1. How do you evaluate the process in the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue?
The EU-led dialogue for normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia has to large degree reached a stalemate, albeit the breakthrough that resolved the heightened tensions between Kosovo and Serbia over the license plates last year. We have not seen frequent meetings between negotiators and it is not clear where the process is heading.
It is important to also note that in order for the process to succeed it is not sufficient only for the EU to want the countries to compromise and reach agreement, but the leaders from both countries need to want the process to succeed as well. Status-quo between Serbia and Kosovo would have devastating consequences for both countries.
There is deep distrust between both countries, and we have witnessed heightened tensions in recent period, even warmongering rhetoric, which has been amplified by revisionist efforts on the part of the high-ranking Serbian official, including President Vucic and especially his Minister for internal affairs Aleksandar Vulin, who continue to praise the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.
In order to move forward it is essential that a sum-zero game approach to the dialogue is abandoned. Kosovo public needs to be better informed and not misled about the dialogue and what the EU is expecting from Kosovo to do, while the EU needs to stop appeasing, a pro-Russian regime in Serbia.
2. Do you see a moderation in relations between the two countries?
I do not see moderation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, but I see potential for deterioration. It is difficult to have a meaningful progress in relations between the two countries, without a comprehensive and legally binding agreement signed by the leaders of both countries, which is what the EU is expecting, and while there continues to be a radical rhetoric coming from the political leaders. The political discourse shaped by political leaders in both countries also impacts everyday citizens and the general mood in the society. However civil society organizations are doing brilliant work in keeping some channels of communication and cooperation open.
3. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue is not going well. What do you think about this?
It seems to me that there is a growing fatigue in the EU but also in Kosovo and Serbia with the normalization dialogue. It has been a decade of the EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, and while there are significant results from this process, the two countries are not closer to normalization of their relations than they were in 2011, and some would even argue that the relations have deteriorated. The approach over these past 11 years has been that of ‘kicking the can down the road’ and ‘low-hanging fruit’ and as a result a lack of willingness to deal with the difficult questions of the dialogue. However, I think that the European Commission itself is limited into what it can do, and without strong support from key member States. From Kosovo’s perspective, there is simply no political will among key EU member States to push for a comprehensive and legally binding agreement. Perhaps the situation in the EU will change after the elections in Serbia, but it is difficult to tell.
4. Where is the process evolving in the dialogue?
What we know is that Serbia will not be able to become a member of the European Union without recognizing Kosovo as an independent state, and therefore, the dialogue should lead to this outcome. However, we also know that Serbia is not ready to recognize independence of Kosovo and the EU member States are not willing to push for such an outcome at the moment. It seems to me that the dialogue is evolving into a process that aims to achieve some kind of temporary solution.
A gamechanger would be if the all or part of the remaining five non-recognizers from the EU would move or signal the willingness to recognize Kosovo, considering the context created after the Russian aggression against Ukraine, however, at the moment this also seems implausible scenario without a some concrete result from the process of normalization dialogue.
Kosovo, on the other hand, should approach regional cooperation in a more constructive spirit. It is in the best interest of the Western Balkans and of Kosovo to implement the Common Regional Market agreed at the Sofia Summit on in November of 2020.