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Kosovo’s Foreign Policy 3, 4 (Koha Ditore)

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By Marc Weller

The US, as Kosovo’s most important backer, remains unpredictable under President Trump. True, the US will be keen to reap the rewards of its military and political investment in Kosovo for some time to come. But ultimately, its strategic interest in the territory is relatively limited, extending to issues of intelligence gathering and fighting terrorism, drugs and crime.  Its sense of historic responsibility for, and friendship with, Kosovo continues to dim with each successive US administration and the radical change of senior diplomatic personnel this entails. Kosovo may find it difficult to retain its place on the White House radar screen unless it portrays itself as the one absolutely reliable base for US interests in the Western Balkans.

All this suggests that Kosovo will need to nurture its existing partnerships and start to build new ones in its immediate region, with the states of Western Europe and with the US, and with a new set of players, including Russia and China. This requires focus, and a very delicate and sophisticated playing on the interests of these diverse actors, keeping them in balance.

The precondition for success in this difficult game is that Kosovo must not upset the apple cart. As a state of less than 2 million, located in a difficult and in part still hostile neighbourhood, faced with major economic and social problemsrequiring continued international financial support,and lacking representation in the key international institutions, Kosovo still remains in a uniquely vulnerable position, even ten years after independence. This situation is likely to persist.

This fact has consequences for its foreign policy. The first dictum for Prishtina must be not to destroy or undermine existing relationships. While Kosovo may resist or even resent the need to play by the international rule-book, there is no alternative.

This includes the unique features of the architecture of Kosovo as a state. Its statehood is embedded in the Ahtisaari agreement. While Belgrade did not sign, Kosovo committed itself to its implementation, essentially as a condition for its statehood. This includes some limitations on its sovereign freedoms. For instance, Kosovo has pledged to maintain its independence, instead of joining another state, such as Albania.

Kosovo has also made important and involving commitments in relation to its ethnic communities. This includes the ethnic Serb community. In fact, Kosovo has implemented most of these commitments in rather an impressive way. Once more, it should not jeopardize what has been achieved by rash and impatient action.

Kosovo may claim that it is unfair to be subjected to special rules and commitments. But the truth is that Kosovo’s case is very special. Statehood for Kosovo would ordinarily have been impossible. Its special position is the price for statehood, and it is not too high a price. This special status can be managed, provided the need to do so, still ten years after independence, is understood.

The alternative is that Kosovo turns from a potential asset in relations with its partners to a threat and liability. Some Kosovo politicians are already arguing that Western Europe will have to continue supporting Kosovo, if only to avoid its economic collapse which would threaten the stability of the entire region.

It is true that there will remain an international interest in keeping Kosovo alive, even if Prishtina starts to challenge international demands and embarks on a more unilateral course in its foreign policy. But staying alive is not enough. Kosovo and its people deserve better. Given Kosovo’s vulnerabilities and limited power, a better future can only be achieved in close cooperation and partnership with key friends and allies. This requires patience and compromise.

Patience and compromise does however not mean that Kosovo has to follow blindly whatever the at times equally erratic international community may demand of it. Indeed, on some issues, Kosovo has failed in defending its position as solidly as it should have done, and it has been pushed into actions that can only be regretted.

The agreement on the Special Chambers for War Crimes offers one example, and some of the concessions made in the normalization process without adequate and firm compensation furnish other lessons. However, having made these concessions, Kosovo has to live with them. For the future, however, Kosovo needs to ensure that it develops the ability to implement a far more cunning foreign policy according to a long-term strategic plan.

In summary, it is evident Kosovo has earned its statehood and its sovereignty. However, the road to freedom is long and, perhaps surprisingly for some, it has not yet been fully travelled. In order to overcome the challenges it faces, Kosovo still needs to prove itself as a reliable and stable partner that can do more than absorb an unending amount of international support. It needs to show its ability to contribute to stabilizing the Western Balkans. It needs to demonstrate that it is part of the international coalition dedicated to the fight against extremism and terrorism. And it needs to show that it is serious in giving priority to addressing its domestic social and economic problems, instead of wasting money and energy on prestige projects of uncertain value.

Part III: Kosovo’s Foreign Policy Challenges over the Next Critical Years

Kosovo’s foreign policy needs can be best understood as a series of concentric rings. These start with Kosovo’s own territory, range to relations with Serbia and the more immediate region, and extend to the EU, the US and to other states.

