Serbia's reaction to the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence
The Republic of Kosovo declared their independence from Serbia in 2008, a move which Serbia rejects. Initially there were no relations between the entities, but the following years have seen increased dialogue between the governments of Kosovo and Serbia.
Reaction to declaration of independence
Serbia strongly opposed Kosovo's declaration of independence, which was enacted on 17 February 2008. On 12 February 2008, the Government of Serbia instituted an Action Plan to combat Kosovo's anticipated declaration, which stipulated, among other things, recalling the Serbian ambassadors for consultations in protest from any state recognising Kosovo, which it has consistently done. Activities of ambassadors from countries that have recognized independence are limited to meetings with Foreign Ministry lower officials. The Serbian Ministry of the Interior issued an arrest warrant against Hashim Thaçi, Fatmir Sejdiu and Jakup Krasniqi on 18 February 2008 on charges of high treason.
On 8 March 2008, the Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica resigned, dissolving the coalition government, saying it was too divided over the Kosovo situation to carry on. A pre-term parliamentary election was held on 11 May 2008, together with local elections. President Boris Tadić stated that the government fell "because there was no agreement regarding further EU integration".
On 24 March 2008, Slobodan Samardžić, Minister for Kosovo and Metohija, proposed partitioning Kosovo along ethnic lines, asking the United Nations to ensure that Belgrade can control key institutions and functions in areas where Serbs form a majority but other members of the Government and the President denied these claims. On 25 March 2008, the outgoing Prime Minister, Vojislav Koštunica stated that membership in the EU should be "left aside," until Brussels stated whether it recognized Serbia within its existing borders.
On 24 July 2008, the Government decided to return its ambassadors to EU countries. Other ambassadors were returned following the positive outcome of the vote in the UN General Assembly. Serbia has expelled diplomatic representations of all countries that subsequently recognized Kosovo's independence: Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia  and Malaysia.
On 15 August 2008, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić filed a request at the United Nations seeking a non-legally binding advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of whether the declaration of independence was in breach of international law. The United Nations General Assembly adopted this proposal on 8 October 2008. In July 2010, the ICJ issued the advisory opinion that Kosovo's declaration of independence "did not violate international law".
Since the declaration of independence, Serbia refused to deal directly with the Republic of Kosovo, but only through the international intermediaries UNMIK and EULEX. However, there has been some normalisation; beginning in 2011, an EU team persuaded Serbia to discuss some minor border issues with Kosovo; in February 2013, the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia met in Brussels. Liaison officers are also being exchanged.
On 27 March 2012, four Kosovo Serbs, including the mayor of Vitina, were arrested by Kosovo Police while attempting to cross the disputed border at Bela Zemlja back into Kosovo with campaign materials for an upcoming election. They were subsequently charged with "incitement to hatred and intolerance among ethnic groups".
The following day, trade unionist Hasan Abazi was arrested with fellow unionist Adem Urseli by Serbian police manning the Central Serbia/Kosovo crossing near Gnjilane. Abazi was charged with espionage and Urseli with drug smuggling. Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dačić stated of the arrests that "Serbian police did not wish to take this approach, but the situation obviously could no longer go on without retaliation... If someone wants to compete in arrests, we have the answer". According to his lawyer, Abazi was then held in solitary confinement. On 30 March, the Serbian High Court in Vranje ordered Abazi to be detained for thirty days on espionage charges dating to an incident in 1999 in which Abazi allegedly gave information to NATO. Abazi's arrest was protested by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as "arbitrary".
On 19 October 2012, normalisation talks mediated by the European Union began in Brussels with Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, where the two PMs sat at the table and initiated talks on normalising relations between Pristina and Belgrade. Reaching such a deal was a necessary condition of Serbia's EU candidacy. The governments slowly reached agreements and deals on various areas, such as freedom of movement, university diplomas, regional representation and on trade and international customs. In Brussels, Serbia and Kosovo agreed that implementation of the border agreement would start on 10 December 2012. A historic meeting took place on 6 February 2013, when Serbian president Tomislav Nikolić and Kosovar President Atifete Jahjaga sat at the same table for the first time since Kosovo declared independence.
Following a December 2012 agreement, the two nations swapped liaison officers who worked at EU premises in the two capitals. Pristina referred to these officers as "ambassadors", but Belgrade rejected such a designation.
Serbia's top officials met with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton in Brussels, on 11 March 2013, Serbian president Nikolić said that Serbia and Kosovo were very close to signing an agreement which would improve their relations.
On 19 April 2013, the two governments completed the Brussels Agreement that was hailed as a major step towards normalising relations, and would allow both Serbia and Kosovo to advance in European integration. The agreement is reported to commit both states not to "block, or encourage others to block, the other side's progress in the respective EU paths." Amongst other measures the deal establishes a special police commander (Commander will be appointed by Pristina from a list submitted by Serbs) and appeal court (Under Pristina laws and procedures) for the Serb minority in Kosovo, but does not amount to a recognition of Kosovo's independence by Belgrade. Special provisions in the agreement were given to Serb communities in North Kosovo. In news reports Ashton was quoted as saying, "What we are seeing is a step away from the past and, for both of them, a step closer to Europe", whilst Thaçi declared "This agreement will help us heal the wounds of the past if we have the wisdom and the knowledge to implement it in practice."
The accord was ratified by the Kosovo assembly on June 28, 2013.
On August 7, 2013, an agreement was announced between the two government to establish permanent border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo throughout 2014.
On September 9, 2013, an agreement was reached to allow Kosovo to apply for its own international dialing code. Two days later, the Serbian government announced the dissolution of the Serb minority assemblies it created in northern Kosovo in order to allow the integration of the Kosovo Serb minority into the general Kosovo population.
Ethnic Serbs in Kosovo
Since the 1999 bombing of Serbia, a large portion of Kosovo Serbs have been displaced from their homes, like other minorities throughout the province. A significant portion of Serbian Orthodox churches, as well as Serbian cemeteries and homes, have been demolished or vandalized.
The Serbian Government promised suspended Serb prison workers from Lipljan money if they were to leave the Kosovo institutions, which they were working in, so they did. However they were never paid, so staged a continued a blockade of the Coordination Center in Gračanica. They claim that Belgrade, the Kosovo Ministry specifically, has not paid them money promised for leaving the Kosovo institutions.
Serbs have also responded by forming their own assembly.
In September 2013, the Serb government dismantled the Serb minority assemblies in Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok as part of an agreement with the government of Kosovo. At the same time, the President of Kosovo signed a law that granted amnesty to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo for past acts of resistance to Kosovo law enforcement authorities.
Notes and references
|a.||^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Kosovo's independence has been out of United Nations member states.|