The Executive Director of the Center for European Strategies-Eurothink, Dimitar Nikolovski: “Chaos and uncertainty in the Western Balkans serve Russia’s global interests at a time when the EU and the US are trying to resist.”

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The steps have taken by Kosovo to make regulations regarding ID cards and license plates in July 2022 resulted in an increase in tension on the Belgrade-Pristina line. Although the ID cards issue between the two countries has been resolved with the mediation of the European Union (EU), the dispute over the license plates continues. While the tension about the vehicle plates continues; Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic made a remarkable visit to the north of Kosovo on September 5, 2022. The Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) shares Dimitar Nikolovski’s opinions in order to seek an answer to the meaning of Serbian Prime Minister Brnabic’s visit to Kosovo who is Executive Director at Center for European Strategies-Eurothink.

  1. Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic visited northern Kosovo Monday. The visit to the northern municipalities of Kosovo comes after Prishtina and Belgrade agreed on the abolition of entry-exit documents, which Serbia had been issuing to Kosovo citizens since 2011. What does it mean Brnabic’s visit to Serbian municipalities in the country amid ongoing tensions?

After the letter of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that ties between Kosovo and Serbia are crucial, Brnabic visitied the north of Kosovo, while at the same time Kosovo ministers visited areas in southern Serbia where Albanians are in the majority. But there were a lot of NATO troops stationed along the roads in northern of Kosovo and this kind of security shows us that everyone is being cautious and no one is very sure about the intensions on both sides.

The immediate intention Brnabic’s delegation was to calm down the people of Mitrovica with majority of Serbs.  But, at the same time, people there were holding slogans with the words “As long as we have Vucic and our Ana, we are not afraid of anything,” “We have only one Prime Minister” and “Welcome to Serbia”. This indicates a provocation on the side of Kosovo Serbs and the legitimation of it by the Serbian government.

  1. The matter of license plates, however, remains unresolved. Pristina has given a two-month deadline for all Kosovo citizens to have car number plates issued by Kosovo institutions. Brnabic said that Serbia’s interest is calm and stability. So how do you evaluate Prime Minister Brnabic’s messages in Kosovo?

Her message goes both ways: one was that her visit can go very calmly without tensions, in which she succeeded. She claims that Kosovo will respect the Association of Municipalities with a Serbian Majority that was formed in 2013, but Serbia doesn’t accept Kosovo’s independence. On the other hand, she accepts that people can freely move across borders between Kosovo and Serbia just with Identity Card, issued both by Kosovo and by Serbia, which is de facto recognition. The main intensions aren’t very clear, does Serbia accepts Kosovo or not? It is my impression that the Serbian government is taking things very slowly in the direction of normalizing relations with Kosovo and accepting its institutions, but they do not have the luxury to directly say and declare it.

  1. She emphasised that now is the time to form the association of Serb municipalities with a Serbian majority in Kosovo and added that she would repeat this wherever she goes – from Mitrovica to Brussels and Beijing. What do you think about Community of Serb Municipalities? How does this topic affect Belgrade–Pristina negotiations?

The association, in particular, aimed to promote the transition of Kosovo Serbs (in the northern municipalities), from the system of Serbia to that of Kosovo, and to facilitate the full integration of the remaining parallel structures in the north, including those of health and education. The association relies on the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the Ahtisaari Plan. According to the agreement, the competences of the AKS would be exercised collectively and include the full overview in the fields of economic development, education, health and social care as well as urban and rural planning. In one word they will have their own municipality and quasi-government. Albanians from Kosovo are not happy and over 200.000 individuals signed a petition in 2015 against it. The parties continue to disagree on essential aspects of the ACS, including its name. From the beginning, Serbia and Serbs refer to it as the Community, while Kosovar institutions use ‘Association’. There are essential disagreements on the nature of this entity, and it remains to polish them through further negotiations.

  1. And last one; How Russia-US-EU plays a role in the crisis between Kosovo and Serbia?

The very fact that Putin often speaks of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina lately indicates that Russia has an interest in destabilizing the Western Balkans, mostly for the purpose of defocus. Russian wants to utilize Dodik more directly, and Serbian leadership at least partially. Chaos and uncertainty in the Western Balkans are currently very convenient for the Russian interests globally, which the EU and US try to resist.

Dimitar Nikolovski is the Executive Director of the Center for European Strategies-Eurothink. He furthermore acts as the External Associate of the Institute for Advanced Studies Kőszeg in Hungary. He is enrolled in a PhD program at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland with a research focus on populism and civil society in South-Eastern Europe. He holds a BA in Political Science from the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje, Faculty of Law, Iustinianus Primus, MA in Political Science from the Central European University in Budapest, and an MA in Human Rights and Democracy from the University of Sarajevo and University of Bologna.He acquired a vast research experience by working as a researcher in several think-tank organizations in North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. His research interests are in the field of civic activism in Central and Eastern Europe and its relations with some of the latest, contemporary topics such as European integrations, democratic backsliding, migration, as well as right-wing populism and extremism in Europe.

Lisans eğitimini Gazi Üniversitesi İletişim Fakültesi'nde tamamlayan Sibel Mazrek, yüksek lisans eğitimine Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Lisansüstü Eğitim Enstitüsü'nde Gazetecilik Ana Bilim Dalı'nda devam etmektedir. Çeşitli medya kuruluşlarında muhabirlik, spikerlik sunuculuk görevlerini üstlenen Mazrek, ANKASAM'da Medya Koordinatörü olarak çalışmalarına devam etmektedir.