The European Union has said it will become clear in two weeks whether talks on Kosovo will succeed. But this directionless, empty statement has only gone to show the state of the Kosovo issue: the Serbians and Albanians have restarted talks on the province’s future status, but neither side has any intention of making the slightest concession. Instead, the sides are keeping to their starting positions: the Albanians want independence and will not settle on a different solution; the Serbians want to sustain their weakening sovereignty for as long as possible. The European Union is – along with Russia and the United States – a mediator at the talks. The EU’s statement came from its chief negotiator, Wolfgang İschihger, who was speaking at the opening of the talks. Though with little less than two months until a UN deadline to solve the problem through negotiation, Mr İschihger could say little else. There is no real expectation of an Albanian concession, because the UN, US and EU have all opted to support Kosovo’s full independence. The Kosovar Albanians are additionally galvanised by the presence of a neighbouring Albanian state, their experiences during the Kosovo War and the nationalism inflamed by globalisation. The years of segregation and ethnic conflict have left them seeing independence as the only way forward. For Serbia, the Kosovo talks are the result of a very different process. The breakup of Yugoslavia, the Bosnian and Kosovo Wars, the secession of Montenegro, added to the deposition of the Belgrade administration “by some means” and the Milosevic trial have all made it even more difficult for Serbians to digest the loss of Kosovo. They might have been give hopes of an entry to the European Union, but, like the Albanians, they have not changed their position. The difference in opinion could seem quite predictable, given the sensitivities involved. After all, there are two sides, each with its own dreams, but both occupying the same land and neither wanting a joint fate. A more manifest point is that those “mediating” countries are deeply divided among themselves. Russia fully supports Serbia. The other mediators support Kosovar independence, and the United States has said it will unilaterally recognise the state of Kosovo even if the talks produce no result. This, of course, has led to Albanian pleasure and Serbian hate. But if it was a different ethnic conflict, would the countries supporting the US position have used a similar approach to reach a negotiated solution? Even if, for instance, one side in that other conflict resisted a solution and works to deadlock the negotiations process? The European Union does support the US position on Kosovo both vocally and silently, but it is clear that an independent Kosovo will not be a happy solution for some EU members. This is because there are some member states with discontented ethnic minorities; minorities which might follow Kosovo’s path. Serbia’s Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has said Kosovo will never be an independent state, in spite of all the pressure, conditions and threats. There are two fundamental accuracies behind Mr Kostunica’s words: firstly, Kosovo needs to be recognised by Serbia in order to become an independent state. Secondly, the UN Security Council will have violated its own laws. But will these prevent Kosovo’s breakaway? This is a time of ebb and flow between the Law of States and the Law of Powers. But could there be a surprise?
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