The Angela Merkel’s foreign policy legacy is also in the play in the Kosovo-Serbia conflict and the stability of Europe and the future of the Western ally, believes Bodo Weber.
A senior associate of the Democratization Policy Council, a transatlantic research center based in Berlin, reminds Deutsche Welle (DW) that the negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia on a comprehensive agreement, launched in 2012 at the initiative of Chancellor Merkel herself, has seen a major US diplomatic offensive since the beginning of the year.
Weber points out that in the background of these negotiations is the idea on exchanging territory, but with the remark that no one has yet announced a clear plan. Also, says Weber, the German government, and the chancellor declared first against the idea, which led to the lack of understanding of its advocates.
This idea, this proposal is something completely different from what its advocates say: it is a horrific alliance of two Balkan leaders with the EU’s chief of diplomacy and the unpredictable Trump administration. It is an alliance that perverts political dialogue and the basic principles of the decades of Western stabilization and democratization of the Western Balkans, believes Weber.
“After the war in Kosovo, Belgrade has rejected any kind of compromise based on reality, including Ahtisaari’s plan, which Pristina was forced to implement unilaterally, within the framework of the constitutional order of today’s Republic of Kosovo,” Weber says and adds:
“Only a few years later, Merkel was the one who used Belgrade’s bid to join the EU in resolving the blocked status conflict – linking Serbia’s accession with the recognition of the reality on Kosovo’s loss – and thus, with the support of the United Kingdom and the United States, has made historic progress. Belgrade actually recognized Kosovo in the April 2013 agreement. Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic publicly said that politics and society have been lying for a whole decade that Kosovo is still part of Serbia.”
Although the EU did not explicitly set the goal of dialogue at that time, it was clear to both parties that this meant a full normalization of relations, including mutual recognition. To this also pointed Angela Merkel and then Foreign Minister Westerwelle – that the time of the change in the borders in the Balkans is over, continues Weber.
He also thinks that a new “secret” negotiation is a drastic political step backwards, while all actors have different motives.
According to him, Serbia seeks to exploit the current political weakness of the EU in order to extract more than what was possible in previously agreed narrow dialogue frameworks. It also wants to draw attention away from current domestic political issues.
Kosovo, on the other hand, against the will of all Kosovo Albanian parties, privatized negotiations in the form of Thaci, because he hopes to avoid a threatening indictment of the EU Special War Crimes Court at the end of the war in Kosovo, Weber believes.
As far as Federica Mogherini is concerned, he adds, “her lack of capacity as a negotiator led the dialogue into an existential crisis. She desperately tries to turn her failure into a successful story, by raising unprincipled in this dialogue as a principle. Her common denominator with the Trump administration, in this unusual axis of Brussels-Washington, lies in abandoning Western liberal-democratic principles in favour of reaching an agreement in the sense that ‘every agreement is a good deal’.
Therefore, Weber believes that the potential consequences of the agreement on the territorial exchange, “the subsequent Western legitimization of the ethno-territorial principle three decades since the beginning of the Balkan wars,” would be devastating:
“The exodus of the Serbs, who live mostly in the south of Kosovo, would be inevitable. Than would follow armed conflicts between the majority Serb population and Kosovo Albanians in northern Kosovo. The ethnic-nationalist destabilization of the entire region would follow then, from Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Northern Macedonia. The process of accession of the countries of the Western Balkans to the EU would be frozen for a long time.”
The current development of events represents to the Chancellor Merkel, some kind of last foreign policy and European political struggles, said Weber adding that even within the EU, Merkel and her social-democratic foreign minister, Heiko Maas, most clearly opposed the idea.
“That attitude is shared by the vast majority of EU member states, including those like Spain and Slovakia, who did not recognize Kosovo, they are hiding behind Germany for now, hoping that the Chancellor’s leadership will play. It seems that Angela Merkel is reluctant to start this battle for her political legacy at the end of her era,” he says.