CEAS press release on the beginning of the transformation of Kosovo Security Force

Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS) from Belgrade considers that today’s decision of the provisional institutions in Pristina to pass the laws on the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) comes at a very difficult moment for the Republic of Serbia and its citizens. CEAS welcomes the reserved rhetoric of the relevant state institutions in these especially difficult local and international circumstances.

CEAS sincerely hopes that the Serbian community in Kosovo, for which this is a very traumatic process since it was previously already hardly hit by the draconian measure of introducing the customs tax, will stay calm and dignified and have faith in the diplomatic efforts being made by Belgrade on the one hand, and in KFOR’s presence in the field on the other, in spite of prior disappointments and failures, like the one seen in 2004, and that they will not fall for any provocation that may likely ensue.

CEAS is very worried about possible spillover of provocations with security implications which may come from a third party, by state or non-state actors. CEAS therefore considers that a stronger presence of KFOR in the northern part of Kosovo is very welcome because it lessens the possibility of provocations and incidents that could be attributed to official Belgrade, but would actually come from a third party.

CEAS welcomes the statement by NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who expressed his regret because of this development, reiterating that the process of transformation was initiated regardless of concerns expressed by NATO, and especially stressing the poor timing of the start of the transformation. CEAS hopes that the announced reconsideration of the level of NATO’s engagement with KSF will move towards helping the Serbian community and the Republic of Serbia to overcome this difficult period and to continue advancing the communication and cooperation with KFOR and NATO in general.

This exact moment and the upcoming challenges are a reason for Belgrade to enhance and not diminish its cooperation with NATO and its member states and, before all, maintain constant partnership, communication and cooperation with KFOR. This is of common interest, but most of all in the interest of the Serbian community in Kosovo, whose situation is most difficult.

CEAS hopes that the statement by the American Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett will have a calming effect on the Serbian community in Kosovo, but also on state officials. Kosnett said that Kosovo has the right to transform its armed forces into a force for self-defense and that in addition to being a beneficiary of international security, Kosovo can now start becoming a contributing factor.

CEAS also hopes that the message that this will be a very lengthy process will have an additional calming effect on Kosovo’s Serbian community. The Army of Serbia is also going through similar processes.

For Serbia, in this difficult moment it is especially important not to jeopardize the positive trend in Serbian public’s perception of the role of the United States that CEAS has noticed since this summer, and which was also confirmed by our recent relevant surveys. This is above all in the interest of the efforts of Serbia’s administration to explain to American institutions its position, and its hopes of achieving a multidimensional solution for the relations of Belgrade and Pristina.

Today’s move by Pristina confirms that the dialogue in its current form is becoming increasingly difficult, that in that process Belgrade has been more constructive, and that it is necessary to urgently consider options for accelerating the formalization of relations, which is the precondition for essential normalization in the interest of both sides, the whole region, NATO, EU, and their member states. These options should have no red lines, should take into account the legitimate interests and position of Serbia, as well as the newly emerged geopolitical circumstances, no matter how much some side may dislike them. Claims by some western actors that Serbia contributed to destabilization by working to reverse some countries’ recognition of Kosovo’s independence and by its actions to prevent Kosovo’s joining the Interpol are unfounded and unacceptable, and at a time of a serious provocation by initiating the transformation of KSF without the support of Serbian representatives, also hypocritical.

In Belgrade, December 14, 2018