The Kosovo-Serbia agreement, known as the Franco-German plan, ‘paves the way’ towards the normalization of relations between the two states. It is a good starting point for the difficult discussions that will have to continue with the mediation of the European Union, in order to reach agreements that will enable the normalization of relations between the parties.
Kosovo and Serbia have equal rights and mutually recognize national symbols and documents. States respect the independence, autonomy and territorial integrity of each other and especially the principle of sovereign equality according to the Charter of the United Nations. At the same time, the Serbian community in Kosovo ensures an appropriate level of self-management, including the possibility of financial support from Serbia. This is what the Brussels’ Kosovo-Serbia agreement says.
Agreement on other agreements
Published by the European Union on its official website, the Kosovo-Serbia agreement has 11 points (articles). It contains the main principles and topics on which the two countries will have to continue their talks.
Article 6 of the agreement clarifies that the implementation of this plan requires the continuation of talks between Kosovo and Serbia and the agreement on details through additional agreements, which will enable the implementation of 11 points of the Franco-German plan.
A good starting point?
The interpretation of the agreement, officially made public at the end of February 2023, “conquered” the media in Kosovo and Albania.
Arbër Zaimi, advisor of the Vetëvendosje Movement in Kosovo
Most of them seek to shed light on what is expected to be the final agreement between the parties, although this agreement may be years away.
The political adviser of Vetëvendosje Movement, Arbër Zaimi, told Faktoje that the agreement takes some good steps towards the final goal of Kosovo.
Dardan Sejdiu, former vice-president of the Vetëvendosje Movement, political analyst
Dardan Sejdiu, former MP of Vetëvendosje and then the Social Democratic Party in Kosovo, sees the situation differently. According to him, “ the agreement in question does not bring anything substantively new for Kosovo, except for a summary of old agreements with a “new” commitment from Serbia to not obstruct the process”.
Fitim Gashi, journalist, Sbunker
For the political journalist in Kosovo, Fitim Gashi, this agreement can be considered an advance in the efforts to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia, but it does not provide a final solution to the problem.
The ‘hot’ topics of the Kosovo – Serbia agreement
The agreement between Kosovo and Serbia foresees talks on some topics which are considered ‘hot’ due to the extremely different positions of the parties. What Kosovo seeks to achieve at the end of this dialogue process that has been going on for more than a decade , is the recognition of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. On the other hand, Serbia demands the recognition and protection of the rights of the Serbian minority in Kosovo, as well as allowing the self-regulation of municipalities with a Serbian majority.
Journalist Fitim Gashi explains to Faktoje that “ for Serbia, the article that prohibits it from putting obstacles in Kosovo’s membership in international organizations is considered unacceptable, considering it as a “de facto” acceptance of the state of Kosovo. While for the Kosovar side, the point of the agreement that talks about the implementation of the agreements reached from the earlier dialogue, with the main one being the agreement on the establishment of the Association of Municipalities with a Serbian Majority, has been problematic .
Recognition of Kosovo’s independence
Although “recognition of the state of Kosovo” is not written as a phrase in the document agreed by Kosovo and Serbia, there are several articles of the Franco-German plan on which this discussion can begin.
Article 1 of the Kosovo-Serbia agreement stipulates that the parties mutually recognize national symbols and documents . In this article, equal rights are defined for the parties involved in the agreement.
Article 2 of the Franco-German plan stipulates that Kosovo and Serbia implement the principles of sovereign equality of states, as well as respect their independence, autonomy and territorial integrity . For the political advisor of Vetëvendosje Movement, Arbër Zaimi, this practically represents de facto recognition by Serbia, and cannot but be followed by de jure [legal] recognition. ” Once you recognize people’s right to self-determination, you cannot refuse to accept their independence,” Zaimi explains to Faktoje.
Nevertheless, some interpretations of the Franco-German plan argue that this agreement does not allow recognition of independence.
Thus, according to Dardan Sejdi, former vice-president of Vetëvendosje Movement, the agreement in question, instead of solving the issue of recognition once and for all, only transforms the dialogue from a means to achieve a goal, into a means in itself. ” With this agreement, we move from the hope that there will be a final agreement with Serbia, to a permanent state of dialogue.” – explains Sejdiu .
The following article of the agreement (Article 3) defines a non-aggression pact between the parties, which renounce the resolution of disputes through military aggression. Regarding this stipulation of the agreement, Zaimi argues that when the military non-aggression is accepted, Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo is practically relinquished, since apart from militarily, Serbia has no other way to attempt the return.
Kosovo’s application to international bodies
Article 4 of the agreement stipulates that none of the two parties can represent the other in the international sphere , or act on its behalf. This article prohibits Serbia from opposing Kosovo’s membership in international organizations.
