The final round of the Kosovo status talks turned out to be a failure, EU representative in the troika of international mediators Wolfgang Ischinger said.
"Unfortunately, the parties failed to reach an agreement on the status of Kosovo. We, as the troika of mediators, believe that the attitude of the parties is positive," Ischinger told a news conference in Vienna broadcast by the Vesti-24 TV channel on Wednesday.
Today marked the failure of the last series of negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia to resolve the "province's" status. So what happens next?
Serbia has some options. Reuters is reporting:
Serbia could apply hardball tactics if Kosovo declares independence, making life harder, more expensive and frustrating for the landlocked province's 2 million people.
Talks between Belgrade and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority ended . . . and Serbia is drawing up an "action plan" for the period after Dec. 10, when mediators submit their conclusions to the United Nations.
As a state, it can continue to bring political power to bear. It can also bring economic, military or para-military pressure to bear.
Its political options seem fairly limited. Russia will only go so far to back up it's Slavic cousin. I've stated before that Russia is only using Kosovo as a card in its larger game of missile defense and Iranian relations. Other traditional allies, like Greece, have also moderated their position. Last week the Greek foreign minister declared unilateral independence "inadequate," a softening from their previous tougher language. It seems that the EU and the US hold most of the political cards.
Economically, Serbia has already threatened to impose a trade and energy blockade of Kosovo. ECIKS is reporting that while these threats have been made, they would cause only short-term problems as neighboring countries pick up the slack. I'm not so sure, as I watch food prices continue to climb.
No one seems to think that Serbia will play a military card. Again from Reuters, "Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac has repeatedly said there will be no military reaction. But Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica refuses to discuss other plans for what his deputy calls "the blackest scenario".
But Serbia has a long history of using paramilitary proxies to fight on its behalf. Much of the early violence done in Bosnia and Croatia was done by paramilitaries, sent at the behest of the government in Belgrade. This was also the case in Kosovo. The Tsar Lazar guard has already stated, a number of times, that it will go to war for Kosovo. I've mentioned them here and here.
Guard leader, Hadzi Andrej Milic, has already claimed, "that the members of the Guard would gather on November 28 at Merdare, the administrative border crossing to Kosovo, to set up their “headquarters”. Another source says, "According to Milic, the organization had at least 5,000 members in every municipality in Serbia and possessed weapons that “can launch rockets at Pristina from 80-km distance.”
While everyone here is longing for independence, I think things are going to get worse before they get better. Even if the only Serbian reaction to unilateral independence is a half-hearted trade embargo, food and energy prices are likely continue their climb.