The issue of changing the format of the European Union's presence in Kosovo, which at first seemed to be purely technical, has suddenly acquired a political dimension and aroused serious passions in the relationship between Brussels and Priština. Having acquired a taste for strengthening its self-proclaimed statehood on the tide of the agreements "beaten" out of Belgrade with the help of the West, the Albanian separatist leaders have raised their hands against a "sacred cow" – the European Union's EULEX police and civilian mission… Just a few months ago it was only radicals from the "Self-Determination" movement, headed by Albin Kurti, who demanded its withdrawal; these radicals had always been very decisive on this issue.
However, as soon as the European Union let its guard down a bit and got "giddy with success" at the negotiations with Belgrade, Kurti's point of view became the unanimous opinion of the Assembly of Kosovo. The resolution passed by its deputies, if you leave aside the diplomatic obeisances and legal disclaimers, demands that the EULEX mission leave Kosovo as soon as possible. Preferably by the end of this year.
The roles have switched, and now the main defenders of the EU judges, police officers and public prosecutors are the Serbs. Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija in the Government of Serbia Aleksandar Vulin issued a sort of ultimatum, stating that without the EULEX mission the implementation of the agreements reached with Priština in April will be impossible. To Belgrade, the withdrawal of EU representatives from Kosovo will mean that "the agreements have been annulled and cannot be implemented," as these documents provide for the "executive role" of the European Union.
As the Kosovar Albanian-language media acknowledge, this statement was a reaction to the resolution of the Assembly of Kosovo, and according to the Serbs, the EULEX mission came to Kosovo not at the request of Priština, but in accordance with the decisions of the UN Security Council and the government of Serbia.
The question of why the European Union police and civilian mission appeared in Kosovo in the first place is in fact not so simple. The current special representative of the EU in Priština, Samuel Žbogar, although shocked at the recent events surrounding the organization he represents, has still maintained his composure. With sarcasm which is unusual even for him, he remarked that he is "observing the debates in the Assembly of Kosovo with interest," but that he must put the record straight right away and remind everyone that the EULEX mission came to Priština "at the invitation of the Kosovar authorities". "EU member states responded to the request from Kosovo for cooperation and agreed to send the EULEX mission," emphasized Žbogar.
It seems that both Vulin and Žbogar are only sharing partial information, including the secret information which the history of the appearance of the European Union police and civilian mission in Kosovo is still hiding. The EULEX mission was at one time yet another tool for implementing the West's "Kosovo project" which was meant to sideline not so much Serbia (which is not an EU member) as Russia. The consent of the Serbian authorities of that time really was received, but that had no bearing on the previously arranged scenarios. Later the consent it had given forced Serbia to agree to the mediation of Brussels at the negotiations with Priština.
The question arises as to whether a serious conflict is really brewing in the relations between Brussels and Priština or if it is a matter of the parties playing previously assigned roles. Most likely there are elements of both. The nerve center of the transpiring events is not the April agreements or even the role of the European Union as a mediator in the relations between Priština and the Kosovar Serbs; it is the issue of investigating the crimes previously committed in Kosovo, first and foremost the crimes of the infamous "black transplant surgeons".
Sources in Brussels (anonymous, of course) acknowledge that the EULEX mission in its current form really will be shut down – not by the end of 2013, but by June 2014. However, the mission will not be withdrawn from Kosovo; it will be restructured. And the first step on this path will be the removal from the jurisdiction of EULEX of the special service for investigating the crimes about which PACE special rapporteur Dick Marty collected materials. After that a new international tribunal will be created similar to the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, but unlike those it will be subordinate to the jurisdiction of the European Union and not the UN.
The question of the status of the future tribunal has today become key, and that is what has aroused such turbulent passions in Priština. There is reason to believe that the new international tribunal is planned as the main means by which the European Union (and the United States as well) will be able to keep its overzealous Albanian charges on a short leash when necessary, not only in Kosovo, but in Albania and in other regions of the Balkans. The materials gathered by the tribunal which threaten the "black transplant surgeons" and other "heroes" of Kosovar separatism will become a tool of their Western patrons for putting pressure on certain members of the Albanian political elite, from Hashim Thaçi to Sali Berisha and the leaders of the Macedonian Albanians. And such a tribunal's lack of a UN mandate will once again, as in the case of the EULEX mission, make it possible not to allow "excessive" interference in these criminal and political games from Serbia and Russia.