ASSOCIATION OF SERB MAJORITY MUNICIPALITIES IN KOSOVO – Association Impasse

Four years ago in Brussels, on April 19th 2013, Kosovo and Serbia reached the “First agreement on principles governing the normalization of relations”. Widely known as The Brussels Agreement, the deal was reached through EU mediation. The agreement was immediately hailed as “historic” by EU, while there was unconditional praise from all sides, including UN. The exaltation was so high, there were even suggestions that the signatories of the agreement – then EU High representative Catherine Ashton, then Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, and then Prime Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic – should be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. The cornerstone of the Brussels Agreement was the creation of the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities in Kosovo, an institution tying together ten Serb-majority Kosovo municipalities. Six out of 15 points of the Agreement relate to the establishment, scope and functions of the proposed “Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo”, with this dual label as “Association/Community” reflecting different interpretations of the mandate this body will have. Since before the Agreement, the Government of Kosovo has continuously insisted that the Association will be nothing more than just an NGO, while the Government of Serbia has insisted it will be an autonomous entity that will have, as then prime minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic insisted – “key competencies” in governing itself. The EU facilitator continuously refused to clarify such differences of interpretation, to some extent because it did not want to take up the role of a mediator and thus share responsibility for implementation of the reached agreements, but also because what was labeled “constructive ambiguity” was necessary in order to reach the deals. The Association was accepted by the Kosovo government in return for the dismantlement of all the illegal Serbian security structures in the North as well as Serb participation in Kosovo elections. However, the First Agreement was just a framework that required further steps for the Association of Serb majority municipalities to be established. Hence, more than two years later, on August 26th 2015, at a dialogue round hosted by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, the Prime Ministers of Kosovo and Serbia, Isa Mustafa and Aleksandar Vucic, respectively, agreed on “the general principles and the main elements of the Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities, which paves the way for its establishment”. At this meeting, they also agreed on the implementation of the energy agreement and the Action Plan for Telecoms (which were both parts of the First Agreement and already should have been completed two years earlier, in June 2013), as well as on arrangements for the Mitrovica Bridge. As in most other cases, these agreements were not implemented in a timely manner. Apart from the Association Agreement, the implementation of the other three deals never met the agreed deadline: After an escalation in December 2016, when the municipality of Mitrovica North erected a wall behind the Mitrovica Bridge, the “revitalization” agreement had to be renegotiated in order to avoid open Albanian-Serb confrontation in the divided town. The Agreement on Telecom was implemented almost one year later than envisaged while the Energy Agreement is still not implemented. To access the report, please click here.