On Monday, students protested in Belgrade against the deal between Serbia and Kosovo. On the banner it says ”Students are against it, and you?”. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Maja Stajcic
On Monday, students protested in Belgrade against the deal between Serbia and Kosovo. On the banner it says ”Students are against it, and you?”. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Maja Stajcic

Civil society excluded from Serbia-Kosovo deal


Kosovo and Serbia have reached an agreement on normalized relations and increased autonomy for Kosovo Serbs in northern Kosovo. While top officials welcomed the agreement, reactions on the ground were not all positive, according to the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s staff in Prishtina and Belgrade.

The negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo have been going on since March 2011, facilitaded by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. On Friday the prime ministers of the two countries sealed a deal. Among other things, Kosovo and Serbia agreed to establish diplomatic relations and not to prevent each other from future membership of the EU.

The agreement mainly concerns greater autonomy for Kosovo Serbs in the north of Kosovo. In return, the Serb minority as well as Serbia should acknowledge the authority of Kosovo. The agreement does not mean that Serbia fully recognizes Kosovo, though. European Commission President Barroso called the agreement historic, and it was praised by several other top international leaders.

Protests in Belgrade

But far from everyone is satisfied. Kvinna till Kvinna’s staff in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, on Monday witnessed huge street protests.
– In Belgrade there were demonstrations on Saturday. Again on Monday, students as well as the Democratic Party arranged a protest in the centre of town. People demonstrate against the agreement and state that ”Kosovo is Serbia”. The comments from officials have been defensive, arguing that they did not ‘sell’ anything out. The prime minister of Serbia, Ivica Dacic, even emphasized that he was part of the war in Kosovo in the 90’s, fighting for Kosovo, says Stina Magnuson Buur, field representative and Maja Stajcic, program officer at the Kvinna till Kvinna office in Belgrade.

Stina Magnuson Buur believes that the major driving force for Serbia to sign the deal is a future membership of the EU. A prerequisite for EU membership has been that Serbia normalizes its relations to Kosovo. And on the same day that the Serbian government signed the deal with Kosovo, the EU Commission recommended that member countries open for negotiations about membership with Serbia.

Women's organization cautiously positive

According to Lina Andéer, Kvinna till Kvinna’s field representative in Kosovo, the agreement has been received very differently.
– It is interesting that both Serbia and Kosovo announced themselves as “winner of the deal” after the agreement, whereas people here in Kosovo – and I guess the same in Serbia – see themselves as losers, she says.

In Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo, reactions were strong from the opposition party Vetevendosje right after the voting session in the Kosovo Assembly, where a great majority voted in favor of the deal. Vetevendosje didn’t participate in the session and hundreds of their supporters protested outside the building.

The reason why people in general in Kosovo are disappointed is that they fear that the North will be under Serbian control, and that it may add to the separation from the rest of Kosovo, Lina Andéer explains. On the other hand, Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organization Mitrovica women’s association for human rights, who work in the northern part of Kosovo, told Lina Andéer that the situation in Mitrovica is not that tense at the moment.
– They are hoping that the situation will improve with the deal, because people are so tired of the present situation here, Lina Andéer says.

One thing that has been problematic in the process that preceded the agreement is the lack of inclusion of civil society.    
– The negotiations feel ”exclusive”, involving only very few people rather than having a broad, inclusive approach where civil society and other stakeholders are also involved. This has implications for the legitimacy of the agreement, Stina Magnuson Buur says.

Another weakness of the agreement is that it doesn’t have any reference at all to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 about women, peace and security.

Karin Råghall

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has been recognized by 100 countries, but not by Serbia.