There is Finally an Informal Understanding Between Serbia and Kosovo, After Insistent EU Mediation

Politics - April 5, 2023

In Exchange for Speeding Up the Processes of Admission to the European Union, the Two Conflicting Countries Have Agreed to a Diplomatic Truce

Thanks to the continuous and stubborn mediation of the European Union, there is a first partial understanding between Serbia and Kosovo, after 25 years of conflicts and hostilities. After 12 hours of negotiations, in fact, the 2 countries, whose opposition has centuries-old origins, have come to the head of an agreement that is absolutely not taken for granted and in any case still to be formalized. The first step in a process that is expected to be long and full of uncertainties, about the normalization in relations between the two countries, has provided for the recognition of the respective official citizens documents by the 2 governments. This action will allow, in the near future, free travel of citizens between the two nations and will open the doors for Kosovo, de facto, to join the main international organizations, without Serbia impeding its success.

The old, never resolved disputes between Serbia and Kosovo did not bode well on the eve of the agreement and the numerous Serbian nationalist associations continue to reiterate, in a practically official manner, that they will continue to consider the territory of Kosovo as still part to the Serbian state, despite the fact that, to date, it is already considered autonomous by half of the UN member states. The prevalence of the Albanian ethnic group, in the Kosovar state, is the cause of the conflict that has involved the two peoples for decades and became more bitter precisely with the war of independence between 1998 and 1999 which caused 11 thousand civilians killed and 800 thousand refugees. NATO “solved” the dispute with the bombing of Serbia and the consequent recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, causing serious disagreements in Serbian public opinion ever since. Some nations, including Russia and China, however, have never recognized the independence of Kosovo, effectively transforming the conflict between the two nations into yet another cause of international geopolitical instability.

A first meeting to sign the terms of the agreement had already been set for 27 February in Brussels but the latter took place in recent days in Ohrid, in northern Macedonia and, although there has not yet been any official signing, the leaders of the two countries have formally pledged to pursue the agreement and to implement all the articles concerning it. In the event that one of the two parties does not respect the terms of the agreement, there would be diplomatic and political relevant consequences, among which the cancellation of Serbia’s EU accession process and would be slowed down that of Kosovo, in addition to the failure disbursement of financial aid by the Commission.

While the Serbian leader is satisfied and says it is convinced of the success of the agreement and of the important step taken towards the normalization of relations with the Kosovar state, its counterpart says it is suspicious of Serbia’s decision to not sign official documents , as has already happened in the encounters attempted previously. Josep Borrell himself, high representative for EU foreign and defence policy, defined the mediation proposal put forward by Europe as more ambitious and definitive, but still recognizes Kosovo’s good will to allow the Serb minority still present in the territory, an adequate level of autonomy, in clear contrast with the latest decisions taken in this regard, precisely by the Kosovar government, intent on cancelling any foreigner representation present in the nation, including, for example, the abolition of the Serbian nation’s license plates.

In recent months, precisely because of the tightening by the Kosovar leader of some  restrictions, the Serbian army has been put on alarm several times, also triggering riots within Kosovar territory, by the Serbian community. The first step, however, seems to have been taken and now we just need to wait for both parties to respect the agreement.