By Spencer Grossman Smisek '22
On September 4, Serbian President Alexander Vucic and Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti signed a U.S. brokered economic agreement that will allow the two nations to trade peacefully. The deal establishes domestic relations between the two countries, stimulating economic growth and the creation of new jobs. The Belgrade-Pristina deal, signed by both leaders in the Oval office, included Serbia and Kosovo moving their embassies to Jerusalem, Israel, and Kosovo and Israel mutually recognizing each other and moving towards diplomatic relations.
In 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia many years after Serbian troops were sent in to eradicate an ethnic Albanian uprising. Since then, tensions have run high in the Balkan region as Serbia, Russia, and China refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
The agreements facilitated by the European Union that started in 2011 have not been observed which resulted in the U.S. agreements beginning in July 2018. Although the United States brokered negotiations have led to a major breakthrough, both Vucic and Hoti have said that they prioritize negotiations with the EU and will continue these efforts.
However, just after this agreement was signed, the EU warned Serbia that recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving its embassy may jeopardize Serbia’s opportunity to become a member of the EU. The European Union strongly believes that the status of Jerusalem needs to be worked out between Israel and Palestine, and, currently, no member of the EU has an embassy in Jerusalem.
While many larger steps need to be taken to repair the political relationship between Serbia and Kosovo, this deal provides the basis for a new profitable economic relationship to help the people of both nations. President Vucic said, “Of course, speaking about politics, we haven't resolved all our problems. There are still a lot of differences between us, but this is a huge step forward”.
A critical component of the agreement is that Serbia and Kosovo must now recognize university diplomas from the other nation, allowing qualified candidates from each country to now be eligible for jobs previously unattainable. This deal will allow graduates from Serbia and Kosovo to create new jobs in areas that had suffered under past conflict.
After this recent breakthrough, negotiations will continue in order to fully normalize commerce in the Balkan Region. This will allow the people of both nations to prosper without conflict from the neighboring governments.