E.U. TAKES OVER U.N. IN DIOLOG BETWEEN KOSOVO AND SERBIA
By Erol Avdovic
|UN Spokesman Martin Nezirky |
(photo Webpublicapress 2011)
NEW YORK (Webpublicapress - UN) – Between the leadership and priorities, the United Nations chooses the latter. When it comes to Kosovo and Serbia, for the United Nations chief, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, “dialogue is vital, and the Secretary-General welcomes that,” says his spokesman Martin Nezirky.
But Mr. Nezirky, told Webpublicapress (WPP) the Secretary General’s interest “in what is happening around the world is unchanged.”
Nezirky added, although - right now Libya is “in the focus of international attention, media attention in particular, we must not forget what is happening in Côte d'Ivoire, Sudan ... And we don’t.”
Yet, if you have a chance to ask the UN Secretary-General, whether he is personally interested, and how much he can follow the situation in the Balkans right now, since – obviously Mr.Ban is preoccupied with North Africa – you wouldn’t get much of an answer.
Spending some time among UN journalists in an informal gathering for the introduction of three new directors, UN Department of Public Information (DPI) – the UN chief reaffirmed to this reporter: “Yes, I am very much concerned on Libya,” he said. At the same place and time, when asked – the UN chief just waved his head and said nothing on Kosovo.
FOCUS ON AFRICA
As turmoil continues in the Middle East, the Ivory Coast has also emerged on the global news-agenda. On March 8, at the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day six women were killed in Abidjan during an all-women protest against the president. Although having lost the election for president in November of 2010, Laurent Gbagbo (president since 2000) still refuses to step down, causing political unrest in this part of Africa.
Mr. Ban was particularly tough on Mr. Gbagbo – to step down, but his words fall down on deaf ears. History is repeating with Libyan leader Moammer Gadafi, whom Mr. Ban has called repeatedly to “listen to his people,” echoing similar calls from Washington. Ban seems to be on the right side of history on this, yet his words do not produce much movement.
Award winning journalist, James Reinl, a UN based correspondent for “The National” (daily from Abu Dhabi), who recently came from assignment in Haiti put it: “You have a lot of right talk in the UN, but then -- the action is missing.”
Little less, Mr.Ban is interested in post-conflict Balkans where things are improving, although his words on it are carefully chosen on that subject as well. When it comes to that part of Europe and the talks between Belgrade and Prishtina, UN spokesman said “the Secretary-General remains interested, of course, and he is regularly briefed on what is happening.”
In Brussels, on talks between Belgrade and Prishtina the UN Secretary-General is represented by his Special Representative in Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier, assisted by Andrew Gilmour, the UN Representative in Belgrade. But those two, it seems – are only assisting the European Union, who is calling the shots on this negotiation. Those two gentlemen, says Nezirky, are “the UN focal point for coordination with the European Union.”
WHERE IS THE “UN CONNECTION”
|UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: Introducing his|
appointees to the reporters (photo Webpublicapress 2011)
Back in New York, Serbian diplomats are disappointed that the U.N. does not play crucial role in Brussels talks, as they think U.N. should:
“When it comes to Kosovo the UN role should be for a while important there,” says to WPP, a high-ranking Serbian diplomat to the United Nations in New York. “And when it comes to this first round of dialogue of Serbian authorities with those from Prishtina – that ‘UN connection’ will be even more needed,” he added.
But not everybody thinks the nexus between UN and Kosovo should stay intact.
“The UN shows an obvious political apathy in Kosovo, ever since EULEX (The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo), in 2008 took-over,” says a New York based Kosovo diplomat for WPP.
EULEX, some 3,200 (1,950 international, 1,250 local) personnel undertook to assist Kosovo authorities in the rule of law area, specifically in the police, judiciary and customs areas. Although EULEX operates within the framework of UN Security Council resolution – 1244, unlike UNMIC, (UN Interim Administration in Kosovo) – EU forces are ensuring that Kosovo institutions stay free from political interference and adhere to internationally recognized standards and European best practices.
“UN has already transferred the responsibility for mediating technical dialogue to EU, and, obviously United Nations in this dialogue between us and Belgrade, will not play a big role. That is good news for us,” a diplomat from Kosovo, said to WPP.
