Intense diplomatic activity involving the European Union, the United States and in particular the German, French and recently Italy governments is affecting Kosovo and Serbia, in search of a new agreement for the normalization of relations.
The EU Special Representative for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Miroslav Lajcak met , not for the first time on January 16, with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Pristina and later with the Serbian President Aleksander Vucic in Belgrade together with the US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, advisors to the President of France and Chancellor of Germany Emmanuel Bonne and Jens Plottner, and adviser to the Prime Minister of Italy Francesco Talo.
The western quintet is promoting the so-called Franco-German proposal, i.e. an agreement (primarily made public by the Albanian media and only then admitted by the Brussels offices) for the normalization of relations between Pristina and Belgrade.
The Agreement have the support of both Brussels and the United States based on the statements of US envoys and ambassadors in the region.
According to the plan, even without an official Serbian recognition of the sovereignty of Kosovo, the two sides would accept the other’s territorial integrity and would exchange permanent missions. Serbia would stop obstructing Kosovo’s entry into the United Nations and other international organizations and would demand the creation of the Association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo, foreseen by the Brussels agreements of 2013, but never implemented.
In return, Serbia would get a preferential channel in the EU integration process, which began more than ten years ago and slowed down over time for various issues, among which dialogue with Kosovo is fundamental.
While Kosovo would have the road open for recognition by the five European countries that still do not recognize its independence and entry into international organizations and NATO.
Serbia is certainly linked to the Union, but it is also Russia’s main political ally in the region. Only European country with Belarus not to have sanctioned Moscow after the war in Ukraine. An ambivalence that has always worried the West.
A concern that explains the European haste to see the efforts for a definitive normalization of relations between the two countries signed with an agreement.
But the last meeting of Lajcak, Escobar and the three European envoys with Kurti and Vucic separately held some surprises.
Envoys left the region with mixed impressions of the responses received from the two Balkan leaders.
In Pristina after the meeting, Lajçak, in a short statement before the media, said that he expected more understanding from Kurti.
While the same after the meeting with Vučić, said that in Belgrade he noticed a “responsible approach and readiness for difficult decisions” in the talks for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
One of the demands at the last moment was precisely that of the formation of the Association of the Serbian Community.
One of the loud requests from the United States and the European Union has been that Kosovo respect the Association Agreement.
The agreement for the formation of the Association of municipalities with a Serbian majority in Kosovo was signed 10 years ago. But, it has never been implemented.
By implementing this step, Kosovo will fulfill a critical element necessary for building its fair future as a sovereign, multi-ethnic and independent state, integrated in the Euro-Atlantic structures.
Through an authorial text by Derek Chollet, the adviser of the US Department of State for foreign policies and Gabriel Escobar, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs responsible for the South Central European, published on January 30, I called on the government of Kosovo to establish of the Association of Municipalities with a Serbian Majority.
“In general, the Association would be a structure for municipalities with ethnic Serb majority population to coordinate issues and services such as education, health care, urban and rural planning and local economic development – in other words, the functions for which all municipalities in Kosovo they are responsible”, they point out.
According to them, by taking this step, Kosovo will fulfill a critical element necessary for building its fair future as a sovereign, multi-ethnic and independent state, integrated in the Euro-Atlantic structures.
Are precisely these concerns on the part of the Western partners that are clearly evident in the publications of the statements of the high officials of the EU and the USA.
On the morning of January 30, a non-paper was published in the Albanian media “Albanian Post” (the same one that last September 18 published the draft of the Franco-German proposal), written by a Western diplomat deeply involved in the reconciliation process between Kosovo and Serbia, where, it has become clear what Kosovo and Serbia lose if the West’s efforts to establish peace in the region are faced with delays and deliberate blockades by Aleksandër Vucic and Albin Kurti.
Divided into 11 separate parts and with over 20 sub-points, the six-page non-paper summarizes everything that Kurti and Vucic face if they do not sign the Basic Agreement based on the European Proposal.
It is known that the West no longer intends to be observer players in the “delaying tactics” and “blocking tactics” that, according to them, Serbia and Kosovo are doing.
If Kosovo, or Serbia, fail to be constructive partners and do not sign the agreement, this non-paper says, then “this means stopping the integration process and a potential reversal of relations with the EU and the benefits that come with it”.
According to this document, “Kosovo cannot aspire to continue enjoying absolute protection from the Western world, which is vital for its existence, and at the same time hesitate to embrace Western efforts for permanent peace.”
Until, “Serbia cannot aspire to continue enjoying the financial, economic and political benefits of the existing agreements and at the same time undermine the efforts of the West for permanent peace”.
The document also makes it clear to Serbia that “gambling with false hopes that someday, in the future, NATO and the EU will collapse, thus enabling the re-occupation of Kosovo, is a recipe for disaster.
Even the Association of Municipalities with a Serbian Majority has a real attention in this document.
It is repeated that it constitutes an inalienable obligation of Kosovo.
Because it has been told in the past that the establishment of the Association and the Basic Agreement constitute the same effort, the document makes it clear that they are two separate and parallel processes that do not merge.
In this non-paper it is emphasized that the Westerners are already familiar with the tactics of Vucic and Kurt for delays and prolongations of the process. However, there is harsher language towards Kurti.
Concrete victories, according to the articles of the agreement already leaked to the public, are two: First, Serbia signs a document where it acknowledges that Kosovo is a new legal and political reality and secondly, it promises that it will not present itself under any circumstances on behalf of Kosovo.
Other victories are more positive projections and guaranties for the future and a promise that after 10 years mutual recognition agreement is aimed.
Once again, in reading the consequences, the harshest language is towards Kosovo. Kurti is really a weak negotiator and it is still not clear what he is trying to achieve.
If the West manage to include Serbia in the Union to distance it from Russia, it is a victory. Kosovo is a new creature where the West has the brand of the godfather. So the obstacles to the path are less digestible by all the allies.Surely the West is in a hurry and this is an ultimatum and a call to both. Whatever happens, Europe and the United States are willing to close an agreement. But how it goes will determine privileges and losses.