Austrian diplomat Wolfgang Petrič said that Kosovo and Metohija are currently experiencing the most dangerous crisis since the unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, and that things can easily get out of control and destroy everything that was achieved in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina under the auspices of the European Union (EU ) in the past ten years.
What we need now is a new attempt by Brussels to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table, Petrich told Demostat.
Petrič is a former special envoy of the European Union for Kosovo and a former high representative of the international community for Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also participated on behalf of the EU as a mediator in the negotiations in Rambouillet, conducted between the delegations of Belgrade and Pristina in March 1999. At that time, there were Serbs on one side, and Kosovo Albanians on the other, and the USA, Russia and the Union mediated – Christopher Hill, Boris Majorski and Petrič.
Speaking about the tragic events that recently took place in the village of Banjska in the north of Kosovo, he warned that confrontation would only set the region back.
“Normalization is essential, because it would create the preconditions for economic progress. That’s what people want, I’m sure. There are too many young and talented citizens who leave their homes to immigrate to more peaceful countries, such as Austria, Germany and Switzerland. But Europe wants to see prosperity, not conflict in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. The era of wars is over. Now we need to rebuild the economy and guarantee a better life for the citizens,” Petrich said.
He answered in the affirmative to the question whether he fears that rising tensions in Kosovo could turn into an armed conflict.
“There is such a danger, but Brussels and Washington are ready to prevent any escalation.” We must not return to the wars of the past”, he emphasized.
Asked who is to blame for the deterioration of the security situation in Kosovo and Metohija, Petrich said that in any tension “there are always two sides”.
“I look at this as an outside observer and I have to say that the EU should act more decisively and not allow the security situation to deteriorate further”, he said and added that the international community, especially the EU and the US, must force both sides to return to dialogue .
It is high time, he said, to implement what was agreed in Brussels and Ohrid.
“The German-French proposal is still the best road map for de-escalating tensions.” I hope that Paris and Berlin will return to their role of actively supporting the EU in its efforts to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina. “There is no other plan that would be successful,” Petrich claims.
Asked whether international actors, such as Russia and Turkey, could use the current tensions in Kosovo for their own benefit, Wolfgang Petrich assesses that there is always a danger that external actors will use their corruption techniques to achieve political points.
“It must be stopped because it is to the detriment of both Serbia and Kosovo.” The Western Balkan region must become part of the European Union, it should have happened a long time ago. What we need is to refocus on the European policy of the enlargement process to this whole region. Only in the European Union will there be more economic and social benefits for the citizens,” Petrich said.