The Brussels talks between Serbian President Vucic and Kosovo’s PM Kurti had ended, and with it, a momentous event in the history of the Western Balkans.
“Progress has been made,” announced Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The endorsement of the French-German Agreement now officially titled ‘Agreement on the Path to Normalization between Kosovo and Serbia’ marks a significant geopolitical development.
“Since last summer, we have been involved in crisis management, focusing only on the crisis, one crisis after another, trying to control the tensions on the ground,” noted Borrell. “Now, we are going out of the crisis management and we are looking for a structured solution to the normalization,” he added.
‘Agreement on the Path to Normalization between Kosovo and Serbia’ first presented to Vucic and Kurti in September 2022, has been endorsed by the 27 EU member states at the highest possible level at the last European Council.
Borrell recalled how in the past months Miroslav Lajcak, the Special Representative of the European Union for Belgrade-Pristina Dialog, has been traversing the region relentlessly. “He went ten times to Pristina and eight times to Belgrade since last September,” noted Borrell. “It is clear that we have been engaging in intense diplomacy activities, and the two leaders discussed it jointly [the European Union proposal] here for the first time.”
Borrell lauded the conduct of President Vucic and PM Kurti, remarking that they displayed “responsible behavior and readiness to find solutions” in the direction of normalization.
“I am pleased to announce that President Vucic and the Prime Minister Kurti have today agreed that no further discussions are needed for the European Union proposal,” declared Borrell.
“This agreement is above all for the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia. It is not for the European Union,” said Borrell. Laying out the components of the agreement, Borrell said that it stipulates the free movement between Belgrade and Pristina. “People can move freely between Kosovo and Serbia using their own passports, mutually recognized IDs, and license plates. It entails that people can study and work without wondering whether their diplomas and where they obtained them may be an issue. The agreement can bring economic opportunities through increased financial assistance, through business cooperation, and new investments in Kosovo and Serbia. It provides for better employment opportunities for everyone in Kosovo and Serbia without unnecessary bureaucracy, and it also means more trade because certificates needed for import and export will not be an issue anymore,” he said.
Borrell asserted that the newfound agreement between President Vucic and PM Kurti would bring “more security, certainty, and predictability” for Serbs living in Kosovo. In particular, he emphasized their protections and rights in Kosovo, including for the Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbian cultural and religious heritage sites.
“I hope the agreement can also be the basis to build much-needed trust and overcome the legacy of the past,” said Borrell. “Much-needed trust,” he reiterated.
According to Borrell, Vucic and Kurti have “expressed their readiness to proceed with the implementation of the agreement.” However, given that the Brussels Agreement 2013 was not fully implemented in the past, specifically the Association of Serb majority municipalities, the EU leaders have inserted a clause that says that all past agreements are binding and must be implemented.
“The parties have expressed their readiness that with this agreement, they will proceed swiftly on its implementation. But further negotiations are needed to determine specific implementation modalities for the provisions of the agreement. They express their readiness to proceed with the implementation of the agreement, but further negotiations are still needed to determine specific implementation modalities for the provisions of the agreement,” said Borrell.
This means that the shuttle diplomacy will continue, with a new high-level meeting scheduled for mid-March between Vucic and Kurti. The purpose of the next meeting will be to finalize discussions on the implementation annex.
According to an interview given by US Deputy Assistant Secretary Gabriel Escobar to The Pavlovic Today, and confirmed by the EU’s Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak ahead of the historic talks, the agreement’s annex will serve as an implementation tool guiding the upcoming phase.
“This implementation annex is an integral part of the agreement and has yet to be finalized,” affirmed Borrell.
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy expressed his expectation that the parties will “engage constructively” during the upcoming high-level meeting.
“Both parties have agreed to refrain from any uncoordinated action that could lead to renewed tensions on the ground and derail these negotiations,” revealed Borrell. The agreement, according to Borrell, “will put the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia on a new and sustainable basis.” As for the European Union, today’s talks showed “to all of us that progress is possible.”
Borrell concluded by saying that he is sure that Miroslav Lajcak “will continue with his shuttle diplomacy and, before the next European Council – by the middle of March, end of March – we could finalize completely the work.”