Serbia and Kosovo: the big breakthrough at last?

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti met with EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell in Brussels on Monday to discuss the Franco-German plan to normalise the situation in Kosovo. Although nothing has yet been signed, the proposal can be considered accepted, Borrell said, adding that all that remains to be done is to implement it. Commentators are less certain about that.

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Jutarnji list (HR) /

Leave no room for misunderstandings

The agreement must be clearly defined and monitored, Jutarnji list warns:

“Past experience tells us that constant vigilance by the EU and the US is necessary - and at the highest level. All it takes is for the EU to relax a little and Serbia and Kosovo will seek reasons to delay the implementation of their obligations and different interpretations and recriminations will follow. There are still different interpretations of the Dayton Agreement today, even though it was signed 30 years ago. There are also different interpretations of UN Resolution 1244 on Kosovo and the International Court of Justice's ruling that the proclamation of Kosovo's independence does not violate international law.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Unfortunately the plan comes from outside the region

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung remains cautious:

“The path to the agreement has been covered in just four months. That's breathtakingly fast when you compare it with the pace of previous negotiations. ... The plan itself is not bad, it at least resembles a compromise. Its biggest flaw is that it was not negotiated by the conflicting parties but entirely by external ones. Imposed solutions have rarely worked in the Balkans. Here, Serbia should have taken the initiative. But it never said what kind of solution it wanted, only what it didn't want. Now others have taken action. The EU has lost more than enough time in this region.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

A betrayal of democracy and human rights

Erich Rathfelder, Balkans correspondent for the taz, says the agreement is a farce:

“The Europe of the EU is now openly advocating the policy of ethnic division, it wants to enforce the Association of Serb municipalities with all its symbolically negative consequences for the coexistence of people across the Western Balkans. ... The EU and the US are no longer focused on implementing democratic and human rights values in the Balkans but on reaching a compromise with the autocratic Serb leader Aleksandar Vučić, whom they want to extract from Putin's grip. Does the US ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill, really believe that Vučić can be converted and turned against Putin by betraying democracy and human rights?”

Der Standard (AT) /

Belgrade is playing a double game

Serbia's behaviour does not indicate a serious interest in stability, observes Der Standard:

“Vučić refused to sign his name to the treaty on Monday - unlike Kurti, who was willing to do so. He clearly wants to buy time and first equip an association of Serb municipalities to be created in Kosovo with as many instruments of influence as possible. ... There will only be sustainable and long-term security for Kosovo and the entire region if Serbia adopts the EU's policy towards Russia, finally implements the sanctions, which it is obliged to do as an EU candidate, and genuinely withdraws from the Kremlin's guardianship. However, there is no sign of this happening. So Serbia continues to sit not just between but on two chairs.”

Iswestija (RU) /

Vučić won't saw off the branch he's sitting on

Commenting in Izvestia, Balkans expert Milan Lasovich doubts the project will be successful:

“There is little hope of a rapid implementation of the agreements and a significant turnaround in the Kosovo issue. The conditions for this are not yet ripe, also in view of the Ukraine conflict. Although Serbia is being forced to make certain concessions on the Kosovo issue, its strategy has not changed from a global perspective. This is due to the existence of certain 'red lines' - the impossibility of officially recognising Kosovo. If he does this, Vučić can forget about his presidency and his political career in general, because it would be over.”