To resolve the Kosovo-Serbia dispute, we must follow the framework of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue

Both countries must address outstanding issues in order to advance on their respective European paths

By Tonino Picula

Tonino Picula (S&D, HR) is Chair of the Working group for the Western Balkans and a member of the Delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo

20 Dec 2022

In light of the persisting dispute between Kosovo and Serbia, especially recently when the feud has become all the more acute, diplomatic intervention from the European Union is undoubtedly required and justified. The normalisation of relations between these countries is a pressing issue and necessary to ensure stability in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood.

In November, the European Parliament voted on the new EU enlargement strategy by a vast majority. This means that internal blockages from the past few years and the standstill of the political will for the enlargement process are resolved for the most significant part.

Due to internal crises in the EU caused by global events, delays in the start of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia as well as visa liberalisation for Kosovo (despite it having fulfilled the required benchmarks) have created a vacuum, thereby opening up even more space for authoritarian states such as Russia and China to play a growing political role.

Even a short period of oversight and inattentiveness can have perilous consequences. That is mainly why the EU recognised the need for a clearly defined and strategically, politically, and geopolitically focused approach to the enlargement process.

As a rapporteur for the new EU enlargement strategy and Chair of the Working group for the Western Balkans, I am devoted to addressing the concerns over fundamental issues in the region, such as the rule of law, democratic standards, economic reforms, fundamental rights and freedoms.

But it is also important to recognise that EU accession countries such as Serbia are facing challenges stemming from malign foreign interference and disinformation campaigns. Third-party interference in the political and democratic processes, in addition to disinformation and disruptive campaigns, has undermined democracy, manipulated public opinion and created divisions within the accession countries.

The stability, security and democratic resilience of the accession countries are inextricably linked to the EU’s own strength and cohesion.

As stated in the recommendation for the new EU strategy for enlargement, it is imperative that we step up the EU’s constructive engagement with the authorities of both Serbia and Kosovo to achieve a comprehensive and legally binding normalisation agreement based on mutual recognition between the two in the framework of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue.

This is crucial for both countries to advance on their respective European paths and will contribute to regional stability, prosperity and the normalisation of relations. We need to address all outstanding issues through the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue swiftly, transparently and in good faith.

We need to address all outstanding issues through the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue swiftly, transparently and in good faith.

Kosovo has made significant progress in all blocks of the visa liberalisation roadmap, including document security, border and migration management, public order and security, and fundamental rights relating to freedom of movement.

Therefore, we need to step up efforts towards good neighbourly relations, in addition to inclusive and effective socioeconomic cooperation at a regional level and solidarity in EU accession countries. We must improve regional cross-border cooperation between Member States and partner countries along the EU’s external borders.

It is vital to enhance economic competitiveness and social cohesion in the Western Balkans through structural reforms and by establishing regional economic cooperation that is acceptable to all six countries, pursuing further alignment with EU standards and acquis that would ultimately contribute to the EU integration process.

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