If it worked once and lasted a year and a half, why don’t we try again, so let it last at least as long. It is possible that this was the main advice to Albin Kurti, which led to the decision to remove Serbian license plates from cars on Jarinje and Brnjak. The advice, of course, did not concern license plates, the Brussels agreements, reciprocity, explanations and the hustle that will arise on that occasion, that will be done by bureaucrats from the Pristina government. The advice was a long-term and in-depth political recommendation to Kurti on how to achieve several goals in one go, no matter how violent and risky. It is, in fact, a copy or a clone of Haradinaj’s government’s decision to close the Kosovo market for goods from Serbia. And when asked whether the removal of Serbian license plates is actually a repetition of the one-and-a-half-year economic trade barrier on Serbia, the answer is – yes.
Albin Kurti wants the same thing that his predecessor Ramush Haradinaj wanted in November 2018, when he shocked the world with the decision to introduce a 100 percent customs tariffs on goods from Serbia. To make senseless and block any progress in the dialogue with Belgrade in the long run. Haradinaj succeeded in that and with the economic blockade he bought a year and a half. Kurti is following the same path and is doing very well so far.
The reactions he received from the main international factors are the same as those that Haradinaj once received. European Union foreign policy chief Borrell, for example, is calling for “immediate de-escalation in northern Kosovo”, then “avoiding any provocations and unilateral actions”. It is not written who he asked for it, but as before, he calls on “both sides to take a responsible approach”. Again – both sides, which means both Serbia and its president, who have as much to do with this chaos as they do with Afghanistan.
Europe’s reaction to the Pristina move with license plates was predictable, it is pale, weak, provisional and non-binding. Kurti could have expected that not because he is a great strategist, but because he watched the same movie less than three years ago with Haradinaj and taxes, so he decided to repeat it. His main goal has already been achieved. Dialogue with Vučić and Belgrade is absolutely impossible at the moment, and it will be on ice until a solution is found for the license plates, and especially as long as there is a strong presence of armed special forces from Pristina in the north of Kosovo.
It can take months, and Kurti can be satisfied, because every day that passes without an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, he can declare as the day of victory of his platform with which he came to power, and that is no talks with Belgrade. In that way, he also defeated the Western powers, which at the beginning of his mandate forced him to move the Brussels negotiations from the sixth priority of his government to the very top. They are now back at the bottom of the list.
In the short term, Kurti wins another victory at home. Local elections are being held in Kosovo in three weeks, and there is no price that the leader of the Self-Determination will not pay to make a “strong” move at a critical stage, when voters break, which will encourage his populist and nationalist voters and shift the hesitant ones to his side. Kurti is not sure how it will all turn out for him in these elections, despite the fact that many polls give him the role of favorite, and that is why sending Rosu among Kosovo Serbs is a move that brings votes. What damage he will do and what pressure he will be exposed to from the West, is completely irrelevant to Kurti, all that matters to him is to keep armed and masked special forces in Jarinje for as long as possible.
And the stars on the west have adjusted to suit him. Europe is waiting for the results of the German elections and the new chancellor. There will be no making moves for at least a few months, and the new crisis in Kosovo will be dealt with by the deputies, copying the statements from the manual for emergency situations, where the first sentence reads – “we call on both sides to refrain…”. Regardless of the fact that in the cases of undermining the dialogue on Kosovo, and there have been many of them in the last ten years, there is only one side that should have been warned to calm down, and that is Pristina.
And when the new chancellor takes office in Berlin, Kurti does not have to worry much about his reaction, just as Haradinaj did not have to be afraid of Angela Merkel’s reaction to the trade blockade. On the contrary, he received encouragement from that side to continue, in order to have a better negotiating position. There is no Richard Grenell in America who forced Haradinaj to raise the ramp for goods from Serbia, but also no one from the new administration who would roll up his sleeves and take the tricks of the Kosovo Prime Minister more seriously. The transfer of that “someone” to a new job is still ongoing.
A solution for Serbian license plates will be found, Rosu will withdraw from Jarinje and northern Kosovo, but at what price and how many times in a row? Pristina sells the same brick to the West, again, and with each such sale, it achieves the only thing it’s interested in. That is the status quo, with occasional violence against Serbs, which breathes new air into the status quo and prolongs its life. It turns out that this kind of strategy “works”, then with Haradinaj and taxes and now with Kurti, license plates, and Rosu. And many times, before that. It turns out, again, that Vučić is definitely the only one in the triangle of the Brussels dialogue who really wants its success and its uninterrupted course. They can’t sell him a brick. But those who buy it all the time could finally listen to him, if they have the strength at all to resist the street thugs.