Sunday

22nd Sep 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Investigation

Few, but fanatics: The Kosovo women who join IS

In a generational shift in Kosovo, a largely secular and pro-Western society, Islamic radicalisation is making inroads. And it’s not just young men who join Islamic State.

Kosovo: Living in a ghetto on the EU fringe

Stuck behind a visa wall, getting poorer and in a country more corrupt each day, the EU promise is fading in the hearts and minds of ordinary people in Kosovo.

EU's Kosovo meddling risks Balkans chaos

The EU and the US are is unfairly pressuring Kosovo to ratify a border deal with Montenegro against the will of the opposition. It could bring trouble to the Western Balkans region.

Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril

Matteo Salvini's recent gambit may have failed, but, in his own words: "From today you will find me even more pissed off and determined. I will go from town to town and we will take this country back."

Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration

Brussels' current vision for cooperation on defence, where third countries can contribute but have no say in decision-making and in the guidance of operations, is unlikely to be attractive to the UK.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.

Column

The benefits of being unpopular

Paradoxically, the lack of popularity may be part of the strength of the European project. Citizens may not be super-enthusiastic about the EU, but when emotions run too high in politics, hotheads may take over.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us