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Brussels Agreement (2013)

The Brussels Agreement (Albanian: Marrëveshja e Brukselit; Serbian: Бриселски споразум / Briselski sporazum) was made between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo on the normalization of their relations.[1] It was negotiated and concluded, although not signed by either party, in Brussels under the auspices of the European Union. The negotiations were led by Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, and mediated by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. The agreement was concluded on 19 April 2013.[2]

Contents

  • Background 1
  • Talks 2
  • Agreement 3
  • Later talks 4
  • Reactions 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Background

Following the Kosovo War and NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, Kosovo was under United Nations administration under UNSC Resolution 1244 until the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence, rejected by Serbia. The declaration received mixed international recognition. Serbia continued to deny recognition.

Talks

Ten rounds of talks were held at the European External Action Service office in Brussels. Baroness Ashton, the EU High Representative, had been chairing talks for two years.[3] Relations between Kosovo and Serbia had previously been difficult. Normalisation of relations with neighbouring states is a key precondition for states wishing to join the EU; the Brussels Agreement brought Kosovo a step closer to signing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA). One of the most difficult problems was the status of ethnic Serbs living in North Kosovo.

U.S. diplomats supported the dialogue from the beginning. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Baroness Ashton to undertake joint travel in the Balkans, and the two made joint visits to Belgrade and Pristina (as well as Sarajevo) in October 2012. Clinton assigned Deputy Assistant Secretary of State ambassador Philip Reeker to support Ashton's efforts. Reeker and his team coordinated closely with EU colleagues, and met with Serbian and Kosovar representatives on the margins of every dialogue session in Brussels, and during visits to the region.

The result was a 15-point "First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations", initialed but not signed on 19 April 2013.[4]

After the agreement was concluded, the European Commission officially advised that work start on an SAA with Kosovo,[5] and accession negotiations began with Serbia. The agreement was supported by the European Union, NATO, the OSCE, and the United Nations.[6]

Agreement

The document integrates Serb-majority municipalities in Northern Kosovo into the Kosovo legal system, while providing certain guarantees. For example, all judicial matters are under the law of Kosovo, but Kosovo Serbs must be a majority of certain judicial panels, and a panel (Mitrovica District Court) must sit in Northern Mitrovica. Similarly, all policing is to be done by the Kosovo Police, but the Police Regional Commander for the Serb-majority areas must be a Kosovo Serb, chosen from a list provided by Kosovo Serb municipalities.

Neither Kosovo nor Serbia may block the other party's progress towards accession into the European Union.[7][8]

Later talks

After the Brussels Agreement, further discussions were held in August 2013 to implement some of the items agreed upon earlier and to deal with issues in the energy and telecom industries.

There were also concerns about how the 2013 local government elections in Kosovo would be administered; the government of Serbia objected to any mention of "the state of Kosovo" on ballot papers.[9] The government of Serbia agreed that it should encourage Serbs in northern Kosovo to get involved in these local elections.[10]

In October 2013, arrangements were made for Serbian officials to visit North Kosovo.[11] It was agreed that electoral bodies in Kosovo would include Kosovo Serb representatives[12] and that international dialing code +383 would be attributed to Kosovo.[13] The new code is expected to go into effect in late 2015.[14]

Reactions

Some scholars, including Smilja Avramov and Elena Guskova, stated that the Brussels Agreement violates the Constitution of Serbia and the United Nations Charter and represents an indirect recognition of the independence of Kosovo.[15]

The Kosovo Assembly has ratified the agreement, accepting it into a law, and treating it as an "international agreement".[16]

The Serbian Assembly has not treated the agreement as international, and has not ratified it into a binding law, which is a procedure required for international agreements in Serbia. [17] It has, however, merely accepted the government report about the "hitherto process of political and technical dialog with the temporary institutions in Pristina with the mediation of EU, including the process of implementation of the achieved agreements". [18] The constitutional court in Belgrade, answering the question about constitutionality of the agreement, has moreover ruled in December 2014, [19] that the agreement is only a political, and not a legal act.

See also

References

  1. ^ As to the agreement not having been signed, see text of agreement.
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  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ http://www.parlament.gov.rs/upload/archive/files/lat/pdf/zakoni/2013/299-13Lat.pdf
  18. ^ http://www.parlament.gov.rs/upload/archive/files/lat/pdf/ostala_akta/2013/RS21-13Lat.pdf
  19. ^ [2]

External links

  • Full text of the First Agreement
  • Implementation Plan
  • Policy briefs
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