At long last, Serbia and Kosovo—with a good deal of mediation on the part of the EU—hammered out a normalization agreement in order to provide a sensible way forward, which would include the creation of a community of Serb municipalities (CSM) to guarantee the rights of ethic Serbs in northern Kosovo who were rightly fearful of harassment and retribution passed down in the wake of a bitter war.
Only that was on April 19, 2013—a decade ago—and the CSM has not been instituted yet.
Instead, on April 19, 2023, EU High Representative Josep Borrell announced a new “mechanism” to oversee a more recent “agreement” also mediated by Brussels.
Which is something. Maybe. According to the EU, as cited by the Serbian publication, a joint monitoring committee will be headed by Borrell and EU Head of Balkan Affairs Miroslav Lajcak. Serbia will have its place at the table, represented by negotiator Petar Petkovic and Kosovo will be represented by Kosovo Ambassador Agron Bajrami.
Actual details or roles will be decided May 2, with the goal implementing a Feb. 27 agreement and annex to the agreement discussed on March 18, with both Albanian Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic participating.
That said, there will be questions…
Plenty of questions…
This is chiefly due to both the realities of the above meetings and the ensuing statements by both participating sides, with Kurti and Vucic both facing criticism by opposition groups at home.
And in fact, there still remains the question as to whether anything has been agreed at all.
Case in point: on Feb. 28, one day after the agreement which remains unsigned and much hyped by the EU, Kurti only said the Feb. 27 meeting was “constructive” and that the agreement was “acceptable” as it was at the time—even while stating that the hard points of implementation would still be negotiated.
Vucic, for his part, also committed himself to constructive dialogue, but at the time he added that his team “fought as much as possible in difficult conditions and fought for the future of Serbia in peace, for the continuation of investments in our country. And I also keep my oath and the constitution of Serbia and Kosovo and Metohija as part of Serbia,”
This last statement—which he has consistently repeated both in English and (arguably more forcefully) in Serbian for the voters at home remains key. For while Borrell and the EU continue to call meetings agreements while scheduling further meetings and committees, Vucic has not wavered on Serbia’s position that the CSM is crucial, and that Vucic himself will not sign off of normalization in the sense that Kosovo would be recognized as an independent state or in a form that would mean Serbia agrees with, for example, recognition of Kosovo by the UN.
Meanwhile, Kurti has remained unclear on the CSM, as past statements have at least implied that ethnic Serb communities will fall under the constitution of Kosovo… and that’s it.
And nobody has signed off on anything.
None of the above has appeared to slow down the PR machine of the EU or Borrell—and even though even though even Vucic has made sure to repeat commitments to the EU and even voice the possibility of wartime sanctions against historic ally Russia—recent statements and actions should leave observers and pundits scratching their heads.
For not only is there no signed agreement, but verbal agreements also seems quite some ways off. And beyond Vucic there are still nagging realities from both sides. Kosovo special police have raised eyebrows with heavy-handed tactics and arrests of former ethnic Serb police at the border. Ethnic Serbs have voiced anger and also threatened further protests.
Hot topic points, such as license plate re-registration, one police force for both Kosovo and the CSM and judicial appointments remain hot-topics, and the line in the annex that “this year both Kosovo and Serbia accepted the Franco-German proposal on normalization of relations and agreed on an Implementation Annex” not only remains theoretical, but non factional, as it is followed by the next line: “Serbia insists that the Community of Serb Municipalities first needs to be established, that is, the Brussels Agreement provisions fulfilled before the normalization process can continue, while the Kosovo side is refusing to do this, arguing that the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities is not in line with the Kosovo Constitution.”
Then there are further statements, such as Prime Minister Ana Brnabic only one week ago thanking Spain for its refusal to recognize Kosovo as an independent state.
Which begs the question…
Just where are we anyway?
Perhaps this is best summed up by the old saying:
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
Photo of Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti by AgronBeqiri, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.