Kosovo-Serbia Relations: Is Normalization Possible?

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The ongoing tension between Kosovo and Serbia casts a shadow over political stability in the region.  However, the Russia-Ukraine S-hunt also  adversely affects the tension between the  parties. Because the  historical ties between Russians and Serbs  still have an impact today. However, the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA), which come to the fore with their anti-Russian policies, have taken many steps to prevent the Russians’ room for maneuver. In addition to its support for Ukraine, the EU, which  aims to act jointly especially in foreign and security policies, is making efforts to prevent possible Russian intervention in Kosovo-Serbia relations. The EU has made various moves to end the tension between the two actors and accelerate the normalization process. There are pressures and incentives exerted on the parties to solve the long-standing problems of Kosovo and Serbia, which do not recognize each other, and to accelerate the steps towards normalization.

The tensions reinforced by the Russian-Ukrainian War have brought the problems of sovereignty in the region to the agenda again, which has forced the USA and the EU to take various initiatives that can be described as a preventive diplomatic force against Russia.  It can be said that the main driving force here is to prevent a possible Russian intervention.

After various initiatives, the parties made promising statements in the name of normalization. Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani, in his meeting with officials from the United States and the EU, stressed the inviolability of the borders, but showed that he is not completely against the process, stating that the opinion of the Kosovo Assembly is important for the normalization of relations with Serbia.[1]

As a result of the negotiations between the EU and the USA with the parties for normalization, both sides preferred to stay away from sharp policies due to economic reasons and the reasons for getting rid of political isolation. Although, Serbia has not been able to clearly demonstrate its participation in the sanctions imposed by the EU against Moscow since the Russian-Ukrainian War, it has wanted to reduce the EU’s pressure by trying to prove its support for the Kiev administration.[2]

Kosovo and Serbia have painted an image that they are not opposed to the normalization process after being subjected to these pressures, but they do not want to sign a negative decision against their sovereignty. Therefore, they are in an effort to achieve their own goals by making various contacts with the EU and the USA, which desire to assume the role of mediator in this regard.[3] In this context, Kosovo’s effort to solve the problem of recognition and its desire to secure its borders as an equal state is apparent. Pristina administration expects some EU states that do not recognize Kosovo to decide on recognition.[4]

As such, various incentives have been provided by the EU to avoid any problems on the way to integration and to accelerate the normalization steps. In this context, there have been statements from the EU that the work on visa-free travel of Kosovo citizens has gained momentum.[5] It is obvious that these steps of  the Union are an effort to create motivation for the negotiations.

The Balkans, which have been an area of struggle for influence since the past, continue this feature under the current conditions. Since Kosovo and Serbia do not know each other, the tension between them has decreased in some periods, but the final conclusion cannot be reached.

In order to solve this problem and accelerate the normalization steps, European diplomats hold high-level meetings.[6] In this regard, powerful actors in the region have made moves to bring the parties to the table. In this context, the establishment of the Union of Serbian Municipalities and the implementation of the EU plan, which were put forward for the solution of the problems, have been raised many times. In order to prevent any problems from growing in Europe, states have called for normalization. Especially Germany has stressed that it wants to see the Balkan countries among its ranks so that there is no obstacle in front of the road to European integration. In this context, the Berlin administration has also stated that the normalization of the Pristina-Belgrade line will bring quick results for the EU.[7]

Both Kosovo and Serbia have been adversely affected by the tensions. This problem, which often preoccupies the public opinion in the region, also casts a shadow on a possible peace. When we look at the historical background, the importance of diplomacy in the region where a lot of blood is shed is better understood day by day. In this context, Serbian Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy Nikola Selaković stressed the importance of peace, advocating for 100 years of negotiation rather than fighting for a day.[8]

It is understood from the meeting that tensions will not be easily allowed to grow. Parties emphasizing peace are likely to strengthen their bilateral relations with actors taking the initiative to ensure order in the region. However, there is a strong view that it is extremely important for Pristina that the Union of Serbian Municipalities should be subordinate to the Kosovo Constitution rather than the establishment of the Union of Serbian Municipalities as a separate entity from Kosovo in order to achieve normalization.[9] Considering the sovereignty debate in which these tensions are directly linked, the sensitivity underlying the approach in question is understood.

As a result, it can be stated that both Kosovo and Serbia have accepted the normalization process and therefore the dialogue in order not to interfere with the stability of the region, to increase their prestige in the international system and not to be excluded from European integration. The EU and the United States have come to the fore as the main actors encouraging normalization processes to limit Russia.

[1] “Osmani: Yol Haritasındaki Anlaşma, Kosova Parlamentosu’nun Sınırların Dokunulmazlığına İlişkin Taleplerini İçermeli”, Sloboden Pecat,, (Date of Accession: 06.03.2023).

[2] “Miščević: Sırbistan Henüz Rusya’ya yaptırım Uygulamadı Ancak Ukrayna’yı Desteklemek İçin Çok Şey Yapıyor”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 03.03.2023).

[3] “Kurti, ABD Senatörü Murphy ile anlaşma ve Belgrad ile İlişkilerin Normalleştirilmesi Konusunu Görüştü”, Tanjug,ü, (Date of Accession: 03.03.2023).

[4] “Milanović, tüm AB Üyelerinden Kosova’nın Bağımsızlığını Tanımasını Bekliyor.”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 07.03.2023).

[5]“Kosova Vatandaşları AB ile Vizesiz Rejime Bir Adım Daha Yaklaştı”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 09.03.2023).

[6] “Kosova Cumhurbaşkanı Miroslav Lajcak ile Görüştü”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 09.03.2023).

[7] “Scholz: Sırbistan ile Kosova Arasında İlişkilerin Normalleşmesi Konusunda Hızlı Bir Anlaşma Bekliyorum”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 07.03.2023).

[8] “Selaković: Sırplar Yeniden Barışçıl Bir Yaşam Hakkını Savunuyorlar- Müzakereler Her Zaman Savaştan İyidir”, Tanjug,, (Date of Accession: 07.03.2023).

[9] “Vllasi: ZSO, Kosova Hukuk Sistemi İçinde Olacak”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 04.03.2023).