Agon Maliqi raises three legitimate issues in response to my post welcoming Kosova’s negotiating platform:
1) Domestic costs of prolonging this indefinitely not taken into account;
2) Can we rely on EU accession as a carrot considering EU crisis?
3) Will there be leaders with political capital to pull it off?
He concludes that waiting seems the higher risk.
I don’t agree. Of course there are domestic pressures, but the proper role of leadership is to manage those, not to cave to them. I don’t think a flag at the UN or in Belgrade is what most citizens in Kosova are thinking about: their primary concern is jobs. When you start counting your GDP growth at 3%, you are not doing so badly, but the economy has slowed significantly:
Maybe a bit more attention to that and less to the sovereignty question is in order.
Nor is there any sign that giving up a piece of Kosova’s territory to Serbia, which is what the President has been proposing as a short-cut to an agreement, will be accepted either by the Parliament or the citizens. Kosova’s best negotiating strategy is to make its red lines clear–that the Platform does–and wait until Serbia is hungry enough to talk.
I understand those who doubt the future attraction of the EU, but what better choice do either Serbia or Kosova have? Euroskepticism in my experience (which is now many decades long) is tightly correlated with the business cycle. Kosova’s near-term goal is getting a Schengen visa waiver, this year. Ensuring that is far more important right now than signing on the dotted line with Serbia.
Once we are passed whatever the Brits are going to do to themselves, as well as the ridiculous trade war Trump has conducted with China, my guess is the recovery will resume. Everyone, including those who live in Kosova, will cheer. No one can ever guarantee that the political door to the EU will open, even if Kosova gets busy and qualifies in 10 years or so. But most of the benefits of EU membership accrue by qualification, not membership. The money a candidate gets during the process is also pretty good.
As for political leadership, I have been critical of President Thaci’s pursuit of a people and land swap, which would demonstrate that both Kosova and Serbia are incapable of treating their minorities equally under the law. Thaci would do much better to sit back and wait for President Vucic to come to him, which should happen sooner rather than later if he hopes to get anything for whatever they agree. Neither is listening to me at the moment, but their bromance isn’t going well:
Are these really the political leaders who can pull off the historic compromise between Kosova and Serbia? May be, but they are not sounding like it right now. The simple fact is that neither can get a land swap through his own parliament, never mind the referendum promised in Kosova.