Berlin discussion centers on Kosovo
GMF Berlin and the European Integration Strategy Association (EISA) co-hosted a lunch discussion on Kosovo at the Deutsche Parlamentarische Gesellschaft on March 19. The lunch drew about 20 participants, including one Member of Parliament, parliamentary and ministerial staff, as well as Embassy and think tank representatives. After introductory remarks from Jörg Forbrig of GMF and Andreas Wittkowsky of EISA, Ilir Deda of the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development presented his perspective on Kosovo's most pressing challenges.
In particular, his remarks focused on the impact external challenges such as the question of Kosovo's international legitimacy have on the country's ability to address internal challenges such as corruption, economic development, or education. Overall, Deda sees positive trends, in particular with regards to Serbian-Albanian reconciliation within Kosovo even though the overall picture in Kosovo remains quite bleak, and even bleaker in Northern Kosovo. The Q&A that followed his remarks centered on the question of responsibility for the current situation and future development in Kosovo, and whether it sits more with the international community or more with Kosovo society.
Ilir Deda's main points:
- 2010 is a critical year for Kosovo, both with regards to external and internal challenges. The external challenges impact Kosovo's capability to confront internal challenges.
- For the past two years, Kosovo has been the only country in the Western Balkans without a clear EU perspective. The EU divisions over recognition of Kosovo are a clear impediment for Kosovo's development. In his opinion, Serbia has shackled the EU and the U.S., and far fewer countries have recognized Kosovo than expected.
- From the outside, Kosovo looks like a disaster, an unfinished business despite all the money that has been poured in. International institutions on the ground are not well-coordinated, but Kosovo is a joint U.S.-European project, and it will be a joint success or failure.
- On the inside, you find positive trends, in particular with regards to the reconciliation process between Serbs and Albanians. Interethnic incidents have gone down, inclusion of Serbs in politics/society has gone up. Kosovo's governance structure for the first time offers a single framework to resolve issues and there is a credible Kosovo Serb leadership.
- Serbian-Albanian relations within Kosovo will maintain very fragile as long as the issue of territorial integrity remains open. This issue should have been closed two years ago with Kosovo's independence - neither the international community nor Kosovo society can afford to keep it open.
- North Kosovo is a very gloomy picture. The region has seen no governance in 10 years, it is run by the intelligence and military apparatus of Serbia. If the international community can't succeed in this region with 45,000, what are the prospects for Afghanistan?
- Question of legitimacy: public pressure to explain to Kosovo people why only 65 countries have recognized Kosovo
- Negotiations with Serbia with a Kosovar society that is unprepared for this
- Worsening economic situation: the political elite had no plan what to do after independence, Kosovo government is a "joint criminal enterprise"
- Rule of law: society does not yet see that it is worth it, corruption paramount
- Ilir Deda sees an opening for positive change in the coming years, but only if there is a clear signal that corruption will not be tolerated, that the EU/international institutions follow through with what they promise.
The discussion started out with the question what Germany/German members of parliament can do to support Kosovo. Ilir Deda mentioned four areas in particular:
- Rule of law: Send more German prosecutors and judges
- Territorial integrity: Push for no partition of Kosovo
- Science & Education: Invite Kosovar researchers and scientists to German universities
- Relations with Serbia: Serbia does not have to recognize Kosovo, but also needs to refrain from redrawing borders
The rest of the discussion focused primarily on the perception of Western involvement in Kosovo. Deda stated that impatience with the West (EU and United States) is growing because the West is seen as not delivering -- it has brought the institutions, but the people in Kosovo do not see these institutions following through, and send mixed signals e.g. with regards to prosecuting corruption. This statement started off a discussion on who is responsible for positive change in Kosovo -- the international community or Kosovo society. The issue was not resolved but the -- slightly heated -- discussion simply showed that much remains to be done. The international community needs to make sure it practices what it preaches, and Kosovo society and new (returning) elites need to stand up against corruption - but will only do so if they see that rule of law works.