German Chancellor Angela Merkel is starting her Balkan tour on August 22d. This is the first visit of such high-ranking official since last month’s tensions in Kosovo. While in Belgrade, Frau Merkel is expected to meet Serbia’s President Boris Tadic. Some reports say she is going to urge him resume talks with Pristina in Brussels and publicly reject support from Serbs residing in northern territories and accept power of Albanians in Kosovo. Otherwise, Serbia should have to abandon its plans of joining the EU.
Ahead of Merkel`s visit to the Balkans, Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Turkey’s Deputy Prime MinisterBülent Arınç simultaneously unveiled the basic principles of the western policy in Kosovo. When he visited Pristina, Mr.Westerwelle promised that Kosovo`s borders will remain intact. “One thing is especially important: Kosovo`s territorial integrity is a matter beyond debate. It is clear that there will be no more changes to the map of Balkans”, he was quoted as saying following his joint press-conference with Kosovo`s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. Similar statements were made by Turkish officials.
However, some Europeans have not yet made their mind about the future of Kosovo. Apparently, France is trying to strengthen its positions in the Balkans. In his interview for Albanian Radio Dukagjini earlier this year, the Ambassador of Francein KosovoJean-Francois Fitou called for immediate removal of international control over Kosovo since the self-proclaimed republic is capable of ensuring its autonomous democratic development.
However, after Kosovo government forces tried to violently take control of two border posts in the country's north, Mr. Fitou seemed to have regretted his words. Speaking in Pristina recently, he admitted that the operation carried out by Kosovo`s army ‘proved that the KFOR presence was needed in the area…until a solution is found…The decision of the Kosovo government forces to take control of border posts came as a surprise to me and France in general, as well as to international organizations operating in Kosovo”.
Evidently, the operation to seize control over the Kosovo border with the rest of Serbia had been plotted beforehand as a prologue to complete withdrawal of international peacekeeping forces, first of all KFOR, from the region (in accordance with Fitou-1 plan on removing international control from the area). But Europe and the US also agreed on what they should be doing in case tensions broke out during the operation - and this what happened, actually. As a result, the so-called ‘Fitou-2’ plan lacks precise details but still may be relied on no matter how the events will unfold.
The current situation is used to accuse the Serbian authorities (and not Kosovo Serbs) of the Serbian resistance. In his interview to a radical Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore, a well-known American expert on the Balkans, Daniel Server, said: “I do not understand why Tadic wants the north”. As we know, the tactics of pressing only one side of the conflict was tried in late 1990s, also as part of the talks in Rambouillet.
But these secret maneuvers in Kosovo may indicate that tensions are also growing inside the EU-NATO alliance. Though NATO backed the seizure of two border checkpoints in northern Kosovo, the EU officials are demonstrating a moderate attitude to the situation and just express their concern about ‘escalation of tensions in the area’. The EU mission in Pristina stressed that it had no involvement in any kind of operation and condemned unilateral steps, no matter where they were initiated. The fact that the EU leaders have not yet demonstrated their position on Kosovo could not be left unnoticed in the conflict region. TheKosovo Deputy Prime Ministerand Minister of Justice HajredinKuci addressed the EU mission, saying that it would be active in all parts of Kosovo ‘or nowhere’.
The International Crisis Group issued a report on northern Kosovo earlier this year, condemning any operations targeting local Serbs. “Attempts to integrate the north into Kosovo`s state borders by suppressing Serbian institutions will only do the whole situation no good”, the report says.
Now that the new difficulties occurred in Kosovo at the end of last month, growing pressure on Serbia is likely to force the current Serbian leaders to ‘surrender’.