Monday

20th Feb 2017

Opinion

Kosovo needs special partnership with Germany

  • Ordinary Kosovars dream of going to live in a normal country (Photo: morbin)

Germany - the EU's strongest economy and the main decision-maker on the euro crisis - should take charge of EU intervention in the Western Balkans by putting Kosovo on its own two feet.

What Berlin 20 years ago proposed the EU should do with Albania, it should now do on the EU's behalf with Kosovo - create a bilateral "special partnership" designed to revive Kosovo's economy and society.

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The pact should have at its core a 20-year-long strategy for fully remodelling Kosovo's political and economic landscape.

Germany should install its experts in key Kosovo government departments.

They should focus on economic and social affairs. They should accelerate EU-mandated reforms and strive to attract real investment from EU countries.

Education - in line with Germany's own model of "education in the service of the economy" - must also be a top priority.

The German taskforce should show no mercy in fighting the Kosovar monster of organised crime and corruption.

The EU is currently trying to create a legal base to extend the life of its Kosovo police mission (Eulex) by including it in Kosovo's constitution. But Kosovar politicians and the general public are resisting the move.

The special partnership could push this through.

The time to take the step is now.

The internationally-supervised independence of this new country, which has already consumed billions in EU taxpayers' money, is coming to an end.

But Kosovo is unable to manage its own affairs and lacks any long term political and economic vision.

After 13 years of peace, four years of supervised independence and €5 billion of international aid, Kosovo is the most underdeveloped place on the continent.

Its rift with Serbia over Kosovo's ethnic-Serb-dominated north adds an extra dimension to the problem - the risk of renewed instability in a volatile region.

Too many cooks spoil the broth

There are six reasons for this disaster-in-the-making:

First, a messy international presence originating in the divisions at the UN Security Council over Kosovo's status;

Second, the absence of a mature political generation which is up to the job of handling Kosovo's economy, creating normal state institutions and law and order;

Third, lack of local and international will to fight corruption and organised crime. Both the locals and the internationals are in it up their necks;

Fourth; lack of a credible EU or Nato membership perspective due to non-recognition of Kosovo by five EU and Nato members;

Fifth, mischief-making by Serbia, especially in the north;

Finally: EU enlargement fatigue, made worse by the euro crisis, and evident in almost every EU member state in the de facto downgrading of EU foreign policy objectives.

While Kosovar politicians dream of EU visa liberalisation "in the long term," ordinary Kosovars dream of getting the hell out as quickly as possible to go and live in a normal country instead.

Kosovars are grateful for the Nato bombers which brought peace.

But this state of affairs says all one needs to know about what Brussels, Washington, New York (or the UN) and Pristina have achieved here since 1999.

If, with German help, Kosovo makes proper use of its natural resources, it can stop wasting EU money and spend its own money on the people who fought and died here for a better future not long ago.

Meanwhile, the fate of Kosovo is about more than Kosovo itself - it is a measure of the EU's ability to conduct meaningful foreign policy in its most intimate neighbourhood.

And the idea of a German-sponsored reform process is not a fantasy.

Berlin actually proposed in 1992 that the EU should do this with Albania, but other EU countries, led by France, rejected the idea. So what do we have instead?

Albania is in the grip of a perpetual political crisis. Bosnia is in the same if not in a worse situation.

Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia also face growing inter-ethnic tensions. And Serbia is manipulating ethnic Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo to sabotage EU state-building. Its new nationalistic leadership does not bode well.

Good neighbours

There is a saying in Kosovo: "Nobody needs a neighbour who has problems."

The EU, which has ever-bigger problems of its own, does not need or want a neighbour like the Western Balkans in its present state. But neither can it pretend the Western Balkans does not exist.

For the sake of its own credibility and for the future stability and prosperity of Europe as a whole, the EU should drastically simplify the way it handles this region.

Get the international mob out of Kosovo. Let Germany do the job.

Ekrem Krasniqi is the owner of Balkans news agency dtt-net.com and a contributor to EUobserver

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