Serbia-Kosovo Tensions and the Franco-German Plan

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In 2013, the Union of Serbian Municipalities, which came to the agenda after the signing of the Brussels Agreement, constitutes an important dimension of the Kosovo Crisis. This structure, which was envisioned to be established in Kosovo, has become one of the factors shaping the current crisis. In the recent escalation of tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, the fact that the Union of Serbian Municipalities has not yet been established has disturbed Belgrade and made Kosovo Serbs uneasy. On the other hand, actors such as the United States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU) have recently put pressure on the Pristina administration to establish the Union of Serbian Municipalities.[1]

In 2022, after the tension between Belgrade and Pristina reached its peak as a result of the license plate crisis, the EU and the US intervened with their representatives sent to the region and put pressure on the parties to return to the dialogue process. At this point, just like in previous periods, an agreement came to the agenda.

In order to overcome the current tensions, a so-called Franco-German Plan was put forward, which required both Serbia and Kosovo to make certain concessions and commitments to guarantee their rights.

According to the details of the plan leaked to the press, Kosovo is requested to establish the Union of Serbian Municipalities, while Belgrade is requested to respect Kosovo’s territorial integrity and remove obstacles to its integration with international institutions.

The fact that the Franco-German Plan for the establishment of the Union of Serbian Municipalities, which is one of the most controversial issues, was on the agenda and that Serbia, in particular, approached this plan positively, affected the atmosphere. Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, on the other hand, made his position on the establishment of the Union of Serbian Municipalities clear. Kurti openly opposed the establishment of the Union of Serbian Municipalities. Kurti stated that it would be similar to the Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina and would jeopardize Kosovo’s territorial integrity.[2]

At this point, it is seen that the EU and the US put pressure on the Kosovo Government. In a statement, Kurti said that Kosovo was warned that the West would reduce its support for Kosovo if Kosovo was not constructive in the dialogue with Serbia.[3]

As a result of the pressure, Kurti stated that the Union of Serb Municipalities of Kosovo could be established under certain conditions. The first of these conditions is that the structure to be established must be in accordance with the Kosovo Constitution. On the other hand, he stated that Kosovo accepted the plan in principle and underlined that this plan constituted a basis for the progress of the dialogue.[4]

When Serbia’s approach to this plan is analyzed, it is seen that it adopts a more constructive attitude. It is possible to say that Serbia, which has been emphasizing its relations with Western actors, especially as a result of the balance policy it has followed in the recent period, has approached this plan more moderately.

There are several reasons behind Belgrade’s approach. The first one is that Serbia wants to improve its image in the West in the current conjuncture. The country wants to become a regional power with the support of Western actors. In other words, Serbia wants to become a regional leader by getting rid of its current problems in the region.

On the other hand, it is understood that the West is supporting Serbia more than ever on the Union of Serbian Municipalities.[5] In particular, it can be argued that the West, which wants to break Russia’s influence, has taken such a step to keep Serbia on its side. Therefore, Serbia wants the Union of Serbian Municipalities to be established without missing the opportunity and has recently adopted a more constructive attitude. Another reason is Serbia’s integration process with the EU. Moreover, Serbia wants to get rid of its isolation in the Balkans, where the EU’s room for maneuver has increased.

Although Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has approached the negotiations on the plan positively, he has faced some domestic political challenges. Vucic, who presented the details of the plan in the Serbian Parliament session on Kosovo, is facing criticism from the nationalist community, especially from the representatives of the far-right parties. In fact, “traitor” slogans were raised during and after the session.[6]

On the other hand, hundreds of citizens gathered in front of the Serbian Presidential building to protest against Vucic and this plan. The demonstrators argued that Vucic had betrayed Serbia, and chants of traitor were heard again.

All these developments in Serbia reveal the difficult situation in which the Vucic administration finds itself. Although it has a positive attitude towards the Union of Serbian Municipalities, the condition that Serbia should not prevent Kosovo’s participation in international institutions forces Serbia’s hand. Indeed, different segments of society argue that this plan is in the nature of “capitulation”.

