Belgrade-Pristina dialogue: The rocky road towards a comprehensive normalisation agreement

Briefing 19-04-2023

Regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations are key elements in the EU accession process of all Western Balkan countries. Two of them – Serbia and Kosovo* – have both declared their intention to join the EU. The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, initiated in 2011 and facilitated by the EU, achieved some initial success, such as the Brussels Agreement of 2013, but later stalled. In 2020, in a bid to provide fresh momentum, the EU appointed Miroslav Lajčák as the EU special representative for the dialogue and for other Western Balkan regional issues. Following a flare-up of border tensions in July 2022 and a Franco-German initiative in November 2022, on 27 February 2023 the EU brokered the EU Proposal – Agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia. While the two sides only gave their tacit consent, but not their signatures, the agreement provided a positive momentum to negotiations and a blueprint for normalisation. On 18 March 2023 in Ohrid, Kosovo and Serbia agreed on the implementation annex to the agreement. Despite these positive results, the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vučić, said that his country had agreed on 'some kind of [a] deal' to normalise relations. 'We have agreed on some points, not on all points. This is not the final deal', Vučić stated in Ohrid, demonstrating how differently the two sides perceive the normalisation agreement. For Kosovo it symbolises the recognition of its statehood by Serbia, whereas for Serbia it seems to hold more economic relevance. Serbia also stresses that the process must abide by the provisions of its Constitution, where Kosovo features as an integral part of Serb territory, and those of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999). The outcome of the political dialogue will influence Serbia's EU accession process, as the commitments made in Ohrid will be incorporated into the 35th chapter of its accession negotiation while also serving as a condition for Kosovo's promised EU path. This publication updates a briefing by Branislav Stanicek from March 2021.