Ahtisaari Commitments

Given its special international status, Kosovo’s internal administration has foreign policy implications. This relates to the delivery of particular commitments made in relation to the Ahtisaari Comprehensive Peace Proposal.

The Ahrisaari obligations are binding upon Kosovo by virtue of its Declaration of Independence, which links the exercise of sovereignty to the delivery of these commitments. International acceptance and recognition of Kosovo’a statehood may have been conditioned by a number of states on this understanding. These commitments are also incorporated in Kosovo’s constitution.

Kosovo might be tempted to argue that these commitments were made under special circumstances, by now a whole decade ago. These circumstancesare no longer in place. The special protection for the ethnic Serb community, for instance, is no longer warranted, it is sometimes argued, as there is no longer a specific threat against it. Hence, it is no longer necessary to abide by the obligations undertaken when such a threat arguably existed.

The recent assassination of the senior Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic has rather undermined that argument. In any event, any appearance of wishing to tip toe away from the Ahtisaari commitments on minority communities would severely undermine international confidence in Kosovo and would make its further absorption into the organized international community more difficult.

At least for the foreseeable future, Kosovo has no option but to implement the Ahtisaari undertakings. Any debate on this point is unnecessary and unproductive. Kosovo cannot, in fact, change these conditions of its sovereignty unilaterally at this point. There is therefore no point to raising such issues, other than pandering to domestic opinion. Such action has its costs in terms of Kosovo’s profile in the international arena, and it offers a Belgrade a stick with which to beat Kosovo as it seeks to regularize its international status.

There is however room for adjustment where the modalities of implementation are concerned. This applies in particular to the provisions concerning the ethnic Serb community in Kosovo and the treatment of the Serb Orthodox Church. Just as the ethnic Serb or other representatives are entitled to insist on the continued operation of special rights and privileges, the Kosovo authorities are entitled to argue for the administration of these rights and privileges within the confines of Kosovo’s legal order, and through the means of the Kosovo institutions.

However, this process can only be advanced gently. It requires the consensus of the communities concerned, of the international agencies still occupied with supporting the implementation of the relevant commitments, and the Kosovo authorities.

As a first step, Kosovo should identify the areas where such enhanced cooperation in the implementation of Ahtrisaari commitments is necessary, and articulate how it would foresee the development of better and more balanced implementation modalities. A joint task force involving all relevant stake-holders can then be established, to try and move towards a consensus solution on each relevant issue. Changes in Kosovo legislation can then be achieved in order to reflect any solutions that may have been agreed.

The other internal issue that has strong international dimensions concerns, of course, Mitrovica and its Northern areas. It may be possible to address this issue best in the context of the normalization discussions involving Serbia. On the other hand, there can be no suggestion that Serbia has a claim to the territory, or that its support for the parallel administration in that area is in any way lawful or legitimate. In theory, therefore, the issue should be addressed through discussion with the local ethnic Serb representatives, rather than negotiations with Serbia.

Indeed, Kosovo can argue that the obligation to implement the Ahtisaari document lies with the Serb side where Norther Kosovo is concerned. The artificial division imposed upon Kosovo as evidenced by the blockade of the Mitrovicabridge, and the refusal to act within the Kosovo legal order, are incompatible with the provisions of the Ahtisaari document.

In practice, there is little incentive for the local ethnic Serb population to countenance such an approach, as they continue to be funded at least at a rudimentary level from Serbia. Moreover, Belgrade maintains a strong hold on the main local Serb party, the ListaSrpska.

However, in the long run the area and its local population may fear the prospect of economic isolation and backwardness, much like other areas that depend on external subsidies (for instance, RepublikaSrpska in Bosnia). Kosovo might instead devise a scheme that would build financial, fiscal and other inducements for re-integration with the southern side of the river, ensuring that the economic incentives would over time far outweigh the benefits of Serbia’s subsidy.

This scheme would differ from previous efforts, which have simply led to the unaccountable pouring of EU and Kosovo funds into the pockets of often self-interested, nationalist local Serb leaders, without furthering integration very much. Projects and activities would need to have a clear focus on cooperation and joint development for Mitrovica, North and South, and on the empowerment of local leaders willing to put local interests, rather than Belgrade’s injunctions, first.

