Interview | Edward P. Joseph: Ideally, association would be negotiated as a final status issue where Serbia recognizes Kosovo

Interview | Edward P. Joseph: Ideally, association would be negotiated as a final status issue where Serbia recognizes Kosovo


Gazeta Express

22/01/2022 17:58

Edward P. Joseph, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, in an exclusive interview with Gazeta Express explains in detail some of the issues covered in the report dubbed:From crisis to convergence: a strategy to tackle the source of instability in the Balkans,and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent letter to Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

Gazeta Express / Interviewed by: Besnik Veliu

Edward P. Joseph reveals why the report recommends sanctioning leaders in Albania or Kosovo who promote any “union” between the two independent countries, and appointing a US special envoy for the recognition of Kosovo by the five member states of the EU which have not yet recognized Kosovo.

Joseph in his interview also explains in detail the conclusion of the report on the ambiguity of the government of Kosovo related to its geostrategic orientation, mentioning the trans-Adriatic pipeline. Also, Edward P. Joseph in his interview comments on the main messages of US Secretary of State Blinken’s letter to Kosovar Prime Minister Kurti, and Kurti’s announced visit to the US and what should happen with the agreement on the establishment of the Association of Municipalities with Serb Majority and the question of the land dispute of the monastery of Decan.

Gazeta Express: When you said sanctions, what exactly did you mean? Ex. Because if there were sanctions against Prime Minister Kurti of the United States, he would have to resign, and that would probably lead to another deadlock in the dialogue process.

Edward P. Joseph: The sanctions proposed in the report are associated – intentionally and clearly – with a broader commitment by the United States to achieve full international recognition of the Republic of Kosovo – not the Republic of Kosovo and Albania, or similar. Why should the United States appoint a special envoy for recognition of Kosovo, among other steps in that direction, if Kosovo is trying to undermine the concept of Kosovo that the United States and its allies have for the country?

The fact is that the recognition of Kosovo means Kosovo as a unitary and functioning country within its current borders – not in a federation or confederation with Albania. Neither “Greater Albania” nor “Greater Serbia” is in the interest of the United States; it is against American interests.

Nor is it in Kosovo’s interest. For example, Greek recognition could be transformative for Kosovo and the region. But it is clear that Athens – like Washington – does not see stability emerging from any “union” or partition of Kosovo. As we quote in our Johns Hopkins SAIS-Wilson Center report, influential Greek commentators expect a treaty between Pristina and Athens to rule out such adventures.

The threat of sanctions is significant for all parties:

That Pristina understands the principle and the vision of Kosovo which attracts the support of the United States and its allies.

Let Athens and other non-recognizers understand that the American commitment is to support the sovereignty of Kosovo – not to support the dreams of national consolidation of the Albanian people.

That Serbia and its supporters in Russia, China and elsewhere see that the United States has a strategic approach, based on democratic and multi-ethnic coexistence – not favoring Albanian national ambitions over Serbian national ambitions.

Gazeta Express: The report also clarifies an ambiguity by Kurti regarding Kosovo’s strategic direction. You mentioned the US-backed pipeline issue. So you’re implying that the pipeline issue is not just a matter of ‘pipes’, as Prime Minister Kurti put it, but a matter of strategic direction that would repel Russian influence in the region. .

Edward P. Joseph: The Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline is part of a broader strategy to diversify energy sources in the region. Given the current threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine – where Moscow is using the implicit threat to cut off Europe’s energy supply – the need to diversify is obvious. Kosovo’s electricity crisis and rising prices make TAP’s case even more logical. It was good that Kosovo Foreign Minister Gervalla discussed the pipeline, among other issues, during her meeting yesterday with Greek Foreign Minister Dendias. This meeting was another good sign for the “convergence” approach that we recommend in our SAIS-Wilson Center report.

Gazeta Express: How long did this whole report take you, was there any issue that you disagreed with the co-authors. If so, on what issues? And Did you send this report to important addresses of international political decision-making?

