The agreements resulting from the Brussels Dialogue managed to positively affect the lives of people in Kosovo, despite the fact that the public was aggravated when the “final deal” was promoted as being closer than ever.
Being a civil society activist, for a long time my focus was on the flaws of the agreements and their implementation. Yet, focusing on our daily tasks, we often fail to notice the positive outcomes of the process. The signing of the agreements by Belgrade and Pristina certainly led to the relaxation of relations between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo. These agreements made the cooperation with the “other side” acceptable. In earlier times, this cooperation was frowned upon.
Personally, I have seen concrete benefits from the Agreement on the Freedom of Movement. It provided me with the opportunity to interact, cooperate and socialise with colleagues from the Albanian community. Looking back, if I was told before 2013 that I would be driving my own car to go to Dečani Monastery, visit Dokufest or go snowboarding in Brezovica, I would have said that is impossible. Recently, I have done all of that, on my own, and in the company of Albanian colleagues too.
Before the agreement, it was logistically easier to travel to Belgrade than to Pristina. Although the distance from my hometown Leposavić to Belgrade is about 300 kilometres, traveling only 70 kilometres to Pristina at that time was more time consuming and costly. Driving to Pristina required to have either KS or RKS license plates, which I was not able to obtain before spring 2018. That is when the administrative instruction deriving from the 2011 Agreement of the Freedom of Movement was adopted. Prior to that, for a simple errand I would need to use different, non-frequent means of transport. If I would be in a rush, I would need to opt for a taxi, which for the Kosovo standards is indeed a luxury.
After this agreement, for a Kosovo Serb from the North, it was no longer a taboo to obtain Kosovo documents; it actually became a need. The Brussels agreements facilitated the integration of the north into Kosovo’s legal framework, therefore obtaining Kosovo documents became an inevitable necessity for the majority of Serbian citizens. The number of Serbs obtaining Kosovo documents has increased. This created an opportunity for the Kosovo Serb community, primarily members of the civil society, to engage in advocacy and push for adherence of the institutions to their constitutional commitments in respect to the rights of the non-majority communities in Kosovo.
The Brussels agreements contributed to loosen the tensions between the communities and enabled inter-ethnic interaction and cooperation across divided communities. This has enriched people’s lives with new connections and friendships. Yet, with the Brussels dialogue on-hold, the normalization got impeded. It is a responsibility of the political leadership to ensure meaningful integration and cooperation between the communities.
Jovana Radosavljević, is the executive director of New Social Initiative. She is a researcher and civil society activist from Leposavic. She is a TLP scholar and holds MA in International Studies from Joseph Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, with specializations in Conflict Resolution and International Development and a BA from Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade.