..this is Europe’s biggest immediate foreign policy problem, and most critical security challenge. How it is handled has major implications for its relations both with the US and Russia, for internal EU unity, and for the stability of the whole European region.
In the security strategy it adopted in December 2003, the EU acknowledged a new breakdown in the territories of the old Yugoslavia would threaten its own stability not least by submitting it to great pressure from refugees and organised crime networks. If Kosovo explodes because the independence issue is mishandled, the regional risks would include that:
– eight years’ worth of international resources and prestige dedicated to managing the crisis would be lost;
– the genie of ethnic conflict would be let loose again with consequences that could include, for a start, the 60 per cent of Kosovo Serbs who live in enclaves south of the Ibar losing their homes;
– Belgrade might reactivate the goal of reabsorbing the Republika Srpska portion of Bosnia;
– Serbian paramilitaries could try to expel Albanians from the Presevo valley; Macedonia’s Albanians might take up arms to maximise the territory they control and associate with Kosovo;
– and Montenegro’s Albanians might try to unite with Kosovo…
In the European Security Strategy adopted in December 2003, the European Council rightly concluded that "the credibility of our foreign policy depends on the consolidation of our achievements [in the Balkans] [We] should be ready to act before a crisis occurs".
Those are lines that should be engraved on plaques on the desks of everyone in the EU system currently wrestling with Kosovo’s future. Breaking the Kosovo Stalemate: Europe’s Responsibility (Gareth Evans, President International Crisis Group)