This very article, explains Arbër Zaimi for Faktoje, paves the way for the external sovereignty of Kosovo, and the progress of recognition and its diplomatic relations.
Article 5 prohibits Kosovo and Serbia from blocking each other on their way to European integration.
Association of Serbian Municipalities
The creation of a community of municipalities with a Serbian majority in Kosovo is one of the most discussed topics of this dialogue. Even the term ” association of Serbian municipalities ” by which this community is known in public, is not specifically mentioned in the agreement agreed between Kosovo and Serbia.
What the Kosovo-Serbia agreement defines in its article 7 is to make possible an appropriate level of self-management for the Serbian community in Kosovo , as well as the possibility for this community to be financially supported by Serbia.
At the same time, Article 10 of the agreement requires the parties to confirm the obligation to implement all past agreements, including the one for the creation of the Association of municipalities with a Serbian majority .
Never mentioning the “Association” in the text of the agreement is a positive thing for Kosovo, explains Arbër Zaimi for Faktoje.
“ The obligation for past agreements is for all (33 agreements) and not just for one. It applies both to Kosovo and Serbia, not only Kosovo. So, there is room left for the parties to deal with these issues step by step. The next meeting will be in Ohrid, to discuss a roadmap for the implementation of the plan that can be an annex to the agreement. However, the “Ohrid Framework Agreement” was signed in Ohrid 22 years ago on the cessation of war in Macedonia, with the main principle “There is no territorial solution to ethnic problems”. The same principle should apply this time as well, because otherwise the Balkans will face problems.” – said Zaimi for Faktoje.
Decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo on the Association
What is worth emphasizing is the fact that the Constitutional Court of Kosovo has already found the establishment of the Association according to the agreement reached in Brussels as unconstitutional.
This decision of the court must be implemented without fail, Arbër Zaimi emphasizes, according to which, the amendment of the Constitution of Kosovo could have fatal consequences for this dialogue and “a change of course” for the policies of Kosovo in relation to Albania.
“ I don’t believe that the Western partners intend to affect the Constitution of Kosovo, because then the ethnic balances would explode, and the Albanians would absolutely have no reason not to seek immediate union with Albania . ” – argues the adviser of the Vetevendosje Movement, Arbër Zaimi.
Dardan Sejdiu, former official of the Vetëvendosje Movement, today in the opposition, sees the acceptance of this document by the Kosovo parliament as dangerous.
“ If the Government of Kosovo accepts this document, with the plan for implementation (at least what we have seen circulating in the media), then the way forward in terms of the constitution will be very challenging, and may even lead to the need for constitutional changes. ” – argues Sejdiu for Faktoje .
Agreement Kosovo – Serbia, still not signed
At the end of the meeting between the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti and the Serbian President Aleksandër Vucic, it became clear that the agreement has not yet been signed by the parties. The reason for this, according to Kurti, is Vucic, who refuses to sign a document where Albin Kurti signs as Prime Minister of Kosovo.
For Arbër Zaimi, the reason is different. “ Articles 2, 3, 4 have the greatest importance for Kosovo and are the reason why Vučić and the Serbian nationalists do not want to sign it.: – he emphasizes for Faktoje. Article 7, on the other hand, represents a danger for Kosovo, since Vucic’s plan is to use the Serbian minority and the Serbian church in Kosovo, just as Putin uses the Russian minority and the Russian church in Ukraine, that is, as a mine, as a bomb, as a destabilizing weapon.” – he explains.
The next meeting to be held in Ohrid, where it is expected to discuss the roadmap for the implementation of the agreement agreed in Brussels, is also the aim of the union to achieve the signing of the document by the parties.
Although the document was agreed between Kurti and Vucic in the presence of internationals, the Serbian president told local media that “he will negotiate the implementation plan, but he will not sign this [agreement]”.
Although Kosovo-Serbia agreement is considered reached, since the parties have agreed on its content, the fact is that it remains a document not signed by the leaders of the governments that are the parties to the agreement.
According to the adviser of Vetëvendosje Movement, Arbër Zaimi, this agreement does not fully satisfy either party. “ This agreement on the part of Kosovo is being treated as a last, very painful concession. We do not know if the people of Kosovo will accept this concession . ” – declares Zaimi.
For Dardan Sejdiu, on the other hand, this document brings a “new” promise for Kosovo from the international factor that there will be advancement of external sovereignty, at the cost of internal sovereignty.
Further, the journalist Fitim Gashi considers essential and challenging the definition of the Roadmap for the implementation of the agreement, for which the discussions have just started and the goal is to be finalized by the middle of March.
Edited by: Viola Keta & Aimona Vogli
*This article was produced as part of the regional initiative the Center Against Disinformation of the Western Balkans