Western Balkans and EU News
24.06.20 | Opinions

[Opinion] Kosovo is in trouble


By Daniel Serwer

Washington, 24 June 2020, dtt-net.com - The Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) charged with ensuring accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the aftermath of the 1999 NATO/Yugoslavia war announced today that the prosecutor on April 24 charged President Thaci and former Speaker of the parliament Veseli, who is now the head of the political party Thaci founded. The announcement added:

The Indictment is only an accusation. It is the result of a lengthy investigation and reflects the SPO’s determination that it can prove all of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. A KSC Pre-Trial Judge is currently reviewing the Indictment to decide on whether to confirm the charges.

The Prosecutor is said to have found it necessary to make the charges public because of “efforts by Hashim Thaci and Kadri Veseli to obstruct and undermine the work of the KSC.”

This surprised me. First, because I have doubted that sufficient evidence still exists even to bring charges, never mind convict. Second, because it comes just days before Pristina and Belgrade are supposed to send delegations to Washington for talks sponsored by the Trump Administration. The SPO is a Trump-named American. I suppose someone may have thought publicizing this secret indictment would bring pressure to bear on Thaci, but it is hard to picture him coming to DC with this indictment pending.

In principle, the talks could proceed anyway, as both the Constitutional Court and the Kosovo Assembly have decided that the responsibility for them lies with the government headed by Avdullah Hoti, not with the President. It may test whether the Prime Minister can exercise independent authority, but it will necessarily put him at considerable political risk. If he appears in Washington, he will be criticized at home and at an enormous disadvantage diplomatically.

It is also a test of Thaci and Veseli. If confirmed by a KSC judge, they should both resign their positions and go to The Hague to defend themselves, as former Prime Minister Haradinaj has done several times. Their resignations would make big waves in Kosovo politics. The Assembly would need to replace Thaci, which would be a big challenge in the aftermath of the indictment. Replacing the head of a political party would be far less controversial, but still consequential. Would the PDK (Democratic Party of Kosovo) respect its Kosovo Liberation Army heritage, or move beyond it to choose someone less connected to the armed rebellion against Serbia?

If Thaci and Veseli do not resign, Kosovo will face other challenges. Neither Europe nor America will be interested in meeting with or helping politicians under indictment. The result will be international isolation. The political response inside Kosovo will be defiance. It is hard to picture anything positive coming of that kind of confrontation. Prospects for international investment, cooperation with NATO, visa-free travel in the EU, and other aspirations will be dashed.

Belgrade of course will be pleased with the indictment, both because it has sought justice for crimes against Serbs in the aftermath of the war and because it will give Serbia a leg up in any negotiations with Europe and the US. Belgrade may try to reopen the question of territorial compromise with Kosovo, claiming that the indictment proves Serbs should not be expected to live in a country dominated by criminal enemies.

To add insult to injury, the strongest supporter of Kosovo in the US Congress, chair of the House International Relations Committee Eliot Engel, was soundly defeated yesterday in a Democratic Party primary in New York City. He will speak for himself, but I won’t be surprised if Engel calls for resignations before he leaves office in January.

So the indictment is not only a personal question for Thaci and Veseli. It is an institutional and international one as well. Kosovo is in trouble. 

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 (Daniel Serwer is professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and director of its Conflict Management and American Foreign Policy Programs, as well as a Scholar at the Middle East Institute.  This opinion of his was first published at his blog: peacefare.net)

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of dtt-net.com.

24.06.20 | Opinions