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13th Jul 2020

Cablegate: EU no match for Kosovo partition threat

  • Monument in Pristina. The EU is not helping much to shore up Kosovo's frail territorial integrity, the US believes (Photo: CharlesFred)

The EU's "low profile" mission in Kosovo and the "fatigue" shown by Europeans on the independence issue are failing to address the increasing threat of partition in the northern part of Kosovo, a fresh set of US cables released by WikiLeaks shows just as Kosovars head to the polling stations on Sunday (12 December).

With five EU member states still not having recognised the independence of Kosovo and a certain "fatigue" emerging on the issue, US diplomats fear that Europe will cave in to Serb pressure for the northern part of the country to be split off - a development which could trigger ethnic violence.

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Slamming the EU for its "vacillation and weakness," the US ambassador in Pristina, Tina Kaidanov, in May 2009 warned that with "continued Serbian pressure and counter-productive reactions from volatile political elites in Kosovo," the future of the country was rather uncertain, one cable shows.

In another cable, written by then US-ambassador Christopher Dell in January this year, the EU is portrayed as being timid in the face of Serbian bullying about Kosovo's bid integrate the Serbian ethnic minority in the northern region.

"Belgrade has shrewdly judged that raising the spectre of confrontation rattles our EU partners and is an effective tactic for derailing the strategy altogether," the US diplomat noted. "Failure to act soon means losing northern Kosovo and will reopen the Pandora's box of ethnic conflict that defined the 1990s."

At the time, back in Brussels, the EU's Balkans policy mastermind Robert Cooper was voicing a similar "anxiety" to US diplomats, but European diplomats in Kosovo did not show a concern "nearly as strong," Mr Dell said.

A cable from 23 February 2009 said that EU is likely to cave in to Serbian partition demands: "The intensified problems we predict as a consequence of Belgrade's intransigence - especially those surrounding Kosovo's north, where Serb extremists have shown their readiness for continued confrontation - could easily lead some queasy Europeans to back away from their commitments over time and settle for a partition-like outcome."

As for the EU law and police mission Eulex, several cables portray it as playing way under potential in contributing to a reconciliation in the north.

"Eulex must get serious about rolling up organized crime networks in the north that feed the parallel structures and make the current situation unsustainable. The northern Serbs are the first victims of these thugs, and there is a growing body of reports that they would welcome a change if Eulex can deliver it," Mr Dell wrote.

A full description of the mission, dating back to 8 April 2009, slams the EU for bowing to Serbian pressure for a low-profile engagement.

"Eulex police component's low profile and its limited executive authority, the absence of control over its judges, and Eulex unwillingness - or inability - to clarify the question of applicable law continue to dog the rule of law mission's ability to do its job effectively," the cable reads.

The WikiLeaks disclosures come at a time when local Serbian politicians in the northern part are calling for a boycott on the keenly-awaited parliamentary elections on Sunday, which are seen as a litmus test for the young state, three years after its independence.

Members of the EU parliamentary mission for monitoring the Kosovo elections have invited all citizens in the province to vote and noted that they expect difficulties in northern Kosovo due to the planned boycott of the vote.

German centre-right MEP Doris Pack, who chairs the delegation, said that the Serb stronghold of Kosovska Mitrovica is having problems regarding the opening of the polling stations. "The main task of ensuring free and orderly elections rests with the central election institution in Kosovo," Ms Pack said.

Some 4,800 local observers will be monitoring the elections together with 134 separate international teams.

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