Athens’ decision to upgrade its relations with Pristina to a more political level is part of a plan to expand its influence in the Balkans – but not to cross the “red line” of recognizing Kosovo’s independence.
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias’ visit to the Kosovo capital of Pristina on June 4 effectively formalized this choice.
The change will allow staff at the Kosovo Office of Commerce and Economic Affairs (which is expected to be renamed the “Office of Interest”) to meet with officials from the Foreign Ministry’s Balkan Affairs Directorate – but not at an official or ministerial level.
“Persuasions” from the USA
Athens has been persuaded, sometimes softly and sometimes (mainly in the past) to recognize Kosovo’s independence, especially by the United States.
Athens has not done so, mainly because of the Cyprus issue, although opinions differ on whether the two cases are the same.
However, the Greek side wants to be active in view of a new round of political dialogue to resolve the Belgrade-Pristina dispute.
During his visit to Pristina, Dendias was accompanied by Deputy Minister for Economic Diplomacy Costas Frangogiannis as Athens is concentrating on economic cooperation with Pristina, especially in the energy sector.
Dendias met with the state and political leadership of Kosovo, but also with his counterpart, Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz, who is expected to visit Greece soon.
It is noted that Greece supports the European perspective of Kosovo and the liberalization of visas for its citizens traveling to the European Union.
Gratitude for the support
Alous Gassi, foreign policy adviser to both Kosovo’s former leader Ibrahim Rugova and former Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, states that he is grateful for the Greek support in Kosovo.
“Athens and Pristina have no open issues. Greece is a very good partner,” he said.
“It supports Kosovo in all international organizations,” said the former foreign policy adviser.
According to Gassi, the future recognition of Kosovo’s independence by Greece will contribute to the stability of the region, while, as he says, Kosovo has a western orientation.
“We are a young democracy. We try to learn and be part of the solution,” he said, adding: “We have an independent foreign policy with our neighbors.”
“We are looking west,” he added.
Serbian concern and recognition
The mobility between Greece and Kosovo caught the attention of Serbia, which until it was announced to what extent the relations between Athens and Pristina are being upgraded, expressed its discomfort and anxiety for any Greek recognition of Kosovo.
For Kosovo, its international recognition is a national goal, in order to become a “normal” state and a member of the UN.
It has received a total of 117 recognitions, while due to its attachment to the United States, it has not been recognized by China and Russia.
Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia and Spain are the five member states of the European Union that have not yet recognized its independence – each for its own reasons.
Finally, Balkan media insisted that Spain was preparing to open a League office in Pristina.
“There is no way around dialogue”
According to the experienced diplomat and EU special envoy for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Slovakia’s Miroslav Lajčák, a meeting between Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is expected soon .
“There is no way around dialogue for both Serbia and Kosovo. Their European course goes through dialogue. That’s important,” said Lajčák.
Vučić reproaches for financial pressures
Starting in 2011, Serbia and Kosovo are discussing their differences in a European context.
Last September, following urgings from the United States, the two countries negotiated in Washington, normalizing their economic relations.
However, mutual recognition did not occur.
In a recent televised interview, however, Vučić said there was growing pressure from the EU and the United States against Serbia to recognize Kosovo.
“They want to bring us to a standstill to stop our economic growth,” he said.
“Predictions” for a Greater Albania and the Disintegration of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Recently, intense mobility has been recorded in the Western Balkans – mainly on paper.
The first non paper that was released shook the “waters of the Balkans” for good.
Although his “paternity” is still being sought, with indications pointing to Ljubljana as Slovenia takes over the rotating EU Council presidency in the next six months, interest has focused more on its content.
There, among other things, there was talk of creating a Greater Albania that would integrate Kosovo.
At the same time, the document provided for the dissolution of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its division into Serbia and Croatia.
The consequences of such a border change scenario would be much wider than the Balkan Peninsula.
The second non-paper was published in a Kosovo newspaper (“Koha”) and set out both the timetable and the framework for resolving the Serb-Kosovo conflict.
In particular, he described that by February 2022 the two countries will have agreed to normalize their relations.
The newspaper also said that there would be mutual recognition of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and provided for a special status for the “Autonomous Region of Northern Kosovo”, where Serbs are the majority.
Michos Panagiotis is a columnist for To Vima.