Agreements between Kosovo and Serbia calling for creation of an Association of Serbian Municipalities have transformative implications for the future of Serb communities in Kosovo, and the country’s governance more broadly. Yet progress on establishing the Association has stalled. PAX and its partner, ECMI Kosovo, have launched a new report detailing a proposed compromise on the Association, aimed at ‘breaking the impasse’ between Kosovo and Serbia.
As originally envisioned in a 2013 agreement between Kosovo and Serbia brokered by the European Union, the Association is intended to represent the collective interests of those municipalities in Kosovo with an ethnic Serb majority. Serbs in Kosovo expect it to provide institutional autonomy for their communities and a durable link to Belgrade; among ethnic Albanians, fear that the Association will become a de facto satellite inside Kosovo is widespread. There has been no political progress on establishment of the Association.
PAX and ECMI Kosovo conducted research to identify the needs and concerns of Serb communities in relation to the Association. That research informs a report that includes a full package of recommendations on its set-up – proposals that respect the functionality of the Kosovan state and protect its multi-ethnic character. The report, The Association / Community of Serb-majority Municipalities: Breaking the impasse, charts a path toward a breakthrough compromise acceptable to all of the key stakeholders. It assesses the likely value-added of an association of Serb-majority municipalities, based on principles of inter-municipal cooperation: specifically, how such a body can address the needs and concerns of the Serb communities in Kosovo. Based on this assessment, it maps out practical arrangements that maximize the coordinative potential of the Association, to be complemented by ‘joint public institutions’ for education, culture and health care. The report also lays out how to achieve agreement on the Association’s set-up, with a focus on strengthening measures for democratic debate and ensuring citizen and civil society input.
Report launch and reception
In Pristina and Brussels, PAX and ECMI Kosovo presented the report to relevant Kosovan, EU, and other stakeholders. The Pristina event featured Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister, Branimir Stojanovic, and Deputy Minister of Local Government, Bajram Gecaj, as respondents. Representatives of embassies, the EU, Kosovo government, and international organizations were represented. The Brussels launch was hosted by the Permanent Representation of the The Netherlands to the EU, Pieter de Gooijer, and attended by representatives of EU institutions and Member States.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi recently announced formation of a working group to move forward on establishment of the Association. In addition to further advocating for the report’s recommendations in Pristina, Brussels, and elsewhere, PAX and ECMI Kosovo will explore ways our organizations can support the working group to deliver a breakthrough.