America to take reigns of Kosovo problem?

Washington’s pressure on Pristina over increased tax (on Serbian goods) has already prompted the Kosovo political elite to reflect – Deutsche Welle reports and notes that there is an increasing speculation that the United States could officially take over the mediation in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, in partnership with Russia.

“It seems that the destiny of Kosovo’s tax on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina is unable to be resolved without the official Washington getting involved. As the EU failed to exert strong pressure, the Kosovo authorities saw this as a message of encouragement, and only the recent reactions by the US officials have led to a public review of the decision on introduction of the tax,” says the German radio station.

Kosovo leaders have launched a media campaign publicly stating their gratitude to America for everything that had done for Kosovo’s independence, as well as sending out a warning that strong, populist moves could jeopardize further US support, the text adds.

“Can we claim with certainty that the destiny of Kosovo’s tax will eventually be settled in Washington?” Deutsche Welle asks and quotes political analyst Dragomir Andjelkovic who said that “the geopolitical perception in Kosovo is such that they fear only America”, and that “serious pressure from America would lead to a speedy abolition of the tax” while Europe “can exert pressure, but has no authority”.

He states, however, that it is not clear at this time whether the US pressure was accompanied by a threat of some kind of sanctions because “one thing is rhetorical pressure and the other is an effective pressure”. Andjelkovic also wonders whether this reaction from the US is only declarative or it is a beginning of Washington actually doing something about it.

“The European Union has long been a mediator that fosters a softer and more principled approach unlike the US’ black / white approach”, says Jelena Milic, director of the Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies.

“But I think that this is the strength of the EU. The Union, of course, has a problem with the consensus on its messages because it has to harmonize the position with the member states, some of which have not recognized Kosovo,” she adds.

“There are hundreds of NGOs financed by the EU and America in Kosovo and I do not see that they advertise and exert pressure on the tax to be abolished,” the Director of the Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies notes.

The destiny of the tax on Serbian goods will also depend on the position of European-minded politicians and voters in Kosovo, says Jelena Milic and adds: “The problem is that I do not see pro-European politicians and pro-European voters in Kosovo. This claim made by Kosovo politicians that they are in favour of the EU and NATO is simply not convincing enough. If they are in favour of the EU and NATO, then they should listen to what they say and act as their partner.”

Deutsche Welle adds that there is a strong belief that greater involvement of America in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina will lead to Russia’s involvement on the other side.

Serbian politicians have already spoken about this and said that Serbia would certainly demand a new format of negotiations if the US appears as an active stakeholder in the talks.

Andjelkovic says that “it all hinges on whether America wants negotiations to continue under the EU’s auspices, or is ready to intervene more directly. If the latter happens, official Belgrade would certainly ask Russia to join in, as it would not want its own destiny to be determined by the US alone”.

According to Andjelkovic, the EU will be preoccupied with the elections for the European Parliament in the upcoming period, which means that we cannot have high expectations from the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina until we see a new constellation of power in the EU.

Regarding the announcement of the possibility of early elections in Serbia and waiting for the the issue of the tax to be resolved, some analysts believe that it makes no sense to link these two things together, and that instead, the Serbian government should announce what kind of plan was being prepared for Kosovo.

Jelena Milic agrees with this:”If early election does take place, I hope that the Serbian public will first learn from the authorities what they see as a compromise solution regarding Kosovo. In the end, they will have to begin to form a democratic consensus on this,” she said.

“The elections should be a litmus test to see whether a compromise solution acceptable to the authorities in Serbia, the EU and the US can be obtained, while Serbia remains on the road to the EU accession, because the pressure that is currently exerted on Serbia to simply recognize Kosovo’s independence with the current borders cannot be carried out in a democratic way, and such an approach pushes Serbia into autocracy,” Milic noted.

Dragomir Andjelkovic says that the pressure that Serbia is exposed to by the West is closely linked to the issue of whether we will have early elections or not.

“Official Belgrade did not only discuss the continuation of the dialogue with the abolition of the tax, but also Pristina’s obligation to implement the agreement on the formation of the Community of Serbian municipalities in Kosovo. If this is not fulfilled, Belgrade will be forced to call early elections to somehow trivialize this process somehow and buy time,” Andjelkovic adds.

When asked what did authorities really wanted to achieve by calling early elections, Andjelkovic says that election, in this case, is “a demonstration of strength of the people in power and showing that they are not scared of the recent protests”.

(RTV, 21.01.2019)



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