Politics /

Kosovo and Serbia have both thrashed out an agreement, hailed by US President Donald Trump as a “major breakthrough.” The deal has reaffirmed pledges to establish highway and railway links but left progress toward political normalization on hold.

Details of the Agreement

Both nations – part of the former Yugoslavia – agreed, for a year, to halt campaigns advocating for and against normalizing political ties.

Trump stated that Serbia had also committed to moving its embassy to Jerusalem, and Kosovo and Israel agreed to normalize ties and establish diplomatic relations.

Serbian President Aleksander Vucic said Friday’s deal represented a huge step forward, while Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti said it should lead to mutual recognition between the two nations.

The Kosovo-Serbia Pact Will Have Historic Implications

Since former Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević brought Kosovo directly under the Serbian government in 1989, war and an ethnic cleansing broke out in the 1990s, and relations between the two countries have soured since.

After Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, Serbia refused to recognize the country’s legitimacy during that time.

The EU has tried to normalize relations between the two countries since 2011. The Brussels Agreement laid out an agreement of principles that governed the normalization of relations, one of those principles being the integration of the Serbian minority in northern Kosovo. However, it failed to get anywhere.

The Kosovo-Serbia pact signed on Friday will have historic implications. Although Jasmin Mujanovic, a political scientist who specializes in Eastern Europe, told Al-Jazeera that it does not represent a “massive breakthrough,” it is the first step toward peace between two nations that have been hostile to one another for a significant period of time.

The Deal Provides Israel with Increased Security

Following the recent UAE-Israeli agreement, Trump’s latest peace deal will provide Israel with further security as 95.6 percent of Kosovo’s population are Muslim, which shows that the US President has led the way in ensuring that nations with a Muslim majority can recognize Israel’s legitimacy.

Serbia’s move to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem demonstrates that Trump has succeeded in persuading other nations to regard the city as the capital of Israel, following his own controversial decision to relocate the US Embassy there three years ago.

Trump’s latest deal will also strengthen the economic ties between Serbia and Kosovo. At the end of 2018, Kosovo increased custom duties on imports from Serbia to 100 percent, after Belgrade blocked Kosovo’s attempt to join Interpol. In addition to this, Kosovo decided to upgrade its security force into an army, which Serbia regarded as a threat that could trigger a military response from Belgrade.

By agreeing to establish highway and railway links, the Kosovo-Serbia deal will pave the way for economic integration.

Progress Still Needs to be  Made Toward Normalizing Relations

France and Germany tried to find a concrete solution to the impasse between Kosovar and Serbian presidents, Hashim Thaçi and Vučić on April 29, 2019, after talks were suspended in 2015, but the discussions failed as Kosovo refused to lift its tariffs on Serbia.

The Kosovo-Serbia agreement shows that the US still has a role to play in bringing peace to the world. However, the deal failed to fully normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Progress still needs to made here. In 2016, Vucic said Belgrade must resolve the dispute between Kosovo and Serbia. This signifies that the political will to achieve peace has been there among his administration for some time.

Full Normalization Has a Long Way to Go

Ms Anne Guegen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, said in 2019 that full normalization will depend on dialog between Belgrade and Pristina. Hopefully Trump’s agreement is the first step toward dialog, but that also depends upon the political will of the Serbian and Kosovar governments.

Whilst not as significant as the UAE-Israeli deal, the Kosovo-Serbia agreement should boost the morale of the two countries’ leaders to normalize relations in the future. Either way, it is an excellent diplomatic maneuver from Trump before the 2020 election.

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