Former EU facilitator of Kosovo-Serbia technical dialogue in 2011-12, Robert Cooper, who was one of the speakers at the Belgrade Security Forum (BSF) held on 17-18 October, in his capacity as ECFR Council Member, wrote a “private and confidential” letter based on his study trip to Serbia’s capital. At the first paragraph of the letter, which Gazeta Express got hold of, Cooper reveals that the controversial ‘land swap’ proposal between Kosovo and Serbia has nothing to do with exchange of territories. According to Cooper, Belgrade’s idea is to regain disputed territory of northern Kosovo in exchange for Serbia recognising Kosovo as a state.
A confidential letter of Robert Cooper, ECFR Council Member, reveals what is really happening behind the curtains of the secret negotiations on partition of the Republic of Kosovo. These conclusions were penned in a letter that Cooper wrote after a study visit in Belgrade on 17 and 18 October 2018. As written in the letter, presidents Hashim Thaci of Kosovo and Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia are not discussing exchange of territories, but only partition of Kosovo. According to Cooper, Kosovo will give northern part in exchange for Serbia recognising Kosovo. “A key topic of debate in Belgrade is the ‘land swap’ proposal; a ‘comprehensive deal’ that would allow Serbia regain disputed territory (North Kosovo) in exchange for Serbia recognising Kosovo as a state. It is, however, not clear whether the Vucic-Thaci talks are going anywhere; nor whether any deal could be sold in Kosovo. There is still a long way to go,” Cooper wrote in a letter that Gazeta Express got hold of. Among other things Cooper writes that President of Serbia considers that solving of frozen conflict with Kosovo is of a great importance, even more important than solving some problems Serbia is facing in the rule of law area and democracy. “He imagines Brussels longing for a heroic Balkan strongman doing geopolitical deals, whereas what it would really like is a predictable, well-run country that minds its own business and gets out well with its neighbours,” Cooper wrote on Vucic. In the letter Cooper draws some recommendations and conclusions as follows:
The Serbian leadership appears to be increasingly aware that if a border deal with Kosovo is to succeed, it needs to have key EU partners, including Germany, on board. The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini should put Serbia-Kosovo talks on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council soon.
The reactive position of the EU in the talks should shift towards encouraging solutions that are legitimate at hime and which enhance stability in the region. But, given that a land swap path may yet turn out to be a blind alley, the EU should also exercise its creative imagination so as to be ready with alternative plans.
The clear and open disagreement between the United States and Germany was striking and alarming. Depending on the Frnech position (no French official spoke at the Belgrade Security Forum), this has the makings of a fairly serious transatlantic gap.
The EU leaders and institutions should not lose sight of the underlying paradox: as President Vucic is unlocking one door to the EU by forging a deal with Kosovo, he is closing another one by consolidating his authoritarian rule and state capture at home.
The article first published at GgazetaExpress