EU Withdraws From Northern Kosovo

From Mark Mardell on the BBC Euro Clog, which is still desperately trying to put a positive spin on the EU’s disastrous intervention in the Balkans-

Kosovo Lights Up The EU, he writes –

..the European Union is here, or at least will be, in force. The 2,000-strong police and justice mission will arrive to keep and eye on police, judges and government: its real mission to stamp down on corruption and make sure the Serbs are protected.
The EU’s Special Representative, a Dutch diplomat, will be the ultimate authority here.

That poor bloke is Pieter Feith, pictured.

The truth is that Pieter Feith, far from ordering his 2000 strong force of administrators to hurry over to Kosovo to take the reins, has already been forced into withdrawing all EU personnel from Kosovo’s northern areas. There have been a series of hand grenade attacks, which have only been reported on Al Jazeera, and it is only a matter of time before one of these attacks kills an EU employee.

The International Herald Tribune, still not quite getting the situation, expresses a certain amount of exasperation at Serbian resistance. Today’s report titled ‘Serbs’ Kosovo protests to widen across Europe’ ends with the sentence –

An EU Representative, Pieter Feith, said Saturday that he had recalled his staff from Kosovo’s restive north. without any details given, or any indication that Feith is meant to be in control of the whole country. It seems the US is just as much in denial about the seriousness and the impossibility of the situation that has been created, as the Europeans.

The BBC is beginning to report the Kosovo crisis is more realistic terms on its main website after initially attempting to present the Independence of Kosovo as a done deal, ignoring Russia’s threat of military action, which the BBC did not report at all. This was however reported on CNN.

The tone of the BBC’s latest report on Kosovo is beginning to acknowledge that the tensions arising from the EU’s hasty backing for Albanian Kosovan independence is not going to the cake walk it first appeared last week. The EU imagined initially that the prospect of EU membership would be enough of a carrot to neutralise Serbian resistance. It reads –

Correspondents say that, with Mr Medvedev the favourite to win next month’s presidential election in Russia, the high-powered nature of Russia’s delegation is a sign of the strength of the country’s backing for Serbia.

He and Mr Lavrov are scheduled to hold talks with Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

“Do support for the Kosovo Albanian side alone, contempt for law for the sake of so-called ‘political expediency’, and indifference to the fate of 100,000 Serbs who… are effectively being driven into a ghetto, not amount to flagrant cynicism?” Russia’s foreign ministry asked in a statement on Sunday.

The statement followed a comment by US Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who accused Russia of aggravating tensions over the Kosovo issue.

Border posts row.

Also on Monday, Belgrade government ministers are due to visit Serbian communities in Kosovo to press their message that Belgrade still regards Kosovo as its own.

Serbs have turned against those who recognise the new Kosovo.
Serbian Minister for Kosovo Slobodan Samardzic will lead the delegation.

But reports suggest Mr Samardzic will be denied entry until he apologises for comments seemingly condoning violence.

Mr Samardzic described the burning down of two border posts on 19 February by crowds of Kosovan Serbs as “legitimate” acts.

With worldwide support for the EU being far less forthcoming than was hoped, with many key countries withholding recognition until the situation clarifies, and with Russia and Serbia showing strong and active resistance, Russia’a ambassador to the UN even mentioning willingness to enforce United Nations resolution 1244 by force, at one point, but since backing down, it is quite clear that the EU’s anticipated arrival in Kosovo is going to become delayed, and bogged down.

In Picture, Kosovan Serbs Hold Up Placards Of Vladimir Putin in Mitrovica.

With tension building by the day, it seems likely that there is a humiliating climb-down on its way from the EU.

This from Russia’s Interfax News Agency (picked up by me from Al Jazeera) –

An aide to Putin on Saturday described Western recognition of Kosovo as a loaded gun waiting to go off, the Interfax news agency reported.

“With Kosovo now the gun has been cocked and no one knows when and where the shot will ring out,” said Anatoly Safonov in an interview with the Russian news agency.

UPDATE – At last, one member of the MSM has got the picture – Melanie Phillips in The Spectator – “Is this crazy or is this crazy?”

If the EU is forced to climb down over Kosovo by Russia in alliance with Serbia, it will suddenly make Turkey’s accession to the EU seem a lot more desirable to the Brussels elite.

UPDATE – Monday 25th February. The BBC’s Diplomatic Correspondent tries to put the stand-off with Russia into the context of worsening US-Russian relations, and asks what can Russia reasonably do? The BBC sees this as a choice of direction which Russia will have to take –

Russia is clearly weighing up its options. It must balance its desire to maintain reasonably cordial relations with its business partners in Europe with its new assertiveness abroad.

The diversity of its disputes with Washington suggests that Russia-US relations are not going to get better any time soon; certainly not before a new president is installed in the White House in January 2009.

Russia’s objective interests seem to be diverging from those of the West even as its economic linkages in the energy sector become ever more important.

In which direction will Russia choose to go; towards compromise or confrontation? How it responds to the diplomatic test of Kosovo could begin to reveal part of the answer.

The International Herald Tribune, OTOH gives a plausible analysis of Putin’s involvement in Kosovo as follows –

In Bucharest, Putin could choose softer language, but in the view of one NATO analyst, he will go on seeking to split the organization on whether it should accept Ukraine and Georgia as applicants for membership.

Putin seems to think that the alliance, overwhelmed by its Russia/Kosovo and Afghanistan concerns, can be pushed into taking a pass.

FROM AL JAZEERA 26th February

GAS DEAL

Medvedev’s visit was also marked by the signing of deal between Gazprom, the Russian state gas company, and its Serbian counterpart Srbijagas.

The two companies have formed a joint company for the construction of an underground gas reservoir and pipeline to pump Russian gas to western Europe.

In a January article titled “Gas in Exchange for Kosovo”, Russian newspaper Kommersant said that Belgrade had effectively secured Russia’s support on Kosovo by agreeing to the energy deals on easy terms.

Serbia argues that Kosovo’s secession violates UN Security Council resolution 1244, which put the disputed province under UN administration while retaining Serbian sovereignty.

DAN HANNAN

Parallel with EU’s Cyprus intervention.

The Tap Blog is a collective of like-minded researchers and writers who’ve joined forces to distribute information and voice opinions avoided by the world’s media.
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