Kosovo Negotiation team. Photo: BIRN.

Kosovo negotiation team heads to Brussels

Amid domestic polarization between main opposition parties and the government, the Kosovo negotiation team met with the EU chief of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini.

A negotiating team comprised of government coalition partners and one opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, PSD, travelled to Brussels on Tuesday to continue negotiations on the final phase of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

In mid-December 2018, in an extraordinary session initiated by PSD, the Assembly of Kosovo selected a new negotiation team and passed a resolution that will be engaged to finalize a “legally binding agreement” with Serbia.

Since the dialogue process began in 2011, the Kosovo Government had play a central role in the dialogue with Serbia. However, since the current government was formed in 2017 its role in the dialogue process has been minimal, with president Hashim Thaci taking the lead. But it seems the final legal binding agreement between Kosovo and Serbia will need a broader legitimacy and the international community had asked for wider consensus, including U.S. President Donald Trump.

The negotiating team is led by Fatmir Limaj from NISMA and PSD’s Shpend Ahmeti.

The state’s all-men negotiation team is also comprised of Foreign Minister and AKR chief Behgjet Pacolli, PDK’s Enver Hoxhaj, AAK’s Avni Arifaj, Minister of Diaspora and Strategic Investments Dardan Gashi, Minister of Public Administration Mahir Yagcilar and two members of PSD, Visar Ymeri and Dukagjin Gorani, who are filling the open spots rejected by the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, and Vetevendosje.

The two biggest opposition parties, LDK and Vetevendosje, boycotted the December session and refused invitations to be part of the negotiation team.

For any legally binding agreement between Kosovo and Serbia to pass, the agreement requires the approval of two-thirds of the Kosovo Assembly, the country’s legislative body, comprised of 120 MPs.

With the current Assembly composition, Vetevendosje and LDK have 44 MPs  between them. Together, this may block any international agreement from being approved, provided both opposition parties – or enough of their MPs– maintain the political position of their parliamentary group.

Both opposition parties condemn the role of PSD in the process, accusing the party of collaborating with the government and President Thaci by passing the resolution forming the new negotiation team.

“This resolution is a failed effort of PSD and serves to cover the hidden coalition with the government,” said LDK’s parliamentary chief, Avdullah Hoti, at the extraordinary session in December.

PSD rejected these claims, adding that the role of the negotiation team and PSD is to take over Kosovo President Hashim Thaci’s role in the final phase of the dialogue with Serbia and returning the process to the Assembly of Kosovo.

Fears that proposals of ‘border correction’ or land swaps – initiated by  President Thaci — will be legitimized by the negotiation team prevail throughout the main opposition parties.

On the other hand, Thaci himself praised the formation of the negotiation team, and pledged to continue playing his ‘constitutional role’ in the process.

The role of the president in the final phase remains unclear, although until recently, Thaci led the negotiations directly alongside his Serbian counterpart President Aleksander Vucic.

Thaci himself played a central role in the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia since it was launched in 2011, signing the so-called ‘landmark’ agreement between Kosovo and Serbia in April 2013 on the normalization of relations. Until now, Kosovo and Serbia signed 33 agreements, with issues spanning from free movement of people to energy and mutual recognition of university diplomas.

In a press conference following the extraordinary session in December, Limaj said that issues related to missing persons and war reparations would be among those that the negotiation team will discuss with Serbia in Brussels in the upcoming phase.

The EU has demanded that during 2019 a legally binding agreement between Kosovo and Serbia is finalized, in order to progress towards EU integration for both countries.

08/01/2019 - 11:37

08 January 2019 - 11:37

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