By: Dragutin Nenezić
At this point, several conclusions can be reached bearing in mind that the annex to the European agreement was published on the EEAS website, along with the agreement itself and the Serbian translation.
The document is entitled Implementation Annex to the Agreement on the Path to Normalisation of Relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and it is very short, with only i12 points (sentences), which I will analyze in turn.
The first point confirms that the Annex constitutes an integral part of the Agreement, as foreseen in the last article of the European Agreement.
In the second point, the parties confirm that they will honor all articles of the Agreement and the Annex, and implement their obligations expediently and in good faith. I will examine the obligations under the ensuing points, but I would first like to point out that this actually means that all provisions of the agreement will be honored without exception (and without a signature, which I will also discuss in depth).
The third point confirms that the Agreement and the Annex will be included in the negotiation framework for the EU accession processes of Belgrade and Pristina. For Belgrade, as expected, this means that new benchmarks will be introduced in Chapter 35.
It already contains benchmarks regarding the implementation of the Brussels Agreements, and the achievement of a final, comprehensive, and legally binding agreement on normalization as a final benchmark (which, I remind you, can also mean recognition), and this will now represent only an intermediate step between those benchmarks.
Bearing in mind that Pristina does not yet have a status that implies grouping by chapters, the implementation of agreements and annexes will be monitored through the work of the Special Group on Normalization of Relations with Serbia, which was formed based on the EU-Kosovo Stabilization and Association Agreement, consisting of Pristina representatives, EEAS and the European Commission. I assume that after the session of the European Council on March 24th, we will receive more details about this mechanism. It is certainly clear now that, even without a signature, the EU will confirm at that meeting that an agreement has been reached, as I have said many times.
In the fourth point, the parties agreed to adopt declaration on missing persons as a matter of urgency. It has been known that this document has been ready for some time, and this was also expected before. Interestingly, the section of the Pristina delegation in charge of this was led by the son of Ukshin Hoti, a missing person, while the families of other missing persons, were compelled to find other means of having their voices heard.
In the fifth point, Pristina undertakes to immediately launch negotiations on „specific arrangements and guarantees to ensure an appropriate level of self-management for the Serbian community“ (the term „self-management“ is still used, which means nothing after the Law on Associated Labor), for the implementation of Article 7 of the agreement and in accordance with previous agreements „as determined by the EU facilitator.“
This would appear to be a reference to the Association of Serbian-Majority Municipalities (ASM), although not under that particular name. It is also questionable under which jurisdictions it would operate, considering that the obligation to honor the previous agreements is narrowed down by the clause „as determined by the EU facilitator“ – so how and under what circumstances agreements on the ASM will be implemented will be determined by Miroslav Lajcak.
According to the Annex, this is Pristina’s main obligation, and the dynamics of its fulfillment will largely dictate the further course of further negotiations. In the coming days, we will see how Kurti will „sell“ this commitment to his political base. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the obligations concerning the „formalization“ of the position of the SOC were not included in the Annex, but Kurti’s interpretation of this is not uplifting.
On the sixth point, the parties agreed to set up a Joint Monitoring Committee within 30 days, chaired by the EU, which will supervise the implementation of all provisions. However, it was not clarified whether this refers to the Agreement or the Annex.
The answer to that question also affects whether the implementation will be reduced to signing a declaration on missing persons and starting work on an ASM that is not an ASM, or whether the implementation will also concern Pristina-issued passports, license plates, territorial integrity, and other pressing provisions from the Agreement.
We will probably get an answer to this question only when this committee is formed, and I won’t dare to predict at this point whether it will happen – it will depend on the political reaction in both Belgrade and Pristina. If that does not happen, both the Agreement and the Annex will be of limited effect and sanctioned exclusively through the EU accession process (which is not a sanction at all, considering the prospects of EU enlargement).
In the seventh point, the EU announced a donor conference in 150 days. Aside from the fact that this is not an obligation to actually collect a certain amount of funds and make them available to the parties, the 150-day deadline tells us that this is the time frame in which the EU expects progress on all issues, including an ASM that is not an ASM.
With the eighth point, the parties agreed that all articles will be implemented independently of each other. I assume this provision was included in case something grinds to a halt concerning the ASM that is not an ASM, which will certainly happen, the whole process would not suffer in the eyes of the Brussels bureaucracy.
The ninth point states that the order of the paragraphs of this annex is without prejudice to the order of their implementation, again I assume due to the ASM that is not an ASM.
In the tenth point, the parties agreed to not to block the implementation of any of the articles. It seems to me that the term „Article“ is used here primarily to denote the articles of the agreement, not th eAannex, so this would mean that the Agreement will be implemented, but I would definitely wait before reaching that conclusion until we see the decisions of the European Council and the act on the establishment of the Joint Monitoring Committee.
The eleventh point states that all discussions related to the implementation of the agreement will take place within the framework of the existing dialogue, that is, with the facilitation of the EU. This is probably an attempt to underline the importance of the EU in the current international circumstances, which objectively render the facilitation role of the EU meaningless (see the example of the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia with the mediation of the People’s Republic of China).
Finally, in the twelfth point, the parties accept that failure to honor their obligations from the Agreement, annexes or previous agreements will have „direct negative consequences“ for their respective EU accession processes, as well as the financial aid they receive from the EU, which once again confirms the character of sanctions – only slowing down of the EU accession process (which is albeit uncertain), with a slightly stronger stick in the form of suspension of financial aid.
For the EU, this is a confirmation of its own importance in the context of the galloping redefinition of the famous „international circumstances“. The annex is a classic example of Brussels bureaucratic Newspeak, mostly dealing with various EU procedures. Also, for the first time, possible sanctions are specified, which, as we have seen, are limited in scope.
For Pristina, this is indisputable confirmation of the obligation that the ASM that is not an ASM must be formed, but it remains to be seen how it will work in real life. Pristina has already received its reward in the form of visa liberalization, and it is an open question whether and how this Annex will affect its foreign policy priorities – recognition by the 5 remaining EU member states, and admission to, to begin with, the Council of Europe.
It is clear from Kurti’s rhetoric (that it is a de facto recognition) that Pristina is aware that there is no formal recognition by Belgrade at this moment. Certainly, Pristina, with the help of the EU, is an active party in this agreement.
When it comes to Belgrade, there are no new direct obligations. Indirectly, the president hinted in his address that, if the ASM is formed, there will be a return to the institutions and elections in the north of Kosovo, and that the National Assembly may have a say on everything in one way or the other. It remains to be seen how and when the provisions of the agreement that are critical for Belgrade (concerning the recognition of certain elements of Pristina’s statehood) will be applied. Therefore, Belgrade is mostly a passive side here, which has to suffer or renounces something.
Last but not least, for the Serbs in Kosovo, this Annex does not bring anything that could convince them that their lives will improve. On the ground, an attempt at pacification by the international factor is visible, but it still does not affect the actual situation. Finally, Belgrade has made no attempt to explain what is actually awaiting them, but some outlines can be conjectured primarily from the statements of the international factor. From my point of view, I’m sure nothing good can be done until these things change.
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