Brussels Agreement (2013)
The Brussels Agreement (Albanian: Marrëveshja e Brukselit; Serbian: Бриселски споразум / Briselski sporazum) was signed between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo on the normalization of their relations. It was negotiated and signed in Brussels under the auspices of the European Union. The negotiations were led by Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, and mediated by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. The agreement was formally signed on 19 April 2013.
Following the Kosovo War and NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, Kosovo was under United Nations administration under UNSC Resolution 1244 until the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence (made against the wishes of Serbia). The declaration received mixed international recognition. Serbia continues to deny recognition.
Ten rounds of talks were held at the European External Action Service office in Brussels. Baroness Ashton, the EU High Representative, had been chairing talks for two years. Relations between Kosovo and Serbia had previously been difficult. Normalisation of relations with neighbouring states is a key precondition for states wishing to join the EU; the Brussels Agreement brought Kosovo a step closer to signing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA). One of the most difficult problems was the status of ethnic Serbs living in North Kosovo.
U.S. diplomats supported the dialogue from the beginning. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Baroness Ashton to undertake joint travel in the Balkans, and the two made unprecedented joint visits to Belgrade and Pristina (as well as Sarajevo) in October 2012. Clinton assigned Deputy Assistant Secretary of State ambassador Philip Reeker to support Ashton's efforts. Reeker and his team coordinated closely with EU colleagues, and met with Serbian and Kosovar representatives on the margins of every dialogue session in Brussels, and during visits to the region.
The result was a 15-point "First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations", signed on 19 April 2013.
After the agreement was signed, the European Commission officially advised that work start on an SAA with Kosovo, and accession negotiations began with Serbia. The agreement was supported by the European Union, NATO, the OSCE, and the United Nations.
The key points of the agreement are:
- 1. There will be an Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo. Membership will be open to any other municipality provided the members are in agreement.
- 2. The Community/Association will be created by statute. Its dissolution shall only take place by a decision of the participating municipalities. Legal guarantees will be provided by applicable law and constitutional law (including the 2/3 majority rule).
- 3. The structures of the Association/Community will be established on the same basis as the existing statute of the Association of Kosovo municipalities e.g. President, vice President, Assembly, Council.
- 4. In accordance with the competences given by the European Charter of Local Self Government and Kosovo law, the participating municipalities shall be entitled to cooperate in exercising their powers through the Community/Association collectively. The Association/Community will have full overview of the areas of economic development, education, health, urban and rural planning.
- 5. The Association/Community will exercise other additional competences as may be delegated by the central authorities.
- 6. The Community/Association shall have a representative role to the central authorities and will have a seat in the communities’ consultative council for this purpose. In the pursuit of this role a monitoring function is envisaged.
- 7. There shall be one police force in Kosovo called the Kosovo Police. All police in northern Kosovo shall be integrated into the Kosovo Police framework. Salaries will solely be paid by the KP.
- 8. Members of other Serbian security structures will be offered a place in equivalent Kosovo structures.
- 9. There shall be a Police Regional Commander for the four northern Serb majority municipalities (Northern Mitrovica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic). The Commander of this region shall be a Kosovo Serb nominated by the Ministry of Interior from a list provided by the four mayors on behalf of the Community/Association. The composition of the KP in the north will reflect the ethnic composition of the population of the four municipalities. (There will be another Regional Commander for the municipalities of Mitrovica South, Skenderaj and Vushtrri). The regional commander of the four northern municipalities will cooperate with other regional commanders.
- 10. The judicial authorities will be integrated and operate within the Kosovo legal framework. The Appellate Court in Pristina will establish a panel composed of a majority of K/S judges to deal with all Kosovo Serb majority municipalities.
- 11. A division of this Appellate Court, composed both by administrative staff and judges will sit permanently in northern Mitrovica (Mitrovica District Court). Each panel of the above division will be composed by a majority of K/S judges. Appropriate judges will sit dependant on the nature of the case involved.
- 12. Municipal elections shall be organized in the northern municipalities in 2013 with the facilitation of the OSCE in accordance with Kosovo law and international standards.
- 13. Discussions on Energy and Telecoms will be intensified by the two sides and completed by June 15.
- 14. It is agreed that neither side will block, or encourage others to block, the other side’s progress in their respective EU paths.
- 15. An implementation committee will be established by the two sides, with the facilitation of the EU.
After the Brussels Agreement, further discussions were held in August 2013 to implement some of the items agreed upon earlier and to deal with issues in the energy and telecom industries.
There were also concerns about how the 2013 local government elections in Kosovo would be administered; the government of Serbia objected to any mention of "the state of Kosovo" on ballot papers. The government of Serbia agreed that it should encourage Serbs in northern Kosovo to get involved in these local elections.
In October 2013, arrangements were made for Serbian officials to visit North Kosovo. It was agreed that electoral bodies in Kosovo would include Kosovo Serb representatives and that international dialing code 383 would be attributed to Kosovo.
Some scholars, including Smilja Avramov and Elena Guskova, stated that the Brussels Agreement violates the Constitution of Serbia and the United Nations Charter and represents an indirect recognition of the independence of Kosovo.
The Kosovo Assembly has ratified the agreement, accepting it into a law, and treating it as an "international agreement".
The Serbian Assembly has not treated the agreement as international, and has not ratified it into a binding law, which is a procedure required for international agreements in Serbia.  It has, however, merely accepted the government report about the "hitherto process of political and technical dialog with the temporary institutions in Pristina with the mediation of EU, including the process of implementation of the achieved agreements".  The constitutional court in Belgrade, answering the question about constitutionality of the agreement, has moreover ruled in December 2014,  that the agreement is only a political, and not a legal act.
- "EU brokers historic Kosovo deal, door opens to Serbia accession". Reuters. 19 April 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
- "Another Serbia-Kosovo meeting in Brussels ends without agreement". daily.tportal.hr. 27 August 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
- "The Kosovo-Serbia Agreement: Why Less Is More". International Crisis Group. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
- "Serbia and Kosovo reach landmark deal". European Union External Action Service. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- "Ban welcomes ‘landmark’ agreement between Serbia and Kosovo negotiators". UN News Centre. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
- "Serbia and Kosovo hold talks in Brussels". Euronews. 27 August 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- "Serbian PM claims Kosovo breaches Brussels agreement: media". Xinhua. 5 October 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- "Belgrade, Pristina overcome dispute ahead of Kosovo local polls". EUbusiness. 8 October 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
- "Brussels Deal: Serbian Officials Free To Enter Kosovo". inSerbia. 8 October 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
- "Serbia allocated calling code to Kosovo". B92. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- "Смиља Аврамов: Споразум Београда и Приштине индиректно признање самопроглашеног Косова". Novinar Online. SRNA. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
Српски експерт за међународно право Смиља Аврамов оцијенила је да споразум између Београда и Приштине представља индиректно признање самопроглашеног Косова и поручила да је њиме погажена Повеља УН која Србији гарантује територијални интегритет....Јелена Гускова: Споразум Београда и Приштине је уговор о признању независности Косова