With the Serbia-Kosovo “great license plate catastrophe” seemingly over—at least for the time being—it appears that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti is facing a bit of a reckoning for a hard-line stance that came close to destabilizing the region and descending into violence.
A number of public officials appear to have griped not only privately, but publicly with regard to Kurti, who incidentally has continued to press and is already harping on a “deal” to be signed on the matter between Serbia and Kosovo by March 2023. But in fact the license-plate re-registration push has far-reaching consequences, with ethnic Serbs and the government of Serbia seeing this as the recognition of Kosovo independence.
Which has also been supported by not only the EU, but at least to some extent, but the United States.
Yet Kurti’s antics now appear to have new detractors. Sources in Brussels contacted by Serbia Monthly indicated that the hard-line approach was not welcomed during “emergency meetings” refereed by EU officials but attended by Kurti and Vucic both. Likewise, in the lead-up to the original Nov. 1 deadline, increased border patrols, an oppressive police presence and tit-for-tat provocations at the border (including the possible use of drones by the Kosovo side) “were not helpful.”
Such hardball tactics were in fact not welcome. The last thing the West needs at this time is a potential blow-up–literally–in the Balkans.
The hard line also appeared to help Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who reportedly attended emergency negotiations eager to continue dialogue. Yetm as an inside source put it, “Kurti appears to have believed that he had the trump cards in his hand—and perhaps he had a stronger hand, but this was overplayed.”
Serbia Monthly could not verify the true basis of the source’s opinion, but other public sources have appeared that have echoed this same sentiment. This includes former US Presidential Envoy for Belgrade-Pristina Richard Grenell, who was quoted that “American leadership” was needed and that Kurti was putting up barriers and “not being helpful,” as cited by RTS.
Grenell added that #nbsp;he has “negotiated with (Kurti in the past), and he is somebody who has never really liked any idea.”
He also noted that Kurti has typically rejected not only all US plans, but also European “ideas.”
Noteworthy, even EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy #nbsp;Josep Borell, who oversaw negotiations, but who in the past was seen by some as backing Kosovo, stated that Kurti had shown no respect for dialogue and for legitimate international obligations—as cited by the Albanian news site sot.com.al.
And this relationship seems unlikely to improve, as even while stating the March 2023 deadline was the goal, Kurti has reportedly also sharply criticized Borrell and said that Borrell has already “given up” on this deadline.
In short, you catch more bees with honey. Only Kurti has never seemed to understand this. In any capacity whatsoever.
Which means that for once Serbia may benefit from international negotiations—a rarity as the government and Vucic have seen the EU blast it for refusing to back sanctions on Russsia; for weaknesses with regard to media rights and immigration policy and also for its failure to budge on Kosovo. Yet the EU (with pushing from the US) has also realized that Serbia is a valuable partner—especially with the prolonging of the war in Ukraine, and pushing the country toward the East is a mistake.
Especially as investment is flooding in from both East and West alike.
Photo of Kosovo PM Albin Kurti by: AgronBeqiri, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.++