Sadly, Oliver Ivanovic, who has just been assassinated, exhibited such a willingness. To break Serbia’s obstruction in this regard, the investment in relation to Mitrovicawould need to be presented as a project that will also benefit Belgrade, relieving it from a significant financial burden and instead opening trade and investment opportunities shared by Kosovo and Serbia.This, in turn, would after all require an improved relationship between both states achieved in the context of normalization.

Normalization and EU Relations

The second of the concentric rings describing Kosovo’s external relations concerns Serbia. The normalization process is of course embedded in the EU stabilization, association and accessions process. For Kosovo, the link between the two is an absolutely vital one.

Kosovo can only complete its quest for full international status once Serbia changes is position from adversary to partnership or, at least, to toleration. This would unblock recognition of Kosovo by the remaining EU member states and facilitate access to membership in the UN and associated international organizations, along with participation in a broader range of multilateral treaties.

In addition to the international dimension, normalization would also ease the lives of Kosovo citizens in terms of documentation, communication, assets, and other items held or controlled by Serbia. Moreover, there are additional bilateral issues for Kosovo, such as the return of cultural artefacts taken from Kosovo and the resolution of the fate those who disappeared while in Serb custody during the conflict.

These interests on the Kosovo sides are hardly matched by significant countervailing needs on the Serbian side. Still, it would be useful to catalogue any issues or interests that Serbia could pursue better with the cooperation of Kosovo, in addition to the well-known matters of transport and communication.

The organized international community has not exacted any price from Serbia for its return to the international community in the wake of the violence and crimes committed in its name during the 1990s. The removal of the Milosevic regime appears to have more or less removed the issue of Serb responsibility for the suffering imposed by its forces and those affiliated with them from the international agenda.

Hence, the question of EU accession remains one of the few pressure points that may be applied in relation to Serbia inasmuch as Kosovo is concerned. Thus far, the mantra has been that EU accession cannot progress in relation to Serbia unless and until normalization with Kosovo has been achieved.

Of course, the power of attraction of EU membership has been somewhat devalued over the past years. This is in part a result of the changing attitude of the Serb public in relation to EU membership and the fact that Russia is offering incentive for a stronger orientation towards the East. Still, the EU and its sponsorship of the normalization process remains the only game in town as far as Kosovo is concerned.

There is however some source of concern for Kosovo. This concern lies in the fragility of the link between its own fate and the question of potential Serbian EU membership. Given the fact that Serbia has already entered accessions negotiations and will enter the Union well before Kosovo, this link is already rather tenuous.

Indeed, it is possible that the two issues might be uncoupled entirely. This risk increases, as the principal guarantor for the conditionality of Serb accession and normalization of Kosovo’s status, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, prepares to leave the political scene. The UK, an ally of Kosovo in more recent times, is leaving the EU altogether.

The dependence of Kosovo on this linkage clearly increases Serb leverage in the normalization process. This has already translated itself into a rather asymmetrical relationship between Serbia and Kosovo in the negotiations. Typically, it is Kosovo that is pressured by the EU into concession in order to allow Brussels to claim that the process is somehow inching forward. Clearly, the EU is concerned about keeping the prospect of actual EU membership for Serbia alive and credible.

The EU will not be able to sustain an indefinite halt on Serbian aspirations for membership, should Serbia continue to desire it, on account of Kosovo’s need to complete its international status. Kosovo will either have to opt into a grand, final bargain that would allow Belgrade and Brussels to claim that normalization has been achieved at a level sufficient to facilitate membership, or it may be left out in the cold, without the issue of its status having been addressed.

Negotiations for that grand bargain will occur over the next year or two. The constellation of interests suggests that Kosovo’s bargaining position may be weak, unless it manages to obtain categorical assurances from powerful states like Germany that Serb EU membership continues to require normalization—and that normalization will be defined as Kosovo would need to see it defined. That requires an agreed understanding of what normalization means and what it entails spread as widely as possible among the EU interlocutors and others, like the US. Kosovo will need to work very hard to establish and maintain such an understanding with these key states and the EU Commission during the negotiating process, when pressure to give in to Serbia’s position will become ever stronger.

Of course, some elements of normalization have already been negotiated, and some agreements have been achieved. Thus far, these agreements have favoured Serbia. Moreover, Serbia has implemented them very hesitantly, if at all. Kosovo has in the main implemented them and done it best to point to this inequality. However, Brussels has not insisted on equal implementation by both sides.

