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news 24 Apr 15

Too Few Serbia-Kosovo Deals Implemented, Report

Implementation of the normalization agreement between Kosovo and Serbia has been patchy, with only four of the 17 agreements being put into action since 2011, a new report says.

Una Hajdari BIRN Pristina
Photo by BIRN

Civil society members and representatives of international organizations gathered in Pristina on Friday for the launch of “Big Deal: Lost in Stagnation,” a report on the implementation of the Brussels Agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.

Prepared by BIRN Kosovo, Internews Kosova and the Belgrade-based Center for Transparency, Research and Accountability, CRTA, the report outlines the progress made in the implementation of the agreement, in terms of legislation and its execution in the field.

The report highlights that only four of the 17 agreements reached between Kosovo and Serbia since the technical dialogue began in 2011 have been implemented in full.

Faik Ispahiu, from Internews Kosova, said the report “includes facts from the terrain; we try to verify what is being said in these agreements – and not from the perspective of politicians, but from the perspective of the citizens”.

The report invites the two sides, and the European Union, to set priorities in fulfilling the agreements, so the process of normalization of relations – which is the goal of the dialogue and the agreement – can be expedited. 

With around 80 interviews conducted with people in the field, those involved in the project stress that all the agreements will be followed closely for the next three years.

“We plan on following all of the agreements that have been signed, so that in the end we don’t have a situation where the two sides are complaining because the agreements haven’t been implemented,” Jeta Xharra, director of BIRN Kosovo, one of the implementing partners in Kosovo, said.

Rasa Nedeljkovic, from CRTA, the implementing partner in Belgrade, said although the negotiations were created for the benefit of citizens, a lack of political accountability has undermined the process.

“One thing is said in Pristina, another thing is said in Belgrade. The are differences in how the two sides interpret things,” Nedeljkovic said.

He suggested that the two sides hold joint press conferences and joint statements about what was being discussed.

“The essence of normalization means the establishment of good relations and an end to Serbia’s interference in Kosovo, in the structures in the North [of Kosovo],” Edita Tahiri, Minister for Dialogue in Kosovo and the head of the Kosovo team in the technical dialogue, said.

“We also need to work on normalizing the situation in the four northern [Serb-majority] municipalities and for the rule of law to be established. We need to integrate the Serbian community into institutions and into society and public life,” Tahiri added.

The EU Representative in Kosovo, Samuel Zbogar, said a common goal of European Integration should encourage both sides to work on the dialogue.

“EU integration is the best way for us to encourage both sides towards a more developed dialogue,” Zbogar said, adding that normalization of relations with Serbia will ensure that Kosovo stays on the European path, despite continuing issues over its status.

Dusan Radakovic, from the Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture, an NGO based in North Mitrovica, said a lack of transparency throughout the dialogue had left Serbs in the North of Kosovo feeling most in the dark.

“People in the North know least about the agreements. They only find out once agreements start being implemented. We don’t have representatives in either of the teams,” Radakovic said.

“People in the north see this agreement as the dialogue with the city of Belgrade or city of Pristina,” he continued.

The EU-led dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia began in March 2011, first only on a technical level, led by Tahiri on the Kosovo side and Borislav Stefanovic on the Serbian side.

It became a high-level dialogue in October 2012, culminating in the April 2013 Agreement for the Normalization of Relations, known as the Brussels Agreement. 

The goal of the Brussels Agreement is to deal with ongoing political and technical issues between Kosovo and Serbia, such as membership in international organizations, participation in conferences, and issues relating to the Serbian minority in Kosovo.

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