On the 9th Anniversary of the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations, a second and final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia is not on the horizon

Violeta Haxholli

27 April 2022

19 April marks the 9 th anniversary of the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations between the two countries. This agreement, reached in 2013, was one of the most important agreements of the process that commenced on 8 March 2011.

11 years from the beginning of this process and 9 years from when the agreement was reached, Kosovo and Serbia seem far from a final agreement that would conclude the dialogue by solving the contests  between the two. The actual process stands on more than 35 agreements/documents, most of which are not fully implemented. However, instead of moving forward by discussing the elements of the final agreement, the dialogue has returned to some other issues, such as the vehicle plates- part of the 2011 Freedom of Movement Agreement. Right after Kosovo imposed reciprocity on the vehicle plates in September 2021, and following Serbia’s resistance to this decision, the parties, under the mediation of the EU, resumed the talks on the topic. They set up a deadline of 6 months for reaching a new agreement on the vehicle plates, but the parties did not manage to reach a new arrangement within this timeframe.

The vehicle plates’ topic which directly affects the citizens, but also the equally important topic of the recognition of diplomas, that face obstacles in their implementation are a piece of evidence that dialogue’s initial objectives have deviated. The UNGA Resolution of 2010, which sets the basis for the launch of the dialogue process, states that this dialogue –among other things- would improve the life of the citizens, would increase the cooperation between the parties and would assist their path towards the European Union.

Neither the 2011 Freedom of Movement Agreement nor the 2016 Agreement on Vehicle Plates, did improve the life of the citizens. The agreements, in fact, created many obstacles. Based on this agreement, the citizens that cross the border between Kosovo and Serbia, face long border procedures at the crossing points between the two countries, related to the issuance of the identification document from Serbia’s authorities, the modalities of changing the vehicle car plates as well as the application of stickers.

But it is still to be seen whether and how the life of the citizens will improve after the agreement on the freedom of movement/ vehicle plates. And it also remains unclear if the parties are commencing the talks on the elements of the final agreement. This is because the public has traditionally been detached from the process until a newly reached agreement was put in front of them.

However, if the talks on the elements of the agreement will commence soon, there are many topics and issues on which Kosovo and Serbia have to agree for a final agreement to come to life. These topics are far more complex that the vehicle plates. And observing the developments in the latter, it is unrealistic to think that the negotiations of the final agreement will follow a fast track. Therefore, the conclusion of a final agreement between the two countries is not on the horizon.

The current atmosphere in Kosovo and Serbia is not contributing to the final agreement. The used language in addition to destructive actions throughout the process have antagonised the parties to a further extent. Recently, the Kosovo border police were attacked at the crossing points between Kosovo and Serbia, for which Kosovo institutions blame Serbia. Ironically all this happens near the 9th anniversary of the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations. In 2013, not many could have assumed that 9 years later, Kosovo and Serbia would be in the same position or even worse. Also, very few would have thought that the dialogue will not conclude with a final agreement even after more than a decade later.

Maybe these two months, which mark these respective anniversaries, can serve as a moment of reflection so that parties engage more constructively in the process from now on, avoiding the discourse and the actions that keep them apart from a final agreement. Improving the lives of the citizens and advancing counties’ path toward European integration is was the aim of the dialogue should be. Otherwise, the countries will move towards a new decade of dialogue, an obstacle for the citizens and an obstacle to European integration.

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.