By Emmanuel Bonne, Jens Plötner, Francesco Talò
16 March 2023, dtt-net.com – Our leaders – French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni – tasked us to lend our support to EU High Representative Borrell and EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák in taking normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo a huge step forward.
Why is this so important for our countries? And why should we get more involved now in a dialogue that both sides have been stuck in for so many years?
The reason is that the future, both for Serbia and for Kosovo as for the entire Western Balkans region, lies in the European Union and we want to be your strongest supporters on your path towards becoming members of this Union.
Europe is in the middle of a watershed moment. By brutally attacking neighbouring Ukraine, Russia has brought back a full-scale war to our continent. Part of our response to this unacceptable breach of European security is to work harder to make our European house stronger and more inclusive. For the Western Balkans Six on their way to EU membership we need to make an extra effort to remove the obstacles from the past that keep blocking this path.
The most evident obstacle is the unresolved relationship between Serbia and Kosovo, which is also a European security issue. What we witnessed at the end of last year worried us a lot. Blockades, violence, threats and nationalist rhetoric made the everyday life of citizens in the north of Kosovo hard to bear.
This instability of being constantly just one step away from violent escalation has to end. It has to end because European citizens rightly ask how Serbia and Kosovo will ever be sitting as friends and partners around the same table in Brussels as members of the European Union. How can we reassure them that our support to Serbia and Kosovo is a good idea?
It has to end because investors from our countries read the news and wonder if this region is worth their investments. What should we tell them if the threat of a new conflict is looming?
But first and foremost this situation has to end because the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia deserve a better future. A future in which the quarrels holding both countries back are finally overcome.
The future holds friendship, regional co-operation and a common market. And ultimately, it holds the promise for all Western Balkans‘ countries to join the Member States of the European Union as peers once criteria are met. The opportunity to embark on this future is now.
This is why we proposed a new and sustainable basis for Kosovo-Serbia relations, endorsed by all EU member states and actively supported by our leaders and our American partners. We welcome the strong and courageous signal that President Vučić and Prime Minister Kurti sent in Brussels on 27th February when they accepted the text of this proposal.
This agreement now needs to be brought to life as soon as possible by a clear roadmap for implementation. The important negotiations to come are not about complicating what was agreed upon but about stipulating concrete steps for making it a reality.
What both sides should avoid is trying to re-interpret their commitments. This would mean endangering this unique opportunity and risking to block the road to EU membership.
Kosovo needs to live up to its obligations towards protecting the Serb community including by taking steps to form an Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities and to guarantee a high level of protection to the Serbian religious and cultural heritage sites. Serbia needs to come to terms with the fact that Kosovo is a neighbour who has a European perspective and its own place in the international community.
Time is not on our side. And even more importantly, it is not on the side of Kosovo and Serbia. We need to act with a common sense of responsibility and urgency. A failure would have consequences.
Yes, this will take courageous leadership from both sides and a responsible attitude from political forces within Serbia and Kosovo– but: this is doable. Now it is decision time! We as friends of both Kosovo and Serbia pledge to support you along your path to the European Union.
Emmanuel Bonne, Jens Plötner, Francesco Talò are special advisors for foreign policy and security of France, Germany and Italy.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of dtt-net.com