Robert Cooper: Give Belgrade and Pristina some time

The first EU mediator in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Robert Cooper, warned that two parties should not “quickly and definitively” take sides when it comes to the possible solutions for normalization of their relations.

In his column written for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Cooper, who was the EU mediator in 2011 and 2012, appeals to powers to be to give Belgrade and Pristina enough time to find a proper solution and says:

“This is a question that has lots to recommend it if you want to take sides: it’s about war and peace – some say changing borders will bring war, and others say it’s a way of making peace; it’s about our history in the Balkans too, the mistakes we made, the successes we had, the lessons we learned. It’s true also that geopolitical deals don’t solve the big problems of the Balkans. These are, as they always have been, bad politics and bad government. But it’s difficult to govern well if you are not sure where your borders are, and if you have non-relations with your neighbour.”

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Cooper points out that those are still undefined ideas that have yet to become the proposals that will come from those who will have the most impact.

“So, let’s break old habits in the Balkans for once, and not take sides before we know what has been proposed. Give those concerned time to work their ideas into proposals, give them time to explain them, maybe even to adapt to them. Let’s hear opinions from all sides, especially those on the ground, and only then make our minds up – but bearing in mind that, in the end, it’s not our opinions that matter.”

Cooper also adds:” My plea is that we ought not to allow old habits to shape our approach to Balkans issues. We ought not to take sides too quickly and too definitively. The European solution has been to keep borders as they are, and make them irrelevant. That has worked brilliantly for us. But we should also admit that we did quite a lot of moving borders around before we got there.”

He also cites the Helsinki Final Act and says that “it is clear on territorial integrity and the inviolability of frontiers; but it also includes an exception for peaceful change in accordance with international law.”

“So far, no one has proposed anything concrete. We hear of ideas, but they are rather vague. Before ideas can become a plan, they need to be given a precise shape. Usually, the more you go into detail, the more difficult it becomes – but there’s no avoiding detail; policy is not about principles or generalisations. Detail takes time; if several parties are involved, that means there will be compromises; so, the parties will have to ask if the package is balanced, if both sides gain”, Cooper concludes in his piece.

(RTS, 26.09.2018)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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