I’ve now had a chance to go through the “economic normalisation” agreement between #Serbia & #Kosovo in detail and it’s fairly underwhelming. Lots of rehashed/reheated announcements. The White House has called this agreement “historic” - it isn’t. Some thoughts... ()
To start with, this isn’t an agreement “between” Serbia and Kosovo but rather two (admittedly fairly similar) documents with a list of undertakings President Vučić and PM Hoti have signed up to. It’s simply not a bilateral agreement. US didn’t sign their undertaking either.
“Operationalising” rail links between Serbia & Kosovo is low-hanging fruit. Services already run as far south as Zvečan (Kos) & north to Kraljevo (Srb) on a daily basis, so the reconnections of the line to Pristina is quite straightforward. A good step for passengers/freight tho.
The realisation of a “mini-Schengen” zone in the Balkans is a good step and will be a particular relief for Kosovo citizens whose FoM is v limited. Unlikely to divert attention from what Kosovars *really* want (and have been repeatedly promoted by Brussels) which is EU visa lib.
The promise to bring about mutual recognition of diplomas and professional qualifications is nothing new. It was even in the implementation plan of the ill-fated Brussels Agreement brokered by Baroness Ashton in 2013 which remains unfulfilled. New impetus?
Diversification of energy supplies is always a good thing but this agreement doesn’t change the fact that’s already underway. Decommissioning of Kosova A and Kosova B in Obilić is a key environmental win for Kosovo & Serbia making big advances in solar and hydro.
The inclusion of text calling for both sides to support global efforts to decriminalise homosexuality in states where it is illegal is welcomed but odd in this context given it is legal in both countries and both have existing (albeit poorly enforced) anti-discrimination laws.
An one-year pause to the Belgrade-Pristina “arms race” on derecognition/recognition *sounds* positive but is probably unworkable. These attempts take years to negotiate and I can’t honestly see either side abandoning discreet ongoing dialogue with third parties.
Kosovo will be delighted by Israel’s decision to recognise statehood. Trump’s comments re: “Muslim Kosovo” aren’t particularly helpful, though. Kosovo is a secular state & wouldn’t want to be seen as a religious one externally. This perception may cause scepticism in EU capitals.
These talks have obviously been framed as “economic normalisation” but it’s notable that no progress has been made on integration of the Serb-majority municipalities in North Kosovo or Assoc. of Serb Municipalities. This has been promised since 2013. Stalled.
Fundamentally, these are fairly conservative proposals which should not give their the (strong) Vučić govt in Belgrade or (precarious) Hoti govt in Pristina any significant challenges domestically. No big victories, no big defeats... BUT no big breakthroughs either.