Serbia and Kosovo: a deal that can last?

Ever since NATO’s military intervention in Kosovo, a swarm of “Toniblers” – boys named after the British Prime Minister of the Day – have roamed around Pristina. According to Josh Black, The next generation to get this treatment may be “Catherines”. 

Ashton has every right to feel pleased with herself. Photo by US State Department

Ashton has every right to feel pleased with herself.
Photo by US State Department

After all, if reports are to be believed, the head of the EU’s External Action Service, Catherine Ashton, had a decisive influence in securing a deal between Kosovar and Serbian politicians over the normalising of diplomatic relations and the removal of dual political structures.

Up to the last minute, the chances of a deal seemed remote. Serbia’s President, Tomislav Nikolic – a man whose election was supposed to retard the pace of progress in negotiations with the EU – invested considerable energy in the negotiations, but told the press that his red line was the expansion of Pristina’s institutions. This was hardly likely, but it still seems incredible that a year after the populations of four Serb-majority regions of North Kosovo decisively rejected Kosovar institutions, Serbia will defer to a Kosovar police force.

There shall be one police force in Kosovo called the Kosovo Police. All police in northern Kosovo shall be integrated in the Kosovo Police framework. Salaries will be only from the KP.

 Members of other Serbian security structures will be offered a place in equivalent Kosovo structures.

Naturally, there were concessions. Regions in North Kosovo will have considerable autonomy, and will be able to fill quotas of public officials with ethnic Serbs. If the deal holds, it will go down as one of the EU’s biggest success stories to date. Indications are that it will. Firstly, the EU has offered the prospect of membership for Serbia as an incentive and there is now no reason why it cannot proceed on this basis. Serbia will still have to meet some strict conditionality, but the key will be the continuity of political will – a pro-European coalition in Moldova recently collapsed, with tensions over the reform process allegedly at the heart of the discontent.

Secondly, EU Member States have generally respected minority rights. Studies have shown that the EU had a considerable impact on softening the policies of the Baltic states towards ethnic Russians during and after the accession process – although the take up of citizenship in EU countries by these minorities proved disappointing.

Two possibilities warn against too much optimism, however. The first is that the North Kosovar Serbs have yet to be won over. That they will be seems likely – after all, they are diplomatically isolated by the agreement. However, the issue could become a rallying point for Serbia’s far-right, which stands to lose most from the deal.

Municipal elections shall be organized in the northern municipalities in 2013 with the facilitation of the OSCE in accordance with Kosovo law and international standards.

An implementation committee will be established by the two sides, with the facilitation of the EU.

Secondly, there is concern that the agreement could prove only too durable. Eric Gordy, of UCL SSEES, has argued that the dual structures were put in place to promote clientelism, and that the deal provides a mechanism for this to flourish. The worst case scenario would be for internal conflict in Kosovo to fester, since this would likely rebound on Serbia’s EU accession hopes. Elections will be held for municipal positions, but may not lead to best practice if no meaningful political differences emerge or if fraud and corruption takes root.

On balance then, the EU has created a deal that will probably last, but which it will have to oversee for sometime before we can say whether it has been successful. The indications are positive, but it has yet to be proven that segregation can be a model for a modern European state.


One thought on “Serbia and Kosovo: a deal that can last?

  1. Pingback: Vostok Cable | Out of the Black

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