Melanie McDonagh Melanie McDonagh

Visar Arifaj is Kosovo’s answer to Borat and Beppe Grillo – only funny

Kosovo held regional elections over the weekend…and it rather looks as if the Serbs in the north of the country, in Mitrovica, stayed away in droves, notwithstanding the instructions from Belgrade that they should participate in the elections. The Serbian government stance is in turn dictated by Coffee Housers’ favourite EU politician, Britain’s own Cathy Ashton. She has intimated that Serbia’s bid to join the EU will depend on its support for the elections, which in turn is linked to the implementation of her EU plan for a Serbia-Kosovo deal. While I was in Pristina I met someone who was involved in the talks that led to the plan, and his assessment was that as far as Baroness Ashton was concerned, her own and the EU’s interests took precedence over that of Kosovo.

Kosovo is, in fact, an example of how the international community in all its manifold manifestations: the UN, the EU and umpteen NGOs, can make a hash of things. (Which isn’t to say that local politicians can’t do so unaided; by God they do.) And let’s not forget the contribution of the US. It was the Americans who first promoted the present PM, Hashim Thaci, as an alternative to the pacific and scholarly Kosovo president, Ibrahim Rugova, presumably on the basis that they could control the former KLA leader but not Rugova. (The ethnic cleansing of the Kosovo Serbs that happened in the first six months after Nato finished off the conflict took place under Thaci’s aegis.)

And the extent of US influence over Kosovo now can hardly be overstated. It is reliably reported that the present president of Kosovo, a woman, Atifete Jahjaga, was appointed by the US; indeed at the meeting at which Kosovar party leaders were informed about the choice, the US ambassador pushed an envelope with her name in at them; when it was opened, no-one knew who on earth she was.

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