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.

 

Policymaking in the Western Balkans: Creating Demand for Evidence Beyond EU Conditionality

EU aspirants from the Western Balkans find themselves in a lengthy and demanding process of improving their policymaking systems. Sustainable results require not only robust tools and procedures, but also the involvement of all interested parties – civil society, media, interest groups and associations – into policymaking. However, policymaking as a topic is under-researched and its relevance somewhat underestimated both by the state and the civil society actors in the region. This Position Paper presents arguments to highlight the necessity for more streamlined engagement of the civil society to act as effective scrutinisers of policymaking reforms as well as to take a more constructive role in policymaking processes, consequently rendering it more transparent and evidence-based.

The Position Paper is made under the Centre of Excellence on Policymaking Systems in the Western Balkans (CEPS WeB) project, whose aim was to create a Centre for Excellence within the institutional framework provided by the Think for Europe Network (TEN). The project is financed under the framework of the Regional Research Promotion Programme (RRPP).

To access the paper, please click here.

Mapping Confiscation of Criminalized Wealth: A statistical case scenario

Corruption being a major problem in Kosovo, the fight against it has been lifted to a priority by all rule-of-law institutions. Due to an ineffective fight against corruption, Kosovo has been criticized by several international and national reports, including the annual European Commission Country Report. Therefore, Kosovo vulnerability to high levels of corruption and a culture of impunity is undermining democratic institutions, government stability, and seems to hinder economic development.  For these reasons, developing a comprehensive institutional and legislative response to such policy loophole is both challenging and requires an intensive cooperation between all government stakeholders. Therefore, this policy note maps and analyzes the data on criminalized wealth and reflects upon the success/failure of this policy in the fight against corruption and organized crime. The first section assesses the data provided by the Agency for Management of Sequestrated or Confiscated Assets, and evaluates the trends and peaks evidenced as successes and/or failures. The last section provides a set of recommendations for relevant stakeholders aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the fight against corruption and organized crime through confiscation of illicit wealth. To access the Policy Note, please click here.

Crimea is not Kosovo: Seven Arguments against a False Comparison

The events in Crimea have brought the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence back into focus. Russia has played a double game with Kosovo, saying that Western intervention in Kosovo and the state’s independence were illegal, but justifying the occupation and annexation of Crimea by citing Kosovo as a precedent.This policy note rejects the cooptation of intervention in Kosovo and Kosovo’s declaration of independence to legitimate a state taking territory from another. Starting from the cause of intervention and finishing with the act of changing borders, it details seven important differences between Kosovo and Crimea that debunk comparisons before discussing what the referendum means for Kosovo. Crimea’s most obvious danger is that it brings back the debate over Kosovo as a precedent. While this policy note has pointed out why Kosovo is not an applicable precedent for Crimea, Russia and Crimea’s use of Kosovo as a precedent may inflame the fears of those states that do not recognize Kosovo and believe it set a precedent for regions to secede unilaterally. This could delay potential future recognitions. To access the Policy Note, please click here.

 

Association of Serbian Municipalities: From a tool of integration, to a disaster in the making

Part of the Kosovo-Serbia Agreement and on normalization of relations reached through EU mediation, last April 19th in Brussels, was the creation of the Association of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo, an institution tying together Serb-majority Kosovo municipalities with its headquarters in northern Mitrovica. The Association was accepted by the government in Prishtina in return for the dismantlement of all the illegal Serbian security structures in the North.It was agreed that the Association of Serb Municipalities would only be established after local elections were completed throughout Kosovo, including the problematic north. Ideally, the Serb population would elect legal and legitimate representatives to implement the Brussels agreement reached between Prime Ministers Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo and Serbia’s Ivica Dacic of Serbia, and witnessed by mediator and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. To implement the agreement, people and structures on the ground had to be willing to do it, and the Kosovo and Serbia governments had to accept these people and structures. The whole Kosovo-Serbia normalization deal thus obviously rests on having widely accepted mayors and local governments in Serb-majority municipalities.Serb participation in these elections was essential for Kosovo; it represented a unique opportunity to start integrating the Serb community north of the Ibar River. On the other hand, Northern Kosovo was always going to be subject to political negotiations with Serbia. “With 90% of population in the North being Serbs, there’s no other way around it”, said a former EU diplomat.You can download this Policy Note by clicking here.

Visa Liberalization Process in Kosovo: An Assessment Matrix of Achievements and Challenges (Third Assessment Report)

Group for Legal and Political Studies, within the visa liberalization project framework, has monitored the ability of Kosovo‟s institutions to progress in meeting the visa liberalization roadmap benchmarks as well as continuously indentified the main challenges deriving thereof. Thus, this third report is particularly focused in the assessment of the achievements of the Republic of Kosovo institutions in meeting the recommendations of the European Commission (EC) laid out in the first assessment report and the current situation regarding the achievements of the objectives stated in the roadmap, including the remaining challenges. The Government of Kosovo prepared and delivered a report to the EC on the main achievements in September 2012. To evaluate Kosovo‟s progress in the visa dialogue, the EC conducted an assessment mission to Kosovo in October 2012.In February 2013, the EC prepared a report for the European Parliament and the Council on the progress of Kosovo in fulfilling the requirements of the visa liberalization roadmap. The main focus in the European Commission assessment was the process of compliance of Kosovo laws with EU Acquis, but an important part of it is focused on the implementation of particular laws and strategies. On the basis of the findings deriving from the first assessment report, the European Commission prepared a list of recommendations directed to Kosovo institutions, the attainment of which makes Kosovo nearer to the visa liberalization objective.You can download this Policy Note by clicking here.