The article analyses historical dynamics of the Kosovo conflict and evolution of French policy towards its settlement. Significance of the conflict where the most important concepts of modern international relations clash – territorial integrity and the right of nations for self-determination – extends the limits of the Balkan region. Throughout its long history which dates back to tribal past and runs through different periods of Serb-Albanian coexistence on one land development of the conflict has always depended on the support to the sides of the conflict by its stronger allies and by grand projects – imperial or federative – realized in the Balkans. Its modern period is also characterized by intensive involvement of the international community. The central strategy for the region – Euro-Atlantic integration – emphasizes the requirement for a final comprehensible agreement on normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. France as one of the European leaders has maintained its intermediary role and facilitated Serbia and Kosovo on their path to the EU. For the last couple of decades France has participated in all international efforts for Kosovo settlement: negotiations in Contact group, NATO aggression in Yugoslavia, status talks in the UN Security Council and EU, bilateral meetings. The article examines the EU-sponsored talks between leaders of Serbia and Kosovo which remains the main framework for the negotiations and has already brought the sides to an agreement where principles of normalization of relations were outlined. The dialogue stagnated though and the breakthrough agreement based on the idea of border change which the sides had announced in August 2018 failed to happen, demonstrating once again that both Serbian and Kosovo societies, fuelled by politicians, are nationalistically-charged and that territorial and border issues remain toxic and painful. Pristina introduced 100% taxes on goods from Serbia, adopted the law, transforming its security forces into de facto army, prepared a platform for the dialogue with Belgrade which excludes possibility of any changes to modern Kosovo borders set in 2008 when it had declared its independence; Serbia in its turn intensified its derecognition campaign. At the same time the authors observe recent reinforcement of international and French diplomatic efforts in the region aiming at revitalizing the dialogue and bringing sides to the signing of a comprehensible agreement. General «Kosovo-fatigue» and an endeavour to push for the final settlement urge international mediators to use both «sticks and carrots» towards Kosovo leaders who act more reluctantly. On the one hand, Kosovo PM R. Haradinaj was called to Hague war crimes court which led to snap elections which will probably change the Kosovo approach toward negotiations. On the other hand, EU is going to grant Kosovo citizens, last among Balkan countries, visa-free travel. The authors point out that even if the confronting sides succeed in reaching an agreement its consequences are difficult to predict. It can trigger instability through the Balkans. At the same time, it can become a generous down payment for progress in regional cooperation and its peaceful development.
Sokolova P., Timofeev P. Kosovo Conflict and France’s Role in its Resolution. Analysis & Forecasting. Journal of IMEMO, 2019, no 4, pp. 50-67. https://doi.org/10.20542/afij-2019-4-50-67