Why does the US recognize Kosovo

The US wants to force a solution to the Kosovo conflict

21 years ago NATO bombs drove the Serbian military and paramilitaries out of the former province of Kosovo, which for a long time has been inhabited almost exclusively by Albanians. 12 years ago Kosovo declared itself independent. More than 100 countries have now recognized it under international law. Serbia wants its former province back because the Serbian monasteries and battlefields located there were the heart of the state in the Middle Ages. Kosovo finally wants to be recognized by the whole world as an independent state and a member of all important international organizations such as the United Nations. The European Union has been mediating between Serbia and Kosovo for over a decade - largely unsuccessfully.

Now the US is applying a lot of pressure. The top politicians of the two divided countries have been invited to Washington. They should bring the breakthrough for the permanent trouble spot. The US calculation is clear: after US President Donald Trump had to cope with new foreign policy defeats, he wants to shine again in the field of foreign policy and show a historic success shortly before his hoped-for re-election in November.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic only wants to negotiate on economic issues

Cooperation or recognition?

What exactly is being negotiated in Washington is still unclear:

- Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, as negotiator, actually only wants to speak about questions of his country's economic cooperation with the unloved neighbor Kosovo. For example, there is the Trepca mine, which is controversial between the two peoples, or the strategically important Gazivoda dam in the border area.

- Kosovo negotiator and head of government Avdullah Hoti expects mutual state recognition. But nobody believes Serbia will take this step - not even Hoti's coalition partner Ramush Haradinaj. To this end, Serbia's president threatened in advance: If Kosovo were to be recognized, he would refuse a meeting with the US president.

- Some Serbian top politicians and experts expect the US to propose to grant the Serb minority in northern Kosovo extensive autonomy, along the lines of the almost unlimited independence of the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In return, Belgrade had to recognize Pristina.

- The Serbian opposition politician Sasa Jankovic proposed this compromise a few days ago: Belgrade is no longer blocking Pristina's membership in international organizations such as Interpol and the UN cultural organization UNESCO. Formal recognition of Kosovo by Serbia remains open. In return, the Serbian churches and monasteries in Kosovo receive extraterritoriality. This means that they are given self-administration and are no longer subject to the Kosovar legal system.

Concrete successes?

With its large instruments of power - for example, it is leading the international protection force KFOR, which has been stationed in Kosovo for over two decades - the USA wants to prove to the previously unsuccessful Europeans how target-oriented crisis management works in the Balkans.

The Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti is pushing for recognition of his country

The linchpin of the US effort is former Berlin ambassador Richard Grenell. He was appointed by Trump to be his personal envoy to the Balkans. And in no time at all, to the great surprise of everyone, he presented concrete successes after just a few weeks:

- Last January, under US pressure, Belgrade and Pristina signed an agreement to resume air traffic between the two cities, which had been disrupted since the civil war in the late 1990s. The German Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings was brought on board as a neutral carrier.

- A month later, the quarreling two countries, led by Grenell, agreed to build a motorway across the border.

- At the same time, a third agreement provided for the resumption of the interrupted train service between the two countries.

But although all sides praised the deal as "historic", nothing has happened in the implementation of the three meetings for more than half a year. Not a single detail about the realization was known.

More appearance than reality

With this experience it is to be feared that in the new round of negotiations in Washington, at most, an agreement will be reached that contains more appearance than reality. Because neither in Serbia nor in Kosovo are majorities in sight for any kind of agreement between the two countries:

- Despite his overwhelming victory in the last parliamentary elections, Serbia's president doesn't get a two-thirds majority at home. Because the opposition, which is boycotting parliament, is even more nationalist than the nationalist Vucic himself.

- In Kosovo, Hoti rules with a majority of only one MP. Here, too, there is no two-thirds majority in parliament that could ratify a treaty with Serbia.

And in the end: Both the Serbian and Kosovar top politicians have been consolidating their position of power for decades as the Serbia-Kosovo conflict is constantly renewed. It does not seem logical that they should give up this instrument to secure their rule by resolving the conflict.