Dr. Altmann:”To lift the tariffs, but to insist on the reciprocity only vis-à-vis Serbia and not vis-à-vis BIH is a reasonable move”

An exclusive interview with professor Franz-Lothar Altmann, a German expert on the Balkan affairs. Interviwed by Selim Ibraimi @ISSDMacedonia.

 

  • I am convinced that such a plan is still existing in the heads of some  politicians, but in Kosovo as well as in Serbia resistance among the majority of politicians and the public is overwhelmingly strong. It seems as if even the US administration which was supporting such a deal has now become more cautious and silent.
  • Borders will remain as they are and full recognition of Kosovo by Serbia cannot be expected as long as national rhetorics in Serbia prevail. But there still remains the option of a quasi recognition like the former one between West and East Germany. Both countries know that without such an agreement/arrangement the door into the EU will remain closed for both.
  • So Mustafa had easy play to argue that Kurti allegedly is jeopardizing the USA’s support when he tried to overthrow Kurti in order to get more influence in a new coalition. Thaci on the other side is playing the good obedient guy for Washington also in order to overthrow Kurti whose radical anti-corruption and anti-organized crime politics the old parties and he himself are afraid of. Some of the EU heavyweights among the member countries like France and Germany voiced their concerns, but LDK was destined to play their dirty game.

 

ISSD: Dr. Altmann, how do you see the situation in the Balkans at the moment?

Altmann: The situation in the Balkans has not changed much in the last years with one exception, and that is what we now call North Macedonia. The change of government and the Prespa agreement have brought important momentum for your country: NATO accession and greenlight for EU membership negotiations. But in the rest of the Western Balkans nothing has changed as if all were sitting in waiting chairs not daring to move.

 

ISSD: Recently has been talking about the “territorial exchanges” between Serbia and Kosovo. Is there any secret plan for the partition of Kosovo and will there be in the future?

Altmann: I am convinced that such a plan is still existing in the heads of some  politicians, but in Kosovo as well as in Serbia resistance among the majority of politicians and the public is overwhelmingly strong. It seems as if even the US administration which was supporting such a deal has now become more cautious and silent.

 

ISSD: Albin Kurti’s government was overthrown with a motion of confidence. What impact had US foreign policy/State Department in regard of new situation in Kosovo?

Altmann: Kurti has never been a great fan of the USA, and Washington considers him an extreme leftist politician whom they cannot control so easily. So Mustafa had easy play to argue that Kurti allegedly is jeopardizing the USA’s support when he tried to overthrow Kurti in order to get more influence in a new coalition. Thaci on the other side is playing the good obedient guy for Washington also in order to overthrow Kurti whose radical anti-corruption and anti-organized crime politics the old parties and he himself are afraid of. Some of the EU heavyweights among the member countries like France and Germany voiced their concerns, but LDK was destined to play their dirty game.

 

ISSD: If Kosovo and Serbian sides agree on a plan, will the US and EU be the guarantor of the new agreement?

Altmann: I very much expect that in case Serbia and Kosovo agree on a functional plan for future  relationship, the USA and the EU cannot but support it and accept the role of guarantors.

 

ISSD: How do you see the future of Kosovo and Serbia in terms of borders and mutual recognition?

Altmann: For the foreseeable future I do not see much chances of substantial change. Borders will remain as they are and full recognition of Kosovo by Serbia cannot be expected as long as national rhetorics in Serbia prevail. But there still remains the option of a quasi recognition like the former one between West and East Germany. Both countries know that without such an agreement/arrangement the door into the EU will remain closed for both.

 

Dr. Franz-Lothar Altmann

ISSD: Recently EU and US had different approaches toward Kosovo-Serbian relations. Is there any rift between two players the US and EU?

Altmann: In the EU politicians are not amused that Pres. Trump had assigned ambassador Grenell to deal with Kosovo-Serbia affairs, a person who has shown undiplomatic behavior and even intentional lack of profound interest and knowledge of issues to be handled carefully when he was, and still is, ambassador to Germany. Pres. Trump wants to present an international success of his politics, to present himself as the great peacemaker sidelining the EU which over the years was again and again trying to bring the two parties to the negotiating table. The EU must have got the feeling that Pres. Trump wants to prove that he is by lengths more clever and effective than the provincial EU that he anyhow does not consider as partner but rather an adversary!

 

ISSD: Kosovo government has lifted the tariffs. What is your comment?

Altmann: To lift the tariffs was an important and necessary step because the reasoning behind it (Haradinaj) that this should lead to recognition of Kosovo by Serbia was illusionary! To lift the tariffs, but to insist on the reciprocity only vis-à-vis Serbia and not vis-à-vis BIH is a reasonable move. Now Kurti must show flexibility concerning the acceptance of Serbia’s reactions.

 

ISSD: North Macedonia just have become new NATO member and has receive the date to start the EU negotiation process? What is next for North Macedonia in terms of rule of law and interethnic relations?

Altmann: In order to answer this question, the best is to have a look into the last country report of the EU commission where the respective areas of further reforms are clearly listed.

 

ISSD: Dr. Altmann, the last question is little bit different. What is your opinion on the role of Russia in the Balkans in particular the hybrid tactics ?

Altmann: Russia is still interested in keeping the Western Balkans as far apart from the EU and NATO as possible. However, as real partners it does have only Serbia proper and Republica Srpska where direct influence can be applied. However, Moscow will try to use any means to plant mistrust and dissatisfaction between the EU and the Western Balkans, which means that the EU must provide credible support politics at present concerning economic and social development as well as the fight against the Corona virus, but also offer for the middle and long-run a clear position concerning EU membership of the remaining states. However, when politicians and the public in the EU follow the stupid allegations of Pres. Vucic against the EU ending with the sentence, the Balkans should forget the EU and rely on China and Russia as real good friends, then reluctance among the EU member countries at least vis-à-vis Serbia is understandable. But this again plays into the cards of Moscow. The same goes for Republica Srpska, flirting also with Russia, which makes it difficult for Sarajevo to convince Brussels of sincere membership interests. But this, on the other hand, provides good opportunity for the remaining countries, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and also Kosovo to reinforce even more thelr endeavors to proceed with necessary reforms and to coordinate politics with Brussels! (ISSDMaqedonia-@CSSDMacedonia)

 

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