OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHPS #0183/01 1291302
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 091302Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY PRISTINA
TO RUEADWW/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8980
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
Saturday, 09 May 2009, 13:02
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PRISTINA 000183
DEPT FOR D, P, EUR (FRIED, JONES)
NSC FOR HELGERSON, OVP FOR BLINKEN
FOR THE VICE-PRESIDENT FROM THE AMBASSADOR
EO 12958 DECL: 05/09/2019
TAGS PREL, PGOV, UNMIK, KV
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN
TO KOSOVO, MAY 21, 2009
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Classified By: AMBASSADOR TINA KAIDANOW FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)
1. (C) Mr. Vice President: You last saw the President and Prime Minister of Kosovo in Washington during their first meetings with the new Administration in February, just after the one year anniversary of Kosovo’s independence. That meeting proved a huge boost for a Kosovo public anxious to be reassured of the continuing support of the United States, and your visit here will further encourage Kosovo to understand that it has the strong backing it needs, but must take the initiative on its own to pursue democratic and economic development in a way that meets the demands of its citizens.
2. (C) As Kosovo’s leaders told you then, they have emerged at the end of a long and arduous journey with independence achieved, but many serious challenges ahead. Their accomplishments in the last 18 months and longer -- in fact throughout the difficult status determination period -- are admirable and should be recognized. At our urging, Kosovo leaders have taken the high road and largely ignored the seemingly unendless provocations lobbed their way by successive regimes in Serbia: violence in Kosovo’s north sanctioned by Belgrade, the destruction of customs operations on the border with Serbia, Serbian support for parallel governing institutions and parallel elections, the continuing refusal of Belgrade to permit Kosovo Serb participation in multi-ethnic municipal administrations or in Kosovo’s police and security forces, a Serbian trade embargo on Kosovo’s exports, the insistence on raising a case against Kosovo’s declaration of independence in the International Court of Justice, and -- lately -- efforts by Belgrade to target prominent Kosovo figures for prosecution in Serbia and extradition from any Western country where they may travel. Though the pro-Western government of Serbian President Boris Tadic is an improvement on its predecessor in many ways, the general parameters of Serbia’s Kosovo policy remain unchanged under the single-minded focus of Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic and his Foreign Ministry cohort.
3. (C) The need to deal with the flow of problems stemming from Belgrade’s policy has cost us and the Kosovars. It opens the Kosovo leadership to venomous opposition accusations that the government is not doing enough to establish its own authority in response to these Serbian moves, particularly in Kosovo’s north, and it distracts from the real requirements of responsible governance in Kosovo -- expanding economic growth, eliminating corruption, and enhancing the transparency and effectiveness of major social institutions. Indeed, the north has become a proxy battleground for two differing visions of the region’s future: for Serbs and for Belgrade (notably for President Tadic himself, who has spoken openly in the past of his thinking), it represents that part of Kosovo most likely to be retained by Serbia in a partition scenario as a precursor to Serbia’s accession into the EU, while for ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, retention of the north remains the symbolic key to proving Kosovo’s legitimate sovereignty. The fragile EU rule of law presence inserted triumphantly last December in the north and elsewhere in Kosovo is no match for this political minefield, and we can expect regular ethnic confrontations -- with attendant casualties, including among international peacekeepers -- until such time as either side accepts the futility of its ultimate aims in the north.
4. (C) With close to 2000 EULEX police, justice and customs functionaries in Kosovo, the European Union should have an overriding interest in a stable relationship between Kosovo and Serbia, and indeed recent months have seen an ongoing dialogue among EU representatives and the governments in Pristina and Belgrade designed to press for practical progress on a variety of issues of importance to both sides. The talks, however, have limped along without much to show; full resumption of customs operations on the northern border is months away, assuming Belgrade ever gives the go-ahead, and Serb police remain outside the Kosovo Police structure in Kosovo’s south despite ample time (and full salaries paid by the Kosovo government) for their reabsorption. EU visitors from Brussels tell us that they “lack leverage” with Serbia (more accurately, they lack leverage with the five EU states that do not recognize Kosovo) and, despite the obvious imperative of gaining Belgrade’s cooperation to ensure the success and momentum of the EULEX mission, they seem to have
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abandoned any attempt at real leadership to push for concessions. We can already sense a strong degree of “Kosovo-fatigue” among our European counterparts which, coupled with the palpable sense here in the region that Europe has given up on further expansion, could prove a bad combination in providing the necessary EU-inspired incentives for further advancement in Kosovo.
5. (C) In the economic realm, Kosovo must find a way to deal with its moribund and budget-consuming energy sector if it is to attract investment and avoid popular unrest due to rolling blackouts. International organizations and donors -- the World Bank, the IMF (which Kosovo will join after a successful board vote this May), the European Commission, the U.S. and others -- must do a better job of coordination and providing effective guidance to the Kosovars, who lack the relevant experience and are often subject to mixed messages which do little to sketch out a clear way forward. The clearest example of this is in the energy arena, where the World Bank has taken a position on the development of Kosovo’s vast lignite deposits at odds with most of the other donors and stakeholders.
6. (C) All this, without question, makes continuing American leadership and support to Kosovo that much more imperative, in every sense possible -- political, technical and military. The need for KFOR to remain present in Kosovo, especially in the north but in other mixed ethnic areas as well (for example in Kosovo’s east and south where USKFOR has its area of responsibility and where the majority of Serbs live), cannot be overstated. Recent moves by some allies to depart Kosovo in a fashion uncoordinated through NATO bode ill for KFOR’s future effectiveness; that will be especially apparent if, as we anticipate, the French downsize their presence in Mitrovica and the north later this year.
7. (C) Kosovo is, thus far, a success story. Still, any of the factors we have enumerated -- continued Serbian pressure, counter-productive reactions from volatile political elites in Kosovo, EU vacillation and weakness, mounting territorial-cum-political tensions in the north, premature NATO withdrawal, or, maybe most serious, failure to secure a strong economic foundation for Kosovo’s future -- could create obstacles to Kosovo’s enduring survival. Kosovo is looking to the United States -- and to you, Mr. Vice President, as a known friend and long-time champion of human rights and dignity in the Balkans -- to assert yet one more time (and, yes, the continual reassurance is necessary under circumstances like those elaborated above) that we will be here for the long run to help get Kosovo through the difficult times ahead.
8. (C) But the quid pro quo, and one we must insist on with increased frequency and volume, is an acceptance of Kosovo’s own responsibilities -- in governance, in outreach to its non-majority communities, and in getting beyond the provocations from Serbia to focus on Kosovo’s future. Kosovo has been steeped in Serbia-related mayhem for too long; real maturity will come with the wisdom and ability to see beyond. You will carry this message in your meetings with leaders, in your address to the Assembly, and in your very appearance in Kosovo at this critical time. KAIDANOW