The deadline set for the troika, comprising representatives of the United States, the European Union and Russia, to find an agreement on the future status of Kosovo is now behind us. What will happen next is surrounded by great uncertainty. The risks of a new conflagration are far from negligable. Ibrahim Rugova, the apostle of non-violence, is no longer with us, and his party has recently been outflanked by one belonging to the head of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
The political problem posed by the province is one of the thorniest yet faced by the international community, and in particular by the European Union: it is a fight of legitimacy, opposing two parties with pretensions to the same territory. Similar dilemmas arose during decolonisation, but at that time the question was not so starkly framed in terms of legitimacy. Addressing Serbs nearly a half-century ago, André Malraux said, “Kosovo is your Algeria, but an Algeria in the middle of the Beauce [a wheat-growing region near Paris].” The comparison was somewhat lacking, to the extent that Serbs see Kosovo as the cradle of their nation. Kosovo is old Serbia. It’s there that one finds the most ancient and prestigious monasteries, symbols of the resistance of the Serbian nation to Ottoman occupation. One thing is certain, however: history will not provide a solution to this problem.
To illuminate this complex situation we will examine the main features of the current situation in Kosovo; the plans for a settlement which either are on the table or might end up there; and finally some constraining factors which will prove important at decision time.