Friday 5 October 2007

Interview with Michael Emerson, CEPS

A special European status for Kosovo?



First of all the logic is that the UN process is stuck and you can’t get a solution out of UN process because Russiaadopts blocking position. The whole business needs to be taken out of this very international UN legal and procedural framework and firmly entrenched into European integration process, both for Serbiaand for Kosovo. I use the terms “special status as part of the EU”, that language is not by itself legally precise but the point would be to make it indeed operationally precise.

Can Kosovo become “part of EU” without being internationally recognised state?


This is my argument – the EU could come up now with a proposal to Kosovo, to say we will integrate you into many of the functions and the policies and jurisdiction of the EU. This would be done in quite pragmatic way, it would require agreement between the EU and the government of Kosovo but this would be sui generis agreement, which is not to be a “member state” but nevertheless it is to be an entity with functional status.

So what kind of status would Kosovo have? It would be part of EU and its policies without being a member state?


You know that there are quite number of places in the world whose legal and political status is not clear cut. Taiwanis one very interesting example, which is not recognised by UN procedures but they negotiate trade deals and other relations with the rest of the world. So, this is Kosovo which functionally would be self-governing entity but it would be subject to jurisdiction of EU for specific policies, directives, regulations and here I think Sloveniacould become particularly valuable as former brother from Yugoslavia. They understand what it means for a part of the former Yugoslaviato become compliant with the EU law. Sloveniacould guide and help Kosovo earmark those parts of EU law and policies that would be most relevant and helpful for Kosovo, and help them transpose that into Kosovo legislation. The language “part of the EU” – this is language which does feature in some EU legal texts. But it be for the EU and Kosovo to decide how to define this precisely.

What would this require from Serbia, Kosovo and EU?


It would mean that we are moving into a new negotiation process in which the EU would be offering something constructive to try to get a positive solution. To Serbia one could say it would not be required to change constitution for the time being. Serbiaalready has ‘membership perspective’, but that is rather fuzzy concept. A big step for the EU would be to offer to Serbianow ‘membership candidate’ status, alongside Macedoniaand Croatia. That would be something important for Serbiaand in this way both parties – Serbiaand Kosovo – could be brought significantly closer into Europe. That would hopefully lead both parties to recognise that old hostilities have to be controlled and gradually reduced, and civility between the two parties reintroduced. Of course, there remains the final status question. Legally certainly, Kosovo could not become a full member state of the EU without gaining the classic sovereignty status, and equally Serbiacould not enter into the EU without clarification of this. But that in any case will take a considerable number of years down the road. What we are looking for here is something that might anticipate that, in that both would become in due course full member states, but in the meantime, starting from tomorrow or next year, there would be a better political construction for progressive developments.

So, in a way your proposal is postponing the question of the final status until both are ready to enter the EU?


You could say that, but basically this would be an important movement in that direction.


Would there be a remaining legal link with Serbia under your proposal?


The most important thing immediately would be to have functional cooperation with the respect to the Serbian communities in Kosovo and indeed the Albanian communities in Southern Serbia. That would require maybe a trilateral agreement between Serbia, Kosovo and the EU, but not a hierchical place for Serbiaabove Kosovo. Serbiaitself would be on its EU integration track so both parties will become increasingly compliant on EU laws and policies.

You suggest a “reality check” for Kosovo leaders. Can it be acceptable for them given the expectations and political aspirations for full independence?


It will certainly be very difficult. The objective has to be to persuade them to make that reality check. They are not going to get from the UN what they want because Russiaconsiders it to be a matter of fundamental principles or interests for them that it should not happen. They are thinking of Chechnya etc. So that’s their position. European diplomacy, American diplomacy has tried to shift Russian position on this and it hasn’t worked. Not only the EU but also Kosovo itself has to find a different way to progress. If the EU could soon make a proposal, perhaps somewhat along the lines I am suggesting, and making it clear to be an important move – then maybe the Kosovars would understand it and try to work with it.

In that case, how to avoid the tempting scenario of unilaterally declared independence?


Well, parliamentarians can make all sorts of declarations; they are doing that all the time. Let’s say there will be some kind of political declarations presumably before the end of the year by the Kosovo side, but the business would be to frame that in such way that could be viewed as part of process that I’m trying to describe.

Why is your proposal better than the option known already for some time: unilateral declaration of independence, followed by recognition of US and “critical mass” of EU countries?


First of all, if there is division between EU member states on this question that would be very harmful matter for the EU itself, and also functionally for its role in the Balkans. So, that is a very unappealing proposition. It means political chaos within the EU and nothing constructive could come out of it. Also, without having the positive and constructive element that I am describing, it means more chances of violence and destabilization in the region.

Do you think that important number of EU countries would not recognize unilateral declaration of independence?


There could be several EU member states that would oppose UN style official recognition. We know which they are: Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakiaand so forth, but here we are making a proposition of the EU entering into a functional relationship with Kosovo. The EU is already there in many ways so this functional relationship needs to be shaped better and strengthened, and that is something on which there could be unity within the European Union. It means taking the Ahtisaari plan, notably with respect to its institutional and security features. But what Ahtisaari’s plan hasn’t tried to do because it was not asked to do so, is to describe in greater depth how Kosovo can be brought systemically into the EU in the ways I’m trying to suggest.