Recent face to face talks have brought together Hashim Thaçi and Ivica Dačić, the prime ministers of Kosovo and Serbia respectively. Kosovo-Serbia talks began in October 2012 and were able to make huge progress by reaching a 15-point treaty on how to normalize relations by April 19, 2013.
Furthermore, still today, both nation-states are striving to join the European Union. As it turns out, the prospect of accession has given both Kosovo and Serbia enough incentive to reach an agreement. This show how strong the EU accession incentive is for those nation-states outside the EU. As captured by the words of Kosovo’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Petrit Selimi, “The incentive of joining the E.U. played a huge role in clinching a deal.”* In truth, EU conditionality proved to be an essential catalyst in the negotiations. This agreement was a tremendous success for EU external service as well as Baroness Ashton, who later emphasized this as a very important agreement, that now, “what we are seeing is a step away from the past and, for Kosovo and Serbia, a step closer to Europe.”**
Ban Ki Moon also stressed that this was a “historic success”.*** The Secretary-General continued on to congratulate and commend the leaders, from both sides, for their steadfast determination. He emphasized the common hope held by leaders that the agreement will bring about a brighter future and lasting stability to the region.
The signature of the agreement was a slam dunk for Kosovo’s statehood; what many believe is Serbia slowly accepting the reality of the situation. By its very existence, the agreement supports Kosovo’s independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty, moving Kosovo closer to full European integration. Kosovo will now be able to sit at the table in regional forums, as an equal partner, representing and speaking for the Kosovar people.
The benefits of the agreement plan do not stop there. The agreement plan is good for Serbia too; aiding to open the door towards EU candidacy. One of the issues concerning EU member states was that of stabilizing Kosovo’s north. The deal states that a new north Kosovo police chief will be appointed and that Serbia will, “provide a detailed overview of all funding of institutions in Kosovo”.
An implementation plan now is considered very critical for both sides, since both states are hoping to set a date for the commencement of European Union membership discussions .Kosovo, in particular, is hoping for the start of negotiations on a pre-accession agreement, as well as visa liberalization with the European Union. The agreement says that both nation-states must transpose the terms of the April treaty into national law, which automatically means that both countries have to make changes to its constitutions, particularly since the Serbian constitution still has Kosovo described as a territory.
According to the agreement, Serbia must close its present security premises in Kosovo and initiate the necessary internal procedures for ceasing the payment of Kosovo Serb salaries. All Serbian security personnel in north Kosovo are to be integrated into a Pristina-controlled police force and to receive payment from Kosovo’s budget, as the Serbian parallel structures in north Kosovo will be dismantled. On a separate note, Serbia is also expected not to make a fuss when Kosovo gets its own international dialing code (which will be either +383 or + 384).
The delegations from Kosovo and Serbia met in Brussels on May 30 – 31, 2013, in order to attend the first meeting for the Implementation to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Under EU leadership, numerous meetings occurred of working groups concentrating on issues addressed in the Agreement on Normalization and Implementation Plan. The program, held over two days, included issues of justice, security, diplomatic exchanges, as well as energy and telecom.
The main result in this round of talks was the signing of the Agreement for the exchange of diplomatic representation between the two countries, Kosovo and Serbia, and according to this agreement, which had been negotiated for months before the intensive talks, the exchange of diplomatic representatives between the two countries will occur on June 17, 2013.
The first Kosovo diplomat, de facto “ambassador”, who will represent Kosovo to Serbia is Mr. Lulzim Peci, and the first “ambassador” to Kosovo representing Serbia will be Mr. Dejan Pavićević.
The implementation plan sets out a timetable for a number of sensitive issues to be resolved, such as power sharing in telecomm, energy power sharing and clarifying the fate of missing people.
Constitutional changes will be required for both nation-states in order to implement the Action Plan. This Action Plan works to pave the way for new rounds of diplomatic bargaining that would be able to tackle other unresolved issues, such as property restitution and land rights for the displaced, as well as controversial laws and other justice issues.
Accession into the European Union for both Serbia and Kosovo still seems like a distant goal, but under the new agreement it does appear to be more achievable.
As of today, Kosovo is recognized by 100 countries worldwide, including the U.S. and 22 of the EU’s 27 member states.