Ivanov: Brussels has prepared a new "carrot and stick" for Belgrade and Pristina, no money without progress in dialogue

Helena Ivanov
Source: Kosovo Online

Helena Ivanov, a research associate at the Henry Jackson Society, states for Kosovo Online that the EU's six billion euros aid package for the Western Balkans, concerning Belgrade and Pristina, should be seen as Brussels' new "carrot and stick," which will be activated based on the progress of the two sides in the dialogue.

"Such a large amount of money is always necessary because two out of the six billion euros are non-repayable aid, and the remaining four billion are extremely favorable loans. In this economy, such financial assistance is welcome to any country, and I believe the EU will, of course, use those funds in that way – if there is a step forward in the normalization process, the money will reach the appropriate accounts. If one or both sides prove to be ungrateful negotiators and hinder the normalization process, I believe access to those funds will then be reduced or abolished," Ivanov notes.

Another perspective from which the new EU aid package should be viewed, according to Ivanov, relates to the entire Western Balkans.

"The EU accession process in the Western Balkans has been greatly prolonged. Trust that any Western Balkan country will join the EU in the near future is at an exceptionally low level. That's why I think this package is a way to keep these countries interested in joining, to continue to see the support and aid that the EU provides to the Western Balkans, and to keep it at the forefront. With the crucial thing missing, of course, which is actual accession or some date when we will truly join the EU," Ivanov says.

She adds that looking at the communication over the past few months, unrelated to the new aid package, the EU has consistently repeated to high officials in Belgrade and Pristina, as well as to the public in Serbia and Kosovo, that accession to the Union and access to funds are conditional on both sides continuing to collaborate, being constructive negotiators, and playing a constructive role in the normalization process.

"I'm sure that even this latest package is not an exception in that sense, that the conditions for enjoying its benefits have been clearly stated," she says.

However, whether these messages will have an effect, as Ivanov emphasizes, depends mostly on the EU.

"The main problem is that there are actually no sanctions. If we look at the negotiating process, especially in the last year, the dialogue produces 'something,' the sides agree on something, and something is verbally accepted, however, nothing is implemented in practice. Often, there is even a step backward after the negotiations themselves, and we see rounds of escalation. The last round of negotiations even ended with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti leaving the meeting and rejecting the proposal put forward by the EU. The reason why something like this is possible is that no one is sanctioned. You say you will do something, then you don't do it, the EU issues somewhat harsher criticisms and tones, possibly some very mild sanctions that are essentially not felt at all. So, why would anyone in such a situation, knowing that they don't have to fulfill what they promised and won't be sanctioned for it, have a motive to fulfill anything?" Ivanov points out.

For this policy to have any effect, she continues, it is truly important for the EU, if one side does not fulfill what it said it would, to ensure that side does not receive assistance.

"Otherwise, we will have the same scenarios we have had so far," Ivanov concludes.