"Balkan Camp David" of Belgrade and Pristina / News / News agency Inforos
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"Balkan Camp David" of Belgrade and Pristina

Agreements signed through Trump's mediation are beneficial to himself, but not necessarily to the Balkans

"Balkan Camp David" of Belgrade and Pristina

On September 4, Donald Trump became a co-author, and even as much as a full-fledged author of the second diplomatic mini-sensation following the agreement to normalize relations between Israel and the UAE. Trilateral agreements were signed at the White house between the United States, Serbia and Kosovo to smooth relations between the latter two. It has to be said that the American President's "authorship" can be considered both in actual and formal terms. The fact is that Serbian President Vučić stated to have signed an agreement not with Kosovo, but, roughly speaking, with Washington on the "Kosovo issue" (Vučić is clearly inclined to settle the issue by means of an admittedly painful recognition of Pristina, but the pushback within Serbia is still too high).

In fact, the format of the agreements was one of the problems that seemed an obvious obstacle to their conclusion: Vučić said he was not going to recognize Kosovo and legitimize it with any interstate papers, while Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti had, by contrast, assured that without recognition there could be no further steps (Hoti replaced Albin Kurti, who had only served for a few months as head of the government and irritated a number of external players with his impertinence). Moreover, according to Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić, the controversial topic was discussed at the talks to the bitter end: "It is true that the document was on the table including, paragraph 10 [on the recognition]. I got information from a high-level Washington delegation that President Vučić toughly rejected paragraph 10, saying that this was unacceptable for Serbia and that he would behave in conformity with the Constitution of Serbia." Therefore, the final phrasing "Kosovo and Serbia settle with the United States, not with each other" can be recognized as a success of American diplomacy and Trump personally.

To a certain extent, we can also mention the tactical successfulness of some of the agreements points for Vučić (and what about the Serbian people?). Pristina refused to impose the draconian 100% duties on Serbian goods and to persecute Serbian Orthodox priests, and gave up on attempts to forcibly seize the Gazivode hydroelectric power station located in a habitat of Kosovo Serbs – two years ago, an attempt to this effect nearly entailed an armed conflict. A road and rail link between Serbia and the rebel province will be executed, with Kosovo to be included in the so-called "mini-Schengen" of the Balkan – a joint project of Serbia, Albania and [Northern] Macedonia. Besides, Pristina will not submit new applications to join international organizations throughout the year, and Belgrade won't try to cancel the existing recognition of Kosovo by organizations and separate countries.

Many clauses of the document are clearly linked to the interests of American foreign policy and the US domestic agenda all at once. So, Vučić's and Hoti's commitment as regards loyalty to sexual minorities in Serbia and Kosovo looks like an attempt to appease the left-wing liberal electorate (and occasionally a personal gift to US Special Envoy to Serbia and Kosovo Richard Grenell, an open gay). At the same time, the ban on Serbs to use 5G equipment "from unreliable sources" is a blatant attack against China, whose Huawei company is aggressive in the Serbian market.

It has not been without Trump's favorite "ask-yourself-what-you-did-today-for-Israel" principle, which becomes especially prominent in the course of American election marathons. At that, gifts to Israel are often flamboyant, but rather symbolic, as it was in case of the mentioned agreements with the UAE – the latter is not the least among the Arab states, but it has never been in the forefront of the "anti-Zionist struggle". This time, the Israelis are unlikely to get any significant whists from the fact that under the Vučić-Trump-Hoti Pact they will have to recognize Kosovo, at which point they will get a reciprocal recognition and a Kosovo Embassy in Jerusalem. Perhaps some of them will feel a bit awkward after all – over the last twenty years they have steadily insisted on Serbia's territorial integrity, including because of the Balkan situation being projected on the Palestinian narrative.

However, the Israeli "case" has proved a lot more awkward for Vučić, who agreed to move the Serbian Embassy to Jerusalem, appearing as a brownie point to Israel for the recognition of Kosovo. Apparently, this article of the agreements was a surprise for the Serbian leader even after those were signed. To all effects and purposes, when Trump touched upon this issue at the press conference, Vučić dazedly reached into the papers and then looked with even more surprise and reproach at those around him. When talking to Serbian journalists, he tried to put a brave face on the defeat and said that the transfer would only take place if Israel respects the interests of Belgrade, including the non-recognition of Kosovo. A contradiction between two provisions of one and the same document is there for all to see.

The Washington Pact loser is Germany-led Europe – a fact not quite obvious to the layman, but quite understandable to the analyst. The Europeans tried to preserve their role as Kosovo settlement key moderators; in particular, while welcoming the inclusion of Kosovars in a friendly old-world family in word, they diligently slowed down the process in practice, preemptively building many protective mechanisms. Now the ball is back in Trump's court, including the general Balkan affairs.

Again, we cannot talk about Serbia's explicit win, with a substantial proportion of Serbian society considering the papers signed in the White House treacherous, although Vučić, you have to give him credit, is still treading his way between the internal rock and several external hard places. If we work historical analogies, the current agreements are similar to the Camp David Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel, and not only because Israel did its part once again. More significantly, the American President is again lobbying for an extremely ambiguous deal seeking rating points, the image of a peacemaker and prospects for having both warring countries in an allied framework. By solving certain issues, it puts others on hold and creates new ones in the future, at the regional or even continental level.

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