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Will the French-German Proposal Finally End the Longest Conflict in the Balkans?

There was a general understanding reached during the previous meeting between Prime Minister Kurti and President Vucic in Brussels over contents of the Franco-German proposal, also known as the EU Plan for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

While the agreement on the Franco-German Proposal is being sold to the audience as a victory from both sides, an important meeting is expected tomorrow in Ohrid, where the parties must agree on the Agreement’s Implementation Annex. Even though Serbia has not shown itself ready to sign the proposal, both parties will start talks on the way of implementation. Considering the international pressure for this agreement, now both parties cannot resist the democratic world in which the USA, EU, Germany and France are involved. But the issue is how willing the parties are to compromise on the way of implementing this plan. 

Gabriel Escobar, the United States of America’s special envoy for the Western Balkans, visited Belgrade three days prior to the conference in Ohrid. Meanwhile, one day before this meeting, Escobar is staying in Kosovo, holding intensive meetings with state leaders. “I am quite hopeful about the potential for a peaceful solution between Kosovo and Serbia and I hope that after Saturday we will have good news,” Escobar said during his stay in Pristina. He also stated that he anticipates a favorable outcome in Ohrid tomorrow. 

Mutual recognition, emphasized by the Government of Kosovo as the key point of any final deal to normalize relations between the two countries, is not mentioned in the 11-point paper that was made public by the EU on February 27. The formation of the Association of Municipalities with a Serbian Majority is another contentious issue in the document, as it implies that Kosovo will implement Article 7 of the proposal’s Community of Municipalities Agreement as well as officially formalize the status of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo.

On March 18,  both parties are anticipated to meet separately with the EU mediators Borrell and Lajcak in Ohrid before continuing with the four-party meeting of Kurti, Vucic, Borrell, and Lajcak. Gabriel Escobar, the United States of America’s special envoy for the Western Balkans, may also attend this meeting as an observer. No signature is expected on March 18, of course from Vucic’s side, because Serbia has not yet given up its chauvinist policy towards KosovoThe mood of people in Serbia, who are potential Vucic voters, can also be a reason. If the signing does not happen this day, the positions will converge, but the international community will not allow the indefinite postponement of useless meetings. The rejecting party should be punished in this case, as the EU mediators have highlighted several times.

The EU plan does not force Serbia to officially recognize the independence of Kosovo, but obliges both countries to recognize each other’s documents, such as: passports, diplomas and license plates. Since mutual recognition is off the table, the agreement on the plan is more ‘cosmetic’ to produce actual peacetime and to give more chances to dialogue.Without mutual recognition, this plan is not the one that solves the final problem between the two statesConsequently, we will not expect great agreements in the futureWe may have a re-awakening of the past agreements which were mainly not implemented by Serbia and triggered security crises, especially in the last two years, between the two countries.

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