Global Insider: Envoy Exchange Part of Promising Shift in Serbia-Kosovo Relations

Source: Getty
Op-Ed World Politics Review
Serbia and Kosovo agreed last month to exchange envoys for the first time in response to a broader European Union push for the two to improve relations.
Related Media and Tools

Serbia and Kosovo agreed last month to exchange envoys for the first time in response to a broader European Union push for the two to improve relations. In an email interview, Stefan Lehne, a Balkans and European Union expert at Carnegie Europe, explained the overall progress of Kosovo-Serbia relations and the challenges that remain.

WPR: What were the factors that drove Serbia and Kosovo to exchange envoys for the first time?

Stefan Lehne: Whatever their differences on the status issue, Serbia and Kosovo will always be neighbors. Every day there will be problems to sort out between them and gains to be had through cooperation. Exchanging liaison officers will facilitate direct communication and allow this complex relationship to run more smoothly. Of course, this arrangement is only one achievement of the dialogue mediated by EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton. Other recent steps include the establishment of border controls in the north of Kosovo and a customs system. These measures make eminently good sense in themselves. However, they probably wouldn’t have happened without strong pushing by the EU, which has made progress toward a more normal relationship a condition for both parties to move toward participating in European integration.

WPR: From the EU’s perspective, do Serbia’s moves signal a viable path toward normalization and thereby EU membership for Serbia?

Stefan Lehne: When the new nationalist leaders of Serbia came to power, there was a good deal of skepticism regarding their willingness to move forward on Kosovo. However, since then significant progress has been achieved. Many observers think that this might be a case in which more nationalist leaders are capable of bolder action than moderate politicians who have to fear a nationalist backlash. The steps achieved so far are promising but will not by themselves convince the EU to open accession talks with Serbia. In order for the EU to make such a decision in the coming months, significant further progress in Serbia-Kosovo relations appears necessary.

WPR: What are the likely areas for compromise between Serbia and Kosovo, and what could derail the rapprochement?

Stefan Lehne: Progress should certainly be achievable in the areas of energy and telecommunications, where negotiations are already quite advanced. But the real key to success lies in defining a way forward for the northern part of Kosovo, where the Serbs are in the majority and where Pristina so far has not been able to extend its authority. Here a compromise needs to be struck between two legitimate interests: the need of the Serb population for assurances that they will be able to preserve their way of life and to maintain their ties with Serbia, and Pristina’s need for guarantees that the territorial integrity of Kosovo will not be called into question. These are undoubtedly difficult issues, which may give rise to strong passions that could in turn derail the process. However, with political will on both sides and skillful mediation by the EU, a solution can be found which would defuse one of the last dangerous hot spots in the region and remove a huge obstacle on the path to fuller European integration.

This article originally appeared in World Politics Review.

End of document



In Fact



of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


years ago

Carnegie began an internship program. Notable alumni include Samantha Power.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


million people killed

in Cold War conflicts.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.


new airports

are set to be built in China by 2015.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


million Russian citizens

are considered “ethnic Muslims.”

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
Carnegie Europe
Carnegie Europe Rue du Congrès, 15 1000 Brussels, Belgium Phone: +32 2 735 56 50 Fax: +32 2736 6222
Please note...

You are leaving the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy's website and entering another Carnegie global site.


您离开卡内基 - 清华全球政策中心网站,进入另一个卡内基全球网站。