Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue: Brussel’s Latest Farce

19 shtator 2023 13:22

Artikulli i përkthyer.

To little surprise, the EU-brokered talks on September 14 between Kosovo and Serbia ended in failure. Additionally, it was no surprise that the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell again blamed Kosovo.

That the negotiations have become so singularly focused on forcing Kosovo to accept the Association/Community of Serb-Majority Municipalities (ASM) was again glaringly evident; no mention was made of Serbia breaching previous agreements, especially Article 5 of the February 2023 Brussels agreement. The appeasement of Serbia by the EU is now as blatant as it is unjust.

There are three main arguments for the ASM. Some have suggested that as the ASM is an obligation Kosovo committed itself to in 2013 it must be implemented. Others have argued that it will not lead to a Republika Srpska inside Kosovo. Additionally, some claim it is necessary to help the integration of the Kosovo Serbs.

These arguments can be challenged. The 2013 ASM was deemed unconstitutional and thus cannot be implemented in its original form; the assurances that the ASM will not become Republika Srpska ring hollow given Belgrade’s escalating belligerence and open support for a Greater Serbia; the idea that Kosovo Serbs lack rights and political representation is obviously unpersuasive when one looks at the expansive constitutional provisions afforded to Kosovo Serbs.

The ASM as originally conceived poses a profound threat to Kosovo’s capacity to govern inside its own territory. Not only does it threaten to fundamentally diminish the administrative power of the central government, it jeopardies Kosovo’s territorial integrity.

One need only look at what is currently happening in Bosnia to understand what the ASM will likely lead to.

Yet, one could make the case that implementing the ASM – despite its flaws – is a price worth paying if Kosovo receives both recognition from Serbia – and thereafter recognition from the five EU non-recognizers – and the many related positives that would come with this, not least a path towards EU accession.

This argument is essentially that the dangers posed by the ASM could be ameliorated if Kosovo was recognized as independent and fully integrated into the international community. But it is crucial to understand that this was not on offer.

An Offer they Can’t Accept

Kosovo was evidently presented with a proposal which would have compelled it to establish the ASM before the other issues stipulated at Ohrid were implemented. This was patently unacceptable; establishing the ASM without securing recognition would have been foolhardy. Does anyone seriously imagine that if the ASM was created Vucic would thereafter dutifully implement the subsequent provisions within the EU’s proposal?

Kosovo’s status is fragile as it is; creating the ASM while Serbia still claims Kosovo would be disastrous. Vucic’s authoritarian regime and his hyper-nationalistic supporters strive to create for a “Greater Serbia”; they would naturally use the ASM in a still unrecognized Kosovo to further foment instability there. Vucic has stated many times that he has no intention of implementing the Ohrid “agreement”; given this, for the EU to ask Kosovo to implement the ASM first with only some vague promises that all the other provisions will be implemented later is patently unreasonable. No self-respecting government would accept this.

Additionally, so long as Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo, the non-recognisers within the EU, NATO and the United Nations Security Council will continue to oppose Kosovo’s membership in these organisations.

Kosovo will thus have degraded its capacity to function as a state and imperiled its territorial integrity without gaining anything in return beyond the acclaim of Borrell, Lajčák and all the others so desperate to herald “an agreement” that will facilitate Serbia’s interests. Put bluntly; establishing the ASM without recognition from Serbia – or the five EU non-recognisers - will not improve Kosovo’s international status.


The repeated condemnation of Kosovo, and the undiplomatic vitriol leveled against Prime Minister Kurti, seeks to frame the failed negotiations as the “reasonable” EU and Serbia and the “unreasonable” Kosovo. This is false.

Kurti was a vocal opponent of the ASM when it was initially agreed, yet in the proposal he advanced on the 15th he compromised by committing to launch and conclude discussions on “the Statute of the instrument of self-management for Kosovo Serbs”. In previous meetings Kurti has offered to sign agreements while Vucic has refused.

It is not Kurti’s fault that he has come to power at a time when Kosovo’s erstwhile allies have decided to abandon it in favor of Serbia; his red lines relating to maintaining both Kosovo’s territorial integrity and the capacity of the government to exercise authority within its own borders are principles that every sovereign state hold inviolable.

Ultimately, Kosovo was not presented with a choice between stagnation and progress; should the government have accepted EU’s proposal this would have gravely weakened – if not mortally wounded – Kosovo.

The Alternative?

Those opponents of the government in Kosovo who have again expressed their outrage at the latest diplomatic failure have no credible alternative to offer. Should the old political elite have remained in government they would face exactly the same pressure the current government is now under; they may well have caved in – as they did regarding the ASM in 2013, the border deal with Montenegro in 2015 and the establishment of the Special Court in 2015 – but the result of striking a “deal” now on the terms presented by the EU might win short-term acclaim from the EU but would not benefit Kosovo in the long term.

The prospects of any breakthrough favorable to Kosovo are remote; so long as Vucic remains in power and Western politicians continue to appease him – despite his authoritarianism and links with organized crime – Kosovo will likely remain in a state of tension domestically and paralysis internationally. Additionally, so long as both Borrell and Lajčák – who come from states that do not recognize Kosovo – remain involved the chances of any progress are significantly diminished.

As unwelcome as this current impasse is, it cannot be attributed to the current government’s resilience in the face of bullying and unjust condemnation as it strives to safeguard Kosovo’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

19 shtator 2023

Aidan Hehir