Lots of stick, but few carrots in ongoing Serb-EU Kosovo negotiations

If local press is to be believed, Serbians are less and less enthralled with eventual EU accession, which appears to hinge on the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state.

While various publications indicated that Serbs are willing to align with EU reforms, but that only 45 percent are also willing to join the EU, local research and news site Demostat placed the figure of those willing to join the EU at only approximately one-third of Serbs.

Meanwhile, the same publication claimed—according to unnamed sources—that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has indeed been given an ultimatum by the US and EU, which is also contingent on recognition of Kosovo.

In short, if Serbia “normalizes” relations with Kosovo and falls in line with sanctions on Russia, Serbia would be back on track for EU membership and would likely join the union by 2030. If not…

Then the outlook is, according to the press, quite bleak.

Thus the Vucic between a rock-and-a-hard place scenario continues, as Kosovo recognition remains untenable for both Vucic and his party—but also likely for any other potential ruling party or coalition in Serbia. There is also the energy-dependence-on-Russia issue, and the need for foreign investment.

Yet here again the EU, especially, has waved a big stick, suggesting that foreign investment from the West would dry up. Whether or not this is indeed the case is debatable, as Serbia has not appeared to suffer from a lack of foreign investment—including from German firms—since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Likewise, the country has also paradoxically benefitted from increased investment from Ukrainian, Chinese and Russian firms.

Meanwhile, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic has also challenged EU progress reports, which have been quite negative on key points with regard to Serbia’s adaptation to expected EU norms, essentially labeling them little more than fiction.

And there are still questions as to the actual list of key points that would be included in a normalization plan, although, according to various press, including Serbianmonitor.com, citing Danas, these would include and article noting that the parties would mutually recognize relevant documents and national symbols, including passports, diplomas, vehicle plates and customs stamps,’ and that both “parties will be guided by the purpose and principles established in the Charter of the United Nations, especially those on the sovereign rights of states, respect for their independence, autonomy and territorial integrity, the right to self-determination and the protection of human rights and non-discrimination,” and that Serbia would not “oppose Kosovo’s membership in any international organization.”

The above, clearly, would result in the formal recognition of Kosovo as an independent state by Serbia, but apart from the recognition of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and a promise by both sides to work for peace, there appears to have been very few carrots for Serbia, as opposed to sticks.

Noteworthy missing was the long-promised formalization of a community of Serbs in Kosovo, which has been a sticking point in relations since at least 2015.

The upside is that Serbia is still talking—at least with various EU and US representatives. The downside is that all sides appear to be repeating essentially the same thing. And despite reports of honest talks, the back and forth is likely no less than…


Photo of Serbian Prime Minister by Влада на Република Македонија, PDM-owner, via Wikimedia Commons.

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