Agreement between Serbia and Kosovo: No agreement for normalization

Agreement between Serbia and Kosovo: No agreement for normalization

The heads of government of Kosovo and Serbia did not sign the normalization of relations on Saturday. Vučić and Kurti are sticking to their positions.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister addresses the media after the high-level meeting with Serbia’s President on Saturday in North Macedonia’s Ohrid Photo: Boris Grdanoski/ap

SARAJEVO taz | Despite several hours of negotiations involving the EU, Serbia and Kosovo were unable to agree on signing an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries on Saturday. The EU’s foreign policy representative, Josep Borrell, said after the marathon meeting in the North Macedonian city of Ohrid on Sunday night “we have a deal.”

After twelve hours of talks on Saturday evening, Borrell emphasized to reporters that Kosovo and Serbia had agreed on the annex to the proposed basic treaty to normalize relations between themselves. The EU’s 11-point document provides a framework in which both sides pledge not to use violence to resolve conflicts. But nothing has been decided yet.

As at the previous meeting in Brussels, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić left without signing the agreement. However, as in Brussels, the Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti was also ready in Ohrid to accept the agreement in its present form. “I didn’t sign anything today,” Vučić told journalists in Ohrid. “We each showed in different ways where the respective red lines are for us.” He described the atmosphere of the talks as “constructive”.

Despite all the diplomatic banter, it has become clear that both sides have not backed down from their positions. Serbia will never recognize Kosovo diplomatically, at most making concessions on individual points, according to Belgrade. For Vučić, any softening of the tough stance against Prishtina represents a political risk. Thousands of nationalist extremists demonstrated in Belgrade even before the meeting.

It is unlikely that the authoritarian governing Vučić was unaware of the demonstrations. That right-wing extremists in Serbia Threatening “hot” protests should Vučić “surrender” in Ohrid could even shore up his negotiating position with the EU and the US. He definitely wants to push through the association of Serbian communities in Kosovo. On this point too, Vučić is sure of the support of Russia and China in the United Nations Security Council.

Red line: Status of Serb communities in Kosovo

The Albanians, on the other hand, are left out in the rain. It is clear to Borrell and the EU that they have to back down on the issue of Serbian communities. But Kurti can the Association of Serbian Municipalities, especially with regard to the formation of a territorially defined Serbian state – 20 percent of the area would then be controlled by 6 percent of the population. The 1.8 million inhabitants would then be exposed to the policies of the Serbian government, which would of course take over the “self-government” of the 120,000 Serbs in the country.

“The deal” should ensure “a reasonable degree of self-government for the Serb communities in Kosovo,” said the EU’s top diplomat. The prerequisite is that Kosovo immediately starts negotiations on the status of the Serb communities. “When I say immediately, I mean immediately,” Borrell explained.

The left-democratic reformer Kurti would thus finally establish his own position on construction of a multinational democratic state give up. He would thus also disadvantage the other minorities such as the numerically quite large minority of the Roma (Ashkali, Egyptians), Bosniaks and the others in Kosovo. Article 7 of the agreement now obliges Prishtina to start implementing this point immediately, Borrell said. But the Kosovo government is still struggling to make this regulation consistent with the laws on minorities in the EU and the Council of Europe.

Recognition of the respective official documents

According to the EU negotiators, it would be positive for Kosovo that the agreement would mean de facto recognition of the other state, with Kosovo and Serbia accepting each other’s travel documents, diplomas, license plates and customs stamps. However, the EU has not imposed any further concrete demands on Serbia to make it easier for the Kosovars to enter international structures. Not to mention membership in the UN.

According to some journalists observing the negotiations in Ohrid, the pressure from the EU is primarily exerted on the Kosovar side. Against the background of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the settlement of the Kosovo conflict has regained importance for the West, emphasizes the dpa. After all, the EU has agreed to abandon the visa regime for Kosovo on January 1, 2024. From then on, Kosovars will also be able to travel freely in Europe.

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