[Opinion] : A ‘Modern European Way’ for normalization of Kosovo-Serbia relations fades away even before coming to life


By Nicasia Picciano, PhD, @NicasiaPi ,

04 November 2023, – On 27 October Kosovo and Serbia leaders met separately in Brussels with the leaders of France, Italy and Germany. The discussion devolved around what is called  “European Statute” for the establishment of the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities (ASM) in Kosovo and their readiness to implement it.

According to the EU mediators and leaders the presented draft-statute, yet unknown to the public, encompasses a “Modern European way” to address the sensitive issue of minority protection in line with the best European practices and standards. The trojka of Germany, France and Italy stressed that the focus should be on moving forward with the full implementation of the Agreement without preconditions or delays. In concrete, leaders of the three EU member countries called on Kosovo to launch the procedure to establish the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities as set forth in the statute, and on Serbia to deliver on de-facto recognition. What is more, they stressed that failure to progress on the normalization of relations will imply for both parties to risk losing important opportunities.

Sticks for Kosovo, carrots for Serbia

It is the first time that de-facto recognition wording appears in a EU document. Yet, it also seems that Brussels is threatening again Kosovo to give concessions (ASM) to Serbia. Different words and a different language have been used to mean the same thing over and over:  Serbia gets its ASM and Kosovo has to implement it.

In short, the formulation used at the recent Brussels meeting is quite bizarre. It seems rather that the EU is pressuring Kosovo to establish the ASM. Yet, Belgrade has not been sanctioned for its involvement in the attack of 24 September up to now.

A truly reset of the dialogue will only take place if the West changes its appeasement policy towards Serbia once and for all. The recent joint statement does not move in that direction.

Where are the sanctions against Belgrade? What does de-facto recognition would mean in the practice? Where are the guarantees that Serbia won’t turn the ASM into a second Republika Srpska?

Playing with words over the same old plan

Everything is left open and this is dangerous. Brussels should start naming things as they are and act accordingly. It should finally stop trading democracy for the dialogue. The “Modern European way” sounds more a re-labelling of an old pattern. What is needed is an urgent paradigm shift instead.

While the trojka met in Brussels and presented to both Kosovo and Serbia a ‘modern plan’ towards normalization, two days later after the meeting Serbia’s President Aleskandar Vucic reiterated that Belgrade will not to accept Kosovo`s recognition  and its membership in the UN.

He refused to sign the documents presented by the trojka, considering that they referred to the acceptance of de-facto recognition of Kosovo.

At this point, it seems that the ‘Modern European way’ faded away even before coming to life.

It is now to see how things will move on. It might happen that Kosovo is pressured to implement the ASM anyway and Serbia will probably continue to be appeased as this has happened until now. Yet, this will only create further friction.

Dangerous gateway for Russian influence

Implementation of the Association for Kosovan Serb-predominantly municipalities without de-jure recognition of Kosovo by Serbia will mean: expansion of Russian influence also within Kosovo; legalization of Serbian parallel institutions currently illegal in Kosovo; and a prelude for a secession afterwards.

Anyone who believes that setting up the Association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo will ever lead to Serbia recognising Kosovo is either cynical or naive. Double-standards are not just morally wrong, they are self-defeating and counterproductive in the long-run.

It is difficult to expect any major policy shift in the Kosovo-Serbia relations as long as what happened in Banjska is seen as something not unique. Also, if the great obstacle to a normalization is the establishment of the ASM, but not words are expressed about possible punitive measures on Serbia, it is unlikely that any concrete change might pop up.

In the meantime, investigations over Serbian state involvement are still ongoing and once completed the EU will decide about eventual measures to adopt.

Kosovo should refrain from signing any further deal if: Serbia is not punished for its involvement in the Banjska attack and if it does not recognize Kosovo as an independent and sovereign country. Appeasing the appeasers will be fatal for Kosovo and the region.


Nicasia Picciano holds a Phd on European Union state-building in Kosovo from the University of Flensburg, Germany. She is the author of the book the European Union State-Building in Kosovo. Challenges and Lessons Learned: An Assessment of EULEX, Dr. Kovač, Hamburg. She has previously worked as a researcher for Kosovo Foundation for Open Society, Prishtina, Group for Legal and Political Studies, Prishtina and Balkans Policy Research Group, Prishtina. Currently, she covers the Western Balkans for Sbunker (Prishtina) and Le Courrier des Balkans (Paris). Her research interests span from peace- and state-building, reconciliation and ethnic conflict, cultural tourism, green energy transition, the Berlin Process and the Connectivity Agenda in Kosovo and the Western Balkans.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 

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