Kosovo at the Crossroads

Kosovo at the Crossroads

Steven A. Meyer offers his assessment of realities on the ground in Kosovo along with a way forward for resolving Kosovo’s status.

Third, an innovative settlement needs to go even further to consider a broader realignment in the Western Balkans. Specifically, the most likely candidate is the Republika Srpska. There is little doubt that most the leaders and citizens of the RS do not want to be part of Bosnia and, if they had their way, they would have left Bosnia many years ago, either to become independent or part of Serbia. There also is little doubt that Bosnia is a "forced" state-one that was arbitrarily willed into existence by the United States and the major powers of Western Europe and has "failed" to live up to its patrons' hopes and expectations.

Consequently, Banja Luka and Belgrade should have the right to discuss whether the RS and Serbia should be linked and under what circumstances, so long as those circumstances are validated in a democratic vote by the people of the RS. Although this same logic could be applied to the relationship of the Presevo Valley with an independent Kosovo, it cannot be stretched to apply to western Macedonia, where the Ohrid Agreement, has-at least for now-"settled" the ethnic issue, or to Sandjak or Vojvodina, where there is no major agitation for independence from Serbia.

Finally, once the political and security underpinnings of an agreement have been reached, negotiations should begin immediately between Belgrade and Pristina on economic cooperation. Despite some encouraging economic news in Serbia, most important indicators in Kosovo and Serbia proper are not good, especially with respect to unemployment, per capita income, foreign debt and trade. Consequently, irrespective of whether a political and security settlement can be reached, a poor regional economy almost certainly would sow the seeds of new instability in Kosovo, Serbia and beyond.

The key to economic growth and prosperity is multilayered. First, it would be necessary for Belgrade and Pristina to identify specific areas that need serious attention and genuine potential and agree on a bipartisan plan of development (for example, hydroelectric power in Kosovo, the Trepca mines along the border between Serbia and Kosovo, and agricultural programs in southern Serbia and Kosovo). Once Belgrade and Pristina have identified likely areas of economic cooperation, then-and only then-it would be possible to approach the EU for technical and financial support. Although the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe (established in 1999) has been a relatively weak instrument thus far, it is possible that Working Table 2 on economic development could provide a useful vehicle to establish productive programs between Serbia and Kosovo.

Steven E. Meyer is professor of National Security Studies in the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. The views expressed here are those of the author alone.