April 24, 2013
The agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, reached on Friday, is not a stirring declaration of peace, but it is rooted in one point of mutual interest in the second-last paragraph: “It is agreed that neither side will block, or encourage others to block, the other side’s progress in their respective EU paths.”
Though in the past few years the European Union has abundantly demonstrated its failure to build a coherent monetary union, it has once again proved that membership is desirable and actively desired, and is an incentive to move – even if haltingly and ambiguously – toward peace and democracy.
Croatia will join the EU on July 1, and Serbia does not want to be left too far behind its old rival from the days of the former Yugoslavia. Sure enough, on Monday, the European Commission recommended that membership negotiations with Serbia should be begun.
Catherine Ashton, who carries the unwieldy title of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (the EU doesn’t want to say it has a foreign affairs minister), exceeded most observers’ expectations for the talks between Serbia and Kosovo, over which she presided and in which she evidently cajoled both sides.
On its face, the agreement contains “principles governing the normalization of relations.” Relations between what? Nothing is said about whether Kosovo is a sovereign nation-state or a province or something else. Much of it is taken up with the Kosovo police force – or forces. The Kosovo police will pay all police salaries, but the commander in the Serbian-majority region has to be a Kosovo Serb, to be chosen from a list submitted by four Kosovo Serb mayors – a tortuous but balanced procedure.
In the late 19th century, Bismarck said that all of the Balkans was not worth the healthy bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. This month, Lady Ashton has not been so dismissive of the region, and may have helped preserve the lives and health of the contemporary equivalents of that grenadier.