European Western Balkans
Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue

ICG: Belgrade-Pristina dialogue needs compromise to move forward

Avdullah Hoti, Josep Borrell and Aleksandar Vučić; Photo: Twitter

BELGRADE / PRISTINA – All parties involved in a dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo should seek an agreement leading to mutual recognition between the two countries and acknowledge the need for compromise, while members of the European Union (EU) should signal support to any agreement consistent with the international law and human rights, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in its new report “Relaunching the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue”, reports Beta.

The report, published on January 25, points out that as long as the two sides cannot find an agreement to resolve the dispute “both parties will be barred from the EU, and Kosovo from the UN and NATO as well”.

Even though ICG highlights that EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue might have resolved some technical issues, essential political questions remained unaddressed.

“If Belgrade is ready to deal, Pristina, too, must be in a position to negotiate effectively. That is not the case today. While Kosovo’s leaders are used to engaging in high-stakes talks, neither the governing coalition nor
the opposition is ready to engage in meaningful dialogue. Thus, preliminary internal negotiations within the Pristina elite are a prerequisite”, reads the report.

It is added that for the time being, Brussels should focus on encouraging a negotiation in which the parties are free to explore any settlement consistent with human rights and international law, with the need to garner public support back home firmly in mind.

“Both the EU and the US have a role to play in this effort. The EU should assess whether it can change its common position so that it sets a clear goal of achieving a final agreement based on mutual recognition and clarify that its mediators are directed not to squelch discussion of either autonomy or swaps. For its part, the US should work with the Kosovo government to develop a viable negotiating strategy, based on the understanding that recognition is possible but will require concessions”, stated ICG.

The report proposes three options on how to deal with the Kosovo-Serbia stalemate.

“One would rely on sweeteners for Serbia – an infusion of donor development support and accelerated EU membership – as the cost of recognition. The second would be to trade Serbian recognition for the creation of new autonomous districts for Kosovo’s Serbs and Serbia’s Albanians. The third would be to return to the land swaps approach that was at the core of the 2018 draft deal”, it was stated in the report.

However, it is highlighted that none of these options is remotely close to ideal. 

When it comes to the first option, given internal dynamics it may simply be infeasible for the EU to promise accelerated membership, and material inducements are unlikely to be sufficient to address a core issue of Serbia’s political identity.

Concerning the other two options, between them, autonomy would seem the better choice, with a track record of success elsewhere in Europe, and support among EU member states, but it also appears to elicit the strongest negative reaction from the parties themselves.

Read more: What to expect from the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue in 2021

The ICG concluded that leaders of both Belgrade and Pristina “need to be clearer with their constituents” because the search for a final agreement has long been “hampered by pervasive misinformation for which Belgrade and Pristina are largely to blame”.

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