In 2011, the EU swept aside differences and acted in unity in Kosovo. Its efforts to foster co-operation between Prishtina and Belgrade are paying off but serious challenges remain.
Using its rule of law mission (EULEX) and accession, the EU aims to strengthen Kosovo’s institutions, protect minorities and help it to reach a settlement with Serbia. Five member states (Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Slovakia and Romania) still do not recognise Kosovo. But by linking Serbia’s progress to dismantling parallel structures in the north when she visited Belgrade in August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was able to forge a robust joint position and thus overcome European divisions. Starting from March, the EEAS presided over eight rounds of “technical” talks between Belgrade and Prishtina, resulting in agreements on freedom of movement, civil registry and recognition of university diplomas, customs stamps and the highly politicised issue of managing border crossings to Serbia.
Despite the European Commission’s recommendation that Serbia should be given candidate status, Germany (supported by Austria, the Netherlands, Finland and the UK) delayed with the argument that Belgrade should do more (see also component 39). Top of the list is the removal of barricades set up by Kosovo Serbs in northern municipalities in July and a compromise allowing Kosovo to participate in regional institutions. Berlin’s position toughened after Kosovo Serbs shot at German and Austrian KFOR soldiers in November.
The European Commission’s regular report found that Kosovo had made limited progress in tackling organised crime, drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption, and had so far failed to win over hearts and minds in the northern municipalities populated by Serbs, in contrast to the Serb enclaves south of the Ibar river. On the positive side, the Kosovo government made serious efforts to meet the EU’s requirements for visa-free travel as well as to upgrade the infrastructure. In December, the EU named Samuel Žbogar, Slovenia’s outgoing foreign minister, as Special Representative in Prishtina – a reflection of Ljubljana’s active role in Kosovo and the wider region.The major impediment for EU assistance is that, because of the five non-recognisers, Kosovo is the last country in the Western Balkans without a contractual relationship with Brussels.
|Leaders: Austria - Germany|
|Slackers: Cyprus - Greece - Netherlands - Romania - Slovakia - Spain|