news 24 Dec 13

Kosovo Looms Large in Serbia's EU Framework

Serbia’s EU accession negotiations will oblige the country to make visible and sustained progress in ties with Kosovo - on which the EU will seek regular updates.

Gjeraqina Tuhina

Serbia's Negotiating Framework with the EU, which Balkan Insight has seen, requires it to visibly and sustainably improve relations with Kosovo.

“This process will insure that both sides can continue on their respective European paths, while avoiding either blocking the efforts of the other," it says.

This should "gradually lead to the comprehensive normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo in the form of a legally binding agreement by the end of Serbia’s accession negotiations, with prospect of both being able to fully exercise their rights and fulfil their responsibilities”, the document continues.

Many EU member states interpret that obligation towards normalization as meaning that Serbia must recognize Kosovo’s independence eventually.

“Clearly, a ‘legally binding agreement’ cannot be signed with someone that you don’t recognize”, one EU diplomat pointed out.

“Serbia can interpret this differently but the maximum the country can get is some kind of an agreement similar to the one that the two Germanys had the during Cold War,” he added.

On December 17, EU ministers agreed that the first intergovernmental conference with Serbia would take place in January 2014.

The Negotiating Framework specifies that Kosovo will be addressed also in the final 35th chapter, concerning “other issues”.

Diplomats involved in the process warn that Chapter 35 will consist of a long list of obligations towards Kosovo.

Chapter 35, which is normally opened in the final stage of accession talks, in Serbia’s case will be among the first to be dealt with.

It will only be closed when the EU considers that Serbia has reached the stage of “comprehensive normalization of relations” with Kosovo.

The Negotiating Framework says Serbia will have to convince EU members that its “position on the status of Kosovo [which it refuses to recognise] does not create any obstacle or interfere with Serbia’s implementation of the ‘acquis’".

The "acquis communautaire" is the body of common EU rights and obligations.

“As part of its efforts to align with the EU acquis, Serbia will in particular ensure that adopted legislation, including its geographical scope, does not run counter to comprehensive normalization of relations with Kosovo,” the EU noted when adopting Serbia's negotiating framework.  

The process of normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo will be under constant scrutiny from Brussels, the document reveals.

“The Commission and the High Representative will monitor closely and continuously Serbia’s efforts towards normalization of its relations with Kosovo and report as appropriate and at least twice yearly on this issue, dealt with under Chapter 35, to the Council,” the Negotiating framework says.

Gjeraqina Tuhina is the Brussels correspondent for Kosovo`s public TV, RTK.

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