As opposition leaders voice scepticism about the Washington agreements between Serbia and Kosovo, the EU has claimed it is already dealing with some of the key topics that the US agreements address.
By Xhorxhina Bami*-One day after former prime minister Albin Kurti voiced deep doubts about the economic normalisation deal with Serbia, signed in Washington under US President Donald Trump’s auspices on September 4, the EU has also undermined its significance. Kosovo politicians remain divided on the separate agreements that the two countries signed with the US – which do not specify when they should enter into force, or whether they require ratification by their national parliaments, although domestic laws in both countries say they should be.
After the EU initially adopted a restrained attitude to the US-brokered agreements, on Wednesday, Ana Pisonero, EU Spokesperson for International Partnerships, Neighborhoods and Enlargement, told Radio Free Europe that the EU was already realising key items in the Washington deal.
“The EU has provided technical assistance to the entire Peace Highway”, she said, referencing the planned US-funded motorway connecting Nis in Serbia and Kosovo’s capital, Pristina. It had “already approved investments for the first sections of the highway in Serbia and Kosovo”, she added.
On September 15, the US International Development Finance Corporation, DFC, and the US Export-Import Bank, EXIM, signed Letters of Intent with Serbia and Kosovo on building the new motorway.
Kosovo opposition parties have meanwhile dubbed the US-brokered agreements non-implementable.
In an interview for Kosovo TV channel KTV on Tuesday, Albin Kurti, former prime minister and now the leader of the main opposition Vetevendosje party, called the Washington deal a “messy agreement”, saying it had far too many things written on only “a page-and-a-half”.
Kurti said parts of the agreement could not be implemented at all, citing as one example the air links that Kosovo and Serbia agreed to reestablish with the assistance of the US.
“How can an airline work when Kosovo citizens cannot use their IDs to get to Serbia but must get a form on the border that says they lost their IDs,” he asked, referring to the fact that Serbia does not recognise Kosovo or Kosovo-issued documents. In order for Kosovo citizens to enter Serbia from Kosovo, they must obtain a document issued by Serbian authorities at the non-recognised border.
Another hot issue between Kosovo and Serbia is the implementation by Kosovo of a semi-autonomous Association of Serb-majority Municipalities, which was agreed back in 2013 in Brussels. Kosovo is still trying to duck this sensitive pledge.
After a meeting of the Kosovo parliamentary leadership on Tuesday, Parliament Speaker Vjosa Osmani reiterated that the creation of such an association “with executive competencies is a risk for Kosovo”, saying that the parties who signed the agreement to create it in 2013 should have “understood this along the way”, along with people like her who have “opposed it since the beginning”.
Osmani referred to words of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who previously called the 2013 agreement “an investment in the European future of our children” but is now firmly against setting up the association.
On September 16, Thaci urged parliament to pass a resolution banning the government from discussing such topics as the association of Serb-majority municipalities – calling such discussions a “grave and dangerous mistake”.
The leader of the governing Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, Isa Mustafa, however, reminded Thaci the next day that he had signed the 2013 agreement himself.
Amid various disputes on external politics, Kosovo risks tumbling into another internal political crisis, with the LDK threatening to break up the current fragile coalition if its junior governing partner, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, conditions its continued support on its leader, Ramush Haradinaj, succeeding Thaci as President when his mandate ends in April 2021. Thaci has pledged to end his political career at that point.
Meanwhile, Vetevendosje is pushing hard for new elections. Kurti – who was ousted as PM after a brief term in March – told TV channel KTV that Vetevendosje “will do everything possible to get 50 per cent of the votes together with Vjosa Osmani”, who has been dismissed from the LDK leadership after repeatedly opposing party policy.
“Of course we are ready to cooperate to overthrow the government,” he added. “There have been contacts between parliamentary groups,” he continued, claiming that the only issue for Vetevendosje was which party to form a coalition with.(* BIRN)