"Autonomy for Kosovo north can overcome divisions"

BRUSSELS -- Former EU Balkans envoy Stefan Lehne believes that granting regional autonomy to northern Kosovo could overcome divisions with the rest of Kosovo.
In a policy outlook report he authored for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Lehne says that the EU should launch a more ambitious dialogue that involves Belgrade and Priština as well as representatives from northern Kosovo, with the of achieving significant progress toward normal relations.
This could be achieved by overcoming the separation between the North and the rest of Kosovo through arrangements for regional autonomy for the North, through providing international guarantees for Serb Orthodox monasteries and through establishing a comprehensive framework for cooperation, he proposes.

The framework, says Lehne, should include "contractual agreements and diplomatic representation that preserves the parties' differing legal positions on status and is modeled on the German-German agreement of 1972."

"The EU should start the process by appointing a high-level envoy to conduct talks with the parties involved," Lehne says, adding that it should end "Serbia's opposition to Kosovo's membership in international organizations and to further recognitions."

Commenting on the "4 Point Plan" for the future of Kosovo presented by Serbian President Boris Tadic in the fall of 2011, Lehne observes that "it confirms Belgrade's policy of nonrecognition of Priština's declaration of independence but advocates a solution within the existing boundaries of Kosovo."

"The most interesting part of the initiative - and the reason why Western officials mostly responded positively - was the fact that it explicitly abandoned the notion of partition, he points out.

"This pronouncement from the highest level could in fact represent a major new departure," Lehne says.