Kosovo – can everything “agreed” get done this month?

Following the Belgrade-Pristina April accords, the parties agreed to an implementation plan which remains just an outline with important details still to be determined. It seems that the Quint expect Belgrade to impose more of a political agenda upon the northerners, but what if it can’t and the northern Kosovo Serbs simply refuse to play along on the EU’s schedule?

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By Gerard M. Gallucci

In April, Belgrade and Pristina accepted a 15-point accord on north Kosovo with important details to be determined. Defining these details in a way that might ease acceptance by the Kosovo Serb majority living in the north remains key to peaceful change. Since April, Belgrade and Pristina have been meeting to develop an implementation plan while the Serbian government has been meeting with north Kosovo leaders, in a somewhat iterative process, to try to mesh those details with what could work on the ground. The northerners have not yet accepted implementation but have been careful to hold back public comment. Acting under continued EU pressure – including visits by the German and British foreign ministers – Belgrade now has reportedly agreed to a plan whose first deadlines have passed.

The Plan sets a multi-month timeline for actions that would transform Serbian security and justice structures in the north into ones operating under Kosovo law and budget by year end.

  • By May 31, a new “acting” regional police commander for the north was to be appointed and working groups formed on integrating the police and courts into the Kosovo system and for establishing the association of Serb municipalities. Belgrade was also to have provided a “detailed overview of all funding” of its institutions in Kosovo.
  • By mid-June, Pristina will have enacted an amnesty law while Serbia would “commence” the dismantling of its security structures and ending payments to its security personnel in Kosovo. Pristina would begin making available positions in its police. The same would begin for the courts. Meanwhile, discussions would have started on holding municipal elections – under the OSCE – in October.
  • By mid-July, “all premises of Serbian security structures in Kosovo will be closed.” By year end, members of these structures would be “fully integrated” into the Kosovo structures and paid “exclusively” from the Kosovo budget. Same with the courts.

The working group for the association would have representatives from the four northern municipalities as “endorsed” by the “competent Kosovo authority.” The implementation plan also pledges the two sides to “fully implement” previous agreements including customs and freedom of movement. There was no apparent mention of economic and property issues, coordinated returns, Trepca North or the borders of North Mitrovica.

The Quint – led as always by Brussels, Washington and Berlin – continue to push Serbia into a breakneck pace of change using the leverage of a June 27th deadline for approving a date for the start of EU accession talks. The German government says it now favors granting the date but the German parliament reportedly still has doubts and believes the Serbs in Mitrovica should dismantle their barricade of the main Ibar Bridge to show they have accepted the deal. The Germans seem intent on forcing the north Kosovo Serbs to offer outright surrender in order to get the date. Or perhaps they still are looking for a way to keep Serbia out of the EU. Hopefully, the other Quint members are considering the impact in Serbia and the Balkans if, after all Belgrade has tried to do, Serbia does not get a date this month.

The northern Kosovo Serbs themselves appear to be thinking about declaring regional autonomy. It would be surprising if everything works out according to the implementation plan, which remains just an outline with important details still to be agreed. Indeed, it seems more a political agenda that the Quint expects Belgrade to impose upon the northerners as NATO couldn’t. And if it can’t, if the northern Kosovo Serbs simply refuse to play along on the EU’s schedule?

Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010.

To read TransConflict’s policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

To read other articles by Gerard for TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in responding to this article, please do not hesitate to contact us by clicking here.

To learn more about both Serbia and Kosovo, please check out TransConflict’s reading lists series by clicking here.

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