By Dr. Sadri RAMABAJA
Without reading the text concocted with good knowledge from the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell Fontelles, the confrontation continued. Both countries claim that they fell only to be determined about its formula, namely the formula that would aim to end the centuries-old rivalry between the two nations. Kosovo and Serbia, respectively Albanians and Serbs, must accept that the existence of one does not mean the extinction of the other, their differences in the perception of the process of the Republic of Kosovo as a new political entity will remain so.
But the March 18 consensus seems to have been insufficient. As a result of the dialogue, the rivalry between the two states – the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia – remains alive.
The high-level war restored geopolitics in its full format in the Western Balkans as well. In this return, the America-Europe system has been fundamentally shaken. The two states of the western edge of Europe – Finland and Sweden, known for cultivating a sense of military neutrality, surrender. Their request for accession to the Military-Political Alliance of Western Liberal Democracy – NATO is in the process of being concluded. Meanwhile, Serbia continues to move in search of a new geopolitical role.
Getting out of the vicious circle
The first statements of the Serbian president upon reaching Belgrade from Ohrid make it clear that he does not even respect the agreement reached in Ohrid, which Western diplomacy wants to consider as a binding agreement for both parties. He makes fun of all parties, when he justifies the fact that why he was not ready to sign the agreement.
However, the reactions of diplomats engaged in this process continue to be extremely cautious in relation to Belgrade. They no longer emphasize the sanctions warned for the party that would not prove genuine in the process and would not sign the agreement.
Everything shows that the dialogue that will continue in the meantime regarding the issues related to the annex about the implementation of the Agreement towards the normalization of Kosovo-Serbia relations will further escalate the dispute. Because in the end it is not only about the sole management of the Serbian community in Kosovo, but about the future of the two nations and their position in the new security architecture of Europe. But it is also about the question of leadership within the democracies of Europe’s post-war era in Ukraine. And here it is clear: France wants to win this battle against Germany.
The war in Ukraine seems to have united the transatlantic alliance. But for Germany and France, which claimed to reach this agreement between Pristina and Belgrade based on the former inter-German agreement of 1972, however, it is deepening the division. Both Berlin and Paris have been facing global challenges based on the objectives of national interests for years. The war in Ukraine and the possibility of transferring the conflict to the “Southern Front” – in the Western Balkans, where the flames of the new war could start in the north of Kosovo, but it would not be entirely clear whether they would end only with the annexation of Republika Srbska (in Bosnia). The Serbian Church in Montenegro, similarly as it claims to have the Community of Serbs in Kosovo, will be quickly set in motion, in the first possible case in function of Serbian postmodern geopolitics, respectively in function of the real exit from the vicious circle, which means secession with Russia, which historical act Belgrade connects with the creation of preconditions for Serbia’s exit to the Adriatic.
In these circumstances, Kosovo acted with maximum caution, consolidating its position from one meeting to another. What happened, as noted by the well-known lawyer Mark Weller (Marc Weller), Kosovo will manage, “for the first time in history, to return the balance of interests in the international system that had always offered unbalanced ground in favor of Serbia.” ” [M. Weller, Time, 2023]
Both the meeting on February 27 and the one on March 18 clearly proved that the duo consisting of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security, Josep Borrel, and his Special Representative for Normalization, Miroslav Lajčák, were completely in agreement. Serbia of the policies that had been building for years, if not since the era of NATO intervention, the revisionist policies in favor of Serbia.
Reconciliation with the arrogant behavior of the Serbian president, who neither in Brussels nor in Ohrid even deigned to sign the documents that were offered to him and for which he nevertheless expressed agreement, speaks in favor of the thesis in question.
The consolidation of Kosovo’s position in the negotiations and the application of European standards in relation to the rights of minorities, always operating with terms of reference based on the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, was managed to be removed from the basic document (27 short) basic Serbian concept “Community of Municipalities with a Serbian Majority”. Instead, as Weller states, “it becomes an indirect referent to ensure an appropriate level of self-administration for the Serbian community in Kosovo and the capacity to provide services in specific spheres. ” [Weller, 2023] “Self-management” also came as a byproduct of the practical political notions that the convention in question produced. In this dispute, the Kosovar side remains to bring its vision “to fulfill this request that does not create the third level of power in Kosovo.” [Weller, 2023].
The March 18th meeting in Ohrid made it even clearer that Serbia’s ideas are not only incompatible with the projection of Freedom from the Albanian side, but also with the European security architecture under construction.
Both the text of the Agreement that was agreed upon at the Brussels meeting on February 27, and the Annex to this agreement on March 18 in Ohrid, were the product of a compromise between Germany and France that had the political will to be adopted by the rest of Europe. and enjoy the full support of the USA, may result in the conclusion that the open confrontation between the components of the EU axis for their position in the global plane, may now also be carried between Kosovo and Serbia.
