Regaining agency: How to help Serbia and Kosovo move towards the EU?

Policy Brief, March 2012

Authors: Cristian Ghinea Director of CRPE,  Jordi Vaquer i Fanes Director of CIDOB, the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (Barcelona, Spain)

The Romanian Center for European Policies (CRPE), in partnership with Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) releases the report“Regaining agency: How to help Serbia and Kosovo move towards the EU? A strategic review of non-recognition of Kosovo”.

Four years after Kosovo declared its independence, the five EU member states that do not recognise it risk being cornered into a defensive situation in the EU, despite their numerous concessions, and left with the threat of veto as their trump card on Kosovo issues. Thanks to the agreement between Belgrade – Pristina on denomination, the five countries now have the opportunity to rethink their objectives and strategy, and to play out their non-recognition in a new way, which allows them to be not just constructive, as they have proved to be in the past, but proactive and strategic. To seize the opportunity, they should:

  • Put aside the fear of back-door recognition. The preoccupation with ‘tacit’ or ‘implicit’ recognition, which has resulted in so many disputes and blockages, is misplaced. The whole point about recognition is that it is public and official. The decision to recognise will always remain in the hands of each state.
  • Use the Belgrade – Pristina agreement on designation across the board. Their dialogue is in line with the position of the five EU non-recognisers, who claim that the status of Kosovo should not be resolved without direct negotiations between the two parties. Now that it has produced a mutually-accepted designation, that designation could be used to allow Kosovo into organisations and to upgrade relations with the EU, including a full Association and Stability Agreement
  • Focus on the integration of Serbia and Kosovo into the EU. All EU countries agree that their future is in the EU, regardless of their status. Therefore, the objective should not be to block recognition or support one party over the other, but to use the minority position of non-recognisers to steer Belgrade and Pristina towards reform and compromise, both of which are indispensable for their accession to the EU.
  • Communicate better non-recognition and its motivations. Despite constant denial by its governments, the non-recognition of five EU member states is connected to their internal motivations by observers and partners in the Balkans, in Europe and beyond, and by domestic audiences. With the exception of Greece, the constructive steps of most non-recognisers happened behind closed doors, and are therefore invisible and brought no benefits to non-recognisers.

This report was issued as part of the project “Kosovo in dialogue with Europe”, financed by Kosovo Foundation for Open Society (KFOS).

The content of this report does not necessarily represent the official position of KFOS.

The report is available here.