Unlike Serbian diplomat accredited to the UN in New York, who emphasized the “UN Connection” – Kosovars who are not recognized by the UN (and thus do not have UN credentials) are afraid -- more involvement of the UN in the “technical talks,” just started in the form of dialogue in Brussels – could lead to “more of the Russian involvement.”
“We do not like that, since Moscow always acts as a ‘rubber stamp’ to Belgrade’s attempts to turn these talks to status talks,” a Kosovo diplomat said to WPP. “Kosovo is an independent state. Period!” the same diplomat says.
AMERICANS BELIEVE E.U. MORE
|US Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State |
Thomas Countryman: Clear position
(photo Webpublicapress 2011)
Talking to us in a telephone interview, Thomas Countryman, deputy assistant to US undersecretary of state, just before he left as an American representative to the Brussels talks – said dialogue is not about status talks on Kosovo. And Americans are practical again:
“We have full confidence in the European Union to set the agenda and manage the dialogue in order to meet the goal of meeting real improvements in daily life of both Kosovo and Serbia,” Mr. Countryman said, adding the importance of “these two states to talk to each other.”
Countryman said the talks are “dialogue, and not a negotiation,” adding neither Kosovo or Serbia should “fight fearlessly for their respective positions is to defeat the purpose for the dialogue.”
While Americans are expecting rather practical, non-political issues discussed, the Serbian side openly stresses these talks are about status as well. Countryman said that the US has achieved guarantees from both governments – they will stick to these guidelines.
WHAT IS THE U.N. POSITION?
Addressing the journalist’s “struggle to understand the UN position on Kosovo,” put by WPP reporter in UN, Nezirky said, the UN “has been involved in the preparation of this dialogue and is contributing to this effort in close coordination with the
European Union.” He avoided giving more details on that.
Talking on the background from Brussels to Webpublicapress, an EU diplomat said -- the dialogue was about getting Prishtina and Belgrade closer to the EU.
So it's only logical that the EU is in the lead, the European confessed. As for others, including the UN, the EU would invite to participate and will work with “anyone -- who has something to contribute.” The UN is expected to be presented in Brussels on the invitation of the EU – “if and when considered useful and - or necessary” in this ongoing dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.
There have been efforts by both sides to define, that the dialogue is or is not about status. Americans and major European states are firm in view that the question of status is already decided.
“Kosovo independence is an established fact,” Countryman reaffirmed talking to WPP from Washington on the eve of the first round of dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. But he also added: “This is not to say that in a dialogue such issues can not be raised, and we of course recognize that – the practical solutions to some issues will touch upon the definition of status.”
In Brussels they are ready to confirm that – the United Nations has played an important role in the Balkans, and also in the preparations for the dialogue between Prishtina and Belgrade. Whenever the UN will participate in the meetings (at EU's invitation), it will be because the EU believes the UN can help the whole process move forward. It looks more like courtesy than necessity.
So far, it seems the UN role has become more or less symbolic in the Brussels dialogue over Kosovo.
When asked to take the clear position, whether the UN thinks - these dialogue talks between Kosovo and Serbia are “on status,” as Serbians claim, or only about “technical issues,” as Kosovo Albanians are saying, the UN sounds like it is not a comfortable zone for them to discuss.
Martin Nezirky is ambiguous answering that question as well: “Well, I think that the UN; there is a UN Security Council resolution (Security Council resolution 1244, which was adopted in 1999) if I am not mistaken, that remains in place. And therefore, that sets out rather clearly what the UN position is.”
It looks like the UN cannot take the lead in the Balkans ever since they failed in Bosnia, over Srebrenica some fifteen years ago.
As for UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon is indeed preoccupied with Libya, not without reasons indeed. When it comes to Kosovo -- the UN chief is in a back seat. EU firmly grips the Kosovo steering wheel. Some say it is good news.
This 2011, on the Balkans, the UN looks like a “retired power” which advocates “only” the status quo. But, as one would say reading from old political phrasebooks: “Status quo means moving backward.” This is true especially in the politically charged region of South-East Europe. It seems, UN -- does not like to bother with that anymore.
Every retirement, though - should come with dignity.