Another ‘non-paper’ shakes Kosovo and Serbian leaders
Another day, another “non-paper” in the Western Balkans.
Hardly had the dust settled on a diplomatic dispute between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia over the content of a “non-paper” allegedly sent by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša to European Council President Charles Michel describing the in-depth redistribution of borders in the Western Balkans when another “non-paper” appeared.
This time it was the Kosovo-based newspaper Koha Ditore who broke history on April 26th.
According to the daily, the “non-paper” is of French and German origin and describes how the current deadlock between Kosovo and Serbia could be resolved by February next year.
The document suggests that the European Union will continue to facilitate the negotiation process between Kosovo and Serbia, a process that will lead to a “legally binding” agreement that resolves all outstanding issues and paves the way for the two countries to move forward. European integration.
Serbia would agree not to oppose Kosovo’s requests for membership in international organizations, while the two sides would recognize each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and exchange permanent missions.
Both parties are expected to amend their constitutions to ensure the implementation of the agreement.
Another provision of the document is the implementation of the proposal of the Community of Serbian Municipalities, originally suggested in 2013.
The proposal would establish an Autonomous District of Northern Kosovo which would include the Serb majority municipalities of North Mitrovica, Zvečan, Leposavić and Zubin Potok. This district would be a separate administrative unit in Kosovo that would have regional legislative control over its economy, finances, infrastructure, culture, education, health care, social security, justice system and police services. A governor would represent the government of Kosovo.
An elected assembly is also envisaged with an executive council that would be joint bodies of the governments of Kosovo and Serbia, the Autonomous District and the EU.
The Serbian Orthodox Church would be granted a special status allowing it to function as an “autonomous part of the political and constitutional system of Kosovo”.
The proposal has been a major bone of contention in the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue since its first presentation.
But does the “non-paper” exist?
As with the previous “non-paper” which redrawn the borders in the Western Balkans, the veracity of this second document is also called into question.
The German and French embassies in Kosovo have both denied originating the newspaper, as has German Ambassador Jörn Rohde, who called it “fake news”.
Aside from official denials, some regional analysts have suggested that the emergence of several ‘non-papers’ in such a short period of time might indicate that EU leaders might realize that the current approach to resolving the problems of the Western Balkans just don’t work. .
“The amount of Balkan ‘non-papers’ circulating in Brussels is interesting – the Croatian ‘non-paper’ on Bosnia, the Slovenian ‘non-paper’, and now this one – suggesting that the leaders Europeans have the EU’s approach to the Balkans is collapsing, ”Timothy Less, senior researcher of the Disintegration in Europe project at Cambridge University’s Center for Geopolitics, told the Serbian daily. . Danas.
The latest “non-paper” certainly rocked regional leaders. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said this “worried him”.
“I hear denials coming from everywhere, but this second ‘non-paper’ gave me more worries than the first, because this one was written and designed by a very intelligent person. It was written by someone who knows everything perfectly and who can be fifty people in the world. I know them all, you know how many times I have been to Brussels to talk about Kosovo and I suspect someone is behind this paper. She is a very intelligent woman, ”Vučić said.
He did not specify the identity of the “intelligent woman”.
In the most recent development, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said he would not attend a meeting in Brussels on May 11 which was scheduled to mark the resumption of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.
It is not known whether the appearance of the “phantom non-paper,” as some have called it, influenced the decision.
Unlike the last “non-paper” of this type which emitted radical ideas on the redefinition of the borders in the Western Balkans (Republika Srpska breaking with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo merging with Albania), the so-called “non-paper” Franco-German paper doesn’t suggest anything that deviates too much from what has hitherto been general EU policy.
The end of the dialogue has always been understood as mutual recognition, and the autonomous area of northern Kosovo is in line with the proposal of the Community of Serbian Municipalities, even if it limits it to the northern region alone.
The only thing to think about is the February 2022 deadline.
Some analysts have suggested that this could all be a “trial balloon”. But when it comes to who started it, there’s no consensus. According to Radio Free Europe, some European officials have said privately that they suspected Russia could have contributed to it.
At the very least, the big picture makes it clear that the political problems in the Western Balkans are far from being completely resolved.
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