TransConflict is pleased to present a paper by the Democracy for Development Institute (D4D), entitled “The Future of Interaction Between Prishtina and Belgrade”, which explores the track record of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue to date and reviews factors that need to be reconsidered in the structure of the new dialogue process.
By Leon Malazogu and Florian Bieber, with contributions by Drilon Gashi
Despite the mixed experience of the technical dialogue, it is difficult to advise anything else than the continuation of the talks. The talks need to deliver several outcomes: (a) improve relations between Serbia and Kosovo, (b) address major grievances prevalent in both countries, and (c) gradually transform sensitive talks into regular relations that two neighbouring countries should nurture.
Prishtina should prepare to approach northern leaders in a constructive dialogue. At the same time, the Kosovo authorities should adopt a do-no-harm approach. Prishtina should take greater care in how it formulates its messages to the north. Perceived threats mobilize northern Serbs to remain in defence of the elites running the north. The Government of Kosovo should refrain from any unilateral steps regarding the north while the dialogue with Belgrade and also with Kosovo Serbs in the north is ongoing. The authorities should continue to improve the situation of the southern Serbs.
The new government in Belgrade should fully implement the agreements reached during the previous rounds of the dialogue. The negotiating team ought to be inclusive of the main political actors in Serbia and secure broad support among parliamentary parties for any agreement reached. A consensus should be reached on the process, while an explicit platform ahead of the process may curtail Belgrade’s manoeuvring space.
Belgrade should encourage northern Serbs to engage in communication with Prishtina, be it for initial topics such as water supply or garbage collection. Belgrade should also support solutions that benefit Serbs in the north and in the south. Belgrade may consult northern Serb leaders about their preferences but should not include them in their negotiating team.
The Government of Serbia should cease its embargo towards Kosovo and be willing to discuss the terms of access for Kosovo to specialized international organisations and bodies. There is ample space to derive a mutual benefit from such action.
The EU and other international actors need to expand the dialogue to cover issues so far excluded, such as access of Kosovo to specialized international organizations, telecommunications, as well as additional issues of mutual benefit such as international sports, etc.
The EU should facilitate additional channels of communication between Prishtina and northern Serbs as well as additional informal channels of communication between Prishtina and Belgrade.
The EU ought to outline clear incentives for the next round of dialogue and ensure that the rewards to both parties are equal. Further agreements should be signed and made transparent. Agreements that bring tangible benefits to the people should be prioritized to generate greater acceptance among the public.
The EU needs to delineate concisely what “normalisation” of relations between Serbia and Kosovo entails as the mid-result of the dialogue. As an example of a practical arrangement, the EU should force the leadership in Kosovo and Serbia to act against established interests of insurance companies and agree to lower the fees of cross-border insurance. An arrangement that promotes interaction should be introduced until a more permanent solution is found on the basis of Kosovo becoming a member of the Green Card Bureau either on its own merit or temporarily under a third country.
The Democracy for Development Institute is a think-tank based in Pristina, Kosovo. This paper is launched as part of the Project on Ethnic Relations-Kosovo (PER-K).