After the barricades: Instead of a new Kosovo policy, old problems persevere in the new year

Dragutin Nenezić
Dragutin Nenezić je pravnik iz Beograda koji više od deset godina radi na Kosovu i Metohiji. Tokom rada u advokaturi, savetovao je i zastupao stranke u privatizacionim i imovinskim sporovima pred prištinskim sudovima, i vremenom se profilisao kao ekspert za pitanje imovine na Kosovu i Metohiji, u kom svojstvu je učestvovao u različitim forumima i inicijativama. Trenutno radi kao konsultant u oblasti infrastrukture, energetike i ekologije, kao i javnih politika.

By Dragutin Nenezic

Everyone is well acquainted with the epilogue of the barricades, but it still deserves a pre-New Year review, if for no other reason than to enter the new year ready for new trials.

What was written

The joint statement of the US and the EU is on the short side, but can nevertheless be extensively analyzed.

For starters, it is one in a series of joint statements issued by the US and the EU on different topics, which primarily concern transatlantic cooperation in various areas such as energy, new technologies, or security (all examples from this year).

Content-wise, the following should be highlighted:

• The US and the EU „welcome the assurances of the leadership of Kosovo confirming that no lists of Kosovo Serb citizens to be arrested or prosecuted for peaceful protests/barricades exist,“ so it is not a matter of US and EU guarantees, but Pristina’s guarantees;

• Also, they emphasized that „the rule of law must be respected“, which could mean, for example, that the Pristina regulations will continue to be implemented in a way where by referring to the rule of law, deep-seated discrimination against Serbs in the Republic of Kosovo is concealed;

• In this regard, the US will support the EU, i.e. EULEX, in „closely monitoring all investigations and subsequent proceedings to promote respect for human rights,” which means that Pristina will preside over cases, and the US and the EU will observe, which has also been done so far;

• Finally, all obligations from the „Dialogue“ must be fulfilled in full without delay.

So, there are no international guarantees here, only the status quo for a rowdy Pristina, without any obligations, sanctions for non-compliance, and similar formalities. It is not even a promise, although such a promise could probably be included in a long line of broken promises, ones that had stronger forms than this one. Formally, it is a statement that does not yield any obligations beyond those that are already implemented by the Pristina authorities. Instead of amnesty, which followed the barricades of 2011, there is some kind of assurance that there are no lists, and if such lists appear, and arrests and trials begin based on these lists, the US and EULEX will first support it as a form of the rule of law, and then monitor those procedures. In the end, the obligations from the Brussels process, which boil down to the formation of the ASM, have to be fulfilled, but again without any guarantees or sanctions.

In addition, there is also a KFOR statement, which offers the same as the US and EU statement in terms of obligation, with a few more additions:

• The first part deals with the movement of Serbian army forces on the other side of the administrative line, which seems to be intended for the Pristina audience;

• The second part confirms what was known before – the KSF cannot be deployed to the north of Kosovo without the prior concurrence of the KFOR commander, who „can communicate with legitimate representatives of the local community in the north of Kosovo as part of the consent process“.

KFOR thus more or less elegantly overcomes the problem it would have faced if it had stuck to the previous arrangement, which implies communication with local authorities, given that, as things currently stand, all municipalities in northern Kosovo are currently governed by Albanians (in the meantime, a new convocation of the municipal assembly was formed in Zubin Potok). However, here we are only talking about the KSF, and the police forces – including the special units, who invoke the spirit of the KLA on TikTok – (for now) remain in their bases.

Finally, it is interesting to note that KFOR did not react to the request for the return of the Serbian army as per Resolution 1244, although in the statement, among other things, they refer to that document, but continue to „analyze“ it.

What is (not) the verdict

One man’s detention, which he was serving completely illegally and in lousy conditions, was changed to house arrest, while the other man was released after serving three-quarters of his sentence. We know of at least two more people who are still in custody, with the possibility that they may be released after their detention ends.

So, nothing extraordinary, but only a gesture of goodwill of the Pristina judiciary towards the US within the scope of what is possible, which should be interpreted in the context of the internal political struggles of the Albanians in Kosovo, i.e. the divide between the judicial and executive authorities, as well as confirmation of the provisionality of the Pristina legal and political system. It can also be disguised as an appeal to the rule of law, i.e. the courts doing their job without interference from the executive branch, but that is a perverse distraction from the fact that the courts judge by the dictates of US diplomacy and not by law, which cannot possibly be the rule of law. Additionally, we can ask why the US is intervening now, and why didn’t they do so in dozens of cases of war crimes trials, which serve as an effective mechanism to prevent the return of displaced Serbs.

What awaits whom next year

Belgrade – it seems there’s nothing new there. The old policy, which has been greatly displaced by reality, and is based on integration into the Pristina system through the ASM, continues. Everything that took place in the past days and weeks should be viewed first of all as an improvisation aimed at maintaining good relations with the US – as much as it is possible, rather than as any long-term move that was considered in depth.

Pristina – recovery from a tactical defeat, and the mystery of how they will behave in this regard, given that a lot of things have been left to it with this outcome. For the moment, the Serbs escaped the inferno of the discourse about criminals, while the cooperation of the political West and the judiciary, which dared to make a judgment not in line with the political will, is something that brings back memories of the fall of Kurti’s first government. We can probably expect new provocations, primarily as part of the „implementation of the rule of law in the entire territory“, to the extent that such actions are left to the will of Kurti, and not to judicial contractors under the influence of the US (assuming that the dictates of the US continue in the same direction as it has been the case so far).

Serbs in the north of Kosovo – absolutely nothing good. The political and security vacuum remains, to the extent that Pristina has not forcibly occupied it. There is no return to the institutions (which is actually not a bad thing) until the ASM is formed (which is by no means a good thing). Barricades were (again) recognized as an effective political tool, but they were not used to formulate new demands, and the old ones were not fulfilled as they were voiced.

Certainly, the level of frustration that exists on all sides has to be channeled somehow, it’s just a matter of when and how. Until that happens, we enter the new year with old politics and old problems (that is, unresolved essential issues). Absolutely all local actors are at a loss, and every victory is purely a matter of rhetoric, which leaves behind missed chances and disillusioned hopes.

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