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Serbia and Kosovo: One agreement, two interpretations

Kosovo and Serbia have signed important agreements that they hope will further normalize the relations between Belgrade and Prishtina. But the countries don't seem to see eye-to-eye about what they actually agreed on.

After

signing an agreement

about the autonomy of the northern part of Kosovo, a mostly Serbian community, Kosovo's Prime Minister Isa Mustafa and Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic (seen above with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in June) have both declared themselves the "winner" of the negotiations. The two countries also made progress in the field of telecommunications and on a bridge that has been blocked by Serbian troops for a long time.

"Both sides have a different view on what 'winning' actually entails," the Kosovar analyst Halil Matoschi told DW. "This could make the implementation of the agreement rather hard."

Kosovo's Mustafa said that he was satisfied and emphasized that Kosovo authorities' sovereignty would extend across the entire country - "including the North."

"The agreement is not going to hurt Kosovo's sovereignty," Matoschi said as well.

But Serbian Prime Minister Vucic also considered the negotiations a great success. "This agreement is good for the Serbian population in Kosovo," he said.

Kosovo Police Force (KPS) watch a protest at a key bridge in Mitrovica. (Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

The agreements are meant to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia

"Of course there'll be significant problems with the implementation of the agreement," Dusan Janjic, director of the Forum for Ethnical Relations in Serbia, told DW. "But it's still important that the normalization process between Serbia and Kosovo is alive and continues."

Kosovo has been recognized by more than 110 countries, including 23 of the 28 EU members. But Serbia is not among them, and neither are the majority of the Serbs who live in Kosovo. They celebrated until the early hours of the morning, because the agreement stipulates unifying the Serbian communities into an association, which is supposed to give "extensive authority to the Serbian minority" in Kosovo.

This will include a charter, a president, a vice president, a parliamentary assembly and a flag for the Serbian communities. They will be able to make decisions on the economy, healthcare, education and local administration, which is supposed to increase the protection of the Serbian minority in Kosovo.

Lack of transparency

"There are several levels on which implementation can get difficult," Janjic said. "There's the political resistance of the radical opposition in Serbia as well as in Kosovo, but then there are also the criminal groups that stand to lose everything if the situation normalizes."

Another problem according to Janjic is the lack of transparency in the international community, since the "public in Serbia and Kosovo is only informed about the talks in Brussels to a very marginal degree."

Many details of the agreements remained secret and not open to the public even 24 hours after the papers had been signed. That leaves the space wide open for speculation and different versions of the truth, depending on how the political elites in Belgrade and Pristina want to portray their achievements.

Empty bridge in Mitrovica. (Photo: EPA/ VALDRIN XHEMAJ)

The bridge in Mitrovica, which has been blocked for a long time, will be open to all once again

Kosovo is now also set to receive its own international country code for people calling Kosovar phone numbers from abroad: +383. Since Kosovo is not a member of the UN, it is technically not allowed to have its own country code, but Austria will apply for it in Kosovo's name.

Another great achievement: The bridge across the river Ibar that has long been blocked by Serbian troops will be reopened in Mitrovica on October 15. The bridge has lost its economic meaning by now, but the opening will be a very symbolic act.

Ever since the end of the Kosovo War in 1999, it has represented the separation of Kosovo's northern regions, where mostly Serbs live, from the rest of the country.

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