Kosovo will need to work even harder to impress its closer allies within the EU with the force of its argument on this point. Kosovo cannot be expected constantly to make concessions, and to implement the resulting agreements, in the faint hope that the other side will at some point catch up and start implementing its undertakings as well.

The issue of the creation of an association of ethnic Serb municipalities is the one main issue where Kosovo has, on the other hand, been accused of dragging its feet.

Kosovo’s reluctance is understandable. It has been very difficult to overcome the maintenance of a Serb ‘parallel state’ in Kosovo, with Serbia extending social, financial and other benefits to ethnic Serbs living throughout Kosovo, and in in certain enclaves or municipalities. The links between Kosovo Serb political representatives and the authorities in Belgrade has remained pronounced. In addition, as noted above, attempts to reintegrate Northern Mitrovica, still nearly exclusively under Serb control, have failed.

Moreover, the demand for a separate administrative structure for ethnic Serb municipalities, which could in the end amount to a kind of unified Serb entity within Kosovo, was rejected consistently in all international negotiations concerning Kosovo, including the Ahtisaari comprehensive proposal.

Kosovo can argue that it has fulfilled all elements of that document. Serbia refused the deal and has accordingly not delivered any concessions. Nevertheless, instead of being penalized for its obstruction, it is now invited to a second helping at the conference table—an additional deal that presses further concessions from the Kosovo side.

However, it is rather too late to offer such arguments. In the previous normalization negotiations, Kosovo clearly agreed to the establishment of the association of Serb municipalities. Rather than obstructing the further normalization process in which Kosovo remains keenly interested, it needs to offer a credible interpretation of what that agreement entails, and offer a design for such an association that meets its interest to avoid the dilution of Kosovo as a state.

Indeed, the more this process is delayed, the more Kosovo will lose the opportunity to shape the form of association. At present, it can still devise its own vision on association under its present constitution and in accordance with the Ahtisaari document.

Indeed, in something of a judo move, Kosovo can use the Ahtisaari document, that otherwise constrains it, to deflate excessive claims for separate Serb administration through the association of municipalities. The Ahtisaari document offers a far more limited framework for local association than is likely to be pressed upon Kosovo at a later stage, during the hot phase of the normalization dialogue. Kosovo can insist on accommodating the demand for the creation of the association in accordance with its constitution, which is after all in some parts the creature of international demands in the shape of the Ahtisaari document.

In summary, Kosovo needs to identify its platform for normalization and ensure through preparatory diplomacy that it maintains the support of key international allies in the diplomatic battle that lies ahead for achieving its aims. This requires a comprehensive and quite complex process of planning and preparation, supported by experts and carried by a consensus among the different and competing political parties in Kosovo.

The creation of a ‘unity team’ consisting of the government and even opposition representatives, along with experts, for this purpose has been mooted for well over a year. However, the contestation over the area of foreign affairs even within the government, between President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, does not bode well for this difficult and involving process. Instead, it may be worthwhile to commission a dedicated expert team to devise possible positions and proposals that may be fed into the process once it commences.

It is therefore urgently necessary for the top leadership to focus on the task of creating a mechanism allowing them to prepare for the process, to define positions that will need to be put forward and defended and to build international support for these positions. It may wish to establish a ‘brains trust’ of experienced and reliable experts in support of this process as a matter of priority, to ensure that at least staff work can proceed, even while the major political figures still consider the internal Kosovan modalities of the process.

Sub-regional Stability and Regional Integration

Given its small size, and in view of the long road towards EU accession, Kosovo will be dependent of well-functioning structures of sub-regional integration spanning its immediate neighbourhood. This will require considerable investment of diplomatic capital in helping to activate the existing institutions of cooperation, generate shared infrastructure and remove barriers and hindrances to free trade and economic cooperation.

This task of awakening the partly dormant structures of sub-regional integration in Kosovo’s immediate neighbourhoodmay seem somewhat less glamorous, but is highly important for the development of Kosovo’s economy. This process is also a stepping stone towards further integration within the European free trade system.

Of course, sub-regional integration requires trust and confidence between Kosovo and her neighbours. In addition to the difficult issue of normalization in relations with Serbia, this raises the problem of the boundary with Montenegro.

Montenegro was under considerable pressure to come to a settlement of the boundary before it gained NATO membership. Had Kosovo so wished, that would have been the time to press any claim for territory. However, the former boundary Commissions from both sides expressed themselves jointly in favour of the agreement which was duly signed in Vienna on 26 August 2015.

