Kosovo in the Balance
As the UN Secretary General submits a formal request to the Security Council to begin the process of negotiations on Kosovo's status, Borut Grgic presented his views on what he believes the most likely outcome will be and how both Serbia and Kosovo should have their focus, not simply on the status talks, but on the aftermath of the settlement.
Realistically, Grgic asserted, the only viable option for Kosovo is independence from Serbia and Montenegro. However, this option is not without problems. First, independence alone will not guarantee Kosovo's viability as an independent state. Currently, the region does not have the political leadership to govern itself effectively, while politicians seek to maximize their political tenure through opportunistic strategies, rather than concentrate on implementing sound economic and political reform.
Second, the Kosovar leadership's position on independence, and their growing confidence that they will achieve their goal, coincides with an inability to comprehend that Kosovo will need Serbia after it becomes independent. An independent Kosovo will need a good relationship with Serbia, at the very least because it could use a reliable trading partner. What the Kosovars should do, according to Grgic, is to concentrate on engendering a peaceful negotiation that will not burn bridges between the parties.
Behind closed doors, politicians in Belgrade might concede that independence for Kosovo is inevitable. In public however, such concessions would be tantamount to political suicide. Therefore, a third obstacle to a peaceful settlement of the Kosovo issue, in Grgic's view, is that Serb politicians must focus on creating realistic expectations among the Serbs, by moving debate away from empty slogans, such as "more than autonomy, less than independence," and toward the benefits of future EU membership that giving up Kosovo might facilitate.
Grgic ended by stating that with political leadership virtually non-existent on both sides, there is a real risk that negotiations between the two sides will fail. Failure would almost certainly result in a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, which could create a dangerous precedent for separatist aspirants elsewhere, such as the Kurds or the entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. To avoid worse outcomes, the perspectives of all the current leaders must be broadened to include not only the short term goals of achieving a settlement on Kosovo's status, but also taking a long-view of how that outcome can be peacefully maintained and integrated into the greater European and international communities.