What has changed in Ohrid: Have all doubts about the formation of the CSM been resolved?

Bilbordi ZSO
Source: Kosovo Online

In the Annex of the European proposal on the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, which was agreed on March 18 in Ohrid, the main part states the obligation of Kosovo to immediately initiate activities to "establish concrete agreements and guarantees in order to ensure an adequate level of governance for the Serbian community in Kosovo." in accordance with the relevant previous dialogue agreements", in order to implement Article 7 of the European proposal.

"Relevant previous agreements from the dialogue" in this matter refer to the agreements from 2013 and 2015 on the Community of Serb-majority Municipalities, in which it is clearly stated that the Community of Serb-majority Municipalities, in addition to all facilities for member municipalities and the Serbs in Kosovo, would also have administrative power.

After the end of the meeting, Kurti did not deny that the annex said that talks were starting regarding the "self-government of the Serbian community", but he added that the Serbian community and the CSM were not the same things.

"All this is being discussed, we have started those discussions, but we still need a lot to come to a concrete conclusion," he said.

And while the opposition leaders and MPs in the Assembly of Kosovo criticize Kurti because, as they say, he accepted autonomy for the Serbs, MPs of the Self-Determination Movement claim the same thing as the Prime Minister that "self-government" is not the same as the CSM. At the same time, the High EU Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, reiterates that Kosovo should approach its obligations "immediately".

In relation to the question of whether all doubts about the beginning of the formation of the CSM have now been removed, the interlocutors of Kosovo Online say that they have not.

Political scientist Ognjen Gogic believes that the meeting in Ohrid showed that the EU was necessary to reach any agreement and that they were maximally ready to simplify the original idea they had.

As Gogic says, Josep Borrell said that they had had a more ambitious plan and had planned the signing, but they were still ready to adapt to the parties in terms of content and form.

"So we got something that we have never had before in the dialogue, which is that we do not have a direct agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, but separate agreements between Belgrade and the EU and the EU and Kosovo. This is an atypical thing in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina so far," Gogic said.

According to him, it was no coincidence that the CSM had not been included in the annex and that it was probably a new concession for the Kosovo side.

"We heard even before Ohrid that the CSM had to be formed. It seemed as if there was strong pressure from both the EU and the US to do it even before signing this agreement. Then it seemed that it would be included in the agreement as a first step, however, the agreement and the annex do not mention the Community of Serb-majority Municipalities, and that is not accidental, nor is it without significance. It is probably a concession made to Kurti that the CSM is not explicitly found anywhere in the agreement," Gogic said.

He adds that time will show why that compromise was made.

"The agreement does not mention the CSM, but talks about some self-government for the Serbs and says that Kosovo's only obligation is to start the talks about it. It is true that the agreements from 2013 and 2015 are mentioned and that they must be implemented, however, as Pristina in the last 10 years did not fulfill that, there is no reason to believe that this will suddenly happen now, and it actually showed that Albin Kurti resisted the pressure that existed and that he actually got concessions from the negotiators so that CSM does not be included in the agreement," the interlocutor of Kosovo Online says.

Gogic believes that Kurti will reactivate his idea from a few years ago when he offered to form a national council of the Serbs instead of the CSM, and recalls that Kurti proposed it on the model of national councils for national minorities that exist in Serbia or in relation to the one in Croatia that exists for the Serbs.

Kurti will actually continue to muddy the waters, says Gogic, and adds that he will rather offer some alternative forms of self-government than accept the formation of the CSM.

He adds that there is little chance that the EU and the US will continue to press for the formation of the CSM because they got what they wanted - an agreement, and now there is less motivation to continue insisting on the formation of the CSM.

He believes that we are further from the formation of the CSM than a few weeks ago and adds that Serbia's strongest asset is that the Serbs in the north are outside the institutions.

"It turned out that if the Community is not definitive, neither is the return of the Serbs to the institutions definitive," Gogic said.

He added that the goal of the agreement had been to freeze the situation and prevent it from escalating again.

"So that crises don't break out like they did last year and now Belgrade and Pristina are at the beginning of a process of cooperation and agreement. Nothing important will change, especially in the short term, but now Belgrade and Pristina will be in that process of agreement, which is better than measuring forces on the ground through barricades and special police. But little has changed, the only thing is that the international pressure will be less because it was important for them to fulfill the form, to reach an agreement, and the rest will be more or less the same,” Gogic concluded.

Analyst Dardan Sejdiu pointed out that Ohrid had brought a new development of old agreements.

"We have some new developments, basically the old agreements are in question, only now new dates are appearing, and they represent pressure to work out some previous agreements. In terms of some big development, I am skeptical," Sejdiu said.

He added that there were many doubts about the CSM and the European proposal in general.

"I think Borrell told Kurti and Vucic,”Say whatever you want, but the time has come for the agreements to be implemented”. The leaders are saying in public what is important for their voters to hear, and basically, we will see in the next month what kind of the CSM or self-management Kurti will implement. According to what we could see earlier we have 15 ways of self-governance according to European models. No one knows yet what is the difference between self-governance and Community, nothing is clear in the proposal yet. Europeans would say constructive ambiguity, but it is not constructive, especially when it comes to an agreement that was supposed to be a new beginning, not a continuation," Sejdiu concluded.

Director of the Center for the Representation of Democratic Culture from North Mitrovica, Dusan Radakovic, agrees that there are many doubts about the CSM, but that it is important that the Working Group will also have Serbian members.

"There are still many doubts about the agreement and I think that new meetings in the future will bring some explanations. The first and most important thing is that the working group that will work in Kosovo must also be composed of the Serbs who will contribute to the implementation of the CSM so that it would be drawn up as realistically and democratically as possible," Radakovic stated.

He added that future meetings would clarify many things, but that the important point was that previous agreements had to be implemented.

"I see that neither Vucic nor Kurti have much of an explanation of what and how it will be done. The important point is that the previous agreements must be implemented, which means that they will certainly have connections with the CSM, which is part of the Brussels negotiations from 2013," Radakovic says.

He believes that the interpretations of the CSM are different and that no one knows yet what it will look like.

"What is also very important is that the Law on Local Self-Government allows municipalities to have Memoranda and cooperation and create an Association," Radakovic emphasized.