The Kosovo government in the shape of its then Prime Minister and President officially and repeatedly confirmed that the boundary line thus agreed was indeed the historically and legally correct one. This was also confirmed by a range of international expert committees, and by external governments which reviewed the results.

However, the Kosovo government fell in 2016 over the issue in a parliamentary vote on ratification of the agreement. The opposition, including the AAK under its leader RamushHaradinaj, which is now heading the government, claimed that the agreement would have given away territory that was traditionally Kosovan. The new Prime Minister, RamushHaradinaj, has taken on the role of achieving a revised agreement with Montenegro.

Sadly, much time has been lost over this issue. Before Montenegro’s NATO membership, a review or revision of the agreement might have been possible. It is difficult to see why Montenegro would now agree to any change to its detriment, given that it is no longer under any urgent pressure to complete the process. Instead, the pressure rests on Kosovo. The EU has declared that it will not proceed with the much desired visa liberalization envisioned for Kosovo unless the issue is solved.

In international legal terms, it is difficult to see how Kosovo can challenge the boundary line to which its government has committed itself so strongly and repeatedly over the past two and a half years. A change in government does not change the legal obligations or the legalvalidity of claims of a state. The blustering argument that Kosovo will achieve a change in the boundary line come what may is in fact rightly seen as a cause of regional instability.

It will be seen whether if the Kosovo government can persuade Montenegro over the next few weeks to re-open the process.

Should it prove impossible to revise the agreement, Kosovo has mooted the alternative of seeking to persuade the Montenegrin government to agree to arbitration. The mandate of the arbitrators would be to determine whether or not the boundary line identified in the agreement is the true boundary, or to draw the line afresh.

Given the repeated and formal declarations by the former government of Kosovo that the boundary is in fact accurate, the arbitration, the only way that an arbitration could depart from the agreed line would be to disregard any of the pronouncements by the Kosovo authorities during and after the boundary demarcation process and the signature of the Vienna agreement.

Agreement to such a process would again require Montenegro to give up something it already has. It would trade the boundary line already agreed in the Vienna accord for the possibility of losing the territory in question in case of an adverse holding of the arbitration body. Again, it is not clear why Montenegro should make such an important sacrifice. Presumably it would fact significant opposition from its own domestic audience should it accept change in the agreement.

A further approach would be to explore sharing sovereignty over the two areas in dispute, assigning the disputed territory to both equally. Another option would be to suspend the issue of sovereignty in the two areas under dispute. A revised boundary agreement could avoid the issue of where sovereignty over the areas in dispute lies and place them under a regime of joint administration pending resolution of the issue of sovereignty some day.

Finally, and perhaps most likely, sovereignty might remain as proposed in the existing agreement. The Kosovo parliament would after all accept the existing treaty. However, the two sides would negotiate an additional protocol. That instrument would take account of any established uses of the areas in question by Kosovars and ensure that such established entitlements are preserved.

This could include special arrangements for soft border policing, exemptions from taxation and customs, and a mechanism for involving Kosovo authorities in the licensing of hunting, fishing and forestry. There might also be provision for revenue sharing, should significant natural wealth be discovered or exploited in the areas.

In short, it is not a feat beyond human ingenuity to address the border issue with Montenegro. A broad range of options exists for a resolution and Kosovo would be well advised to make use of these in the interest of allowing it to proceed further along the path or sub-regional and EU integration.

The association and stabilization process for Kosovo commenced last year with the conclusion of the relevant agreement with Brussels. Achieving the stabilization and association agreement, despite the hesitations of some EU members where Kosovo is concerned, is a significant achievement.

However, Kosovo should be clear in its own mind that EU integration is a very distant prospect. There is no chance of Kosovo entering alongside Serbia, should Belgrade still wish to join. Hence, Kosovo will need to focus on achieving the benefits of integration incrementally, while working towards membership for a considerable period.

Given this rather distant perspective, Kosovo will need to persuade itself that the further, involving steps towards convergence with EU standards are a positive development in itself . They may on occasion be painful and costly. However, even long before EU membership, they will enhance its ability to enter foreign markets, improve production and enhance quality of life in Kosovo. Moreover, benefits, such as visa liberalization and greater trade access, will accrue over time, as Kosovo works through the acquis and satisfies more and more criteria pending actual membership.

Recognition and Membership in International Organizations.

