"The only successful agreements implemented are those where Moscow played no role"
Kosovo reached an important crossroads in its development after a major opposition party surprisingly won the general elections on October 6, CEPA article notesSource: Tanjug
The Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) additionally states that the appointment of a new U.S. Envoy to restart talks between Kosovo and Serbia provides fresh impetus for a final resolution to one of the most intractable regional problems, the author Janusz Bugajski wrote.
As it is stated in the mentioned text, during Kosovo’s election campaign, crime and corruption, in addition to health care and education, topped the agenda, but the incoming government must not only commit itself verbally to rooting out the worst abuses, it needs to start delivering results.
"Slogans and promises may no longer placate an electorate that has grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of economic progress or satisfy international players who see the country as being stuck in a hole".
"The anti-corruption initiative must encompass all government institutions. Strict standards of accountability and the reporting of assets owned by officials must be mandatory, while any contacts between elected officials and private businesses must be transparent and subject to investigation. Judicial reform must also be completed to replace judges and prosecutors who grow wealthy on bribes", it is stated in the article.
It is added that the head of the election-winning party Vetevendosje, Albin Kurti, may be the most significant figure since independence to tackle government corruption, especially as he is not implicated in any opaque deals.
"A second major task for the new administration in Prishtina is to speak with one voice in resolving its standoff with Serbia. The speedy formation of a coalition government between Vetevendosje and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which came second in the elections, would send a strong signal of unity in foreign policy", Bugajski wrote.
"The appointment of the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, as a special envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue indicates that the White House is determined to normalize relations between the two states, having already appointed Matthew Palmer, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, as special envoy for the West Balkans", the author specifies.
According to him, although Grenell is new to the region, he has experience as a negotiator in the United Nations. Palmer is a seasoned State Department official who is well aware of Balkan complexities and pitfalls.
As the author believes, the dispute over normalization can only be fully resolved if Serbia accepts Kosova’s independence. "Grenell will be hard-pressed to swiftly find the formula to achieve such a breakthrough. Additionally, despite his contentious history as U.S. Ambassador to Germany, he will need to work in tandem with EU representatives who possess the enticing carrot of Union membership for all West Balkan states", Bugajski concludes.
Pristina must cooperate closely with Grenell and Palmer by demonstrating its willingness to compromise on specific issues, such as lifting onerous tariffs against Serbia.
"On the other hand, it must avoid any unilateral concessions. The new U.S. envoys may be open to land swaps or the exchange of Kosovo’s northern municipalities with Serbian majorities for Belgrade’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence. However, they are likely to face significant political obstacles, as the new government in Pristina could lose much of its public support if it surrenders territory to Belgrade".
Likewise, the Serbian government is unlikely to yield any territory in the Preševo valley, which contains Albanian majorities, especially with parliamentary elections looming in April 2020, the author states. Bugajski considers that Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić expressed surprise over Washington’s decision to appoint two special envoys to accelerate the negotiation process with Prishtina.
"Belgrade has always looked toward Brussels to delay any agreements with Kosovo, hoping that it can play off various capitals against each other and move into the EU before reaching a final accord with Pristina", the author says.
He also stated that Moscow will also be calculating how it can neutralize or derail any new American initiative if this is intended to culminate in Kosova’s UN membership and recognition by Serbia.
According to Bugajski, the Kremlin may even appoint its own Balkan envoy or demand an equal voice in the upcoming negotiations.
Author points out that it is worth remembering that the only successful agreements implemented in the region are those where Moscow played no role, including the 1995 Dayton Accords for Bosnia-Herzegovina, the 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement, and the 2018 Prespa Agreement between North Macedonia and Greece.
"Any durable accord between Belgrade and Pristina must remain free from Kremlin interference", Bugajski concluded.