What's behind Quint's strong message to Belgrade and Pristina, and who will be under more pressure
Although the most powerful Western states have urged Pristina to abolish its taxes so that the dialogue can continue, a clear demand has now been delivered to Belgrade, too
The Quint countries today called on Pristina and Belgrade to resume their dialogue as soon as possible, and stressed that Pristina must abolish taxes (on Serbian goods) while Belgrade must suspend its campaign for withdrawals of the independence of the co-called Kosovo. Although the most powerful Western states have urged Pristina to abolish taxes so that the dialogue can continue, a clear demand has now been delivered to Belgrade, too.
A joint statement by the governments of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany states that they are united in the aim of achieving full normalization in Belgrade-Pristina relations through a comprehensive, politically viable and legally binding agreement that will contribute to regional stability.
"The status quo prevents progress on Kosovo's and Serbia’' path towards the European Union and is simply not sustainable. After years of stagnation, the time has come to finally end the conflicts of the 1990s and provide a secure and prosperous future for the people of Kosovo and Serbia by negotiating in good faith an agreement that both sides can support, that will provide a safe and prosperous future for the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia," a joint statement by the governments of the Quint countries sent to Tanjug by the US Embassy said.
The governments therefore "call on Kosovo and Serbia to restart the EU-led dialogue with urgency and ask that both parties avoid actions that will hinder a final agreement, which is necessary for both countries to achieve greater Euro-Atlantic integration and its accompanying benefits."
"We are prepared to step up our role in the process in support of the EU High Representative, but we cannot do so until you both signal a willingness to compromise, remove obstacles and resume discussions. For Kosovo, that means suspending the tariffs imposed on Serbia. For Serbia, that means suspending the de-recognition campaign against Kosovo," said the statement.
Quint countries have been pushing for a continuation of the dialogue for a long time, Dragan Djukanovic, president of the Center for Foreign Policy and professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences, told Telegraf.rs, commenting on the statement.
"They have made it clear before that Pristina should abolish the taxes, and emphasized on several occasions that Serbia should stop lobbying for the withdrawal of recognitions of Kosovo's independence. It is obvious that as we go towards further stages of the dialogue, that pressure, which is now predominantly directed towards Pristina, will gradually change and move over to the other side, that is, towards Belgrade," said Djukanovic.
Career diplomat Zoran Milivojevic sees two things in the Quint statement.
"What we are reading in this joint statement is the interest to restart the dialogue, which is the first thing. And, the other is equalizing both sides. Unfortunately, western power centers are staying the course of double standards. Serbia in this case bears no blame for the deadlock in the negotiations," told Telegraf.rs.
He believes that Belgrade has in no way contributed to the deadlock occurring.
"The fact that Serbia seeks to challenge the self-proclaimed statehood (of Kosovo) is a part of its policy, because Serbia does not recognize the self-proclaimed independence, and has acted in that sense so far. Behind this - in addition to the Serbian arguments and the Serbian political stance - are also international legal arguments. According to international law and (UN) Resolution 1244, Kosovo and Metohija is under the United Nations mandate, and is still at that level being treated as an integral part of Serbia," said the diplomat.
He believes the Quint's obvious course is to equalize both sides once again.
"This, in addition to the interest to continue the dialogue, is part of the pressure on Serbia to give up its policy of contesting, that is, an indirect message for Serbia to change its attitude and recognize the independence," Milivojevic told us, adding:
"They have already had a mechanism to influence Pristina and the policy Haradinaj is pursuing there, because he is certainly not alone in that. This also confirms an earlier assessment that, in fact, this hardline policy represented by the political leadership in Pristina has the tacit support of the West, and that it's one method of exerting pressure on Serbia to recognize the self-proclaimed independence. This stance unambiguously confirms it."
In the meantime, Belgrade's official response has arrived. It was announced by the director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric. He told an unscheduled press conference held at the government headquarters that Serbia would continue to pursue its internal and foreign policies guided by its own interests and those of its own people, both in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as in other parts of the country.
"There can be no artificial balancing because it is not the same when someone defends against (Pristina's) unlawful memberships in international organizations, and when someone violates the CEFTA agreement and international contracts," said DJuric.
He added that it was also contentious for Serbia that the statement clearly shows what outcome the Quint countries want, what outcome they will strive towards, and what pressure they will exert.
"If you ask Serbia to stop lobbying for the preservation of its integrity and sovereignty, and you do not ask Pristina to do so, then it is quite clear that for you, the desired outcome of the dialogue is full acceptance, without Serbia complaining. Serbia has taken note of this announcement, as well as we are ready to continue the dialogue when the taxes are abolished," he said.
He said he would continue to work on the ground in the interest of citizens in Kosovo and Metohija, and care for them.
"As part of our care, efforts will be doubled and tripled, and this includes the plan of President Aleksandar Vucic whose projects are already being implemented," said the head of the Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija.
"Our response will be additional support to the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, a rational attitude towards the dialogue, not to violate international rights, to respect the basic principle of freedom, the flow of goods and of capital. I will say clearly and loudly that there can be no artificial equation mark that is not based on law," said Djuric.