Amidst Tensions and Hope: Kosovo’s Struggle for Recognition and Sovereignty

Vudi Xhymshiti

PM Kurti’s address to 🇽🇰 Parliament underscores the importance of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and introduces a draft statute affirming Kosovo’s sovereignty and clarifying its international relations.

NOV 5- 2023
In a highly anticipated address before Kosovo’s Parliament, Prime Minister Albin Kurti presented a comprehensive report on the latest Brussels meeting concerning the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. The session was a continuation of the democratic tradition where the executive power accounts for its diplomatic engagements to the legislative body and the public.

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The dialogue, a process that commenced in March 2011, has seen numerous agreements titled as such, yet substantive progress, particularly in Kosovo’s quest for recognition, has been elusive. One such agreement that has faced considerable opposition, including from PM Kurti’s party, Vetëvendosje, is the April 19, 2013 agreement regarding the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities. Despite being mandated into law, the constitutional court found it in breach of Kosovo’s constitution.

The past decade’s dialogue has been marked by an ostensible pursuit of normalized relations with Serbia and the integration of North Kosovo. However, these endeavors have not culminated in Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo’s sovereignty. Instead, the North has remained a hotbed for lawlessness and a stronghold for criminal elements like Milan Radoičić, according to PM Kurti, a legacy of the dialogue.

Since taking office in March 2021, Kurti’s government has adopted a fresh approach to the dialogue, demanding equal footing and mutual recognition at its core. This pivot is aligned with the Kosovar public’s mandate expressed in historic elections, focusing on employment, development, justice, and welfare. The government maintains that true democratic success and economic progress will organically lead to the integration of the North.

Despite violent confrontations with criminal groups in the North, emboldened by Serbian sponsorship as PM Kurti asserts, his administration has continued to uphold the rule of law—a stark contrast to the previous decade.

A breakthrough was reported with the Brussels Agreement reached on February 27 this year, including the Ohrid Annex on March 18. European Union leaders, following the October 26 meeting, publicly acknowledged the agreement as a de facto recognition of Kosovo by Serbia—a significant milestone per PM Kurti.

The agreement’s text embeds this de facto recognition in its preamble and initial articles, suggesting a change in the tenor of dialogue. Nevertheless, challenges persist with implementing Article 7, directly connected to the legacy of the previous decade’s dialogue.

The government’s stance, as reiterated by Kurti to the Parliament, is the full implementation of the Brussels and Ohrid agreements. A proposed draft statute for Article 7’s implementation was welcomed, reflecting a meticulous adherence to Kosovo’s constitutional letter, paving the way for judicial review.

On October 26, on the sidelines of the European Council Summit, PM Kurti met with top EU officials and emphasized the need for enhanced security along the Kosovo-Serbia border, citing recent Serbian aggression. He called for sanctions against Serbia to prevent further hostilities and urged for Kosovo’s inclusion in the Partnership for Peace as a step towards full NATO membership.

Kurti’s speech is a clarion call for justice, underscoring the need for Serbia to extradite individuals like Milan Radoičić to face charges in Kosovo.

As the dialogue unfolds, the Kosovar government is walking a tightrope between seeking justice for past aggressions and forging a peaceful path toward mutual recognition and lasting stability in the region. The report to Parliament was not only an update on the dialogue but a reaffirmation of Kosovo’s unwavering commitment to its sovereignty and democratic values.

Draft-Statute and Sovereignty
The session, marked by the gravity of the topics discussed, unveiled Kosovo’s stride towards clarity in international relations and the protection of its constitutional sovereignty.

Prime Minister Kurti stressed the transatlantic unity represented by the draft-statute, noting its creation with careful regard to Kosovo’s Constitution and existing laws on local self-governance. The draft, he emphasized, was an outcome of serious and unified effort, unlike any initiative he had encountered before, backed by high-ranking officials from the EU and the US.

Detailing the political implications of the draft-statute, PM Kurti outlined four key points:

1. Recognition of Independence: The draft-statute represents a departure from the non-recognition legacy cemented in the 2013 and 2015 agreements. Kurti highlighted the political clarity the document brings to Kosovo’s status as an independent state, which aligns with the multiethnic aspirations of the constitution, devoid of any undermining intentions.

