Damnation of easy solutions for Kosovo

World hunger can be eradicated if everyone gets food and poverty if everyone gets as much money as they need for a decent life. According to the same recipe, the solution to all Balkan problems is given by the authors of a new study within the project of Johns Hopkins University and Woodrow Wilson Center and they say – all problems in the Balkans can be solved if Serbia recognizes Kosovo. It is simple, logical, and certainly gives the result. Just as for all other major problems, simple solutions are best, for example to eradicate hunger or poverty.

This solution is, however, written on 67 pages, because it bears the stamp of two very serious and reputable American scientific institutions, but everything between the covers can be summed up in one sentence, worthy of the founder of philosophical direction from the comic book Alan Ford, Grunf. So – Serbia needs to recognize Kosovo and the Balkan immediately becomes stable. We will not deal with the question – how has no one thought of such a simple formula so far, because we do not have enough knowledge and capacity to investigate it. But we can, at least, start this topic, especially because of the desire of the authors of this study for it to grow into the official policy of America and Europe towards the Balkans.

As many as 12 out of the 15 recommendations that the authors give to American and EU officials on how to approach the Balkans, refer to Serbia. The remaining three refer to – Greece (!?), because it is in the center of their attention as the first in a series of five European dominoes that would have to fall and recognize Kosovo, so that the entire EU would become united in supporting Kosovo’s independence. Apart from Serbia and Aleksandar Vučić, and to some extent Greece, nothing else in the Balkans is problematic and does not require a new American and European approach. Conversely, if Vučić recognized Kosovo and accepted, as they say, the “Western order”, everything in the Balkans would be in perfect order.

And to make this simple and effective solution, as convincing as possible, the authors give another point (they say – argument), also close to the philosophical direction from popular comic book – The three-decade long disintegration of Yugoslavia needs to end where it began – in Kosovo! Of all the worn-out phrases that the inventors of solutions for the Balkans have been showering on us for decades, this one is at the very top. Whenever you hear it, you know unmistakably that there is no content behind it, no idea, let alone a solution.

The author team led by Professor Edward Joseph is not the first to follow this path. Similar “solutions” came from scientific research addresses, and one of the last was the report of the International Crisis Group from exactly one year ago. With the same point – Kosovo is independent; everyone should admit that, and talks and the path to a stable Balkans start from that point. It is always overlooked that things got stuck at that very point, which the authors persistently skip and consider it to be a done deal. So, why didn’t things end in February 2008 when the Assembly in Pristina declared independence and when America and almost everyone in the West accepted it? How is it that this matter has been returned to the negotiating table, with the arrival of Vučić? How is it that both the EU and three American administrations have agreed to talk to Serbia and Vučić, because it turned out that there is no solution without them?

In all these questions there are answers at the same time, and only they are the reflection of reality. These are not laboratory exercises that start from the desired result, instead of starting from the facts. It is a great underestimation of American foreign policy to offer it such superficial ideas, at a time when it considers Serbia and its president as a factor with which they must be partners in order to achieve a result that suits their interests. And in that partnership, and not in conflict, as the authors of this study advocate, they must accept the fact that Serbia also has some interests around Kosovo and the Balkans and that they must include those Serbian interests in their calculations, because otherwise they cannot expect success.

Vučić fought for this position of Serbia, bringing it to a level it has never been in the previous three turbulent Balkan decades. At a level at which no solution which concerns Serbia can be reached without Serbia. This is the key difference between Serbia today and Serbia from 20 or 30 years ago, a time in which Balkan researchers from Jones Hopkins are still stuck.

America is not the same, on the contrary. For it, Serbia has been a factor without which nothing in the Balkans can be improved. The administrations in Washington may not like it, but foreign policy is a job for them, not personal emotions. And that is why it is the most influential in the world and delivers the result. With that job, not emotions, envoy Escobar is coming to the Balkans in a few weeks to continue to seek a compromise on Kosovo. Of course, with Serbia as a partner in that business, and not as an object of its policy, which by the way he is being encouraged by the authors of the “strategy” on a stable Balkans.

However, in order for their work not to be only the subject of criticism, it must be admitted that they are right in one thing. Namely, they suggest that the West “sticks to” the decision of the International Court of Justice on the occasion of Kosovo’s independence, made at the request of Vuk Jeremić and Boris Tadić, and that a broader interpretation of that decision opens space for five EU members to more easily recognize Kosovo. If their advice is considered in Washington, this could be a real danger for the further Serbian position in the negotiations. Serbia’s former disastrous policy around Kosovo has been largely reversed, ironed out and set in a direction that can finally bring success to the country. Only Aleksandar Vučić, as the author and direct executor of that change, will know how much time, knowledge and perseverance it took. But tails from the past obviously still exist and are just proof of what kind of politics he inherited and how much effort and state skill it took to raise it from the ashes. Success and compromise are still far away, it will not be easy at all, as American researchers think, but it has long been certain that Serbia will be asked about it. They no longer have a problem with that in Washington.