Monday

25th May 2020

Opinion

EU and US need new Kosovo game plan

  • Kosovo protests: began with Serbia deal, spread to wider issues of corruption and poverty (Photo: vetevendosje.org)

Kosovo is facing its most serious political clash since the end of the 1998-1999 war.

It’s high time for the EU and the US to broker dialogue between the ruling power and the opposition for the sake of stability.

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The mess comes after Western powers last year led Kosovo by the nose into an agreement with Serbia which gives special powers to ethnic Serb municipalities in Kosovo.

The so-called ASM deal prompted the opposition Vetevendosje party to organise protests on the streets of Pristina and inside parliament.

The movement later swelled to include popular anger over corruption and economic stagnation.

The Western approach to the region is to give Serbia what it wants in order to pull it closer to the EU and to weaken its old ties with Russia.

We’re told every day by EU and US leaders that Russian president Vladimir Putin is trying to foment instability in the Balkans.

But Kosovo is paying the price of the Serbia-first politics and if Russia does want a new Balkans crisis then the West is playing into its hands.

The Kosovo opposition won't go away just because the EU won't to talk to it.

Popular anger over the ASM is turning toward the foreign powers that advocate it as well as the Kosovo leaders who signed it.

Meanwhile, eight years after independence, Kosovars are sick of living in the least developed place in Europe.

The list of failures in what is still in effect an EU and Nato protectorate is staggering: omnipresent corruption; booming organised crime; mass unemployment; pitiful wages; a collapsing health service; dysfunctional schools.

The last protests, in January and February, saw more people than ever take their grievances into the open.

Old friends

But the EU and US continue to behave as if their only interlocutor in Kosovo is the LDK-PDK government of PM Isa Mustafa and FM Hashim Thaci.

They do it in full knowledge that the old elite is up to its neck in criminality.

People like Thaci have become very rich and at the same time almost untouchable thanks to back-room deals with their Western masters.

It’s both unjust and unrealsitic to rely on them to fix Kosovo's post-war problems.

At the same time, it’s understandable that the West has little love for Vetevendosje.

The party advocates scrapping the ASM, kicking out EU and Nato personnel, and a state union with Albania. Its MPs also throw tear gas canisters inside parliament.

But boycotting them doesn’t work and public opinion is tilting to their side.

We recently saw in the Przino accord in neighbouring Macedonia how foreign diplomacy can help local rivals to step back from confrontation.

The Kosovo crisis also merits urgent help.

Western military intervention halted the ethnic wars of the 1990s. But the job isn’t done yet and Western diplomacy is needed more than ever to maintain stability.

The Thaci generation of Kosovo leaders has outlived its usefulness.

The people who steered Kosovo into its swamp of poverty and crime are not eligible to bring good governance and rule of law.

The EU and the US need to identify and cultivate new leaders who genuinely espouse reform, even if some of their ideas are, for the time being, wild or inflammatory.

Serbia model

The West already did it in Serbia.

The current Serb PM Aleksandar Vucic and foreign minister Ivica Dacic used to be cheerleaders for the genocidal regime of the late Serb dictator, Slobodan Milosevic.

But now they speak the language of EU integration and open new chapter after chapter in EU relations in return for domestic reform.

Berlin and Washington are the main players in the Western Balkans. They should use the same methods in Pristina as they did in Belgrade.

But they shouldn’t reward Serbia at the cost of Kosovo because the cost could end up being higher than Kosovo can bear.

Edmond Ekrem Krasniqi is a Kosovar Albanian journalist and the founder of the DTT-net.com Balkans news agency

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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