‘Gentlemen’s agreement’ between Serbia and Kosovo

On April 4, 2023, we organized the third online webinar this year with our Young Leaders‘ Programme members. The discussion focused on EU Proposal – Agreement on the path to normalization between Kosovo and Serbia

Belgrade and Pristina have been in EU-backed talks since 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence in 2008 following the 1998-1999 Kosovo-Serbia war. But Serbia still regards Kosovo as a breakaway province, and flare-ups between the Balkan neighbors over the years, intensifying in 2022, stoked fears of a return to conflict.

The agreement on March 18, came after 12-hour talks between Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and EU officials on implementing the deal, which both sides had verbally agreed to in Brussels last month.

Last month’s 11-point plan says that Serbia and Kosovo are obliged to develop normal, good-neighborly relations as well as to respect their independence and territorial integrity. The text does not explicitly mention recognition but indicates de-facto recognition by saying that the two sides should exchange permanent missions, which will be established at the respective government’s seat.

While Pristina committed to more autonomy for Serb-majority areas and Belgrade agreed not to block Kosovo’s membership in international organisations, the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said the agreement had fallen short of a “more ambitious and detailed” EU proposal that the parties were unable to agree on.

Borrell said Kosovo had lacked flexibility on substance, while Serbia had refused to sign the document although Belgrade said it was “fully ready to implement” it.He also added that the EU will now forcefully demand both sides to fulfil obligations if they want to join the bloc, warning there would be consequences otherwise.