Kosovo – A test for EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy

, by Joonas Turunen

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Kosovo – A test for EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy

Two months after the elections in Kosovo, the Kosovo status process is still at a stalemate. The troika, consisting of the EU, Russia and the USA, still hasn’t found a solution feasible to both Pristina and Belgrade. The lengthening negotiations are already paving way for a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo.

It has been almost a year since the former Finnish President, UN envoy Mr. Martti Ahtisaari presented his plan for the future status of Kosovo. A resolution based on a ”supervised independence”, as proposed by Ahtisaari, was rejected in the summer 2007 by Russia in the UN Security Council. Now, two months after the November elections in Kosovo, the Kosovo process is slipping out of control.

Ahtisaari proposed a plan, where an EU police force would take over from the UN personnel, the rights of the Serbian minority in Kosovo would be guaranteed and Kosovo would not be allowed to join any other state (i.e. Albania). Pristina, originally satisfied with Ahtisaari’s proposal, now seems unwilling to negotiate anything short of independence.

Serbia, on the other hand, has strong support from Russia in defending its right to rule over the province. Serbia announced at the end of 2007, that it will cut off diplomatic ties with any country that would recognise Kosovo’s independence. It remains unclear what Serbia’s response to a declaration of independence would be.

A test for Europe

The stalemate in the status process might turn out to become yet another crisis in EU’s backyard. In the case of a unilateral declaration of independence, Europe just might witness a re-run of the 1999 crisis. This time EU has a united stand on the issue, but yet again faces difficulty in integrating common foreign and security policy.

In the 1990’s Europe watched by as the conflict between Albanian separatists and Serbians in Kosovo escalated. In 1999, after three years of conflict and the Račak massacre, it was the US-lead NATO forces that attacked Yugoslavia (at that point composed of the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro plus Kosovo) with massive air bombings, forcing all parties to the negotiation table.

The stalemate in the status process might turn out to become yet another crisis in EU’s backyard.

Now, almost 10 years later it seems more than likely that the EU is again unable to solve the crisis on its own. If the status process goes wrong, the EU has nothing but to rely on America-lead NATO forces to stabilize the Balkans yet again. This would be a natural decision to many EU and NATO member countries, but for the unallied few inside the European Union, reliance on NATO is hardly an ideal solution for the EU.

The European Union might be on the right track in creating a true common foreign policy, but a crisis such as Kosovo proves the need for a firm security policy backing up the foreign policy. If NATO is security operator of choice for the Europeans, what is the role of the NATO-outcasts? This is a question much debated in the Finnish media, for example.

Solutions to the crisis?

The European Union has practiced a ”soft security policy” in throwing in the EU-membership card to the negotiation table. The new Slovenian EU presidency is already speaking of a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Serbia, which has been perceived as a concession to the Serbians in the Kosovo crisis. The Serbians, however, have replied that they want both Kosovo and EU.

It is left to be seen, what the solution by the troika will be. However, if Kosovo decides to declare independence, EU will be put in an awkward position. What happens if some member states recognize Kosovo’s independence and some don’t? What happens if Serbia will practice its rule on Kosovo by military means? Will there be another NATO operation in EU’s backyard in ten years?

All the scenarios prove the need for a peaceful solution to the crisis. However, the EU learns yet again how difficult it is to act as one of the superpowers, lacking any military capacity to resolve the crisis if it escalates. We should bear this closely in mind when we decide upon the future of the common security policy. And to bear in mind that NATO is not the obvious security operator for all Europeans.

Image taken from Google Images.

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