Merkel’s last stand

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In the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia is nothing less than the foreign policy legacy of the Chancellor, the stability of Europe and the future of the Western Alliance in the game.

In the European Union-led negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia, a comprehensive, final agreement on the full normalization of mutual relations, a diplomatic offensive the United States has been observed since the beginning of the year. It is the idea behind it is to make an agreement with a land swap to the core of the subject.

The idea was first propagated by the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo, Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaçi, in the summer of 2018 to the public. In particular, Belgrade has become since the beginning of the final phase of the 2012 under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel initiated a political Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, two years ago, tired to advertise for a “compromise”.

President Thaçi brought then for the first time, the idea of an exchange of the majority of the Serbian-inhabited North of Kosovo, in southern Serbia, located, the majority of Albanian-inhabited Presevo valley incl. mutual formal recognition of the two States. A Plan so far, none of the three parties Involved in the complete secrecy of the EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini has been guided in the Brussels negotiations to the public.

Unholy Alliance of an authoritarian Balkan leader

Against the proposal have expressed the German government and the Chancellor, the be represented by proponents as a game spoiler. Why the EU and the US should be against such an agreement, ask if both sides are in agreement? Who should prohibit them, and why?

In fact, it is in the proposal, however, something completely different than what constitute his protagonists: an unholy Alliance between two authoritarian Balkan leader with the foreign representatives of the EU and the unpredictable Trump Administration, which perverted the political dialogue, such as the Western basic principles of three decades of stabilization and democratization of the Western Balkans.

After the Kosovo war, it was just Belgrade, which any reality-based compromise denied, including the Plan of the UN envoy Mati Ahtisaari, the Pristina was then forced in the Constitution of today’s Republic of Kosovo, unilaterally implement.

Years later it was then, especially Chancellor Merkel, who took advantage of the desire of Belgrade to the EU to the solution of the frozen status of the conflict by linking the accession of Serbia with the recognition of the reality of the loss of Kosovo, and supported by great Britain and the United States the historic breakthrough achieved. In the April agreement of 2013 realized in Belgrade, the Kosovo de facto. The then Serbian Prime Dacic spoke publicly that politics and society have been lied to for a decade, Kosovo was still part of Serbia.

Secret negotiations as a political relapse

If the EU had not at that time made the end point of the Dialogue explicitly, these two sides was clear, i.e., the full normalization of relations, including mutual recognition. Also, Merkel and the then foreign Minister Westerwelle made Statements that the time of the border changes in the Balkans was over served.

The recent secret negotiations therefore represent a drastic political case. The Motivation of the actors involved is divers: For President Vučić, it is the attempt to use the current political weakness of the EU, more of them, than the originally scheduled close of the Dialogue was possible. At the same time he wants to by the current internal political problems – the consequence of authoritarian-autocratic power consolidation under Western tolerance – distract.

President Thaçi has privatized the negotiations, against the resistance of all Kosovo Albanian parties, to escape in the hope of an impending indictment by the special EU court of justice for war crimes at the end of the Kosovo war.

Frederica Mogherini, the lack of capacity had led as a Negotiator in the dialogue in an existential crisis, is desperately trying, your Failure into a success story to be transformed by your own lack of principles in the dialogue for the principle. The common denominator with the Trump Administration, this unusual axis Brussels-Washington, lies in the task of Western, liberal democratic principles to be in favor of Dealmaking in the sense of “any deal is a good deal”.

Exchange of territory would destabilize the Balkans

The potential consequences of a land swap agreement, the subsequent Western legitimation of the ethno-territorial principle, three decades after the start of the Balkan wars would be devastating: The Exodus of the majority would be in the South of Kosovo Serbs, the fall in Vučićs invoice consciously under the table, inevitably, followed by armed conflicts between the Serbian majority population and Kosovo Albanians in Northern Kosovo.

The ethno-nationalist destabilization of the entire Region of Bosnia-Herzegovina to Macedonia would follow. The EU accession process of the Western Balkan countries would be done for a long time. The populists and nationalists in the interior of weakened EU would, in addition, threatened existentially. By Western actors legitimized the ethno-territorial division, moreover, would have a devastating impact on the dispute with Russia over the territorial integrity of Ukraine, with unpredictable geopolitical consequences.

Merkel should take the lead role

For Chancellor Merkel, the current development means a kind of foreign and European policy the last battle. Within the EU, Merkel and her social democratic foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, have clearly and publicly opposed to the idea expressed. This Position is shared by the vast majority of member States, including those such as Spain and Slovakia, which have not recognised Kosovo. You hide however largely behind Germany, hoping on the leadership role of the Chancellor. Merkel seems to hesitate currently, this is a fight for your political heritage at the end of their Era.

In order to prevent a land swap agreement with its far-reaching consequences, the Chancellor, the European leadership role in the political dialogue. At the same time, you need to understand Belgrade and Prishtina to the public, that in the event of a signing of a land swap agreement because of the threat to peace and democracy in the Western Balkans for the EU-accession prospects for both countries in the long run would be done. Alternatively, this could also do the Bundestag in a corresponding inter-group Resolution.

In addition, Berlin and other EU member States for an Initiative to Reset the dialogue negotiations, which leads it back to the original framework of the Dialogue, behind gather. It remains to be seen whether the for the 29. April Merkel and the French President Macron scheduled Western Balkans summit in the Chancellery is a first step in this direction.

Bodo Weber is a Senior Associate of the Democratization Policy Council (DPC), a TRANS-Atlantic think tank, based in Berlin.