New breakthrough in Kosovo-Serbia relations

After nine hours of intensive talks in Brussels, Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic (Serbian Progressive Party, SNS) and his Kosovo counterpart Isa Mustafa (Democratic League of Kosovo) singed deals on energy, telecommunications, the bridge that divides the town of Mitrovica into a Serbian and Albanian part and Association of Serbian Municipalities (ASM). Especially the deal on ASM is important. The deal envisages that ASM will be drafted within four months, further stating that “it will be a legal entity defined by a statute and will promote the interests of the Kosovo Serb community in its relations with the Kosovo central authorities.” According to the plan, 10 municipalities with a Serbian majority will have their own assembly with an elected president, and with their own flag, but will be subject to Kosovo law. With their statements Serbia and Kosovo representatives, however, gave some conflicting views on the deal, emphasising what they have got out of the negotiations. Vucic stated that ASM will have broad powers (with a president, assembly, council, flag and coat-of-arms) and decide on healthcare, education, urban and rural planning and economic development. Serbia is allowed to finance ASM, Vucic said. However, Mustafa emphasised that ASM will function under the Kosovo law, adding that it will not have such broad powers and only help municipalities with Serbian majorities in Kosovo. It seems clear that the final fine-tuning on ASM and its implementation will be challenging.  

EU accession

Serbia is EU candidate country since December 2013 but has not started the EU accession negotiations as the EU, and especially Germany, has demanded full implementation of Brussels Agreement signed between Belgrade and Pristina in 2013. It is expected that the fresh deal will make it possible for Serbia to start the negotiations process that will kick off with the most challenging chapters 23 (fundamental rights) and 24 (rule of law). Although not recognised by five EU member states (Spain, Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus and Romania) Kosovo and the EU have installed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) in July of 2014, which is a first step before Kosovo can apply for EU membership and obtain a candidate status. While the official EU position is that Serbia can move forward with its EU integration process without recognising Kosovo, it is a well know secret that, among others, Germany will not allow Serbia to enter the EU before it recognises Kosovo. 

Sources: BalkanInsight and EUobserver

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