Final Stage of Internal Dialogue - No Major Progress    

Objavljeno : 31.05.2018. Štampa El. pošta bookmark
 

The so-called internal dialogue on the Kosovo problem initiated by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has ended informally and without much echo in the media. The Forum for Ethnic Relations which, with the support of the Open Society Foundation, carried out a project called Monitoring and Reporting on the Internal Dialogue on Kosovo, in its last, fifth report said that “there are arguments for the conclusion that the internal dialogue has collapsed.”

 

“It is as if there was no clear strategy behind the Initiative that would enable true dialogue and incite the creation of a social consensus on the matter of Kosovo,” Forum representatives said at last week’s presentation of the report. The Forum founder and chairman of its Steering Committee, Dusan Janjic, said that the main goal – including as many actors as possible in a bid to reach a consensus – had not been achieved.

 

The normalization of the relationship between Belgrade and Pristina was neglected during the internal dialogue, with the focus being more on needs than interests. That, according to the latest monitoring report, is one of the chief causes of the dialogue’s collapse. “We must try to go back to what had been within reach, and that is normalization,” says Janjic.

 

As of Jan. 16, 2018, when a prominent opposition leader of the Serbs in northern Kosovo, Oliver Ivanovic, was assassinated, the political and security framework had become unstable. New incidents followed and the crisis reached its peak on March 26, with the arrest of Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric in Kosovska Mitrovica, when excessive force was used. That additionally caused the waning of the institutionalized internal dialogue, read the Forum for Ethnic Relations report.


Resistance

 

The internal dialogue revealed that a large number of institutions involved in the process favor the so-called status quo, i.e. frozen conflict, which in itself made the continuation of the negotiating process more difficult. One of the biggest advocates of that approach is the Serbian Orthodox Church, which even issued a special declaration, insisting on the stance that Serbia should not make any concessions where Kosovo is concerned. Although Patriarch Irinej partly mitigated that rigid position in his public addresses (as a rule, after meetings with Vucic), the general impression is that the majority in the Church opposes the dialogue and a potential agreement between Pristina and Belgrade.

 

Well into the dialogue, President Vucic began reacting publicly to that approach, pointing out that a frozen conflict could in no way be a solution for Serbia because the country had neither room nor the resources to wait for some better time to resolve the crisis. Over the past month he has publicly disputed the Church’s stance on two occasions, stressing his determination to continue the negotiations on the normalization of relations with Pristina and underscoring that the Church cannot make political decisions.

 

Also related to Kosovo is last week’s public exchange of different opinions with Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin, a member of Serbia’s ruling coalition. Namely, Vulin said that Serbia should change its foreign policy if Brussels’ priority is the solving of the Kosovo problem, while Vucic said that there would be no changes in foreign policy and that Serbia remains “on the European road.”

 

Vulin was actually reacting to a statement by Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi, that solving the Kosovo problem is a requisite for Serbia’s EU membership. Vucic, however, said that he saw nothing controversial in Fabrizi’s words and added that it is well known that Kosovo is the key obstacle on Serbia’s European path.

 

“There is no fear that Serbia’s foreign policy will change. Those who want to change it must first replace me and the parliamentary majority,” said Vucic, making it clear that he wished to see to the end the previously defined policy based on the search for a compromise. That approach is supported by Brussels and Washington, which means that Vucic has indirectly taken a stand regarding the so-called foreign factors. In this particular case that is important, because Vulin is seen as a Moscow-leaning politician.

 

Most representatives of the opposition, especially from the so-called “democratic bloc,” did not really partake in the dialogue on Kosovo, conditioning talks on the subject, as they stressed, with the normalization of relations on the political scene and the creation of a democratic environment that would enable them to freely and without consequences voice their views.

 

Campaign

 

Most analysts in Belgrade believe that stances different from those of the Church, but also of Vulin, are part of the usual political game in which the ruling bloc sends messages to two addresses – the international community and the public at home. The Serbian Progressive Party and Vucic want to show the international community that, in their efforts to normalize the relations with Kosovo, they are facing serious resistance, while simultaneously suggesting to the public at home that they are still fighting like lions for Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia, but that they have to give in to growing pressure.

 

The main recipients of the aforementioned message are in fact the nationalistic voters who constitute the majority of the ruling bloc’s electorate and who have a hard time accepting the idea of normalizing the Serbia-Kosovo relationship. Vucic cannot survive politically without their support, aware that it is very difficult to get them to change their mind, knowing at the same time that Serbia, if it does not deal with Kosovo, will face huge economic and political problems.

 

Practically all the countries in the region are either already members of NATO and the EU or are preparing to join the two alliances. If it took another road, Serbia could face some form of isolation. Some 10 days ago, Vucic said in an interview that if he did not resolve the Kosovo crisis, he would face a crisis that would destroy him. Given that trade with the EU and the countries in the region accounts for more than 80 percent of foreign trade, it is clear that Serbia would find itself in an economic crisis to say the least, the consequences of which are difficult to fathom and predict.

 

In its final analysis of the internal dialogue, the Forum for Ethnic Relations concludes that Serbia’s interest is the full normalization of the relationship with Pristina, which leads to the elimination of obstacles on the road to the EU, defining of measures pertaining to the general security and safety of citizens and the protection of Serbia’s economic interests. The interests of the Kosovo Serbs are the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities, survival through the improvement of the standard of living, collective and individual rights and support to strengthening integration management capacities.

 

 

Source: Beta

Photo: Media center

 

 
 
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