Closing the hole: Why Kosovo and Serbia ought to view political cooperation as a chance

Outside the EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, alternatives for elevated political cooperation between the 2 nations are few and much between. Much of the rhetoric past the dialogue is belligerent, leaving little room – if any – for political cooperation to advance. When alternatives come up, they are usually stymied by diverging views concerning the worth of such cooperation, thereby undermining the method itself. The nations’ leaderships might want to change their mindsets to avail of the various of advantages that cooperation past the dialogue course of and as a pre-condition for EU membership will deliver.

The variations between the events are evident within the views of Kosovo’s and Serbia’s governments on the objectives of the negotiations. For Kosovo, the normalisation of relations with Serbia will result in recognition of Kosovo as a sovereign state. This would enable Kosovo to grow to be a member of extra regional and worldwide organisations. It would additionally speed up Kosovo’s integration into the European Union. For Serbia, nonetheless, the dialogue has come to be equated with the institution of an Association of Serbian Municipalities (ASM), which represents simply one of many 33 agreements reached in Brussels within the final decade. Moreover, Kosovo’s constitutional courtroom has dominated that most of the provisions for the ASM are not in line with the country’s constitution.

But for Kosovo and Serbia to normalise their relations and for political cooperation to advance, they should attain a complete and legally binding settlement. This ought to tackle all of the excellent points and pave the best way for each nations’ accession to the EU.  

Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic and his authorities, nonetheless, have refused to take part within the EU’s sanctions regime in opposition to Russia, even forging closer ties with the nation since its all-out invasion of Ukraine. Serbia’s state-controlled media, in the meantime, portrays the union in destructive mild. This has contributed to a substantial drop in support for EU membership among the many Serbian public. Yet, as has been clear for the reason that EU Western Balkans summit in Thessaloniki in 2003, the way forward for each Kosovo and Serbia nonetheless lies inside the union.

The two events will need to establish good neighbourly relations to allow this. The EU has realized its lesson from previous disputes between Balkans states, most lately Bulgaria’s now-resolved blocking of the EU’s accession talks with North Macedonia – and has long made clear that addressing such bilateral quarrels it will likely be crucial for the profitable accession of Western Balkans nations. Kovovo’s and Serbia’s leaderships

The disputes have additionally had a detrimental impact within the Western Balkans, resulting in distrust between nations and undermining progress in regional initiatives. For Kosovo significantly, disagreements associated to its participation in regional initiatives have resulted in the lowest level of illustration amongst all of the Western Balkans states.

In 2012, Kosovo and Serbia signed an EU-brokered settlement on regional illustration and cooperation. The objective of this settlement was to take away all of the obstacles stopping Kosovo from becoming a member of regional organisations and initiatives, in addition to allow the nation to have its personal voice in such organisations. Technically, Kosovo gained membership of initiatives such because the Regional Cooperation Council, the Migration Asylum Refugee Regional Initiative, and the Regional School of Public Administration. Kosovo’s membership was – as agreed in Brussels – marked by an asterisk to indicate its lack of recognition by different nations. And but, regional illustration for Kosovo didn’t totally materialise. Indeed, nearly a decade after the conclusion of the settlement, Kosovo remains the only Western Balkans country still locked out of a number of regional organisations.

Beyond the Western Balkans, Serbia has engaged in intense lobbying efforts in opposition to Kosovo’s accession to any worldwide organisation. This has even been the case when Kosovo’s membership would enhance the safety and stability of your entire Balkans area and the European continent. Part of the ‘Washington agreement’ signed between Kosovo and Serbia in September 2020, was a one-year moratorium on Serbia’s de-recognition efforts. In return, Kosovo wouldn’t search membership of worldwide organisations over the identical time interval. Not lengthy after the moratorium ended, Kosovo’s authorities filed an software for membership of the Council of Europe; Serbia, already a member of the council, wasted no time in mobilising in opposition to Kosovo’s accession, thereby undermining EU-facilitated agreements. Kosovo stays blocked from the Council of Europe, in addition to different organisations together with UNESCO, Interpol, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Membership of worldwide organisations would strengthen the place of minority communities in Kosovo higher than every other mechanism

Membership of regional and, particularly, worldwide organisations would supply Kosovo with the chance to boost its worldwide standing. Beyond that, it will strengthen the place of minority communities in Kosovo higher than every other mechanism. For instance, assist in Serbia for Kosovo’s bid for membership of the Council of Europe – Europe’s human rights watchdog – might assist additional promote the rights of the Serbian neighborhood in Kosovo. As a member of the council, all Kosovo’s residents would be capable of take instances to the European Court of Human Rights, together with minority communities. Similarly, Kosovo’s membership of Interpol would profit your entire Western Balkans area via the sharing of real-time data to stop and battle transnational crime.

Both events threat overlooking these and plenty of different advantages in the event that they view political cooperation a precondition for, quite than a chance to, advance their relations with one another, the remainder of the Western Balkans nations, and the EU. The ‘Berlin Process’, an EU initiative to strengthen ties between Western Balkans states, supplies many such alternatives. These embrace plans for a Connectivity Agenda, which can hyperlink Western Balkans nations with one different and with the EU via infrastructure coverage; and a Common Regional Market, centred across the 4 freedoms of individuals, items, providers, and capital – which goals to approximate Western Balkans nations to the EU single market. This improved financial cooperation between the Western Balkans states will improve the area’s progress and competitiveness within the European and international financial system.

A deal centred on mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia would propel the implementation of current agreements. It would additionally enhance prospects for cooperation on different issues. Above all, the intention of any normalisation settlement is to enhance residents’ lives and improve the safety, stability, and prosperity of your entire Western Balkans area. Until that settlement is reached, nonetheless, the alternatives for ‘profitable’ political cooperation stay restricted.   

Shqipe Mjekiqi Sadiku is Vice Chair of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and Chair of the Department on Foreign Policy. She lectures Public Policy on the University for Business and Technology (UBT) in Prishtina. She has beforehand served as Senior Political Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Kosovo and Advisor on European Integration to the President of Kosovo. She holds a PhD in Political Science from Trinity College Dublin and has been educating numerous Political Science programs each in Prishtina and Dublin for the final 15 years.

The European Council on Foreign Relations doesn’t take collective positions. ECFR publications solely signify the views of their particular person authors.



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