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News 05 Sep 17

Serbia Must Recognise Kosovo, US Experts Insist

A review of the EU-mediated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue by experts at Columbia University recommends that Brussels and Washington take action to enforce all agreements - and insists Serbia must recognise Kosovo.

Marija Ristic BIRN Belgrade
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini with Serbian and Kosovo leaders in Brussels last year.

A new report published on Tuesday entitled Implementation Review of the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue says that the mediators must take a tougher stance in the ongoing dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and insists that Serbia will eventually have to recognise Kosovo’s independence.

The report, published by the Program on Peace-Building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, suggests a deadline of 18 months to conclude negotiations.

It says that “if either party obstructs, the EU should suspend its mediation and freeze EU funds”.

At the moment, the dialogue is gently mediated by the EU, while the topics of the negotiations are proposed by the Serbian and Kosovo authorities without clear deadlines and penalties for non-implementation.

The report argues that Serbia must recognise Kosovo’s independence in order for sustainable peace to be achieved, as recognition would be the cornerstone of an agreement to normalise relations.

It recommends that Serbia’s negotiations to become a member of the EU should be linked to progress in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.

“Though Kosovo has been recognised by 114 countries, Serbia continues to block Kosovo’s efforts to gain greater global recognition,” David L. Phillips, the author of the report, said in a statement.

 “It’s time for measurable outcomes. No more photo ops,” he added.

The report says that the normalisation of relations would include Kosovo’s membership of the UN, while in parallel, Kosovo and Serbia would work on European Union membership criteria, entering the EU at the same time.

The Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, encompassing both technical and political issues, was launched by the EU in 2011 in Brussels.  

Although both sides have pledged to implement what has been agreed so far, many of the agreements remain on paper.

The main issues the two sides have agreed to resolve are freedom of movement, telecommunications, the status of Serb-majority northern Kosovo, customs, police and the judiciary.

However, many other issues that burden Belgrade-Pristina relations are still not part of the dialogue.

The Columbia report suggests that critical issues that should be addressed include missing persons, compensation for war victims, the integration of Kosovo’s Serb minority, and security issues including the creation of a Kosovo army.

It further suggests that the UN Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, should be downgraded and ultimately eliminated, as it has become an obstacle to dialogue and reconciliation between Kosovo and Serbia.

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