Grigorev Commentary in Politika: Serbs Vote is Pragmatic

By Purnell T. Cropper | February 1, 2011

Alex N. Grigorev, Adjunct Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution and an expert on politics and ethnic relations in the Balkans, wrote a commentary in the Jan. 26 issue of Politika, the Serbian newspaper of record and the oldest daily in the Balkans.

December 2010 parliamentary elections in Kosovo, Grigorev writes, signaled the end of the Kosovo Serb policy of isolation. Serbs showed pragmatism by voting in large numbers. This pragmatism reflects their desire to influence decisions that affect their lives rather than recognition of Kosovo’s independence.

His article focused on Kosovo-related policy debates in Serbia, which he says often exhibit a lack of pragmatism. Since the anti-Serb violence of 2004 Serbs boycotted Kosovo elections in 2004 and 2007 and even formed their own parallel municipal structures. Such politics of isolation failed to improve the grave situation of the Kosovo Serbs. In 2009, Serbs in south of the Ibar River took advantage of the internationally sponsored decentralization and voted in local elections establishing Serb-majority municipalities. The new municipalities have quickly begun to yield results in the form of infrastructure improvements, restoring electricity and returning Serb police patrols to the streets, Grigorev notes. More importantly, they did this in cooperation with the Kosovo Albanians.

In December elections, Serbs from the north boycotted the elections, while unexpectedly more than 20,000 Serb voters in the south voted, winning 13 seats in the parliament of Kosovo.

Perhaps the next good step, he suggests, could be a meeting of the new Serb members of the Kosovo Assembly and the deputies in the Serbian Parliament who are elected from Kosovo. Together they should develop a strategy on resolving Kosovo Serb daily issues. Grigorev also lays out a strategy on how the Serb parties could become an influential force in the new Kosovo government. The Kosovo Serbs cannot afford to be excluded from decision-making in Pristina and in Belgrade while both capitals are preparing for direct talks. Serbs in Kosovo do not need divisions, but a vision for a sustainable future and the continuation of politics of pragmatism.

Have the Serbs suddenly recognized an independent Kosovo and turned against Belgrade? Of course not, he concludes. They simply understood that they must become part of the process of decision making about their lives that takes place in Kosovo. One of the Serb leaders summed up this pragmatism, saying: “We accept while we do not recognize.” Read the article in English.