2. Autonomous Mechanism: The proposed mechanism is described as “coordinating and cooperative,” without prejudicing or intervening in the public powers of municipalities and central bodies, maintaining the integrity of public administration.

3. A Future within Kosovo’s Borders: Kurti underscored that the draft-statute closes the avenue used by Serbia to project a future for Kosovo Serbs outside Kosovo’s borders, fostering a living environment within the constitutional and legal framework of the Republic of Kosovo. This clarity demands that Serbia abandon any premise of a separatist or territorial autonomy for Serbs within Kosovo.

4. Statute Amendments: Finally, the draft-statute stipulates that any changes can only be made with the consent of Kosovo’s Ministry for Local Government Administration and the Constitutional Court’s permissive judgment, thereby overturning the ambiguous direction set by the previous agreements and aligning the future course with Kosovo’s Constitution and laws.

PM Kurti refrained from delivering a legal standpoint on the draft’s compatibility with the Constitution, leaving the matter to the Constitutional Court. However, his political perspective conveyed a message of a resilient and forward-moving Kosovo, seeking to solidify its statehood and territorial integrity through dialogue and cooperation with international allies.

The session marked a pivotal moment for Kosovo, as it aims to navigate its diplomatic relations with Serbia under the watchful eyes of the European and American envoys, while upholding its constitutional values and the aspirations of its multiethnic society. The outcome of this parliamentary discourse and the subsequent actions will undoubtedly shape the future of Kosovo’s sovereignty and regional stability.

Kosovar PM Albin Kurti’s Call for Transparency and Resolve in Prishtina-Belgrade Dialogue
During his speech, he made it clear that the drafted agreement that he received was not what he would have written, positioning himself in opposition to the document. He argued that the draft was more focused on the letter of the Constitution than its spirit.

During the meeting on October 26, PM Kurti had expressed to European Union leaders the urgency not only of normalizing relations with Serbia but also of addressing geopolitical urgencies. He mentioned the recent Hamas-Israel conflict and the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine as examples of pressing international issues.

Kurti revealed that he had proposed to sign the Basic Agreement, the Implementation Annex, and the Brussels and Ohrid texts, along with the draft statute he had previously provided. He viewed this proposal as a comprehensive package, with the added request for Kosovo’s candidate status in the European Union and for the NATO Partnership for Peace Program.

However, he disclosed that the President of Serbia had refused to sign any agreement and instead had demanded a side reservation letter. This letter allegedly expressed Serbia’s non-recognition of Kosovo’s independence, its non-membership in the UN, and its non-recognition of Kosovo’s territorial integrity.

Despite these setbacks, PM Kurti asserted that from Brussels’s point of view, there was an agreement, as evidenced by its inclusion in the conclusions of the European Council. According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, this is indeed an agreement. He further clarified that he was prepared to sign and thereby accept the agreement to prevent violations and ensure its implementation.

Kurti then criticized those who claimed that he had accepted the draft statute, stating that he had neither accepted nor signed it. He stressed that his acceptance would only come after the signing of the agreement.

The Prime Minister was also critical of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić for refusing to sign the agreement, unlike his predecessors who had signed similar documents in 2013 and 2015. He suggested that Serbia was either not interested in an association or was no longer interested, as evidenced by their lack of interest shown on October 26.

Despite these challenges, PM Kurti reaffirmed his willingness to sign the agreement and expressed his interest in learning from his predecessors on how they got Serbia to sign in 2013 and 2015.

Albin Kurti called upon his fellow parliamentarians to share their experiences and strategies for effective negotiation, emphasizing his readiness and interest to sign an agreement with Serbia. The Kosovar PM’s speech demonstrated his commitment to transparency and dialogue while underscoring the challenges faced in the Prishtina-Belgrade negotiations.

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Redaksia, diplomacia. dk nuk e merr përgjegjësinë për pikëpamjet e autorit në shkrimin e botuar!


Botuar: 05/11/2023

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