By Stefan Surlić - 21 December , 2022

Is there (still) room for agreement?

Is there (still) room for agreement?

It is widely believed that without the EU carrot the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo won’t be able to muster the political will to reach a final agreement. The dialogue has long been alienated from the citizens, because although they formally support the dialogue, they do not see any effects of the Brussels process. Normalization is perceived as another means of conditioning, where "constructive ambiguity" creates a chaotic situation on the ground. However, there are many reasons why Serbia and Kosovo have an interest in continuing negotiations despite the absence of a clear European perspective.

Research conducted by CDDRI[1] during the course of 2021 showed that citizens of Serbia recognized several goals regarding any final agreement: ensuring protection and special rights for the Serbian community in Kosovo (89%), to which can be added the request for the formation of the Association/Community of Serbian Municipalities (74.4%), management of natural resources (83.5%), status of cultural and religious heritage (82.6%), as well as achieving permanent peace between Serbs and Albanians (75.2%). The results of the 2022 survey show that the citizens mostly agreed with the following national interests: Physical security of the Serbs in Kosovo and the possibility to live and work normally (73.1%), preservation of the cultural and historical heritage and spiritual heritage of the Serbs in Kosovo (65, 8%), as well as the preservation of Orthodox monasteries (68,1%).[2]

The unresolved status of Kosovo directly affects econoicm, regional connectivity initiatives, and security issues. Serbia lost more than 520 million euros due to taxes imposed by Kosovo on Serbian goods. The initiative to establish closer ties in the Western Balkans through the application of the four freedoms and the creation of a single regional market, which is proposed through the Berlin Process and the Open Balkans, is not possible without the participation of Kosovo.
The results of the research also show that the majority of Serbian citizens are not ready (59.3%) to jeopardize economic interests such as primary growth, higher incomes and a better standard of living for the sake of efforts to realize political national interests, including Kosovo.[3]

Northern Kosovo, despite the integration processes, continues to represent an area of ​​high security risk due to Pristina's measures to fully integrate this part of the territory and the desire of the majority Serb population to remain connected to Serbia. The direct consequence of such a situation are extremely negative trends. The fact that every sixth respondent belonging to the age group of 18 to 29 years believes that the situation in Kosovo will get worse in the next three years is particularly worrying. If this pessimistic sentiment is connected with increasing opportunities and motivation to leave Kosovo, it seems that in the coming years the problem of depopulation and the departure of young people will become more and more acute for the Serbian community in Kosovo. Observed in comparison with previous year’s data, we can see that in all age groups, except for the oldest, there was a significant increase in the number of those who believe that life in Kosovo will be even worse in the next three years. This is an increase from 14% (ages 30-45) to 22% (ages 45-65).[4]
One out of every two respondents did not see themselves in Kosovo in the next five years, while the other half of respondents are either waiting for an opportunity or have already made the decision to leave Kosovo. For years now, this information has indicated the alarmingly adverse situation for the Serbs that live in Kosovo, for many of them leaving Kosovo is perceived as the only solution. The main reason for leaving Kosovo is economic uncertainty (50.9%). The second reason is political instability 19.3%, while the third, and fourth motivations for leaving Kosovo are caused by non-respect of the rights of Serbs in Kosovo 14.9% and personal insecurity 14.9%[5]. Although the economic element determines the choice of one of two respondents, it is unacceptable that after more than two decades since the conflict ended, the issue of security, political instability and lack of rights are still decisive factors for members of the Serbian community to leave Kosovo.

Besides the alarming situation in which Serbs from Kosovo find themselves, an additional obstacle is the political discourse in Serbia, which is based on the dichotomy of recognition - non-recognition of Kosovo's independence, but also the dichotomy for and against the EU in the context of resolving the status dispute with the authorities in Pristina. The dialogue is presented as a marathon in which the other side wins and ensures the inviolability of Serbia's territorial integrity. A total of 56% of Serbian citizens fully agree with the statement that preserving Kosovo and Metohija as part of Serbia is an important national interest, but at the same time, more than 70% believe that the priority is to ensure the safety of Serbs in Kosovo[6]. The main interest of Serbia should be the preservation of the Serbian community in Kosovo as functional and socially active with prospects for a decent existence. This interest should be shared by the authorities in Pristina, because the status of the Serbs can be the key to the final agreement and ensuring that Kosovo should remain a multi-ethnic society. Prolonging any agreement directly affects their lives and drives them to massively  leave Kosovo.

However, research conducted in Kosovo shows that the majority of Albanians are in favor of an agreement that would mean formal recognition by Serbia (75%), while the option of non-recognition by Serbia with membership in international organizations, with the formation of the Association/Community of Municipalities with a Serbian majority and a special status for monasteries were supported by only 9% of Kosovo citizens. Also, 43% do not believe in peace between the two societies in the near future, while 74% support the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.[7]

It seems that citizens and political leaders in Kosovo agree that without formal recognition and an agreement with Serbia, Kosovo will remain  a permanently disputed territory, which is economically unattractive for investments, and a side that will countinue to be left out of regional initiatives because of Serbia. The war in Ukraine further securitizes the dialogue and raises the possibility of renewed conflict as a realistic scenario in the absence of an agreement. However, the key problem for Kosovo is the negative narrative created around the Association/Community of Serbian Municipalities, i.e. not agreeing to the implementation of what has already been agreed apon. Viewing the entire Serbian community as an extended arm of Serbia that threatens the sovereignty of Kosovo narrows the space for compromise and distances Pristina from its key goals - achieving membership in international organizations and ensuring an independent path towards EU and NATO membership. Both of which are not possible without an agreement with the Serbian community in Kosovo and a final political settlement with Serbia.

[1] Attitudes of Serbian citizens about Kosovo,
[2] How the citizens see the national interests of Serbia, available at
[4] Analysis of trends - attitudes of the Serbian community in Kosovo, available at
[5] Ibid.
[6] How the citizens see the national interests of Serbia, available at
[7] Barometer 2021, available at

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