Mittwoch, 1. September 2010

Kosovo: Maybe Time for a Plan B for Pristina?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kosovo: Maybe Time for a Plan B for Pristina?

When even the ICG comes to the conclusion that “Kosovo and Serbia should promptly open talks with the aim of reaching as comprehensive a compromise settlement as possible” including about the north, one can imagine the growing concern in Pristina about what may come next. The Kosovo Albanians have long had the assurance of the Quint – most importantly from the US – that they would get support for full independence over all of Kosovo. In return, the Albanians “reluctantly” accepted temporary and limited international supervision and the decentralization and other minority features of the Ahtisaari Plan. None of those caveats really bothered them as they intended to take the whole of Kosovo, piece by piece if necessary, anyway. Whenever their international supporters might flag in their commitment to full support for the new Kosovo state, the Kosovo Albanians would hint at playing the violence or Greater Albania cards and that was enough to keep them in line. Their friends shut their eyes to bullying and low level violence against non-Albanians and returnees in the south and all was well.

Since February 2008, the Kosovo Albanian political elite has been able to distract their population through political competition and bellicose statements and provocative actions on the north. But now they seem to face the possibility of having to make real compromises to reach an overall settlement on status. The US talks tough in private but none of the Quint seems ready to commit its personnel to a forceful takeover of the north and now even voices in Washington are suggesting the need for a political settlement with Belgrade over the north. The Kosovo leadership must be somewhat confused about what they need to do next to avoid losing the north.

Despite the aggressive chatter from the likes of the Interior Minister, the Albanians are unlikely to use force on their own. They would much rather provoke an occasion that would require or allow the internationals to step in and pacify the north. They have now made marginal arrests reportedly using their “special police” in the north while making cosmetic changes in the KPS command in the north. They will wait and see how the Serbs react. If there is no reaction, they may try something else. There is a danger that at some point, they do cross a Serb red line. But barring this, the Albanians cannot settle the question of the north through force alone.

So what next? There are quite clever people in the Kosovo leadership. They may be feinting now over a possible territory change: Presevo for the north. (The US apparently rejected this when raised by Belgrade.)

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