EU's Kosovo meddling risks Balkans chaos
Kosovo has accumulated plenty of domestic problems since the 1998-1999 independence war, but the US and EU are just making things worse by pressuring its leaders to ratify a border agreement with neighbouring Montenegro.
The border delineation was agreed in August 2015 and ratified by Montenegro's parliament four months later.
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But Kosovo's opposition has expressed serious doubts over the deal, claiming that over 8,000 hectares of land will be lost.
Before Montenegro ratified the deal, its government offered to renegotiate. But Kosovo's government ignored this friendly gesture and instead pushed forward with its attempts to ratify.
The consequences of Kosovo's parliament approving or rejecting the border deal are growing ever more serious.
If the deal is ratified next week, eventually on 11 August before the visit of US Vice-president Joseph Biden, the opposition is likely to resume violent protests. Several hundreds of opposition protesters gathered in downtown Pristina on Thursday (4 August). The protest ended peacefully as the border delineation issue was not put on the parliament’s session agenda.
If the parliament votes against it, then the government would be embarrassed and the opposition would be happy.
But the government of Montenegro would not be happy at all and would be put in uncomfortable situation just two months before elections.
The Montenegrins would not be able to implement the deal, and the pro-Russia Serb opposition would be able to attack the government of Milo Djukanovic.
Yes this whole mess is not created by Pristina nor Podgorica. It originates from the European Commission.
Trials for perfect pupils?
Three years ago, the commission set out more than 90 benchmarks for Kosovo to meet to receive visa-free travel for its citizens. Among them was the border delineation.
No such condition was placed on any other aspirant countries. Slovenia and Croatia have still border disputes unresolved. Croatia and Serbia as well. Croatia and Montenegro too.
Of course, Kosovo's leaders will do everything the US and EU ask. They are so corrupt that they are not in a position to refuse.
Yet border delineation was not the only request from Brussels. The commission also demanded that Kosovo should improve its attempts to tackle corruption and organised crime.
Will the EU and US demand criminal trials against the Kosovo leaders who have proved to be such perfect pupils?
I don’t believe so. If anybody goes on trial in the coming weeks or months on corruption charges it will not be the top leaders.
There is no rush
The EU and US want stability in Kosovo and the Western Balkans region, even if that stability brings angry protests from the opposition.
The current stability is so fragile that it could explode for any reason. If Western powers push for ratification of the border deal at any cost, it could be the issue to trigger bloodshed inside Kosovo between the opposition and the government. This could even spark border incidents with Montenegro.
The EU and the US should step back. The EU should liberalise the visas and switch to the same neutral approach over border delineation as it had with other countries in the region.
At the same time, the EU and US are wrong believing that ratification will help the government of Milo Djukanovic, whose country is expected to join Nato next year, ones all Nato member countries ratify membership protocol.
There is no rush at all, and the US and EU diplomats are completely wrong to insist on ratification. It will solve nothing. On the contrary, it will make everything worse.
I hope I’m wrong.
The author is Kosovo journalist/analyst and founder of dtt-net.com news agency on Western Balkans-EU topics