After 15 years of having declared independence, Kosovo continues the systematic dialogue with Serbia due to ongoing political disputes. Assisted by special representatives from the US and the EU, the dialogue has been taking place between Prishtina and Belgrade since 2011. To the current day, the dialogue carries on as an essential means of achieving a lasting agreement between the two governments and establishing a foundation for peace in the Western Balkans. The current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as well as the recent tensions stemming from the barricades erected by ethnic Serbs at Kosovo’s northern border crossings with Serbia, seem to have urged the international community to take significant steps in supporting the dialogue toward a final compromise (IFIMES, 2023).
In this respect, the current political climate in the Western Balkans has focused significant attention on a new proposal drafted by France and Germany for the normalization of Kosovo-Serbia relations, which in EU terms is being viewed as a promising and noteworthy advancement towards achieving a final deal. The media has already disseminated a document outlining eleven essential aspects of this proposal. While further details are yet to be disclosed, the current points according to the official EU website (EEAS, 2023) fundamentally insinuate that both parties shall develop “normal, good-neighbourly relations with each other on the basis of equal rights”, as well as “mutually recognize their respective documents and national symbols, including passports, diplomas, license plates, and customs stamps”. Further on, the plan notably implies that both parties shall be “guided by the aims and principles laid down in the United Nations Charter, especially those of the sovereign equality of all States, respect for their independence, autonomy and territorial integrity, the right of self-determination, the protection of human rights, and non-discrimination”. With this denoted, it is foreseen that upon signing, Serbia shall give up on the claim that Kosovo is part of its territory and respect its self-government and sovereignty.
Moreover, it emphasizes that there should be no resistance towards either party’s efforts concerning their integration into international organizations. Article 4 explicitly states that “the Parties proceed on the assumption that neither of the two can represent the other in the international sphere or act on its behalf. Serbia will not object to Kosovo’s membership in any international organization”. Despite this being signified, on February 28, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić stated in the Serbian state Television (RTS) that “Serbia opposes discussion on mutual recognition, recognition, or Kosovo’s membership in the UN (RTS, 2023). Such persistent statements that openly oppose Kosovo’s recognition and membership in international organizations indicate that Vučić’s position in this matter is problematic and conflicts already with two articles of the EU proposal. Additionally, such advocacy also conflicts with article 14 of the 2013 Brussels agreement, which had established that “neither side will block, or encourage others to block, the other side’s progress in their respective EU path” (Prime Minister Office, 2013). On the other hand, after his meeting with EU special envoy Miroslav Lajcak on February 6, Prime Minister Albin Kurti stated that Kosovo accepts the proposal and considers it “a good basis for further discussions” as well as “a solid platform to move forward’’ ([@albinkurti], 2023). Later on he added that in itself this offer is “an agreement of symmetry, good-neighborliness, and cooperation in the future” (Vox News, 2023).
According to the 11-point document, both parties are expected to accept the plan unconditionally, and they are required to implement previously agreed-upon, not yet implemented agreements. Due to this requirement, an important question has been raised: what implications will it have regarding the formation of the Serb-majority Municipalities Association in Kosovo? If this proposal is to be implemented with this prerequisite, then the 2013 Brussels Agreement will inevitably come into the picture. Stating that there is a potential possibility for the association to happen under certain conditions, Kurti underlined in his public addresses that if its establishment were to happen, it must be in compliance with Kosovo’s laws and constitution. Firstly, he stressed that the association must be included in the final agreement and implemented immediately after mutual recognition is established, it cannot be mono-ethnic, must not have executive rights, and any illegal activity in the northern region must be eliminated before it is instituted (Taylor, 2023).
In this regard, according to Marc Weller, professor of international law and constitutional studies, Kosovo’s ability to maintain a proactive and constructive approach, while also protecting its essential interests, can be considered a good starting point. This marks a positive leap forward for Kosovo, which brings a de facto recognition from Serbia if not de jure (Weller, 2023).
Upon not cooperating, the international factor claimed that consequences and limitations will be faced in the upcoming stages of the EU integration path. Such a hinder doesn’t serve well Serbia’s favor, which puts it under more highlighted pressure to finally proceed with a compromising approach towards this cause. Thus, non-collaboration puts Vučić in a less-favorable spot that obstructs both the progression of the dialogue and Serbia’s advancement in European integration processes.
In conclusion, the effectiveness of the Franco-German (European) plan as a catalyst for Kosovo and Serbia’s comprehensive normalization of relations remains uncertain. Nevertheless, it presents an equitable initial framework that offers potential for future progress.
Author: Hana Syla
[@albinkurti], A.K. (2023) ‘Good exchange with EU special envoy @MiroslavLajcak over a working lunch in Prishtina. We do accept the EU proposal for normalization of relations between Kosova and Serbia, and consider it a good basis for further discussion and a solid platform for moving forward. https://t.co/gKrymnQAmF’, Twitter. Available at: https://twitter.com/albinkurti/status/1622619748369416193 (Accessed: 5 March 2023).
EEAS (2023) Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue: EU Proposal – Agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia | EEAS Website. Available at: https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/belgrade-pristina-dialogue-eu-proposal-agreement-path-normalisation-between-kosovo-and-serbia_en (Accessed: 1 March 2023).
IFIMES (2023) 2023 Serbia-Kosovo: Normalization of Relations – Imperative. Available at: https://www.ifimes.org/en/researches/2023-serbia-kosovo-normalization-of-relations-imperative/5127 (Accessed: 5 March 2023).
Prime Minister Office (2013) ‘First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations, April 19, 2013 20.04.2013’, Zyra e Kryeministrit, 20 April. Available at: https://kryeministri.rks-gov.net/en/blog/first-agreement-of-principles-governing-the-normalisation-of-relations-april-19-2013-20-04-2013/ (Accessed: 14 March 2023).
RTS (2023) Vučić u Takovskoj 10: Naš odgovor predat međunarodnim predstavnicima, ne može da se priča o priznanju i ulasku KiM u UN. Available at: http://www.rts.rs/page/stories/sr/story/9/politika/5139159/vucic-takovska-10-dijalog-brisel-kosovo.html (Accessed: 3 March 2023).
Taylor, A. (2023) Kosovo PM lays down acceptable conditions for Serb association, www.euractiv.com. Available at: https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/kosovo-pm-lays-down-acceptable-conditions-for-serb-association/ (Accessed: 6 March 2023).
Vox News (2023) Kurti after the meeting with Vucic in Brussels: We are well on the way to normalizing relations, Vox News. Available at: https://www.voxnews.al/kosovabota/kurti-pas-takimit-me-vucic-ne-bruksel-jemi-ne-rruge-te-mbare-drejt-no-i33640 (Accessed: 14 March 2023).
Weller, M. (2023) The Brussels Agreement on the Path to Recognition, KOHA.net. Available at: https://www.koha.net/veshtrime/367888/the-brussels-agreement-on-the-path-to-recognition/ (Accessed: 7 March 2023).