Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to normalize their long-standing tense relationship with the help of the European Union (EU). This move comes after mediation talks in Brussels between Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti. The talks were aimed at ending the conflict between the two nations that has been ongoing for years.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced that both sides had accepted the EU proposal for normalization, and further negotiations are now necessary, which could be completed by the end of March. Borrell added that both parties have pledged not to take unilateral measures that could lead to tension and endanger the agreement. He praised the responsible behavior shown by Vucic and Kurti during the negotiations.
The agreement is primarily aimed at benefiting citizens of Kosovo and Serbia, according to Borrell. It will allow people to move freely between Kosovo and Serbia with their passports, IDs, and license plates. It could open up new economic opportunities and attract further investment in Kosovo and Serbia. It will also promote trade, as certificates required for imports and exports will no longer be necessary. The rights of Serbs in Kosovo should be better protected.
However, according to Serbian President Vucic, the talks did not revolve around the Western initiative to normalize relations but focused on the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo, which was agreed almost ten years ago.
Vucic insisted on the formation of the community, as did the EU mediators. However, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Kurti was not willing to accept the formation of the community at this time. Vucic announced several further meetings in the near future.
The next round of normalization talks with Kurti and EU mediators – EU foreign policy chief Borrell and the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak – is scheduled to take place on March 18 in North Macedonia.
Kosovo, formerly part of Serbia, saw an armed uprising by Kosovo Albanians and massive human rights violations by Serbian security forces. In response, NATO launched airstrikes in the former Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) in the spring of 1999. From 1999 to 2008, the UN administration UNMIK managed the territory. In 2008, the country declared independence, which Serbia still does not recognize, and claims the territory for itself. Diplomatic efforts by the West in recent years have not led to significant normalization of the situation. Tensions have recently escalated again, with roadblocks and incidents involving gunfire.
Germany and France presented a new mediation plan in the autumn, which the EU later adopted. The Western proposal is intended to lead to de facto recognition of the two states.
The normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo is a positive development that could have far-reaching consequences for the region. The agreement is expected to bring economic benefits to both countries and promote trade, making the region more prosperous. It will also improve the lives of citizens in Kosovo and Serbia by allowing them to move freely between the two countries and protecting the rights of Serbs in Kosovo.
The talks were not without challenges, and further negotiations will be needed to resolve some outstanding issues. However, the fact that both sides have shown a willingness to approach each other is a positive sign that progress can be made towards a lasting peace in the region. The next round of talks in March will be closely watched by the international community, which has been working towards a resolution of the conflict for years.