Professor Daniel Serwer, Director of American Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins School
Serbia has a choice: it can normalise sooner or later. If it waits too long—until EU accession is in sight—it will get nothing in return. If, however, Belgrade chooses normalisation sooner, it can still hope for some concessions.
Now that Kosovo’s government has formed, Washington and Brussels will want to find ways of continuing the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. The first order of business should be the implementation of the many existing agreements, especially on energy. It has been a mistake to let them languish. That should be the focus between now and the April parliamentary elections in Serbia when both countries will have democratically legitimised governments that can be expected to last several years.
The next order of business, once a new government takes charge in Belgrade, will be a major confidence-building package that includes the suspension of Kosovo’s tariffs on Serbian goods; suspension of the Serbian anti-recognition campaign and blockage of Kosovo’s membership in technical organisations like UNESCO and Interpol; EU implementation of the visa waiver for Kosovo and continuation of the EU accession process for Serbia.
It has been a mistake to let numerous existing agreements languish. That should be the focus between now and the april parliamentary elections in serbia
Such a package would unblock the Belgrade/Pristina dialogue and open the door to further agreements that move in the direction of complete normalisation. That ultimately means mutual recognition of sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as an exchange of representatives at the ambassadorial level.
Serbia has a choice: it can normalise sooner or later. If it waits too long—until EU accession is in sight—it will get nothing in return. If, however, Belgrade chooses normalisation soon, it can still hope for some concessions on things like the Kosovo Army, protection of Serbs and religious sites in Kosovo, an association of Serb municipalities consistent with the Kosovo constitution, some sort of international regime for North Mitrovica, a mutual agreement on war crime prosecutions and a serious economic package.
The basic principle, however, will have to be reciprocity. Anything Belgrade asks of Pristina for Serbs in Kosovo it needs to be ready to match for Albanians living inside Serbia. The same will need to be true for Kosovo: anything it asks of Belgrade for Albanians inside Serbia, Pristina will need to be ready to provide to Serbs in Kosovo. The days of asking for an Association of Serb Municipalities or limits on the Kosovo Army without providing comparable concessions inside Serbia are over. What’s good for Pristina will have to be good for Belgrade as well.