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Months of uncertainty ended on Friday with the 10th round of negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina. Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, achieved what was believed by many to be impossible. In Brussels on 19th April, the Ashton-brokered deal on the Serbian municipalities of Kosovo was signed by both Hashim Thaçi, Kosovo’s Prime Minister, and Ivica Dačić, Serbia’s Prime Minister.

The Basics

  • Kosovo was a province of Serbia until war broke out in 1999
  • Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, which is partially recognised internationally
  • Roughly 140,000 of Kosovo’s 1.7 million population are ethnic Serbs. Around 40,000 of those Serbs live in northern Kosovo.
  • Serbs in northern Kosovo have been operating independently of the rest of the country

What Pristina Got

In a nutshell: acknowledgement of the Kosovar government’s authority over the whole of Kosovo

  • Kosovo law will govern the Serb-majority northern Kosovo areas
  • Police in northern Kosovo will be integrated into Kosovo Police
  • The legal system of Serb-majority areas will be integrated into Kosovo’s, but the Pristina Appellate Court will form a panel of Serb judges to handle cases from the region
  • Agreement from Serbia not to block Kosovo EU accession attempt
  • Commitment to a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (an early stage in the EU accession process)

What Belgrade Got

In a nutshell: a great degree of autonomy for the Serb-majority areas in northern Kosovo 

  • Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo will form an Association under Kosovo statute
  • The Association will control education, health, economic development and urban and rural planning in those municipalities
  • Serbs in northern Kosovo will have their own regional police commander (a Kosovo Serb) to oversee Northern Mitrovica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic
  • A division of the Appellate Court will be formed in northern Mitrovica comprised of mostly Kosovo Serb judges
  • Serbia itself will not be prevented from funding education in Serb-majority areas of Kosovo
  • A guarantee that the Kosovo security forces won’t enter Serbian-majority areas without the consent of NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo
  • Agreement from Kosovo not to block Serbian EU accession attempt

Criticisms

  • Serbia was quick to deny that the deal marks Serbia’s acknowledgement of Kosovo’s independence, but PM Thaçi announced to the Kosovan Parliament that “Serbia has recognised the full sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kosovo”
  • Kosovo Serbs protested against the deal, insisting that they should have been consulted in the negotiations. They have called for a referendum
  • The Democratic League of Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian opposition party, and extremist movement ‘Vetevendosje’ (Self-Determination) called the deal “the foundation for a new Serbian republic” like Republika Srpska in Bosnia, and referring to the deal as “treason  

What Next

  • The European Commission officially recommended that the EU set a date for Serbia’s membership talks
  • The European Commission recommended that Kosovo begin the earlier stage of the process, a Stabilization and Association Agreement
  • Both parties have to form an EU-facilitated implementation committee
  • Further talks between the two parties will take place regarding Energy and Telecoms, due to be finished by 15th June 

Photo courtesy of B92.

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