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Schriftenreihe des Europa Institutes Budapest, Band 29:107–112.


The Future of Kosovo and the Role of the EU


Reflecting on Kosovo’s future and the EU’s role in this respect I wish to refer to five issues. First of all, I would like to examine the factors that could make the international world accept and stand for the current settlement plan. Secondly, I wish to examine, how the European Union relates to it and reflect on the EU’s role in this process. Next I wish to talk about the role of the European Parliament in this context. I would also consider certain issues still left open, to which no unambiguous answers are available as yet. As it is said the devil is in the details. Much depends on minute details as to whether this settlement plan would be a success. And since I am a legal expert in the field of minorities allow me to share a few thoughts about certain elements of the present settlement plan that may be interesting from the angle of minorities in the future, too.

The text approved on 15 March by the European Parliament after long deliberations, closing down serious differences of opinion, contains the statement according to which the future of Kosovo is in close connection with the fact that both Serbia and Kosovo are waiting for Union membership. This issue is viewed from this angle by the Member States of the European Union and the European institutions including the European Parliament. After eight years of UN control it was a serious expectation towards the institutional systems of the international community to offer an acceptable and viable solution that would lead forward in these issues and ensure a long-term liveable vision. However, while all this appears to be the solution of a problem and a matter of financing on the table of international institutions (from the UN to OSCE through the Council of Europe and EU institution), it should not be forgotten that this is also about the daily life of people there, it is about continued existence and survival. No matter what solution is outlined and supported by the international community it will not be easy and unambiguous to get it accepted there, in that context. It has been appraised and understood by the international community that unless it can offer an alternative and some kind of compensation to that rather limited region, no progress can be expected from that deadlock in the long run. At the same time it was also realised that eight years of UN inspection cannot continue the same way and the moment has come to make this settlement plan accepted and to proceed along a new experiment. It was widely believed that if this plan was accepted by the UN Security Council as well as by Serbia (under pressure of the UN) and the European Union, finally an economic, financial, infrastructural and cultural development may begin that can ensure a secure future for the people living there.

What is necessary for making all this accepted by the international community, by the Western Balkans, Kosovo and not the least by Serbia? The institution of the UN and its Member States, and the European Union constitute the international community. They are clearly interested in stability, and it has become obvious that this can be the only way to stability. They are also interested in achieving that the proposed solution should be a unique one without precedent value because fears and reservations are still of significant dimensions. The solutions proposed in this plan with regard to minorities are feared in many places and even in some Union Member States. It has been stressed by the Member States of the Union and the European Parliament has repeatedly stated that it would be a unique solution that is not supposed to have any precedent value. This is the precondition of gaining the unanimous support of every Member State of the European Union and of the adoption of the resolution of the UN Security Council.

The resolution of the European Parliament as well as several decisions of the Member States of the European Union refer to the fact that the future role of the EU in Kosovo directly depends on the resolution of the Security Council. This condition by itself is a serious tool of pressure.

It has become clear in respect of Kosovo that the outlined settlement plan would only be the minimum for Albanian politics. A concept that would set the community back to the condition of 1990 is unacceptable to them. As the spokesperson of the UN also stated it is highly doubtful after all the events whether the Albanians of Kosovo could be persuaded to accept autonomy that had been taken away from them. Further on, and it is underlined by several analyses, the province has been pushed so far away from the earlier status quo by eight years of UN authority that it would not be able to integrate into Serbia. The only realistic opportunity and way of economic, financial and infrastructural viability is to make relations with the EU closer, including possible accession. If the current situation of Serbia is taken into consideration, it can be stated that the acceptance of the Ahtisaari plan is the only way to a rapid strengthening of ties with the Union and the releasement of finances and funds indispensable to development. In addition the Serbs of Kosovo would get an internationally safeguarded and controlled autonomy with the acceptance of the plan. It is only the Ahtisaari plan approved by the UN Security Council that could make it possible for Serbia to avoid the necessity of exercising pressure on Europe after a unilateral declaration of the independence of Kosovo without international guarantees, demanding that they should not acknowledge the independence of Kosovo. Since the United States would support an independent Kosovo, such an exercise of pressure would be ineffective in respect of the European Union too. It is still the controlled independence and a safeguarded and controlled autonomy that would be the most viable alternative for the Serbs leading to a long-term solution. A unanimous Security Council resolution is very important for Serbian politics which would thus take away the burden of decision-making from among the responsibilities of Serbian politics.

