May 20, 2013 Leave a comment
Here are some reflections on the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo I shared with the Bulgarian publication Capital a few days ago.
The EU-brokered agreement between Serbia and Kosovo was a great news. But do you think that it could work in practice?
The agreement does not drastically change the status quo, so from that point of view it can work in practice. It preserves much of the structures and instutions that exist in Northern Kosovo, but just switches the formal authority from Serbia to Kosovo. However, the problem is that the agreement also rests on the idea of elected institutions in the North and here the main challenge is a potential boycott by Serbs of such elections. As a result, there would be no legitimate institutions to carry out the agreement there. It is thus no surprise that the Serbian government has been lobbying hard in the north to convince Serbs to accept the arrangement. If the Serbian Orthodox Church supports the arrangement and some leaders might be put under pressure for their criminal activities there will be not much opposition and Serbs might vote to ensure that they are not ignored, especially if they feel they cannot derail the process.
What is the stimulus for the deal to work? Is the EU membership enough stimulus for both sides?
Surprisingly, EU membership is more powerful than what we sometimes expect. It is often thought that EU accession is too distant for governments to stake their reputation on sensitive issues. However, we see a differen dynamic here. Both the Serbian and the Kosovo government
How could Belgrade persuade the Kosovo Serbs to accept the deal?
Belgrade first needs to frame this agreement as being the best deal possible and also point out that the status quo cannot continue indefinitely. The second strategy the government has used is to offer a referendum (if it does not seem realistic at the moment) to show that it is confident of popular opinion in Serbia. A popular vote in favor of the agreement would not leave Serbs in North Kosovo much space to oppose the agreement. Finally, the argument that the government is making is that after all there is no possibility of the Serb leadership in the North to oppose both Serbia and Kosovo, their numbers are too small and the letter calling on support from Russia a few days ago rather betrays their weakness. They also lack a strong ally in Belgrade, be it in the opposition. Most are aligned to Vojislav Kostunica, whose support is marginal. In parliament, some 173 of 250 MPs voted in favor, a strong majority, and protests against the agreement had a small turn-out.