Implementation of Brussels and Washington agreements – Path to Enduring Peace and Long-term Stability
The resulting situation in Kosovo has its history. The Republic of Serbia issued license plates to residents of municipalities on the territory of Kosovo as well and they are valid until 14 September 2021. Kosovo authorities unilaterally introduced trial license plates for vehicles from Serbia invoking the principle of “reciprocity” regarding the abolition of license plates, because Kosovo authorities have intended to abolish license plates featuring the insignia of Serb municipalities. Under EU mediation a one-year deadline was agreed upon for the resolution of the problem, despite the initial agreement on freedom of movement, which Belgrade and Pristina had brokered in Brussels. The situation continued to escalate after Kosovo Serbs were not allowed to vote in the parliamentary and presidential elections in Serbia.
When the provisional agreement brokered under EU mediation on license plates expired, the Kosovo authorities have begun to announce that they will sanction drivers driving vehicles with Serbian license plates and seize such vehicles. This triggered strong resistance among Serbs, particularly in the north of Kosovo. Serb representatives withdrew from Kosovo institutions and mayors of four municipalities in the north of Kosovo filed their resignations. Serb police officers withdrew from the Kosovo police force. Kosovo authorities tried to organize emergency local elections in four municipalities in the north with a predominantly Serb population to elect new mayors and man the vacant mayor positions, which met with disapproval from the population and led to a buildup of discontent with such activities.
The Kosovo Central Election Commission (CEC) attempted with the assistance of Kosovo’s special police force to organize preparations for the emergency local elections in the north of Kosovo but was physically prevented from doing so. The CEC continued its activities in the north of Kosovo, which caused a strong revolt of the local Serb population and evolved into a general uprising. Emergency local elections were therefore postponed until 23 April 2023 and the Serb parties will boycott them again if an environment for holding of elections is not created, that is if no political agreement is reached. The erection of barricades followed as a response to the arrest of three Serbs, particularly of the until-recently member of the Kosovo police force Dejan Pantić. Some fifteen barricades were erected at different locations. The Pristina authorities threatened that the police will forcibly remove the barricades, but then requested KFOR to remove the barricades.
Kumanovo, Brussels, and Washington agreements
The Brussels Agreement was signed in 2013. It envisaged the normalization of relations and aimed to make life easier for Kosovo citizens. One item of the agreement was related to the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO), which has not been implemented despite all the objections by the Kosovo Constitutional Court contained in the decision on the assessment of the constitutionality of the establishment of the ZSO. The Kosovo Assembly ratified the Brussels Agreement, and the Kosovo Constitutional Court ruled that the ZSO association/community should still be established. Gabriel Escobar, Special Envoy for the Western Balkans stated that from the US perspective establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities was legally binding within the framework of the agreement brokered 10 years ago between Serbia, Kosovo, and the EU. “We see it as an obligation because we have supported the process and one political side cannot withdraw from it unilaterally. Therefore, we shall seek ways to realize that idea”. Although the Brussels Agreement had been signed, it has never been fully implemented, predominantly because of the obstructions by Kosovo in the implementation of the Brussels Agreement, especially the parts related to missing persons (archives of the KLA /Kosovo Liberation Army/) and the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO).
The agreements on “economic normalization” signed in Washington in September 2020 in no way bring into question the dialogue taking place between official Belgrade and Pristina under EU mediation.
The issue of property is one of the key disputes between official Belgrade and Pristina. The Washington Agreement envisages the resolution of the issue of use and management of the Gazivoda Lake (Liqeni i Ujmanit), on which even a feasibility study has been made. It is also worth noting that dozens of thousands of citizens of Serb ethnicity have filed requests for the return of private property.
The dispute also includes the issue of other property in Kosovo. The most frequently mentioned include the Trepča Mining and Metallurgical Complex and the property in the energy sector, which is estimated more than three billion euros.
Analysts believe that Kumanovo, Brussels, and Washington agreements have not been fully implemented because the signatories selectively assumed obligations in line with their respective unilateral interests, while the international community was either passive or absent in the implementation of the signed agreements. In fact, both sides are victims of the incapability of the EU to resolve European problems. Implementation of the Brussels and Washington agreements is the path to the establishment of enduring peace and long-term stability, as well as preventive elimination of new incidents and situations such as the most recent one in the north of Kosovo. The narrative for the transformation of the region is not a narrative of conflict. All need to demonstrate the will to devise a solution 23 years after the Kosovo war, and the solution is an implementation of the agreements signed so far. The main question to be asked is whether and in what way the region will be transformed, or will it continue to live in unfinished and frozen conflicts.
