The agreements envision freedom of travel and lessoning the burden on people's lives, but some question the impact.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 05/07/11
A Kosovo police officer controls traffic at the Merdare border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia. [Reuters]
The first EU brokered draft agreements between Pristina and Belgrade, allowing freedom of movement of the two countries' citizens, have been lauded by EU officials as a step towards EU integration. But the agreements leave many unanswered questions about the future course of Kosovo-Serbia reconciliation.
"The agreements reached this Saturday are European solutions to some very difficult but very important issues. The aim of this dialogue is to bring both sides closer to the European Union, to improve co-operation and most importantly to improve the lives of ordinary people," EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton said, congratulating Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Brussels.
Despite EU claims, some analysts and the opposition in Kosovo have doubts that Kosovo will benefit much from the agreements.
Burim Ramadani, an MP from the Alliance for Kosovo's Future (AAK), believes that Kosovo has supported Serbia in its European integration process, but its own is not clear.
"It's clear that from this process the only one who wins is Serbia, because it is going closer to the EU, and Kosovo is still dealing with its own problems."
Given Kosovo's undetermined status, Vjosa Osmani from LDK questions the agreements, saying "In no [way can] these can be called bilateral agreements, and you have even heard of the EU representative yesterday who said that the conclusion does not prejudice the status of Kosovo."
Still, others see the agreements in a broader light.
Seb Bytyci, executive director of Balkan Policy Institute, tells SETimes, "These agreements are a first step in the long process of normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. So, they are significant in that sense. If the negotiations are seen as a trust building exercise between the two countries, then this is a good step, regardless of the statements that politicians give to their respective audiences."
Presaging the difficult road ahead, however, Bytyci points out that "The main issues related to parallel structures in Kosovo seem to be open. Pristina and Belgrade negotiators have made contradictory statements about whether the parallel institutions will be functioning."
The two mediators, Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Edita Tahiri and Serbian senior Foreign Ministry official Borko Stefanovic, have not committed to opening new political topics in the near future, especially over sensitive issues like northern Kosovo and parallel state structures.
But Thaci appears committed to reaching further agreements and supports dialogue for dialogue's sake.
"Dialogue is the basis of the EU, and it will help us to Europeanise the Balkans," he said.
Bytyci believes dialogue and implementation of the agreements will be part of the two countries' EU progress reports, providing an external impetus for concrete actions.
"The EU effectively can use the integration process to ensure the implementation of these agreements. Which leaves open the question of how well will they be implemented if there is no progress in integration," Bytyci says.
The agreements, which were not signed, must now be adopted by the goverments of Serbia and Kosovo. Implementation may begin as early as November 1st and will be monitored by the EU, Serbia, and Kosovo.