On August 25th, under the auspices of the EU, Belgrade and Pristina have signed new agreements on how to further normalise their mutual relations. Prime Ministers Aleksandar Vučić (Serbia) and Isa Mustafa (Kosovo) signed four agreements, facilitated by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. The VP/HR Mogherini voiced satisfaction for an agreement that marks a “landmark achievement” in the normalisation process between Belgrade and Pristina. “Solutions such as those found today bring concrete benefits to the people and at the same time enable the two sides to advance on their European path”, said the VP/HR Mogherini.
Nevertheless, the cooperation agreement seems to have been written in foggy terms. This constructive ambiguity allows both side to claim victory and interpret the deal at their own way; it has been so since April 2013, when Belgrade and Pristina signed their first “historic” agreement on the normalisation of relations.
As matter of fact, interpretations of Belgrade and Pristina differ completely, especially on the Community of Serb Municipalities. While Belgrade insists on the meaning of the term “Community” suggesting that it implies a legal entity with executive powers, Pristina is resolute about sticking to the term “Association”, arguing that this is only a kind of a non-governmental organisation with no executive powers.
However, the entity will operate under Kosovo law and will have to work with the central authorities of Kosovo. Thus, it would be interesting to see how the statute of the Community of Serb Municipalities will be negotiated and implemented.
According to the main elements of the agreement , the Community of Serb Municipalities will be endowed with the legal capacity necessary under Kosovo law. The Community will represent the common interests of the municipalities, among other instances before the central government; it will work on strengthening local democracy and advancing local economy, supervise education and health care and coordinate planning in urban and rural environments. The Community will have its own budget and will be financed from members’ contributions, revenue from services, transfers from the Kosovo government, and from the financial support of other associations, both domestic and foreign, and the Republic of Serbia. The Community will have an assembly, a president who will represent the Community before the Kosovo authorities and outside Kosovo.
The other agreements on energy, telecoms, the freedom of movement in Mitrovica/Ibar, are also highly ambiguous. The energy deal was signed but without agreement on the operative-distributive system and property. Thus, differences remain over the issue of ownership of the energy system in northern Kosovo. With regard to Mitrovica, the symbol of division, the arrangement of the bridge symbolizes a new spirit of dialogue. Nevertheless, while Pristina claims the de jure sovereignty over the North of Kosovo, it diminishes the chances to keep an effective control over the area.
Despite these ambiguities, the agreement also carries political weight, both in the context of European integration and regional cooperation, especially since it was reached just two days prior to a meeting of Western Balkan leaders and EU officials in Vienna. As matter of fact, the deal will pave the way to the opening of the first chapters of the accession negotiations with Serbia , that Belgrade has been striving for since receiving the candidate status a year and a half ago.