Edward P. Joseph: This report is the result of a long reflection, initiated by me in the fall of 2020 with the early election of Joe Biden as President. I have worked in and on the region almost since the war broke out in Bosnia (I arrived in August 1992, three months after the start of the war.) I have served in all conflict zones during the wars: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo and North Macedonia. I was also deputy head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, including in 2012. I negotiated the agreement for the holding of Serbian national elections in Kosovo in May 2012.

As we write in the report, the alarming deterioration of the region is “voluntary”. The US, EU and NATO hold the strategic advantage over the entire region (unlike Ukraine.) It is simply incomprehensible that thirty years after the outbreak of war there is talk of war again in Bosnia and Herzegovina, confrontation in Kosovo and unprecedented tensions. in Montenegro.

The report addresses the central question: why is the Balkans still in such disarray after so many years and so many efforts? We identify the source: Serbia’s inability to accept the Western order. We identify the reason for this inability: the influence that Serbia holds over Kosovo – and the US and the EU. We identify the solution to this condition: to erode and eventually eliminate Serbian influence in Kosovo. This is done by changing the positions of the four NATO countries that do not recognize Kosovo: Greece; Spain; Slovakia; and Romania. We explain how this can be accomplished in a very practical way, working mainly with Greece and mainly within NATO.

Gazeta Express: Have you had a chance to read Secretary Blinken’s letter to Prime Minister Kurti, and what are your conclusions for this letter?

Edward P. Joseph:
Yes, I have read the letter and it is very clear: it is a positive and supportive letter from Secretary Blinken, aimed at bolstering the efforts of the two appointed US diplomats, Ambassador Hovenier and Special Envoy Escobar. Secretary Blinken sets expectations for cooperation on the specific issues cited in the letter. The letter is written diplomatically.

Gazeta Express: Since the end of last year, Prime Minister Kurti has been talking about a possible visit to the United States. The last time Kurti spoke about this possible visit to Washington, he said that he might be going to DC in early 2022. Do you see this letter from Secretary Blinken as a sign of “cancellation” of this possible visit of Prime Minister Kurti to Washington? I mean, do you see any reason for Kurti to go to Washington after this letter that contains everything?

Edward P. Joseph: This letter has no connection with a visit, and the word “cancellation” should not be used in connection with this letter. It represents US expectations on key US priorities. Of course, whether such a visit takes place and at what level is another matter. These visits are always linked to the state of relations and developments. There is no doubt that Washington is looking for progress on the issues cited in the letter, and that could indeed be a factor.

Gazeta Express: Do you believe that Prime Minister Kurti will respond to US inquiries about Blinken’s letter, based on Kurti’s past and political positions and activities (Association of Serbian Municipalities and Decani Monastery).

Edward P. Joseph: I will not predict what Prime Minister Kurti will do. I can state that I consider the “Association/Community of Serbian Majority Municipalities” to be a separate matter from the Decani Monastery and related court decisions. Kosovo, unlike Serbia, is a democracy moving in the right direction, with growing respect for the rule of law. Compliance with the decisions of the Constitutional Court is an absolute obligation for Prime Minister Kurti – or any other Prime Minister of Kosovo. The “Association/Community” is an obligation of another order; it is a political issue linked to a broader process with Serbia. Ideally, “Association/Community” would be negotiated as a final status issue, within the framework of the settlement in which Belgrade recognizes Pristina. Putting this ahead of the final status creates complexities in the EU-led dialogue, where Belgrade already holds the strategic advantage. (Belgrade is content if nothing happens in the dialogue, leaving Kosovo in its current position in limbo.)

The relations of the Kosovo Serb community as a bloc – and with Belgrade – are directly linked to Kosovo’s sovereignty and internal functionality. At the same time, formally, Kosovo is obliged on the “association/community”. The US and EU should find ways to address this negotiation challenge. In our report, we recommend advancing Kosovo’s relationship with NATO, for example by bringing Kosovo into NATO’s Partnership for Peace, among other measures. This may solidify Kosovo’s position and make some progress on “association/community” possible, although the final negotiation awaits a final settlement. /GazetaExpress/

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