Kosovo: What Happens Now That Talks Have Foundered?
December 3, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- As expected, a final round of internationally sponsored talks on Kosovo’s future status has ended without agreement. The three days of negotiations in Austria that concluded on November 28 were seen as a final attempt by the European Union, the United States, and Russia -- known as “the troika” -- to bring Belgrade and Pristina closer to a mutually acceptable solution, but both sides remained entrenched in their positions. RFE/RL correspondent Valentinas Mite spoke with the head of RFE/RL’s Kosovo Unit, Melazim Koci, about what comes next.
Kosovo's next prime minister, Hashim Thaci, believes independence will help stabilize the region (epa)
RFE/RL: December 10 is the deadline for the troika to report back to the UN secretary-general on the status of the Kosovo negotiations. Were the recent talks in Austria really the last discussions between Pristina and Belgrade? What happens next?
Melazim Koci: Now we will have to wait for the report by the troika that will be sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by December 10. The troika will propose the next steps, but they have already said they are not going to propose [Kosovo’s final] status. When it comes to talks between Pristina and Belgrade, I think we are not going to see another round of negotiations. Belgrade and Pristina have been talking for two years without any results. The Kosovars will only agree to independence; Serbia is offering autonomy. Between the two positions it is hard to find a compromise, so further talks make no sense.
RFE/RL: Serbia has warned it might impose an economic and travel blockade if Kosovo declares independence. What do you expect will happen in the period from now until December 10, when the Kosovo leadership says it might declare independence for the province?
Koci: Until December 10, we will have to wait for the troika's report to Ban Ki-moon. In that period the Kosovar Parliament and the government will not declare independence. They have said that independence will be declared in consultations with United States and the European Union. They will wait for sure until January or February, and then will declare independence. Declaring independence without recognition doesn't make sense.
When it comes to Serbia's [threats of an] economic and travel blockade, I think that is a bluff. Belgrade is trying to say that Kosovo can't function without being linked to Serbia. That is not true. Kosovo has alternative ways through Macedonia and Albania. An economic and travel blockade will not work.
RFE/RL: Hashim Thaci, the prime minister-elect, has conceded that forging a compromise would be "very difficult," but he denied that the region would plunge back into conflict if Kosovo declares independence. What is the basis for his optimism?
Koci: In my view, in the long term, Kosovo’s independence will make the Balkans stable, and that's what Thaci is saying. If the European Union is united in following the United States' position, then I don't believe [there is potential for] new conflicts in the Balkans. The most important thing to know now, in my view, is that by opposing Kosovo’s independence and [trying to] make Kosovo a frozen conflict, Russia in fact is trying to stop further NATO expansion toward the Balkans.