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

Vienna: The End of the Beginning

So the latest round of talks on Kosovo begin in Vienna today.

There have already been seven rounds of talks since February. The result: the two sides have utterly failed to reach any agreement on anything whatsoever.

But this is not just an eighth round. No, this is a new “phase” of the talks. Now, instead of special negotiating teams, the political leadership of both Kosovo and Serbia will be coming in. On the Serb side will be President Tadic, Prime Minister Kostunica, and Foreign Minister (sort of) Draskovic. On the Albanian side, President Sejdiu and Prime Minister Agim Ceku will lead a team that includes representatives from all major Albanian political parties.

What will this accomplish?

Almost certainly nothing.
Continue reading

Breaking The Seals

Leafing through the comments on Brussels Gonzo’s last post, I can’t help getting the feeling that this news about Iran’s decision to resume its nuclear programme may well serve to focus our energy debate a little.

Britain yesterday vowed to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council, intensifying diplomatic pressure over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Responding to Iran’s decision to resume limited uranium enrichment research, Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, told parliament: “I think the first thing to do is to secure agreement for a reference to the Security Council, [if] that is indeed what the allies jointly decide, as I think seems likely.”

British, French and German foreign ministers meeting in Berlin on Thursday are expected to call for an emergency session this month of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’s nuclear watchdog, which would then discuss a referral of the dispute to the Security Council.