What is the key problem? The Serbian side insists on legality, i.e. on international law, and believes that legality guarantees Serbia ’s sovereignty over Kosovo. The Kosovo side questions the legitimacy of the Serbian government in Kosovo. Its representatives believe that Serbia – due to its behaviour, the manner in which it governed Kosovo – has lost the legitimacy to continue to govern even in the most minimal sense. The Serbian side assumes that the question of legitimacy is irrelevant, which precludes all dialogue. If you take the view that Kosovo’s demand for independence is unacceptable, then it is very difficult to establish dialogue. This problem is in my view insoluble for the Serbian side, because the question of imposition or return of Serbian rule to Kosovo is in conflict with the present reality there, where effective governance is wholly outside Serbian control. During the 1990s, when you had the same situation – i.e. that the citizens of Kosovo and their representatives contested the legitimacy of Serbian rule – the Serbian side was able to upheld its legality by force. This is no longer the case, and Serbia cannot have any legal status in Kosovo without the consent of the Kosovo population. Therefore, if Serbia wishes to have any presence in Kosovo, it must have the consent of Kosovo to its desires, aims or interests, not international law.
When a few months ago the Serbian side presented its approach for solving the Kosovo issue, it was said that as an alternative to the Ahtisaari Plan Serbia wished to have external sovereignty over Kosovo – i.e. to represent Serbia and Kosovo as one state in international relations – but did not envisage any political role for Kosovo’s citizens. In other words, the Serbian foreign minister or prime minister would speak in the UN about the interests of Serbia and Kosovo, but the citizens of Kosovo would not elect that foreign minister or prime minister; would not express confidence in him or politically empower him in any way. That was simply impossible, meaningless. The idea of the Serbian side that a compromise should be found that would allow Serbia to maintain a modicum of external sovereignty over Kosovo is in contradiction also with its own idea that Serbia would give up internal sovereignty over Kosovo. This is a contradictory proposal, and I cannot see how it could be accepted, except perhaps as a temporary measure that would allow the bitter pill of Kosovo’s independence to be swallowed.
As for possible compromise solutions, one possibility is to go for a spontaneous development of the existing situation that would last awhile. We could call this a forced, unwilling or spontaneous compromise. If the Security Council and the international community prove unable to make a decision on this issue, then in time a situation would arise in which each side would control what it now controls, which would lead to a spontaneous partition of Kosovo. In such a case, Kosovo would probably seek integration with Albania, while its northern part would be integrated with Serbia. This is why rejection of the Ahtisaari plan is irrational, because it is based on the assumption that there is a fundamental conflict between Serbia and Kosovo, which requires the international community to administer Kosovo and secure the interest of the Kosovo Serb population. If the territory were divided, there would be no need for so-called supervised independence, because the Albanian part would simply join Albania. The purpose of the plan that is being rejected is in fact the protection of Serb interests in Kosovo.
In my view, the spontaneous compromise solution does not favour Serbia , regardless of the impression that it appears to solve the problem. Another compromise solution is that the issue would be solved in the same way that the issue of Montenegro was solved, i.e. by gradual implementation of Kosovo’s independence over time, combined with preservation of political stability in Serbia. The external players are very concerned about political stability in Serbia , because they believe that it depends in many ways on how the Kosovo issue develops. This could mean that the question of legalising Kosovo’s independence might be solved in two or three years. I do not know whether this would be acceptable to Kosovo, or whether it can be done at all; but it would mean application of the Ahtisaari Plan over a longer period than originally envisaged.
Six months ago Nicholas Burns stated in the American Congress that the United States would like the Security Council to allow an alteration to the nature of the international presence in Kosovo, one that would provide NATO with a different role than the one it has now, while the EU would acquire a greater say in Kosovo’s internal affairs. Following this, he thought, Kosovo would proclaim independence unilaterally, after which each country would decide whether it wished to recognise Kosovo as an independent state or not, adding that the United States would promptly recognise it. This then is the scenario. The European representative in Kosovo, Wolfgang Ischinger, has said the following. They will submit a report on 10 December that assumes some action on the part of the Security Council. If the Security Council proves unable to make a decision, it will in practice be declaring itself not competent in the matter, which in turn will lead to the scenario outlined above. No new mediating mission is envisaged, from which what follows is, as Nicholas Burns has said: a proclamation of independence and individual acts of recognition. This is how I foresee things will develop. Everyone is saying that this is not good for the Security Council, because it has assumed responsibility for a territory over which it exercises sovereign responsibility, yet now turns out to be unable to normalise the situation.
How might Serbia react to this? It is possible that [Koštunica’s adviser] Aleksandar Simić or [Serbian foreign minister] Vuk Jeremić know something I do not. They keep saying that they have ready answers to everything, and I do not doubt that they will soon let us know. But there is little they can do.
Serbia may refuse to recognise Kosovo, as expected. It is possible that Russia too will refuse to recognise Kosovo, which is also expected. It is possible, as many say – Tomislav Nikolić was the first to insist on this, and was subsequently backed up by [Tadic’s former adviser] Leon Kojen and others – that Serbia may decide not to participate in the process of integration with the EU. This is perfectly possible, of course, because it is a voluntary process. No one is obliged to join the EU, so Serbia may decide not to join NATO and the EU. It seems to me that this government has little choice and will be forced to do just that. The cost of this act will, of course, be paid by Serbia, and what will happen next will depend on the political process. An eventual coalition of Nikolić and Koštunica is one possibility. We cannot say more than that, for otherwise we enter the sphere of science fiction, as with what Koštunica has said, for example: ‘If someone does you harm, you must do him harm in return.’ This is perhaps a threat with several possible implications.
Suspension of diplomatic relations is one further possibility. Here the damage would be pretty asymmetric. Breaking diplomatic relations with France, Britain, Germany and the United States would harm Serbia more than these states. The basic problem here is the same as the demand to have sovereignty over Kosovo, in that it is unclear what it is meant to achieve. The fact that you have broken relations with all these countries, that you have got angry or eventually even found a way of doing harm to them, will not make it any more likely that you will get closer to your aim, which is sovereignty over Kosovo. So one wonders what the point of such threats is. How does Serbia envisage exercising any power in Kosovo, however minimal? This is the basic problem. The basic problem is not the American position or that of Brussels, because they only see and register the fact.
The problem then is that Serbia has been unable to explain what it really wants. I think that Simić and others think it would be best if NATO, the USA and the EU would send troops to establish Serbian sovereignty in Kosovo. And since they refuse to do that, you may be angry with them, but there is no other way in which the fictional legality can be translated into real one. Since you cannot achieve this with your own army, then someone else has to do it for you. The someone else, however, wishes to recognise Kosovo’s independence and this is how matters stand today.
Peščanik, Radio B92, 14.03.2007.
Translation from Bosnian Institute