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    • Belgrade – Pristina dialogue: democratic and sustainable solution needed

    • Date: 24 February 2020

      The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina must be at the service of citizens, so that they can have confidence in it. The important roles are played by the political aspect of the normalization of relations, as well as the media, are some of the conclusions of the meeting organized by the Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCSP) on the 24th of February 2020 in Belgrade.

      Citizens' views on dialogue, its future, as well as the role of the media were discussed in three panels. 

      What do citizens think about the agreements reached between Belgrade and Pristina?

      The first panel was devoted to the results of a survey of citizens' attitudes on the agreements reached between Belgrade and Pristina, conducted in Serbia and Kosovo, within the Kosovo and Serbia Public Policy Advocacy Group (KSPAG).

      Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCBP) researcher Isidora Stakic presented the results of a survey on the views of Serbian citizens on technical agreements between Belgrade and Pristina. 

      Citizens in Serbia do not see many concrete effects of technical agreements, while some of them are perceived negatively. For example, the telecommunications agreement is viewed negatively by the Serbs, while the Albanians see it largely as a positive agreement, explained Stakić.

      "Most respondents hold antagonistic views - they agree that Kosovo is de facto no longer part of Serbia, but at the same time they are very much against Kosovo's independence. Although the status of Kosovo was not a topic of research, the perceptions about the status structure all other views of our respondents. For example, Serbs from Serbia are not satisfied with the telecommunication agreement because they have to pay for roaming when they are in Kosovo, and they wonder why, if Kosovo is part of Serbia," said Stakić.

      Politicians have two different narratives - one for citizens and the other for international audiences, emphasized Stakić.

      Citizens support dialogue because they fear conflict. However, they want a new format and more information about the context and technical part of the dialogue, concluded Stakić. 

      Donika Marku from the Kosovo Center for Security Studies (KCSS) shared the results of a survey conducted in Kosovo.

      "The general perception of citizens is that dialogue is a major topic. Because it takes too long, it's hard to keep track of it and understand what's going on. Respondents believe that the dialogue process lacks transparency, which was greater at the beginning of the dialogue, and which gradually decreased as the process went from technical to political, " stressed Marku.

      There is a need for existing and non-technical issues to be resolved to restore confidence in the agreements, Marku concluded.

      Program Director of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE) Marko Savkovic emphasized that the media focuses largely on the political aspects of dialogue, ignoring all that has been achieved since 2011. The activities of the Public Policy Advocacy Group of Kosovo and Serbia covered almost all aspects of technical arrangements and all major places in Kosovo and Serbia, but it is a great challenge to combat the hate speech that the mainstream media often broadcasts, concluded Savković.

      Does technical dialogue have a future?

      The second panel was dedicated to discussing the future of technical dialogue.

      BCSP Director Igor Bandovic emphasized that the Belgrade-Pristina agreement must be sustainable and that both sides should take responsibility for it.

      „The dialogue began as a technical one and then turned into a political one. While the technical aspects only affect some citizens, political ones affect everyone. In order for us to have political dialogue, it is necessary for both parties to assume leadership, ownership and responsibility over it, ”said Bandović.

      Bandovic emphasized that a quick solution would not bring success.

      "I don't believe in quick solutions. As a civil society, we must fight for a democratic and sustainable solution. For example, Northern Macedonia came to an agreement after 27 years because the public was prepared, ”said BCSP director. 

      Bandovic concluded that the lack of dialogue and polarization in Serbian society are the key problems that hindered any political agreement.

      The president of the European Movement in Serbia, Jelica Minic, said that there is currently an acceleration in the dialogue process, a new context and new actors. However, the question is how much is achieved. Considering that Serbia is surrounded by EU countries and the EU has launched a dialogue, we should first turn to them.

      "There are two simultaneous processes. The first is the process of normalization, for which technical agreements serve as steps towards normalization of relations, which in the long run lead to reconciliation. But without another process, reconciliation, there is no normalization. Both processes are intertwined, " said Minić.

      Minic emphasized that positive stories about dialogue and relations between the two communities influence citizens' attitudes in a good way, and that such stories should be disseminated as much as possible.

      Naim Rashiti, CEO of Balkans Policy Research Group highlighted three items needed to make the technical dialogue clearer.

      „First, a sense of dialogue should be gained. Second, multilateral incentives to implement regional steps, such as the diplomatic agreement, do not go to Brussels to address this. It's similar to roaming. And third, regional representatives are needed in Kosovo to get the real work done locally. People are needed to form the basis for further agreements, ” said Rashiti.

      The dialogue has been going on for too long, and it has become a prisoner of the political establishment, Rashiti concluded.

      The panels "What do citizens think about the agreements reached between Belgrade and Pristina" and "Does technical dialogue have a future" were organized with the support of the European Union Embassy. The content of this activity is the sole responsibility of the Kosovo-Serbia Public Policy Advocacy Group (KSPAG) and cannot in any way represent the views of the European Union.

      Citizens' views on continued dialogue and possible solutions

      The third panel was dedicated to discussing the results of public opinion polls conducted in Serbia and Kosovo on how citizens see the future and possible solutions within the dialogue.

      Researcher at the Kosovo Center for Security Studies, Plator Avdiu, shared the findings of the Kosovo Security Barometer. Kosovo's citizens see corruption and unemployment as the biggest threats, while Serbia ranks third. However, the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue itself is ranked very low on the list of the greatest threats and most are in favor of continuing the dialogue, explained Avdiu.

      „Most respondents believe that the dialogue should continue in some form - until an agreement is reached, or until Serbia recognizes Kosovo. More than a third of respondents believe that tariffs should be continued, and 33% should be abolished, while only five percent believe that they should be suspended, ”said Avdiu. 

      Most Kosovo citizens are in favor of continuing dialogue with Belgrade. However, Serbia is at the top of perceived security threats and negative impacts, explained Avidu.

      Milan Krstić from the Center for Social Dialogue and Regional Initiatives presented the findings of an opinion poll in Serbia on the normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations.

      "Among Serbian citizens, emotions still dominate the Kosovo issue, recognition is taboo, and only maximalist versions of the deal in which Serbia gets something in return are supported. The research clearly shows that citizens' attitudes are largely shaped by the influence of pro-regime mainstream media, ”emphasized Krstić.

      Nikola Burazer, executive editor of European Western Balkans, spoke about how the media represented dialogue. 

      „There are two topics - how the media presents the dialogue and how the government presents it through the media. Reporting often comes down to who you met, without analyzing what was agreed, what was implemented, and what effect it would have. The analysis is more prevalent in the Kosovo media as the agreements affect them more. We also have tabloids close to government who spread nationalist anti-dialogue messages.The question is why are the media close to the authorities doing this. The answer is that the authorities are in favour for representing themselves as advocates of the process, but not of concessions, ”said Burazer. 


      Survey results from Serbia and Kosovo show that there is insufficient support from citizens for proposed solutions within the dialogue. For that the responsible are the messages that the political elites send, as well as the warlike narratives often propagated by the mainstream media, concluded Burazer.


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