Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti met in Ohrid, North Macedonia on the 18th of March to discuss how to implement the February agreement on the path to normalization between the two countries. The meeting was organized by the EU, but no concrete outcome was reached, leaving the Serbia-Kosovo negotiations uncertain. Despite having accepted the EU Proposal, the lack of signatures suggests that the impasse between the two sides will persist.
The 11-point agreement, reached in February, includes mutual recognition of documents and national symbols such as passports, diplomas, licence plates, and customs stamps. Additionally, both parties agreed to exchange permanent missions and not to obstruct each other’s route to the EU. Belgrade also agreed not to object to Kosovo’s membership in any foreign organisation. The agreement supports the establishment of a Serb-majority association of municipalities in Kosovo, with an appropriate level of self-management for the Serbian community in Kosovo and a direct communication channel for the Serbian community to the Government of Kosovo.
The recent Ohrid meeting was described as historic by Brussels and lasted over 12 hours. However, no deal was signed by Vucic and Kurti, suggesting that the process of normalisation between Serbia and Kosovo may take longer and be more difficult than EU diplomacy had anticipated. Despite this, the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, who is facilitating the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, confirmed that both capitals have implicitly agreed on the so-called “Implementation Annex of the Agreement on the Path to Normalisation of Relations between Kosovo and Serbia,” which now constitutes an integral part of the deal. However, Borrell admitted that the parties were not able to find a mutually acceptable solution as ambitious as originally proposed by Brussels.
The implementation agreement discussed in Ohrid specifically requires Kosovo to immediately launch negotiations within the EU-facilitated Dialogue to establish precise arrangements and guarantees to ensure an appropriate level of self-management – not self-government – for the Serbian community in Kosovo. Belgrade is pushing for the creation of a Serb-majority association of municipalities in Kosovo, already agreed by Serbia and Kosovo in 2013. However, Pristina is refusing to implement it, fearing the creation of a new ‘Republika Srpska’ in Kosovo.
Equally important is the fact that both parties accepted that the February agreement and the implementation annex of March will become integral parts of the respective EU accession processes. Failure to respect and implement the deal would therefore lead to a suspension of EU integration process for both countries. For Serbia, negotiation Chapter 35 will be amended to reflect Serbia’s new obligations stemming from the agreement and the annex.
Following the talks, both Serbia’s and Kosovo’s leaders acknowledged progress, but criticized the other for failing to sign the document. Kurti stated that he was ready to sign but blamed Vucic for failing to sign for the second time after the Brussels meeting in February. Vucic, on the other hand, confirmed that he did not and will not sign any agreement with Pristina anytime soon, suggesting that he was only buying time during the marathon talks.
Without signatures, doubts remain about the validity of the agreements reached in Brussels and Ohrid. And the stalemate might continue.
Journalist based in the Balkans since 2005, he covers Central- and Eastern Europe for a wide range of media outlets, including the Italian national news agency ANSA, and the dailies La Stampa and Il Piccolo.