Text of commentary by Aleksandar Mitic entitled "Strange coincidences" published by the Serbian newspaper Politika on 30 March; ellipses as published
The start of the negotiating process on the future status of Kosovo-Metohija has been characterized by strong pressure on Belgrade and on the Serbian negotiating team. There is no doubt that one part of the international community is giving off signals that are going in the direction of some kind of independence of Kosmet [Kosovo-Metohija]. True, there had never been any talk of "full independence" but a distinction is being made between "Kosovo's independence" and "Kosovo's independence from Serbia". The first option is very uncertain and in reality very difficult to achieve, but the second option is a subject of widespread speculation, even in official international circles. Burying the policy of "Standards before status" (which today even European diplomatic sources admit was a bluff), the relatively biased principles of the Contact Group (there can be no return to the situation before 1999, there can be no division...), a selective approach to the element of "history" in determining status (as if nothing had existed before and after 1999), insisting on the will of the majority (the majority on the level of Kosovo, not Serbia), an attempt to create a "Kosovo exception" in the system of international law, an attempt to trade "Standards for status" - all of these signals point to the creation of an atmosphere in the negotiations in which the formal links between Kosmet and Serbia would be severed.
Signals in the direction of "independence" are being given to Belgrade in the form of 10 Kosovo "carrots on sticks".
1. The timing of the "package of pressure" on Serbia. Montenegro has been demanding independence for more than five years, but they will hold the independence referendum to coincide with the Kosovo status talks. Bosnia filed a lawsuit against Belgrade with the International Court of Justice [ICJ] in 1993, but the decision will be made at the time of the Kosovo status talks. The Dayton Agreement on Bosnia has been in force since 1995, but the main pressure on the [Bosnian] Serb Republic to accept constitutional changes is expected during the Kosovo status talks. Former Bosnian Serb wartime commander Ratko Mladic was accused of war crimes in 1995, but Belgrade has been given a deadline to capture him or face problems with negotiations during the Kosovo status talks. Is this a coincidence?
2. Weakening Serbia's negotiating position. The demands made by Belgrade and Pristina are not treated equally. Even though decentralization is the key to the survival of the Kosovo Serbs, Belgrade's proposal on decentralization was evaluates as "untenable" in the internal EU documents. On the other hand, there is tolerance for the mobilization of Albanians in the region of Presevo [southern Serbia], who are demanding "independence" and asking for the same "concessions" as the Kosovo Serbs - even though the situations between these two communities cannot be compared.
3. Tolerating threats of violence. Regardless of the fact that an atmosphere of threats of violence on Kosovo is being maintained, with sporadic low-intensity violence against Serbs (beating, throwing stones), and threats of violence against international representatives by "frustrated" Albanians (such as the movement of Albin Kurti or the Albanian National Army [ANA - AKSH in Albanian]), the international community has still not raised its voice. What is more, the threats are used as an argument for stepping up the process in the direction demanded by those who are making those threats, and the international community is simply following them.
4. Informal "carrots". In order to persuade Belgrade to accept the loss of Kosovo, informal offers are being made, such as: "you will lose Kosovo anyway, so it is better for you to make a good agreement, get Euro-Atlantic integration, investments, and reduction of debts."
5. Insisting on participation of Serbs in Kosovo institutions. The Kosmet Serbs have rejected participation in Kosovo institutions as a sign of protest against permanent discrimination and attempts to be exploited as "multiethnic decoration". It seems very unlikely that they would do that now, only so they could "fulfil the Standards of multiethnic institutions". The Kosovo Serbs do not see their place in a Kosovo Assembly that passes a resolution in which "independence is the only option" and which elects Agim Ceku, a general accused of war crimes, as prime minister. However, international pressure for the Serbs to enter the Kosovo institutions has not stopped.
6. "Undemocratic" Serbia versus "democratic" Albanians. An impression is being created about how Serbia is fighting for a medieval past while the Albanians are struggling for a European future. According to this impression, Serbia will have a successful future only if it lets Kosmet go, and the Kosovo Albanians will achieve their full democratic potential only if Kosovo becomes independent. The Kosovo Albanians are being praised for their "political maturity" at a time when all reports indicate that the Standards are far from being fulfilled. At the same time, [former Kosovo President] Ibrahim Rugova has been called the "Balkan Gandhi" even though he never once condemned the anti-Serb violence. Rugova's "pacifist" policy has been praised as a model for Kosovo, but one month later a man suspected of having committed war crimes was elected prime minister.
7. Hypocrisy regarding war crimes. Even though Serbia has extradited to the Hague Tribunal [International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia - ICTY] all its persons indicted for committing war crimes in Kosovo, Albanians keep getting preferential treatment: Fatmir Limaj has been cleared of all charges, Ramush Haradinaj has been released pending the start of his trial and has been allowed to take active part in political life, while Agim Ceku, whom Serbia has accused of mass crimes against humanity in Croatia and in Kosovo, has been elected prime minister of Kosovo with the full support of the international community.
8. Spreading defeatism in Serbia. Statements in which Serbs are urged to accept "reality" and the "independence" of Kosovo are being made on all sides and their aim is to confuse Serbia's public opinion, to mentally disarm the people and make them indifferent to the fate of Kosovo.
9. Media pressure. There is an ongoing wide, synchronized international campaign launched by the pro-Albanian lobby, with the aim of "following" a certain media agenda, a context of negotiations and interpretations, which are used to suggest that Albanian independence is inevitable.
10. Pressure on neighbouring countries. Even though some of the countries in the region are concerned about the possibility of changes of borders (such as Macedonia, Romania and Bosnia-Hercegovina), their views are not being fully acknowledged and they are expected to relativize their positions. At the same time, Tirana is openly lobbying without any limitations or warnings in favour of an independent Kosovo and is providing logistical support to the Kosovo Albanians in international circles.
In view of Belgrade's rejection of Kosovo's independence and the impossibility of finding an acceptable "carrot", there is no doubt that the pressure on Serbia will strengthen. The united resistance of Belgrade and the Kosovo Serbs will be crucial, but without a strong diplomatic, media and lobbying campaign, mainly directed towards the European Union, it is not very likely that this will be enough.
Source: Politika, Belgrade, in Serbian 30 Mar 06