Serbia: the betting pool

By pure coincidence, next month brings not one but two major turning points for Serbia.

First, there’s the Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo. As we all know, the plan would give Kosovo de facto independence. On one hand, that’s just recognizing reality on the ground; 90% of Kosovo’s population wants nothing to do with Serbia, and they’ve been running their own house for almost a decade now. On the other hand, it would involve UN approval of the involuntary dismemberment of an unwilling member state. That’s never happened before, and it would be a big step into the unknown.

The plan goes before the UN Security Council next week, and it’s really not clear what will happen. Either Russia or China might veto it — Russia because of its traditional support of Serbia, China because of concerns about Taiwan. On the other hand, neither one may want to be responsible for vetoing a plan that has broad support in both the Security Council and the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, Serbia’s quarrelsome parties are still trying to form a government. They’ve been at it since the elections on January 21, so as of today they’ve gone 67 days without success. That would be amusing, except that if a government isn’t formed within 90 days, Serbia’s Constitution requires new elections. That would throw Serbia into a major political crisis.

Here’s the thing: I could see either of these going either way. The UNSC might approve the Ahtisaari plan, or reject it; Serbia’s parties might reach agreement, or not.

So how about a betting pool? Continue reading

Belgium holds the line

Brief recap: about six months ago, the EU suspended candidacy negotiations with Serbia because Belgrade was refusing to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal.

In particular, the Serbian government had stopped even pretending to look for accused war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. As chief Hague prosecutor Carla del Ponte put it, “I’m telling those who still wish to receive me – and fewer and fewer prime ministers and foreign ministers now find the time or interest to do so – that since last October, Belgrade has not been cooperating with the Tribunal at all. Not only has it failed to provide full cooperation – there has been no cooperation whatsoever.”

So the EU shut down candidacy negotiations. Kudos all around, right? Cooperation with the Hague was always a clear prerequisite for negotiations. The EU had made that clear, and the Serbs had agreed. No cooperation, no candidacy.

Then some EU members started getting cold feet.
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Kosovo: Counting the days

So the Kosovar Albanians are counting the days until the January 21 elections in Serbia.

Not because they care who wins. If they have a preference, they’d probably want the loathsome nationalist Radical party to win, since that would immediately turn Serbia into an international pariah (again) and make Kosovar independence that much easier. But they figure independence is coming anyway, so they’re not much concerned.

But the UN envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, has announced that he will make his recommendations for Kosovo’s status at the end of January… after the elections. This is, everyone assumes, because he’ll recommend independence. If he were going to recommend that Kosovo stay part of Serbia, he’d do it now. Recommending independence (it’s believed) would be a shattering blow to the current, “moderate” government of Serbia, and might lead to a Radical victory. So, best to wait.

Well… maybe.
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