Surveying these different spheres of interest it is clear that issues of catching-up and accession to the European Union, e.g. the association agreement and the liberalisation of visas appear at every point. Hence no matter which sphere we are examining, the proximity of the European Union and a close circuit of contacts seem to offer the only possible way out in the region. Therefore it is not only the range of opportunities that is great for the Union but also its responsibilities. The question arises whether it is capable of acting and relating itself properly, whether it can undertake necessary guarantees and implement possible promises. In December 2006 the EU Member States made a clear statement though it was quite clear in the debate in the European Parliament which countries were the ones where fears were strong and where the common foreign and security policy of the EU faltered. It should be stated in respect of autonomy guaranteed for the Serb community of Kosovo and other community safeguards that the decisive issue would be whether the EU can take an unambiguous stand. The European Parliament heard Olli Rehn, the EU Commissioner also responsible for the Western Balkans, before it passed its resolution and the Commissioner kept on stressing that the Ahtisaari plan was the realistic compromise that is regarded currently as acceptable in the European Union. It is acceptable, but, as he always stresses, it is not of precedent value, it cannot be compared to any other similar situation in Europe and it was the last issue of status still left open. At the same time he added that it is important to avoid the implementation of a policy of ‘divide and rule’ on the basis of the UN Security Council resolution. It is important to maintain a united stand above all. It should also be seen that the Slovakian parliament had passed a resolution by which it ultimately backed out of the line of EU Member States that had all stood for the Ahtisaari plan. The importance of maintaining a uniform stand is reflected by the text of the resolution passed by the European Parliament after serious discussions by 409 votes for, 80 votes against and 82 abstentions. The Slovak and the Spanish MEPs were among those abstaining for fearing the precedent value of autonomy in the light of their own domestic policy.

What does the EU offer? Practically the European Union would take over the role of the UN in Kosovo. In other words, control would remain but under the flag of the European Union. Surely the institutional arrangements would change, the ‘weight’ of control would also change but practically very close supervision would remain for a very long time.

The resolution of the European Parliament clearly says that any further procrastination of the settlement of the status would have a negative impact on the tense situation. No other realistic chance is seen to find a solution. At the same time it is also becoming clear that the mutually mistrustful atmosphere between the ethnic communities requires continuous international presence in the future, definitely in the medium term, and in that period the international community, which may be substituted by the European Union, would have to invest continuously into education in Kosovo, and to find the basis of the development of a peaceful, multiethnic society and state in the young generations.

As it is also formulated in the resolution of the European Parliament, the European Union should play a central role in supporting, monitoring and safequarding the respect of the accord, and in the establishment of the democratic institutions of Kosovo. The settlement should be ‘compatible’ with the European Union, i.e. it should be in line with the European perspective of Kosovo and enable the EU to enforce the available measures in Kosovo. In other words the sets of institutions and relations should now be built in a way that makes them suitable for continuous contacts with the European Union which may, in the future, go as far as accession. The European Union is interested in it, and is ready to financially support international control for the purpose of reaching this goal and to participate financially in this solution. The resolution of the European Parliament calls attention to the fact that the Commission should enable Kosovo to have access to the Structural Funds of the European Union. All this is done with the purpose of helping the local small and medium sized companies to acquire strength, and to develop close ties already in this settlement period between the Union and the private sector of Kosovo. The European Union sees a direct correctional role for itself, and even the authority of substitution in limited cases. It also lists there cases, specifically in the field of the protection of minorities, the protection of vulnerable heritage sites, monuments and religious establishments, in the area of security and justice, primarily in connection with the fight against organised crime.

Some questions have been left open too. If such a settlement plan is approved by the Security Council where are the points to which one should pay attention, where are the details the devil may hide himself in? How would the shift be implemented from the UN mission in Kosovo to an international civilian office? How smoothly could competencies be transferred?

Another problem is the important issue of responsibility and the acceptance of tasks. There should be a clear and transparent division of tasks between the judiciary and justice authorities of Kosovo and the planned EU mission of law and order. The world could learn from the example of Bosnia where settlement was not at all simple. If the consequences are to be drawn from the case of Bosnia, particularly with regard to cooperation in the field of the judiciary and justice, it is not quite sure that the outcome is clearly a positive one.