Reintegrate Northern Kosovo according to the model of Eastern Slavonia
The EU did not lose its credibility because the US administration got involved in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, but because individual member countries had delegated their special envoys and thus practically brought into question the authority of Brussels. Without a significant engagement of the US in the dialogue, particularly in the phase of reaching a final and comprehensive legally-binding agreement, it is difficult to expect any major progress or its finalization.
Analysts remind that the return of Serbs to Kosovo institutions was a result of a broader agreement, which allowed Kosovo Serbs to vote in all elections in Serbia on the territory of Kosovo. This all was possible prior to the arrival of Albin Kurti (LVV) to power. A turning point in the relation of a part of the international community towards Pristina authorities was the recently held joint session of the parliaments of Kosovo and Albania in Tirana, while on the other side Kosovo authorities regularly accuse Serbia of interfering in Kosovo. By making such a move Kosovo authorities lost credibility in their accusations against Serbia. Kosovo authorities would now need to invest all possible efforts to reintegrate Serbs into the Kosovo society and institutions in a peaceful and civilized way- just as Serbs have been reintegrated in Croatia in the Eastern Slavonia region under UN mediation. A similar example is the South Tyrol. Although such experiences are valuable, Pristina is evidently not interested in such an approach.
Can Kosovo experience the same fate as Afghanistan and Iraq?
Analysts believe that Serbia does not want to repeat the mistakes of the past. A conflict could be started by some other parties, not just Serbia and Kosovo, that is Serbs and Albanians. The war in Ukraine has shown that there are opposing polycentric centers of power, which have an interest in the escalation of conflicts in different parts of Europe. The Ukraine war should not be “copied” to the Balkans, which has still not healed its wounds from the previous wars. Unilateral moves can lead to escalation.
A point of concern is the information that a part of the establishment in Washington is considering the option of withdrawal of US troops from Kosovo, as was done in Afghanistan and Iraq. Such a scenario would not be good for either Kosovo or South East Europe, because the US presence is a guarantor of relative peace and stability in that part of Europe. Kosovo and its citizens have a right to their future and the political structures should not gamble with it. The situation in Kosovo is best illustrated through the fact that Kosovo still has a visa regime with EU member countries, even with Bosnia and Herzegovina. That is the real picture of Kosovo today. The most important thing at this moment is that the Serbs at erected barricades have responded to the appeal by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to remove the barricades, and the Kosovo judicial bodies have released from custody Dejan Pantić, whose arrest was the cause for the erection of barricades. Finally, the achievement of any progress would require putting an end to the regular generation of crises in Kosovo.
Postponement of conflict
Analysts believe that the incidents in Kosovo should be understood extremely seriously and that all necessary measures should be undertaken to ensure that they do not happen again, because the current situation in the region and Europe, in the context of the Ukraine crisis, is a real security challenge and threat. Such a method of resolution of generated crises only postpones a conflict, which is becoming increasingly certain.
 IFIMES – The International Institute for the Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, has had a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)/UN since 2018.
 Military-Technical Agreement, link: https://www.nato.int/kosovo/
 UNMIK, Resolution UN 1244, link: https://unmik.unmissions.org/
 Brussels Agreement, link: https://www.srbija.gov.rs/
 NATO: “NATO-led KFOR mission dismantles last barricades in northern Kosovo”, link: https://www.nato.int/cps/en/
 Washington Agreement, link: https://www.srbija.gov.rs/
 The process of peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Sirmium was initiated on 15 January 1996 with the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1037 and the establishment of UNTAES. It was finalized two years later, on 15 January 1998, with the reintegration of the area of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Sirmium into the constitutional organization of the Republic of Croatia.
Napomena o autorskim pravima: Dozvoljeno preuzimanje sadržaja isključivo uz navođenje linka prema stranici našeg portala sa koje je sadržaj preuzet. Stavovi izraženi u ovom tekstu autorovi su i ne odražavaju nužno uredničku politiku The Balkantimes Press.
Copyright Notice: It is allowed to download the content only by providing a link to the page of our portal from which the content was downloaded. The views expressed in this text are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of The Balkantimes Press.