Tough Talk: Serbia PM Calls Independent Kosovo “Illegal and Rogue” (Or At Least We’re Not Resorting To Name Calling)

Although the AP reports that Serbia’s Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Serbia will never recognize an “illegal and rogue” independent Kosovo, President Boris Tadic still believes a compromise is possible.  Certainly, anything is possible, but the issue at this stage of negotiations is what is reasonably possible.

There is at least an argument to be made that an independent Kosovo — without a security council resolution — would be illegal, in the sense that it is contrary to the language of UNSCR 1244.  An interesting jumping off point on the Serbian position should start here.  (I will provide my humble analysis on the issue soon on the legality of unilateral independence under the framework of UNSCR 1244). 

However, Kostunica’s branding of an independent Kosovo as “rogue” falls out of fair exchange and argument and into the ranks of plain old name calling usually reserved for polemics, not of high-ranking government officials who have a direct impact on negotiations.  By using incendiary labels such as “rogue” by the Prime Minister only fuels the distrust that Kosovar Albanians have of Belgrade.  At the same time, it incites certain portions of the Serb population.  

On the surface, Kostunica is no idiot.  Straight out of a Russian playbook, Kostunica knows the status talks will fail and to save face, is talking tough, not necessarily to the international community, but to the Serb population.  But in a region where ethnic hatred and stereotypes run high, such tough talk is extremely counterproductive and irresponsible for a government official of his position.

Perhaps Kostunica misspoke when he used the word “rogue.”  But by doing so, he undermined an arguable and defensible position with fire branding.  Interestingly, President Tadic stated that Serbia will defend its position “very firmly” and “carefully.” 

Serbia is doing its best to do the first.  But by doing so, it definitely has not done the latter.

SerbiaWill Never Accept “Illegal, Rogue” Kosovo – PM

BELGRADE(AP)–Serbia’s prime minister said Sunday the country will never recognize an “illegal and rogue” independent Kosovo, with no sign of any likely deal on the eve of a final round of deadlocked talks on the future of the province.

Serb and Albanian delegations are to meet Monday in Baden, Austria for a three-day attempt at a compromise on the status of the disputed province. The negotiations so far have produced no agreement. Mediators from the U.S., European Union and Russia are to report to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by Dec. 10 about the process.

In the past several meetings, leaders of the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo have rejected even considering anything short of independence, while Serbia refuses to let go of its separatist region. Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Serbia will never recognize an independent Kosovo, calling it “an illegal and rogue creation.”

“Serbia will show that unilateral independence means absolutely nothing,” he said.

The U.S. and its allies have backed independence for Kosovo, suggesting they might recognize the region as an independent nation if talks with Serbia fail altogether.

Russiahowever, has backed Serbia in its efforts to keep Kosovo. Kostunica said “a recognition by America or any other country cannot change anything and turn an illegal act into a normal and regular thing.”

Kosovo formally is part of Serbia, although Belgrade has had no authority over the region since 1999, when North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing forced Serbia to end a crackdown against the Kosovo separatists and pull its troops out. The province has been run by the U.N. and NATO since June 1999. President Boris Tadic said Belgrade believes a compromise is possible, and will again present a proposal for what he termed “essential autonomy” for Kosovo.“We are going there fully convinced that we are right, and we will defend our position very firmly and carefully,” he said.


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