24. September. 2020. | 01:34

The Washington Agreement on Economic Normalization – A political stunt that will soon be forgotten

The dialogue on economic normalization between Belgrade and Pristina led by President Trump’s envoy Richard Grenell, was not a serious process nor did it produce breakthrough agreement. As pointed out during the Mitrovica Social Club debate, the agreement on economic normalization that was signed in the White House by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and the Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti, is not taken seriously by anyone. Moreover, it will quickly be forgotten in the US itself regardless of whether Joseph Biden or Donald Trump wins the election in November.

A Mitrovica Social Club entitled Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Process: A Triangle of Constructive Ambiguities was held on the 23rd of September via the Zoom platform. It aimed to explore the role of the US in the dialogue process and the implication of the recently signed agreement in Washington on the continuation of EU-facilitated talks. The panellists were Daniel P. Serwer, a Professor of the Practice of Conflict Management at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and Florian Bieber, a Professor of Southeast European History and Politics at the University of Graz. The debate was moderated by Caleb Waugh and Ognjen Gogić from NGO AKTIV.

According to the professor Server, since a political settlement is not feasible at the moment, progress on economic issues might be a good strategy. However, the agreement signed in Washington is only a minor step forward as it contains little that can advance the situation. Instead, it represented a political stunt for President Trump’s re-election campaign and an attempt on the part of Ambassador Grenell to deliver an international spectacle. However, the outcome, in the view of professor Serwer, was so insignificant that did not merit the President’s presence.

Professor Bieber argued that the Trump administration has no real interest in Kosovo-Serbia relations. Since the Balkans is not high on the US agenda, agreement will carry no weight for next administration even if Trump is re-elected. In his view, Grenell aimed to compete with EU efforts to restart the dialogue which has been in state of limbo for the past several years. The agreement essentially reiterated points that had already been agreed. Nevertheless, the Trump administration claimed victory in the race with the EU.

Professor Serwer agreed that Balkans were low on Washington’s list of priorities. However, he pointed out that the agreement aligned Belgrade and Pristina with American foreign policy desires, possibly creating problems with Serbia’s and Kosovo’s position with the EU. Professor Bieber similarly mentioned provisions of the agreement that contravene EU policies, such as the pledge made by parties to move embassies to Jerusalem.

In Professor Bieber’s opinion, the Washington agreement cannot be seen as a steppingstone towards a more comprehensive agreement in the EU-facilitated process. That having been said, he does not believe that it will hamper E.U-led efforts.

Bieber went further to say that he does not currently see a a “window of opportunity” for reaching a comprehensive agreement and that the EU is in an unfavourable position as it needs to keep the process going but cannot deliver in a way that satisfies. all parties involved. Professor Serwer also recognizes the possibility of a continuation of the status quo. However, he does not see the current situation as a disastrous. Time may not be right for a comprehensive solution, but there is a space for incrementalism. In his view, it is possible to address some of the problems now and start preparing the ground for a future agreement.

The debate of the Mitrovica Social Club was organized with the support of the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society.



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