BY: MARIO GHIOLDI
In this background, the countries signed the Brussels Agreement, which was announced as the most important milestone for the normalization of the relations between Kosovo and Serbia. The agreement allowed the full operation of Kosovo Police and planned the creation of the Community of Serb Municipalities, where people could choose the local police commanders. Furthermore, the document reaffirmed more judges coming from the Serbian minority.
Certainly the Brussels Agreement was an important step for the normalization of the relations between those countries; nevertheless, some incidents along the border and the missed fully implementation of this act showed how the official recognition of Kosovo by Serbia was not so close/far from complete. For instance, last March the Kosovar police arrested Serbian politician Marko Đurić during his visit to Mitrovica, one of the Serb enclaves despite previously being banned from entering Kosovo.
To compound this complex situation, the Belgrade declarations last summer seemed to give the decisive boost for the Kosovar recognition. In particular, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, made various declarations interpreted as a political preparation for Kosovo’s independence recognition. This sounded like confirmation of the realpolitik attitude of Vučić, preferring the EU approach rather than the old nationalistic rhetoric.
The affirmative movement in that direction was reiterated by Vucic’s announcement in July on his intention to travel to Kosovo in the first week of September, meeting also the Serb communities in the area. This visit was followed by the confident declarations of Hashim Thaci, the historic Kosovar leader, who said that a final agreement should happen, involving the mutual recognition of both countries. Furthermore, Thaci stressed the possibility of a territorial swap between Kosovo and Serbia as part of the final deal, with Kosovo receiving the Presevo Valley and Serbia getting Serb-majority northern Kosovo.
Thus, the expectations of the International Community were quite high for the Vucic trip planned on September 9th, which had to be anticipated by a meeting among the EU officers and the two Presidents in Brussels.
Nevertheless, the hopes placed in those events waned for various reasons. Beyond Vucic’s cancellation of the meeting with his counterpart in Brussels due to the backlash in Serbia to the land swap plan, the awaited Presidential visit in Kosovo was a partial failure. On 9th September, the Kosovo Albanians blocked roads where Vucic was supposed to pass in order to visit the Serb enclave of Banje. These occurences will surely slow down the negotiations between the countries. On September 10th, Vucic himself declared that the deal with Pristina is still far away for various reasons.
In general, despite the government commitments to reach a deal, the last events showed how a part of both populations involved are still reluctant about a definitive agreement concerning the land swap and the Serbian recognition of Kosovo.
A further implementation of the Brussels Agreement on the Serb Municipalities in Kosovo could be the first step towards a more efficient negotiation for both sides. In this case, Pristina would have more space in asking for the land swap, and the Belgrade government could show its commitment for a better solution.
Mario Ghioldi has an International Relations background through his studies at the University of Siena. In the last year, he worked with the Italian government’s Mission to the United Nations (3rd Committee) and in Nicaragua. He also joined the Salvadoran diplomatic team at the Rome agencies twice.
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