Despite continuing divisions on the issue of Kosovo’s independence, the EU has strengthened its position by getting Belgrade and Prishtina to commit to negotiations.
The situation in Kosovo remains stable and there have been some signs of improvement. The landmark advisory opinion delivered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 22 July pushed Serbia to a more co-operative stance, a development favoured by the EU as a whole. Even though five EU member states (Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania) continue to oppose independence, the UN General Assembly resolution on 9 September, proposed jointly by the EU and Serbia, builds unity and paves the way to talks between Prishtina and Belgrade on technical issues of common concern – trade, transport, energy interconnections and air controls. British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s trip to Belgrade in late August was instrumental for securing Serbia’s co-operation, now implicitly linked to progress on the pre-accession track. EULEX, the EU’s rule-of-law mission, has taken a softer approach, avoiding a confrontation over the Serb-majority municipalities north of the Ibar River which are largely outside Prishtina’s control. EULEX spends €38 million of its budget on political initiatives and €36 million on programmes designed to reinforce the rule of law.
Overall, the EU did moderately well in 2010, demonstrating unity of purpose and scoring minor success. However, at the end of the year, the EU’s impact was tempered. The early elections in Kosovo, held on 12 December – the first time that Kosovo voted for an assembly since the proclamation of independence – were marred by irregularities, necessitating a rerun of the vote in some districts. As a result, it has been difficult to form a governing coalition, which has in turn delayed the talks with Belgrade. The Democratic Party of Kosovo, which won the elections, suffered a further blow in December when the Council of Europe released a report accusing senior figures, including the party’s leader, Hashim Thaçi, of harvesting organs from Serb prisoners of war during the 1999 conflict.