Serbia's identity and its vision for the future

Montenegro opts for independence in 2006

Montenegro voters decided on Montenegro’s independence and separation from Serbia in a referendum in May 2006.

Kosovo declares independence in 2008
U.S. Embassy in Belgrade set on fire by protesters agains Kosovo independance (public source)

U.S. Embassy in Belgrade attacked. (U.S. Department of State)

Although public opinion polls show Kosovo low on the list of Serbian priorities, Kosovo continues to be a key issue for Serbia’s politics. The Liberal Democrats are the only major party that publicly accepts Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

Serbs protested Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of Independence; rioters burned part of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade.

European integration

A majority of Serbia’s population supports EU accession. Serbia’s failure to apprehend Ratko Mladić led to suspension of Stabilization and Association (SAA) talks with the EU in 2006. Negotiations resumed a year later, one day after the arrest and delivery to the Hague Tribunal of wanted wartime Bosnian Serb General ZdravkoTolimir.

The EU signed the SAA in April 2008 as a signal that it wanted closer relations with Serbia. President Tadić, Deputy Prime Minister Delić and Foreign Minister Jeremić, all members of the Democratic Party (DS) represented Serbia at the signing. They noted that the outgoing government had initialed the agreement and had authorized Delić to sign it. Coming at the height of the parliamentary election campaign, then Prime Minister Koštunica and DSS/NS, opposed the signing, and claimed that it essentially recognized Kosovo’s independence.

The European Council stated that implementation of the SAA would occur as soon as it decided that Serbia was fully cooperating with the Hague Tribunal. Some EU members, especially the Netherlands, insisted on this linkage.

Serbian authorities arrested Radovan Karadžić in Belgrade in 2008, and Mladić and Krajina Serb leader Goran Hadžić in 2011.

The EU granted candidate status to Serbia in March 2012.

EU Accession and Kosovo normalization linkage

The EU made concrete progress on normalization between Serbia and Kosovo a main condition for Belgrade's progress toward EU membership. 

Vucic

From left to right: Serbia Deputy Prime Minister Vucic; EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Ashton;and Serbia Prime Minister Dacic. (Council © European Union)

The Belgrade-Pristina dialogue started in 2011, rising in level to meetings between prime ministers and presidents.

The meetings between Prime Ministers Dacic and Thaci in April 2013, mediated by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Ashton, confronted Belgrade with an unavoidable decision on an EU package proposal to regularize the Kosovo-Serbia relationship, including powers and competencies to be granted to Kosovo's Serbs.  Belgrade's response to the EU proposal would determine Ashton's and the EU Commission's recommendation to the EU Summit meeting in June on starting accession talks with Serbia.

Dacic and Thaci initialed a 15-point First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations (text in English follows text in Albanian, from Pristina Express) on April 19, 2013. Key elements of the agreement had Belgrade giving up its parallel institutions in Kosovo, especially in the north, in return for receiving protections for the Serbs proposed in the Ahtisaari proposals.  In addition, Belgrade agreed not to block Pristina's progress toward EU (and international) acceptance.

Ashton has continued to meet with Dacic and Thaci in Brussels to discuss implementation of the agreement.

The European Commission recommended to the Council of Ministers on April 22 that negotiations on EU membership begin with Serbia.

Kosovo Liaison Officer in Belgrade
Lulzim Peci (Kosovo Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Lulzim Peci (Kosovo Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Kosovo's Liaison Officer in Belgrade, Lulzim Peci, arrive in June in accordance with the April 19 Agreement. 

Rapprochement with Croatia

Relations between Belgrade and Zagreb have improved in recent years.  Still, Croatia has an outstanding complaint against Serbia for genocide during the 1991-95 war, filed at the International Court of Justice in 1999.  Serbia filed a counter-complaint in 2010, and insists on mutual withdrawal.

 

NATO

NATO invited Serbia to join the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 2006. Serbia joined these NATO frameworks, which was accepted by Serbian public opinion. A NATO Military Liaison Office was set up in the Ministry of Defense in Belgrade. Serbia joined the PfP Planning and Review Process in 2007. NATO also completed a PfP trust fund project that removed 1.41 million anti-personnel mines from Serbian territory.

NATO was willing to offer an individual Partnership Action Plan to Serbia, but differences within the Serbian government limited further engagement with the alliance at that point. Kostunica and other DSS leaders took a public line that the West’s Kosovo policy is to detach it from Serbia and to turn it into a “NATO state.”

Serbia’s relations with NATO improved under the Tadic government in 2008, and the Serbian Army Chief of Staff visited NATO Headquarters.

In 2011, NATO’s Secretary General Rasmussen remarked that Serbia has made good progress in developing a sound basis for partnership and cooperation and it is for Serbia to decide on future cooperation with NATO. In 2012, incoming President Nikolić asserted that Serbia would never become a member of NATO.

Russia

Kosovo’s independence has tightened the relationship between Serbia and Russia, which has been its most steadfast supporter on this issue.

Underlining the deepening of ties, Serbia and Russia signed a major energy deal in January 2008. Russia’s GAZPROM received a 51% holding in the Serbian Oil Industry (NIS), in return for 400 million Euros and a commitment to invest a further 500 million Euros by 2012. In addition, the South Stream pipeline is to be built in Serbia to convey a minimum of 10 billion cubic meters of GAZPROM gas per year.

OSCE
Ambassador Peter Burkhard of Switzerland took up his post as Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia on 6 December 2012.

Ambassador Peter Burkhard of Switzerland took up his post as Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia on 6 December 2012. (OSCE)

The OSCE reestablished a mission in Belgrade in 2001, renamed the OSCE Mission to Serbia in 2006, with a focus on democratization, protection of human rights and minorities, media and development.  

South Serbia

Ethnic Albanians make up a majority of the 120,000 residents of the three municipalities of Presovo, Bujanovac and Medvedja in south Serbia. Albanians launched an armed insurgency from November 2000 to May 2001 when a ceasefire was reached. The government established a Coordination Body for South Serbia to coordinate the work of the central government and local self-governing bodies.

South Serbia is challenged by lack of economic opportunities, while ethnic Albanians and Roma continue to complain of discrimination and lack of inclusion in state institutions. The increase in Serbian rhetoric over Kosovo has impacted on Albanian sensitivities in south Serbia. After a three-year absence, Albanians from southern Serbia signed an agreement in March 2009 and returned to the Coordination Body.

Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorites (c); Dimitrios Kypreos, Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia (r); and Jeroen deVries, OSCE municipal co-ordinator in Bujanovac (l), attend the opening of the first multilingual and multi-ethnic university department in Bujanovac, 28 October 2011. (OSCE/Milan Obradovic

Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorites (c); Dimitrios Kypreos, then Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia (r); and Jeroen deVries, then OSCE municipal co-ordinator in Bujanovac (l), attend the opening of the first multilingual and multi-ethnic university department in Bujanovac, 28 October 2011. (OSCE/Milan Obradovic)

Numerous international organizations and NGOs, as well as embassies accredited to Belgrade, have been active in playing a helpful mediating role as well as providing development and other assistance in the area.

OSCE has a South Serbia Program Coordinator in its Mission to Serbia, resident in Bujanovac.

Serbia as international peacekeeper

Demonstrating its wish to play a positive role in international peace and security, Serbia has about 75 soldiers participating in UN peacekeeping operations in Lebanon, Congo,Cyprus, Liberia and Ivory Coast, as well as in the EU training mission in Uganda and EU anti-piracy naval mission off Somalia.