The path taken by the Kosovo negotiators is full of straits and whirlpools where it can easily break and sink. There are more of those who want the negotiations to collapse and return to some old positions than those who are trying to bring this story to calm waters. Or they are just much louder and more determined in their attempt for nothing to change.
These groups making disturbances will not reduce the pressure when (and not if) a compromise is reached. Only when the implementation of the agreed solutions starts, will we see their true destructive power.
Admittedly, there are not many alternatives on the Kosovo side. In Pristina, everything is clear and straightforward – Kosovo is an independent state, Serbia should recognise it within the existing borders, and the problem is solved. Albin Kurti only intensified this platform that existed before him and thinks he can implement it immediately, even by force.
That is why the collision with reality, with some future solution, will be very unpleasant for Kurti and Pristina, because it will be far from what they promised to their voters.
Things are different in Serbia, but even here there are no alternative solutions. They come down to the good and old statement – Kosovo is Serbia, Albanians and the world should accept that, the Serbian state should return to its province and the problem is solved.
The December crisis in the north of Kosovo sharpened the views of Serbian alternative seekers. It was an opportunity for them to be more clear and decisive – either in what they say or in what they do not say.
The bloc that opposes Aleksandar Vučić’s policy regarding Kosovo is ideologically very colourful. In the last few months, the grouping of right-wing parties around the Programme for the reintegration of Kosovo into the constitutional and legal system of Serbia has strengthened. This programme was embraced by four conservative parliamentary parties, and three of them formed a bloc in the parliament, with a goal of returning Kosovo to Serbia.
The opposition members, who did not join this block, mostly stay away from the Kosovo issue, they do not have an alternative policy to the official one, but they do not want to support it because it is implemented by their main political enemy.
This leads to the situation that on the Serbian political scene, apart from Vučić and his coalition, there is not a single party or group that supports the negotiation process, led by the US and the EU. There aren’t even those parties that want Serbia to be a part of Western structures. Their reluctance to support the negotiation process puts them in the same position as the conservatives, who loudly say – Kosovo is Serbia and there is no concession on that.
After the removal of the road barricades in the north of Kosovo and the security relief that occurred, there was a protest by local opposition groups who believe that Vučić “betrayed” them and left them in the lurch. One of the organisers of the protest of about a hundred people in Kosovska Mitrovica is a trustee of the nationalist coalition that advocates for the “reintegration” of Kosovo into Serbia’s constitutional framework. Nebojša Jović has been in politics in the north of Kosovo for a long time, he does not want any agreement with the Albanians, and he even opposes the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities because he considers it “an institution of independent Kosovo”.
A few days before that, extreme right-wing extremists from the groups Serbian Action, People’s Patrols and others, stormed the Jarinje border crossing from the Serbian side, presumably with the intention of penetrating Kosovo, liberating it and returning it to Serbia.
Russia is directly or indirectly behind every policy and action that opposes the compromise between Serbs and Albanians. Russian involvement in Kosovo events increased drastically with the beginning of the aggression against Ukraine. They are looking for a space to open up a new conflict in the European area, which would relax the Russian conquest of Ukraine, and this is without a doubt the first and highest goal for Russia.
The plan for the reintegration of Kosovo into Serbia, which is represented by as many as 31 deputies in the Serbian Parliament, united in a coalition of right-wing parties, is in a function of that Russian strategy. It is understood that the extremists who, after organising pro-Russian protests and several protests regarding Kosovo in Belgrade, tried to gain control of Kosovo, are also in the service of Russian interests. In the function of the Russian platform are also those political options that are silent about the Kosovo dialogue, do not support it, expecting that their opponent Vučić will experience a political collapse, due to solutions that are not on the line “Kosovo is Serbia and full stop”.
Russia does not want the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina to succeed, and there are several reasons for that. The agreement closes this issue, if only as a potential conflict point. The agreement means that both Serbia and Kosovo get a much faster lane for integration into the European Union (and Pristina into NATO). The agreement reached without the participation of Russia, brought about by the EU and the US, which are now formally Russia’s enemies. This means that they will be the main factors, and when the future agreement is implemented, they will control that implementation, but they will also give broad incentives to Serbia and Kosovo to more easily “digest” new solutions, which neither side will fully like. This means that an important part of the Balkans, and for now still a hotbed of conflict, is irreversibly turning to the West, while Russia remains short-handed and without jobs and profits in the region.
That is why the efforts of its “partners” on the ground have been intensified, because the dialogue is accelerating, and the solution is getting closer. The pro-Russian alternative to the Kosovo dialogue received a political format in Serbia, in the form of a three-party parliamentary coalition. Extremist groups in charge of special riot-causing operations are on the ground. And everything is accompanied by increased rhetoric from Moscow officials, for whom Kosovo appears to be a very important international issue, while they are stuck in conquering Ukraine and isolated from most of the world.
Russian ambassador in Belgrade Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko has already several times directly linked the position of Serbs in Kosovo and his compatriots in the Ukrainian Donbass. This parallel more than clearly depicts Moscow’s idea of what Serbia should do regarding Kosovo – military action, of course.
All “alternative” political plans and players, who, for various reasons, do not support the agreements between Serbia and Pristina, under the auspices of the EU and the USA, are in the service of this idea from hell.