For a more deliberate dialogue

Jehona Lushaku Sadriu

May 2021

During the past ten years, the process of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue has been characterized by a large number of meetings between the leaders; often associated with fuss, and overestimations of insignificant and unnoticed results for the citizens. The majority of dozens of reached agreements has not been implemented, due to the lack of political will and/or public distrust. The non-transparent routine of discussions has severely damaged the public trust in this process, and has amplified the belief that most important issues of the past were not addressed at all. With or without their fault, citizens have mainly remained uninformed observers, who had difficulties to accept the agreements deeming them unacceptable, or even harmful.

Beside the lack of transparency, dialogue process was further undermined by the perception that the process is induced, poorly planned and inconsistent.

Today, following a decade of dialogue, the main question remains how ‘a wounded’ dialogue process could move forward and gain the trust of citizens. The ideal answer would be by applying the so-called deliberation method; which refers to a dialogue of weighing and examining thoughts, challenging the arguments and decision-making in favor of the strongest arguments put forward and reasoned by the participants. In a process of negotiations between parties with opposing or conflicting views, this would mean a lengthy process of discussions on all open issues and a willingness to compromise for a common good, at the end. To successfully achieve such a dialogue, we must apply the ‘ideal conditions for dialoguing,’ as presented by Jűrgen Habermas; the American ‘pragmatism’ of John Dewey; equality of the parties, addressed by Joshua Cohen; and application of the deliberate model, of James Fishkin.

Based on the Fishkin’s model, one of main preconditions required in a dialogue process is the voluntary participation of parties. Kosovo and Serbia, regardless of having dialogued in different periods, have boycotted and prolonged the dialogue in different forms, in the absence as of political will and due to contradictory approaches of the political parties towards it.

In Kosovo, the dialogue has triggered political crises as well as early elections. The nationalistic and populist narrative, during election campaigns, had provoked strong feelings of disbelief among people with regards to the dialogue process.

For building citizens’ trust on the dialogue and for having states’ inner willingness to be engaged in the process, we need internal dialogue and consensus with regards to dialogue’s importance. The aim of building internal consensus is quite challenging within the current Government leaded by Vetëvendosje, a political party that has constantly opposed the process and that disregards it from the priorities.

For a qualitative deliberate process, parties are obliged to be substantially prepared for the subjects of discussions. Deliberate discussions are built on the basis of presented arguments and reasoning. The previous meetings in Brussels were perceived as substantially unprepared, initially due to the lack of transparency but also due to the intentional bypass of requirements on their content, and the developments. For achieving reasonable compromises for its citizens, Kosovo delegations should be substantially prepared, by maintaining a coherent approach and well-reasoned proposals on the elements of the comprehensive agreement, which should result in mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia, without violating Kosovo’s territory nor its internal constitutional order.

Eventually, the deliberation process requires from the parties to accept well-argued and reasonable proposals that result in a compromise, which will not jeopardize the independence and sovereignty – or more precisely, the functionality of the country. However the consideration and the acceptance of compromises in politics, requires trust and approval from country’s legitimate structure as well. Hence, for a tolerable compromise for its citizens, Kosovo should aim at a dialogue that will be legitimate and comprehensive in structure and well-prepared in content. Meanwhile, in order to ensure that the compromise with the state interests and the will of Kosovo are in place, institutions must apply the mechanism of rigorous accountability to the government, as the leader of this process. The Government must eventually utilize transparency and internal dialogue with opposition, citizens and civil society to restore trust in the dialogue process and to ease the acceptance of its final outcome.

This op-ed is originally written in Albanian.

The op-ed is supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Pristina. The opinions are of the authors and do not reflect the views of Balkans Policy Research Group and the donor.