“We all have had a long day,” remarked EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, after an arduous twelve-hour marathon of Serbia-Kosovo Talks in Ohrid, North Macedonia. The objective of today’s high level talks was for Kosovo and Serbia to agree on how to implement the agreement accepted in the Brussels talks. The agreement, reached back in February, now required practical steps on what has to be done, by when, and by whom.
In the words of the wise old adage, EU High Representative Josep Borrell pointed out that “the devil is in the details.” But he went on to emphasize that sometimes, the devil can also reside in the calendar, the schedule, and the timing of negotiations. “I am glad to announce,” declared Borrell, “that finally, after 12 hours, we have a deal. We have an agreement on how to do it.”
According to Borrell, Serbian President Vucic and Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti have made a full commitment to honoring all articles of the agreement and to implementing all of their respective obligations swiftly and in good faith. However, Borrell was quick to point out that this result was not achieved easily, “This result comes after extensive and difficult negotiations. I don’t want to hide it. You don’t stay 12 hours arguing for easy things,” Borrell shared.
“We met before today in many different formats and constellations, with the aim to bridge differences between the parties,” said Borrell moving on to spell out the specifics. “To implement Article 7 of the agreement, Kosovo has agreed to launch immediately — and when I say immediately, I mean immediately — negotiations with the European Union-facilitated dialogue on establishing a specific arrangement and guarantees to ensure an appropriate level of self-management for the Serbian communities in Kosovo. The parties have also agreed to endorse the Declaration on Missing Persons as negotiated on the EU-facilitated dialogue as a matter of urgency,” explained Josep Borrell.
Josep Borrell: EU leaders to be briefed on Kosovo-Serbia talks and commitment to implementing obligations
EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, in a candid moment, admitted that their initial proposal for the annex was more ambitious and detailed than the agreed upon version.
“Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement on this detailed proposal,” revealed Borrell. “This was on one hand because I think that one party, Kosovo, lacks flexibility on the substance. And on the other hand, because Serbia previously stated the principle not to sign, although they were fully ready to implement,” he noted.
“In order to try to avoid these circumstances, we made a number of creative proposals, both about the signature and on the substance. But the parties were not able to find a mutually acceptable solution as ambitious as we were providing or proposing. So the annex and the agreement are considered adopted through my statement,” said Borrell.
EU High Representative, Josep Borrell outlined a plan to ensure compliance by Serbia and Kosovo on their agreed-upon deal. He stated that “the agreement and each implementation through the annex will become an integral part of their respective European Union path.” To ensure concrete steps, Borrell said that he will “immediately work to formally include the relevant amendments in the negotiation Chapter 35 of Serbia’s European Union negotiation framework and on the agenda of Kosovo’s special group on normalization.” This will bind both parties to the agreement, which will be part of the European Union path. The European Union will forcefully demand that the parties fulfill their obligations because failure to comply will have consequences.
Josep Borrell emphasized the significance of the agreement reached by Kosovo and Serbia, stating that both parties will benefit greatly from it. Borrell stressed that the dialogue between the two nations is not just about them, but also about the stability, security, and prosperity of the broader Western Balkan region. He mentioned that the European Union foreign ministers will meet on Monday and the European Union leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday at the European Union Council, and he plans to brief them on the talks and the parties’ commitment to implementing their obligations.
In a candid moment, Borrell thanked EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak and his team on their involvement to assure a historic breakthrough. “We have been engaged around the clock and I think that they deserve recognition and praise for their work, which I believe is not always easy,” said Borrell.
“I want to stress that to open the path towards reaching their strategic objective for joining the European Union, Serbia and Kosovo need to normalize their relations. There is no way around it,” Josep Borrell was clear.
Take a Look at the Implementation Annex: Key Details of Kosovo-Serbia Agreement
- This Annex constitutes an integral part of the Agreement.
- Kosovo and Serbia fully commit to honor all Articles of the Agreement and this Annex, and implement all their respective obligations stemming from the Agreement and this Annex expeditiously and in good faith.
- The Parties take note that the Agreement and the Implementation Annex will become integral parts of the respective EU accession processes of Kosovo and Serbia. The Parties note that immediately after the adoption of the Agreement and this Annex, the EU Facilitator will start the process to amend the Chapter 35 benchmarks for Serbia to reflect Serbia’s new obligations stemming from the Agreement and this Annex. The agenda of Kosovo’s Special Group on Normalization will equally reflect Kosovo’s new obligations stemming from the Agreement and this Annex.
- The Parties agree to endorse the Declaration on Missing Persons, as negotiated under the EU-facilitated Dialogue, as a matter of urgency.
- To implement Article 7, Kosovo launches immediately negotiations within the EU-facilitated Dialogue on establishing specific arrangements and guarantees to ensure an appropriate level of self-management for the Serbian community in Kosovo, in compliance with relevant previous Dialogue agreements as determined by the EU Facilitator.
- The Parties agree to set up a Joint Monitoring Committee, chaired by the EU, within 30 days. The implementation of all provisions shall be ensured and supervised by the Joint Monitoring Committee.
- To implement Article 9, the EU will organize a donor conference within 150 days to set up an investment and financial aid package for Kosovo and Serbia. No disbursement will happen before the EU determines that all provisions of the Agreement have been fully implemented.
- Kosovo and Serbia agree that all Articles will be implemented independently of each other.
- The order of the paragraphs of this Annex is without prejudice to the order of their implementation.
- Kosovo and Serbia agree not to block implementation of any of the Articles.
- All discussions related to implementation of the Agreement will take place under the EU-facilitated Dialogue.
- Kosovo and Serbia recognize that any failure to honor their obligations from the Agreement, this Annex, or the past Dialogue Agreements may have direct negative consequences for their respective EU accession processes and the financial aid they receive from the EU.
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