It can be said that Serbia is trying to leave a positive impression in foreign policy, especially in the eyes of Western actors. While some consider this plan to be a historic opportunity, Vucic seems to be trying to take advantage of the current situation and turn the developments into an advantage. It can be predicted that Vucic, who has reviewed his relations with the EU, will continue this approach. However, it is not possible to talk about the same situation in domestic politics. Therefore, it can be predicted that debates and differences will become more evident in Serbian politics.

In this process, the Kosovo Question has become part of the rivalry between Western actors and Russia. Considering the role of the US in Kosovo’s independence and Russia’s allied relations with Serbia, this situation becomes even more understandable. The recent attempts by Western actors to “impose” a solution by putting pressure on the parties can also be seen in the context of this rivalry. This is because the West is trying to narrow Russia’s room for maneuver in the region in the shadow of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War.

Despite the West’s expectations, it can be stated that Russia will try to create difficulties by using its sphere of influence in the region.[7] This is because Serbia’s rapprochement with the West disturbs Moscow. Therefore, it can be said that Russia, worried about the US influence in the region, will act in partnership with China and create difficulties in Kosovo. In fact, Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandar Bocan Harchenko claimed that a “fair” solution to Kosovo cannot be reached without Russia and China.[8]

Based on this assessment, it can be argued that the plan in question is not a solution in essence. Because while the plan is imposed on the parties; it also brings along some risks. The first of these is that the structure to be created will be similar to the Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Therefore, there is a possibility of “Daytonization” of Kosovo. On the other hand, it is obvious that Serbian public opinion is not in favor of making such concessions to Kosovo. In other words, even if Kosovo establishes the Union of Serbian Municipalities, Serbian recognition and the removal of obstacles to membership in international organizations are not guaranteed for Kosovo. In this sense, it can be argued that this plan, which Western actors are trying to impose, will only form the basis for the next agreement and will only postpone the problems for a while.

[1] Majda Ruge, “How to kill four birds with one stone: The West’s foreign policy challenge in Serbia”, The European Council on Foreign Relations,, (Date of Accession: 18.02.2023).

[2] “Kurti: Formiranje zajednica na etničkom principu je recept za nove konflikte”, Al Jazeera Balkans,, (Date of Accession: 18.02.2023).

[3] “Kurti: Upozoren sam o smanjenju podrške Zapada ako Kosovo ne bude konstruktivno”, N1 Info,, (Date of Accession: 18.02.2023).

[4] “Aljbin Kurti izneo šest uslova za formiranje Zajednice srpskih opština” Danas,, (Date of Accession: 18.02.2023).

[5] “Vučić: Zahtevi Evropljana i SAD za formiranje ZSO nikada nisu bili snažniji”, Tanjug,, (Date of Accession: 18.02.2023).

[6] “Skupština i u petak o Kosovu, četvrtak prošao uz koškanje i incidente”, N1 Info,, (Date of Accession: 18.02.2023).

[7] Nenad Kulačin, “Može li Rusija da spriječi dogovor Beograd i Prištine?” Al Jazeera Balkans,, (Date of Accession: 18.02.2023).

[8] “Bocan-Harčenko: Rusija je podrška Beogradu-nema pravednog rešenja za KiM bez nas i Kine”, Tanjug,, (Date of Accession: 18.02.2023).

Mustafa Çuhadar, İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi İngiliz Dili ve Edebiyatı Bölümü mezunudur. Lisans döneminde disiplinlerarası çalışmalarına ağırlık veren Çuhadar'ın başlıca çalışma alanları, Balkanlar ve İstihbarat çalışmalarıdır. 2021 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü’nde yüksek lisans eğitimine başlayan Çuhadar, halihazırda Bosna Hersek’teki siyasi partileri inceleyen yüksek lisans tezini hazırlamaktadır. Çuhadar, iyi derecede İngilizce, Boşnakça, Hırvatça ve Sırpça ve temel seviyede Almanca bilmektedir.