Foreign Policy magazine: Carrot and Stick approach for Serbia

Edward P. Joseph, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, wrote an article for Foreign Policy magazine about “the new Western strategy” for Kosovo, claiming that the Western powers have devised the carrot and stick approach for Serbia.

In the article, Professor Joseph claims that “the solution to the Kosovo problem lies in recognition—in the fullest sense of the word. In order to permit Serbia to recognize independent Kosovo within its current borders—the only stabilizing outcome—Kosovo must recognize the legitimacy of the Serb claim. This means replacing “Serbian compensation” with the opposite goal: Serbian affirmation.”

He also says that if Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic sabotaged the new approach “due to Russian chicanery or his own fecklessness”, official Washington should have an alternative prepared.  “Vucic’s choice will be either to negotiate an honourable settlement that advances Serbia to the EU by 2025 or watch as the United States and key European capitals unveil “Kosovo 2025,” an intensive, trans-Atlantic state-building effort”, he claims.

He quotes Vucic who, on May 8th, said “overthrow me in the streets, I still won’t recognize Kosovo” in a televised interview on Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS).

Professor Joseph, who, for ten years, researched the Balkan affairs after the NATO bombing of Serbia back in 1999, also says that  “Serbia and Kosovo remain mired in animosity, unable to find a way for Belgrade to recognize its former breakaway province in its current borders.”

“A European Union-led and U.S.-backed effort to broker a partition deal between the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo has just fallen apart, sparking nationalist posturing and recriminations. Seizing on the savagery of the 1990s, ethnic Albanian members of parliament have accused Serbian forces of genocide, a charge that Belgrade angrily rejects, castigating its adversaries in Pristina as “thugs” and “criminals””, he goes on to say.

Joseph adds that “filling the policy void over Kosovo—the oldest, most vexing clash in the region—is an urgent matter. With Bosnia and Herzegovina teetering, Russia continuing to incite division, and Europe hesitant, the heavy lifting in the Balkans once again falls to the United States. To recover from recent Western stumbles, Washington must extract the crux of the breakthrough over Macedonia and apply it to Kosovo.”

As for the plan that Thaci and Vucic contemplated, Professor Joseph says that “neither Vucic nor (Kosovo President) Hashim Thaci has the vision of their Greek and Macedonian counterparts. Their favoured approach is an ill-conceived plan—up to now backed by both Brussels and Washington—to divide Kosovo in the north, where hard-line Serbs live near the Serbian border, while slicing off bits of southern Serbia where Albanians are concentrated in exchange. Besides resulting in mass population movements for the minorities stuck on the wrong side of the new border, the division would accelerate the centrifugal forces threatening to tear Bosnia apart and reopen the question of borders around the region. “

He also reminds that German Chancellor Merkel or any other EU leader, for that matter, have no viable alternative regarding the Kosovo problem and says that “France will host another high-level parley in July. But the basis for continued dialogue on the Kosovo question remains unclear—except for one novel point: Both Vucic and Thaci have called for high-level U.S. engagement.”

“Washington could also offer Belgrade a vast upgrade in the military and civil relationship, potentially to the level of strategic partnership. Complementing the U.S. investment in the defense sphere, the EU would offer both Serbia and Kosovo a generous development package, consistent with the goal of coexistence between the two countries. The plan would supply Serbs in the breakaway north with a new perspective but eschew the creation of any proto-state like Bosnia’s Republika Srpska. Serbia’s remaining, modest economic interests in Kosovo would be protected,” Professor Joseph suggests.

“The whole approach of reaffirming—permanently—the Serb attachment to Kosovo and ceding sovereignty to the Serbian Orthodox Church will provoke howls of opposition among Albanian quarters. However, Kosovo is in a weak position to refuse its still-beloved American patron if Washington suggested that Pristina negotiate such a deal,” he says and adds:“On the other hand, if Vucic rejected or sabotaged the new approach, due to Russian chicanery or his own fecklessness, Washington should have an unpalatable alternative prepared. Vucic’s choice will be either to negotiate an honourable settlement that advances Serbia to the EU by 2025 or watch as the United States and key European capitals unveil “Kosovo 2025,” an intensive, trans-Atlantic state-building effort.

“Vucic would be wise to fundamentally rethink his approach to Kosovo. True, the Kosovo that the Serbs once knew—a province that answered to Serb masters—is long gone. But Serbian history will not look kindly on the leader who gave up Serbia’s claim to the entirety of the mythological Kosovo homeland for a few insignificant municipalities,” Professor Joseph concludes.

Edward P. Joseph often writes for Foreign Policy magazine on the topic of Kosovo. Last year, he wrote the article titled “An Assassination Could Be Just What Kosovo Needs” in which he claims that “the tragic death (of Oliver Ivanovic) could spark a lasting peace in the Balkans”. In the article, he also states that Belgrade stubbornly continues to perpetuate the illusion that it can separate north from its “former, secluded province”.

(Blic, 22.05.2019)

Photo credits: OSCE

This post is also available in: Italiano

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