Kosovo authorities supported by their international partners are continuing efforts to pre-empt or possibly derail negotiations. They have been attacking the UN and the UN office in north Mitrovica. Now they are attacking the Serbian telecoms system connecting Kosovo Serbs to the outside world. On Sunday, September 26, Kosovo Albanian personnel supported by the police destroyed or disconnected facilities of Telekom Srbija in southern Kosovo providing mobile and fixed telephone service for the Serb enclaves. Reportedly, some 80,000 Kosovo Serbs are now without phones.
Apparently, the Albanians also were planning to do the same in the Serb-majority north. But local officials reportedly appealed to EULEX and KFOR to prevent any attempts. As he joined others set to guard the local relay station, the mayor of Zubin Potok told the press that Albanians are determined to try and establish their authority in northern Kosovo as well, but people here will not allow for that to happen.
For some time, Pristina has been seeking to isolate Kosovo Serbs from any utility or other connection to Serbia. Kosovo authorities, supported by KPS and at times EULEX, have cut electricity and dismantled telephone infrastructure in an effort to force southern Serbs into reliance on, and participation in, Kosovo institutions. This latest, and apparently most drastic cutoff, comes as the Quint powers US, UK, Germany, France and Italy plus the EU are trying to push Belgrade and Pristina into discussions. Belgrade has expressed willingness for talks as well as readiness to start with the more technical matters such as border protection, customs, trade and economy, transport, telecommunications, cultural heritage and organized crime issues proposed by Brussels. But Belgrade sees Pristina’s action now as indicating that it does not really want genuine dialogue and compromise. State Secretary Oliver Ivanović called the action dangerous. He told the press that spirits are being stirred at the very moment we are trying to find a way for delegations from Belgrade and Pristina to meet and do something constructive. He charged certain countries represented in Pristina with supporting the decision and that Albanians did not act alone in this.
That the Albanians are trying to pre-emptively remove the telecommunications item from the possible negotiating agenda is quite revealing. UNMIK, and now the EU, have failed to utilize the opportunity to assist in reconciliation and confidence building by finding ways to allow existing Serbian companies to operate in Kosovo legally. Elektro-Kosmet (electricity), Telekom Srbija, NIS/JugoPetrol, and Serbian Railways have the capacity to provide services and add to the diversity of the Kosovo economy. Some also have property claims. Bringing them in would have provided a denser net of interests for Serbia and Serbs in working within Kosovo and a set of common interests for all Kosovars. (Trepca the mining and metals conglomerate working on both sides of the Ibar has served this purpose to some degree.) But if the Kosovo Albanians wish to sabotage possible technical talks and refuse to discuss status, they would appear to be saying no to any real negotiations about anything.