Kosovo has invested very heavily in a policy of attracting as many state recognitions at it can possibly muster. This policy has been reasonably successful, yielding some 114 recognitions thus far. However, one may ask how meaningful some of these recognitions are. Rather than chasing further recognitions of at least small or micro-states, the challenge is now to build actual relations with the states that have granted recognition. This will support Kosovo’s standing in the international community in the longer term, and may also demonstrate to other states the benefits of entering to diplomatic relations with Kosovo.

Indeed, an important element of Kosovo’s foreign affairs strategy should be to pick areas of international policy where, despite its small size and limited financial capacity, it can make significant and visible contributions. This may include important areas like counter-terrorism, or areas like the arts and sciences, where Kosovo can draw on particular competences or talents. It should ensure that every year, at least one or two major intergovernmental, international events are held in Kosovo, allowing it to play the role of international host while showcasing its contribution.

Small states can best pursue their interests either through coalitions of interests, or through alliances. In cases of coalitions of interest, diverse states come together to further just one particular cause they share. For instance, the group of small island nations has managed to form itself into a very effective lobby in relation to sea-level rise, despite the differences that exist among its membership in relation to other issues.

Kosovo will want to find areas or common interest with others, and seek to become an organizing force of coalitions pursuing these interests together. All other members of such coalitions will tend to be states with full access to international organizations, helping Kosovo to enter the orbit of those specialist international bodies. An initial focus on technical cooperation and organizations might ease the process.

The second way for small states to advance interests is through allies. Allies are connected by permanently shared interests and historic relationships. However, in contrast to coalitions of interests, assistance of allies is not restricted to the specific common interests (for instance, security) that binds them together. The general atmosphere of friendly and close relations also allows for the deployment of allies by smaller states in relation to their particular needs and interests which may not be widely shared.

Hence, Kosovo’s allies have been willing to invest diplomatic capital in support of Prishtina’s campaign to enhance its international status. However, such investment is a precious resource. It may dry up if Kosovo fails to live up to its reputation as a stable and reliable partner, or where Kosovo squanders such support on projects that are doomed to fail.

Where international organizations are concerned, the strategy should be same. It is clear that Kosovo will not be able to become a full member of the UN or certain other institutions, until normalization with Serbia has occurred and the Russian veto has been removed.

Rather than focusing on votes where that situation persists and the outlook remains rather hopeless, Kosovo would be better served to focus on substance. It should evidence its wish and ability to contribute to advancing the aims of the respective international organizations, seek avenues of cooperation whether formal or informal, and gradually advance its campaign for membership in that way. There is also the option of observer membership in the UN which would facilitate cooperation even in the absence of full membership.

Kosovo also enjoys one particular advantage in New York, although it has not recognized it yet. Every few months, the UN Security Council reviews the situation in Kosovo. Thus far, Prishtina has regarded these occasions as a further instance of international intervention in its affairs and of unjustified tutelage. This is a fundamental confusion.

Given its exclusion from membership in the UN, Kosovo should relish the opportunity to present itself in its highest organ. Rather than responding to complaints by Serbia, or defending itself in relation to the complaints by the UN Special Representations that progress on this or that issue has been lacking, Prishtina should capture the agenda. It should use its presentation at this high level every time to highlights is progress and achievements, and contribution to international life. This can extend to the issue of counter-terrorism, to regional and sub-regional integration and the development of joint infrastructure, to its advances in the area of rule of law, etc.

Of course, such expositions will ring rather hollow if Kosovo undermines its international standing in relation to those very issues through erratic foreign policy pronouncements and initiatives of the kind recently seen.

A pro-active stance in the Security Council and in other international fora also offers an opportunity to open relations with new partners. Of course, it is clear that Russia will not be impelled to change its position on UN membership until Serbia allows this to happen. Nevertheless, it would also be prudent to encourage informal contact with Russia to the extent possible, and to develop relations with China. Opportunities for investment, along with cultural exchange, might offer an initial route towards that end. Small steps may be followed by bigger ones.

Obviously, such overtures need to be balanced with steps to retain the confidence of support of Kosovo’s traditional allies. Given Kosovo’s limited size and international standing, they will remain crucial factors in enhancing its international standing.

All of these paths and avenues will be challenging and difficult for Kosovo. However, it will only be possible to advance Kosovo’s interests, and international position, if a national strategy is developed that is carried by a longer-term, national consensus that is seen by all to lie above the daily process of political contestation.

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  • Published: 3 months ago on 26/01/2018
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