It is also included in the resolution of the European Parliament and it was often said by officials of the EU that they expected of Kosovo to strengthen the concept of being a citizen of Kosovo. How can this be realised in practice, how would Kosovo become ‘Switzerland’? These are the questions those documents have not been able to answer clearly. But at least they have given some basis by the building or at least naming of the sets of institutions that figure, for instance, in the Ahtisaari settlement plan.

Certain questions set tasks to Hungarian diplomacy, too, in relation to this problematic issue because in some way the settlement of Kosovo would certainly affect us. We should definitely contribute to the possibility of the Serbs to actually stay in their place of birth in Kosovo. Possible Serb emigrants should not be settled in Vojvodina mainly populated by Hungarians. These are very important issues, for they may generate new tensions. It is an important objective that the multitude of Serb problems should not fall on the largest remaining minority, namely the Hungarians surviving in largest numbers in Vojvodina after the acceptance of the plan, of which there might be a realistic chance.

Hungarian interests are also clear in relation to the promises of support and accession made by the European Union to Serbia. It is very important in the case of the supported institutions that Hungarian diplomacy should be constantly present with specific recommendations. It should be made visible by our activities in the EU that as a Member State we can have a say in the shaping of relations between the EU and Serbia. This is particularly justified by the fact that we are Serbia’s immediate neighbours as well as a motherland of a populous minority living there. It is important that our enhanced sensitivity should receive proper attention.

Our policy towards Belgrade is of crucial importance, for at a certain point Hungary is projected towards Serbia as a representative of the European Union (one should only have the approaching 2011 presidency in mind) which can be used properly for the improvement of relations and continuously requesting safeguards and specific proposals as well as allocations serving the interests of Hungarians in Vojvodina.

Finally, I wish to dwell on the consequences of minority policy which are definitely remarkable from the angle of a legal expert specialised in minorities. I refer to the proposals that are regarded as desirable in the settlement plan and may be implemented in the case of the Serbian community and other non-Albanian ones. They may mean very serious steps forward for minority policy as a whole, unprecedented in the past. If these safeguards did not only remain on paper but were complied with by the European institutions as well as the parties concerned, mistakes not eliminated by the earlier settlement plans could be avoided this time. The settlement plan speaks about communities and the rights of communities in respect of minorities. It prescribes or considers a mechanism of representation and a special mechanism of presence desirable in public institutions. Certain legal regulations could only be implemented if the majority of the non-Albanian members of legislation consent to it. Decentralisation would go so far as to grant a high degree of control to the community in minority over its own affairs. Municipal self-governing autonomy is specifically outlined, which would cover health care through higher education to specified financial issues and the total acceptance of financial support granted by Serbia. These are serious steps, with which the international community has almost stepped over its own shadow. It was included in the resolution of the European Parliament that the Union welcomed the fact that the Ahtisaari proposal outlined broad autonomy for the Serb community and other communities, including significant autonomy for self-governance in line with the European principles of subsidiarity and self-governance. Applying the principles of subsidiarity and self-governance in the service of autonomy and the presentation of the entire issue this way also emerged earlier in the parliamentary debates at the time of Romania’s accession. It provoked unimaginable resistance in Romania’s case when the issue of minorities came up and one wanted to speak about self-governance and subsidiarity as European principles. This time the proposal could go through without major resistance. I wish to stress that I do not speak as a politician but as a legal expert of minorities who wants to give account of the solutions and principles that the international community has reached. The international community in fact has recognised that there cannot be any settlement without efficient guarantees for the protection of minorities and autonomy is precisely the form of settlement that may offer a solution for minorities living in one bloc. In fact it points further ahead towards the international and European acceptance of autonomy as a principle and tool. If it becomes widely accepted that all this autonomy is based on the principles of subsidiarity and self-governance appearing in the roots of the European Union, we can be optimistic about reaching a renaissance of autonomy, self-governance and subsidiarity as possibilities of solution in Europe with consistent reference to them. This, in turn, may significantly help Hungarian communities living in minority who have experienced a lot, suffered a lot but have never given up the use of peaceful means. And as far as we are concerned this can also be at stake when talking about the success of the Ahtisaari plan.


* Member of the European Parliament