From: Bledar Qalliu
Serbia Demands Executive Powers for Kosovo Association of Serb Municipalities

Serbia has insisted on the establishment of the Kosovo Association of Serb-majority Municipalities (ASM) with executive powers during the Thursday’s (October 29) dialogue in Brussels. 

The latest dialogue meeting yielded no substantial results, according to both parties. It came after one month of standstill due to disagreements over the ASM, which prompted EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak to visit Pristina and Belgrade. 

On Thursday, Serbian chief negotiator Petar Petković noted that they put the ASM on the dialogue table, adding that no progress was possible without Kosovo establishing the ASM with executive powers.

“We don’t need something that can be called an NGO. We need a serious institution, the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities with executive powers,” RFE/REL quoted Petković saying after today’s meeting.

The ASM was part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement between Kosovo and Serbia. It stipulated that Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo will be able to form a self-governing association with full governing power in many areas, including education, health, economic development, urban planning.

The opposition fiercely opposed the agreement, claiming it would create conditions for the “bosnization” of Kosovo, i.e. the creation of a state within a state.

In 2015, the two parties signed another agreement regarding the ASM’s competencies.

In the same year, Kosovo’s Constitutional Court ruled parts of the agreement unconstitutional, and the establishment of the association stalled.

Kosovo government has vowed to implement the ASM deal in accordance with the Constitutional Court’s requirement. However, according to Serbia, this would mean no executive powers for the ASM, therefore they insist that Kosovo should either implement the 2013 and 2015 deals, disregarding the Constitutional Court’s decision, or renegotiate the deal.

In Kosovo, an ASM with executive powers is regarded as a separate governing entity within the country, that would hamper the functioning of the state.

EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak visited both countries last month regarding the issue. In Kosovo, he said that the establishment of the ASM is necessary. The two parties have to agree on all details during the dialogue, he added, and Kosovo must establish the ASM after a final deal with Serbia is signed.

Lajcak’s solution seems to suggest a way for both parties to save face in front of their public. On the one hand, Kosovo can assess the decision of the Constitutional Court and (re)negotiate the details of the ASM accordingly; and on the other, Serbia can bring the topic back to the negotiating table.

If Lajcak proves to be successful in his proposal to bring the ASM back to the dialogue table, the parties will still clash over the same issue: an ASM with or without executive powers.