institutions have conducted the full procedure for accepting the two Brussels agreements, from 2013 and 2015, which provide for the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities. These documents were signed by the representatives of their government and thus undertook the obligation to implement them. Then their legal force was confirmed in the Assembly of Kosovo by a two-thirds majority. It should be noted that the Brussels agreements did not go through such a procedure in Belgrade, that is, they were not confirmed in the Assembly.

All this time, Kurti and his Self-Determination have been fighting against the Brussels agreements, and especially against the Community of Serb Municipalities, both verbally and physically. That fight undoubtedly brought a lot of votes, and if Kurti had not led it so persistently, he probably would not have come to power (for the second time) and to the position of prime minister. But that, in itself, does not mean that the goals of that fight are correct, and especially they not achievable. He was reminded of that in Brussels, especially after his return to Pristina.

Not only does he have to form the Community of Serb Municipalities, Kurti received a much longer reminder from US Ambassador Kosnett about what Kosovo (and Kurti) think about themselves, and what Kosovo really is, and that reminder was not at all gentle. He reminded him that if they really want to be an independent state, as they think, Kosovo must free itself from the habit of the West pumping money and jump in whenever some problems occur – “it will not last forever”.

Kurti’s reminder of what reality is has lasted, practically, since his first day as prime minister. He started with the idea that dialogue with Belgrade is an unimportant issue, that it is only the sixth priority of his government, only to be soon convinced in a friendly way that this is actually the main job they expect from him. The sixth priority soon became the fourth, and these days the friendly persuasion has come true, and the Brussels dialogue has nevertheless become the main job of the dissatisfied government in Pristina and its president.

Following the example of the changes on the scale of priorities, the Community of Serb Municipalities will certainly be the job that Kurti’s government will deal with. Or maybe some other, but this only obligation that Pristina undertook under the Brussels agreements will have to be fulfilled. With or without Kurti. The long-standing whining that the Kosovo Constitutional Court in 2015, at the request of the then president Atifete Jahjaga, rejected the Community of Serb Municipalities as an unconstitutional category, because it is not multiethnic, has no effect today. Kurti is also trying to invoke that decision and defend his opposition to the Community, but even in the EU, they no longer have interest. Earlier in Brussels, they announced that the verdict of the Constitutional Court was misinterpreted in Pristina and that the Constitutional Court there did not say that the Community could not be established. And the American ambassador Kosnett is even more direct here, saying that this obligation must be fulfilled, because “history does not begin on the day when Kurti’s government was formed”.

Pristina’s long-term evasion to form the Community has obviously culminated to the point that it directly endangers the Brussels dialogue, which was finally renewed last week after a long break and with great torment of the EU and the USA. That is already too high a price that the West should pay for the autistic behavior of the Prime Minister of Kosovo. Aleksandar Vučić has been going to Brussels for years with a very clear and unchanged first item on the agenda – Community of Serb Municipalities. Not only because this is the most important issue for Serbia and Kosovo Serbs, but also because it is the only agreed and signed point that has not been implemented. He repeated, like a parrot, that the evasion of this agreement could jeopardize the entire process, not because of Serbia, but exclusively because of Pristina. And that happened in the most obvious way in Brussels a few days ago, where Kurti desperately tried to provoke Vučić to leave the negotiations. The Kosovo Albanians and their prime minister are left with a “nightmare” to start the formation of the Community, and not indefinitely, but “with a certain sense of urgency”, as the US ambassador in Pristina warned. Whether it will cost them votes, support, maybe even high positions, no one outside Pristina is interested in that anymore. The formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities is becoming the number one priority within the most important priority, and that is the dialogue with Belgrade. Everything is the opposite of Kurti’s initial position, but – take it or leave it.