07 August 2011

Tightening the Noose – With Belgrade's Blessing

When last month the KLA-staffed government in Priština attempted a takeover of the Jarinje and Brnjak border posts between Kosovo and unoccupied Serbia it showed itself incapable of doing so. The reaction of the local population forced its speedy withdrawal. Instead NATO took over the crossings in its place and enforced a blockade on the Serb enclave in the north of Kosovo for it. This week official Belgrade attempted to grant the blockade its official blessing.

When the crisis first broke out Serbia dispatched negotiators to demand a return to the state of affairs as it existed before the attempted Albanian takeover. This would mean a withdrawal of American and French NATO troops occupying the border posts and an end to their barring Serbian goods from crossing the administrative border. Instead, the government's negotiators signed under every aspect of the state of affairs currently in place except under the roadblocks set up by the local Serbs.

The settlement the Serbian government had agreed to would have the NATO blockade of the north continue. Exactly as it is the case at the moment only people would be permitted to cross the administrative border, but not goods. The only way in which the deal would perhaps improve the existent situation is that NATO would promise to let pass humanitarian aid shipments. As a precondition to the agreement becoming valid the makeshift roadblocks impeding NATO access to the border posts would have to be dismantled.

In summary, the Serbs in the north of Kosovo who are facing a shortage of provisions and medical supplies were called upon by their government to abandon their most effective avenue of resistance and protest so that in return a NATO enforced economic stranglehold on their enclave may be formalized and they be reduced to dependence on shipments of humanitarian aid.

Needless to say the roadblocks remain in place. The people who would be affected by the blockade rejected the deal the marionette government made in their name and ostensibly for their benefit. One thing the independent-minded Serbian community in the north of Kosovo can teach us is that the best hope for dignity lies in breaking away, not from your country, but from your government.

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