Article 7 of the agreement, which seems to have sparked the biggest debate within the Kosovar political and media scene, its first paragraph specifically states:
“Both parties are committed to reaching specific agreements and guarantees, in accordance with the relevant instruments of the Council of Europe and using existing European experiences, to ensure an appropriate level of self-management for the Serbian community in Kosovo and the possibility of providing services in some specific areas, including the possibility of financial assistance from Serbia and direct communication channels of the Serbian community with the Government of Kosovo.”
It seems clear that the authors of this paragraph have applied the notion of “self-management for the Serbian community in Kosovo”, above all they have in mind the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities,
Serious lawyers, see for this, reduce the interpretation of the Ohrid agreement to its real level, avoiding the interpretations that refer to the Agreement of Principles signed between the parties in 2015, since it was completely invalidated by the Constitutional Court of the Republic.
Meanwhile, EU diplomacy has connected the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement with the process of Serbia’s integration into the EU, bringing it to the 35th chapter of membership negotiations.
In these new circumstances, without signing the Agreement for normalization and with a draft annex with deadlines and tasks not agreed upon by the parties, the confrontation continues.
Reflecting the confrontation of the EU axis
In this confrontation, the confrontation between the actors of the axis of the EU itself – that is, France and Germany, for their new role within the new security architecture of Europe – will have a special impact.
The war in Ukraine has somewhat thrown France on the steps of its amphitheater more like a spectator. This role does not suit the French president at all. He wants to be on stage anyway – where history is written.
On February 9, at the reception of Volodymyr Zelenskyj at the Elysee Palace, he somehow demonstrated who was in charge of Europe.
In the mediating process in the protracted dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, the EU had delegated two diplomats from two of its countries that have not recognized Kosovo’s independence. She did this act for two purposes: the first, to create the feeling in Belgrade that she continued to be in a neutral position in relation to the already concluded political status of Kosovo, but most likely, more to soften the possible clash between Berlin and Paris.
The reinstatement of German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger’s 2007 proposal relating to the inter-German agreement seemed to open this confrontation, signaling to France that Germany is excluding France and assuming leadership in an area where France has traditionally been ahead.
However, in reality this “clash” can be related much more to the German project for the armament of Europe.
As the French researcher Landry Charrier claims the procurement of air defense systems from Israel (Arrow 3) and America (Patriot), the EU would not only give priority to the most expensive option, but according to Macron, it would missed a unique opportunity to strengthen France’s industrial and technological defense base.[IPG:20.03.2023]
In the French view, the German chancellor is pursuing a strategy that makes Europe dependent on the United States and ultimately jeopardizes the EU’s ability to act.
The Ohrid Agreement, as it turned out, should be viewed in this context of clashes within the EU axis itself.
The French president’s approach to relations with Germany continues to be interpreted in a one-dimensional way, namely as an expression of concern that the war in Ukraine could lead to a closer rapprochement between the US and Germany and prolong the somewhat vassal position of the EU in relative to US global interests. But both Macron and Scholz are convinced that the war in Ukraine is part of a hybrid conflict with global dimensions, while the position of the EU is now also related to the national interests of the new bloc of states that are joining the NATO (Finland/Sweden) and those bordering the Russian Federation – primarily Poland. In this context, the countries of the Western Balkans cannot remain outside this orbit of geopolitical interests.
Realpolitik and the new image for the Republic
In this competition for positioning within the new geopolitical landscape, the Republic of Kosovo, its leadership is clear that the future of Kosovo is guaranteed only within the framework of cooperation with partners. For the last two years, Kosovo has been governed by a government that is responsible and aware of these relationships between the partners within the transatlantic alliance and to accept that in a world full of ambitions for great powers, it is no longer possible to establish itself as a new Republic without this collaboration. The fact that Prime Minister Kurti accepted the agreement on February 27 in Brussels, but also the one on its annex in Ohrid on March 18, does not have to be seen with defeatist eyes and described as submission.
On the contrary, it is rather an expression of a new image for the Republic of Kosovo in this balancing of transatlantic interests for the Western Balkans.
Despite considerable divergences, the Ohrid agreement proves that there will be more and more points of convergence between Kosovo and Serbia. These points of convergence, despite taking into consideration the colonial legacy of Serbia towards Kosovo, are also interdependent on the relations between Belgrade and Washington, which the Albanian side must take into consideration.
The future European security architecture cannot be built and be sustainable without peace in the Balkans. It will be realized in accordance with the interests of all. The inclusion of the Western Balkans within this architecture, however, will not happen without the acceptance of the new political reality in Kosovo by Serbia. The Ohrid Agreement is only the first step in this plan.
The admission of the Republic of Kosovo with an accelerated procedure to NATO, the Council of Europe, UNESCO, INTERPOL, etc., represents the most important step of this European security architecture. In fact, the admission of Kosovo to the EU in the following decade, naturally in the block with Serbia, will be the conclusion of this historical chapter of relations between Albanians and Serbs, but also of the European security architecture itself.