Kirby: The reality is sometimes harsh, but the agreement on the CSM was reached a long time ago; it should be implemented

Majkl Kirbi
Source: N1

The current situation looks like the dance of Kurti and Vucic - one says he will do something, then the other does, and in the end, they both withdraw. No one wants to be seen as the one who gave in first, this is the first association on the current phase of dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo of Michael Kirby - a retired diplomat and former ambassador in Belgrade, Voice of America reports.

The long-time American diplomatic representative for the Voice of America, among other things, analyzed the performance of Western diplomats in Pristina and Belgrade in intensifying the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.

The epilogue of those talks should ultimately be an agreement on the normalization of relations between the parties led by Albin Kurti and Aleksandar Vucic.

"I think both of them want to give the impression that they are reluctantly forced to agree to an imperfect plan. And that's how it should be because if it was perfect for one side, the other would be extremely dissatisfied. So it's best for both parties to be moderately dissatisfied," Kirby believes.

McCarthy: Signal was sent to Kurti to get out of his corner

"It is a signal sent to Kurti that he needs to get out of his corner and commit to something related to or contained in the still unknown proposal of the European Union. I believe that it could be something related to the Community of Serb-majority Municipalities - which is a topic that Vucic probably brought up as a necessity in order to be ready to compromise regarding Kosovo's membership in international organizations", Paul McCarthy assesses for the Voice of America. expert of the non-governmental American International Republican Institute.

In explaining his readiness to agree to the EU's plan, the official version of which has not yet been disclosed, President Vucic spoke about the pressures to which Serbia could be exposed in the event of a negative response.

He mostly alluded to the economy, but also to the possible blockage of the accession process for membership in the European Union.

"It seems that Vucic is backed into a corner where he has to choose the side he will be on: whether it will be the European side or the Russian aggressor side. It's as if he was informed that if he didn't start making the right moves regarding Kosovo - that the future of Serbia would be without the European Union," Michael Kirby assures.

According to official data, during the last 23 years, Serbia had received more than 3.7 billion euros from the European Union. The EU provides financial and professional support for strengthening and reforming the rule of law, public administration, and environmental protection.

Every year, as a country in the negotiation process, Serbia can receive more than 200 million euros from the EU's pre-accession funds - for the construction or renovation of infrastructure or other purposes.

"Considering what he said in his address - I got the impression that Aleksandar Vucic was preparing his voters and citizens of Serbia for some kind of change or at least for possible concessions in connection with the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo - which he was not ready for. The impression is that more significant pressure was applied than was the case before - and that it had an impact," McCarthy says.

The dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, a process of changing performance, was especially slowed down during 2022 - a period marked by Russia's attack and military aggression against its immediate neighbor Ukraine.

That move, as well as the strong influence that Russia maintains in the Balkans - especially in Serbia based to a large extent on the Kosovo issue, undoubtedly accelerated Western emissaries in their efforts to end the dispute between Kosovo and Serbia as soon as possible.

"It is not possible to say with 100% certainty whether Serbia wants to get rid of Russian influence. The government there consists of numerous supporters of Russia - let's take Mr. Vulin for example. That is not true for Mr. Vucic - he seems to want to follow a straight line that seems to be closer to Russia. Also, I don't think the Russians would give up Serbia so easily. They have many interests in the fact that Serbia is available to them," Michael Kirby says.

CSM as a reality

In addition to Serbia, the European Union and the United States are insisting on this - as Gabriel Escobar, the representative of the US administration for the Balkans recently spoke about in an interview with the Voice of America.

"The Community of Serb-majority Municipalities will be basic - with or without Kurti," the American official was decisive.

"Reality is sometimes harsh, but the agreement on the Community of Serb-majority Municipalities was reached a long time ago. We are now in 2023 and that agreement needs to be implemented at some point. The CSM is made up of good things. I am optimistic that implementation could happen with an agreement with Kurti or any other government in Pristina," Michael Kirby says.

With partial disagreement with the Kosovo Constitution, part of the international and local public fears that the establishment of such a community could initiate problems similar to those faced by neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One of the entities there - the Republika Srpska - is often labeled as the brake on reforms and the cause of instability in the country, which was only recently granted the status of a candidate for membership in the European Union.

"For the formation of such a community, it is necessary to obtain the unequivocal and clear consent of the Kosovo authorities. Prime Minister Kurti and other political leaders need to be involved in it. I don't think it's possible to do that without some kind of agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, but I don't believe that it could be the first thing that the two sides will sign. Maybe they will prove me wrong, but I don't believe that the parties are able to make such a step," Paul McCarthy concludes for the Voice of America.

Kosovo and Serbia are negotiating the normalization of relations and a comprehensive agreement under the auspices of the European Union - with the help of the United States.

For now, it is not known when the new round of dialogue will take place.