The first agreement on the principles governing the normalization of relations
Agreement within the framework of technical dialogue
Date of signing: April 19, 2013
The agreement has been partially implemented
Parties / delegations
Prime Minister of Serbia
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Prime Minister of Kosovo *
President of Serbia
Prime Minister of Serbia
President of Kosovo *
Prime Minister of Kosovo *
The Brussels process, initiated under the auspices of the EU, has brought to the negotiating table the representatives of Kosovo and Serbia for the first time after the unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence in 2008. This process can be divided into two stages: a stage of technical dialogue, leading to the conclusion of the agreement in 2011, and the stage of political dialogue resulting in the First Agreement on the Principles Regulating the Normalization of Relations (better known as the Brussels Agreement) from 2013 and the subsequent agreements emanating there from.
The Brussels Agreement was concluded on 19 April 2013 in two identical copies: one initialed by Catherine Ashton and Ivica Dačić and the other by Catherine Ashton and Hashim Thaci.
This Agreement in 15 points envisaged the formation of the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities, local Kosovar elections to be held in the four Northern municipalities, establishment of Kosovar and dismantling Serb municipal structures, integration of Serb security structures into Kosovo’s institutional framework and integration of the judiciary.
Besides, this Agreement stipulated the intensification of energy and telecommunication talks and their finalization by 15 June of the same year.
It was agreed that neither party should block, or encourage others to block the progress of the other party’s progress on its way of the EU integration.
The fundamental principles enshrined in the Agreement were further elaborated on by separate agreements. The aim of the Agreement was the integration of the Serb population and institutions functioning within the Serbian system into Kosovo’s legal and institutional framework.
Whereas the Parliament of Kosovo ratified the Brussels Agreement as an international treaty in June of the same year, whereby Kosovo’s institutions got committed to implementing it, the National Assembly of Serbia did not do the same.
The Serbian Government unanimously accepted the reached Agreement, while on 26 April 2013, the National Assembly approved the report on political and technical talks with Priština, within which this Agreement was contained. The request for assessment of the constitutionality of the National Assembly’s decision to adopt the Government’s report and the Brussels Agreement itself was dismissed by the Serbian Constitutional Court in December 2014, stating that it was a political and not a legal question.
The essential points of the agreement
The First Agreement on Principles Regulating the Normalization of Relations (the Brussels Agreement), among others, agreed the legal establishment of four municipalities with majority Serb population under Kosovo’s jurisdiction in the North: North Mitrovica, Zvečan, Zubin Potok and Leposavić. This implied holding the first local Kosovar elections in these municipalities, in November 2013.
Until this Agreement, Serbs mainly refrained from participating in Kosovo’s elections, especially in the four Northern municipalities.
Belgrade saw the implementation of this Agreement as creation of conditions for establishment of the Community of Serb-Majority Municipalities – ASM, which is part of the same Agreement, while Priština saw it as extension of its competences to the North of Kosovo and integration of the Serbs from North Kosovo into Kosovo’s system.
Both governments adopted respective implementation plans for the Agreement in late May 2013, under which the local elections would be held by late October. The local assemblies of all municipalities in Kosovo’s territories functioning within the Serbian system were disbanded after that. By decision of the Serbian Government, interim authorities were appointed and they are still functioning in these municipalities.
Kosovo’s first local elections, supported by the OSCE, were held in the four Northern municipalities in November 2013. Kosovo agreed to not displaying state symbols, emblems and other state insignia on the ballot boxes in the polling stations.
The European Union’s monitoring mission assessed these elections ad free and fair. With all difficulties, the elections at both central and local levels have been conducted in all Kosovo’s municipalities since.
In the following year, municipal authorities in all the four Northern municipalities were established, with statutes adopted in keeping with Kosovo’s legislation.
Although the goal was to thwart the Serbian municipal structures, that still hasn’t been achieved.
Integration of security structures in North Kosovo
Pursuant to the Brussels Agreement, it was envisaged that the security issue should be resolved by disbanding the illegal Serbian structures operating in the North and their integration into Kosovo’s security structures. Serbian police in North Kosovo had acted as part of Serbia’s legal system all the way through and had been under control of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior.
The implementation plan stresses that all police officers in the North shall be offered a place in equivalent Kosovo’s structure and institutions, but simultaneously with the integration process Serbia should close down the premises of Serbian security structures and stay the payment of their salaries (the Serbian Government issued a Decree in December 2013 declaring all police officers of its Ministry of the interior retired).
Besides the integration of former Serbian MoI police officers into Kosovo’s police, the agreement also envisages the establishment of the Regional Command for North Kosovo, with a regional commander, in charge of the four Northern municipalities (North Mitrovica, Zvečan, Zubin Potok and Leposavić).
The Government of Kosovo got the list of police officers interested in becoming part of Kosovo’s security institutions on 11 December 2013, thus launching the integration process. Out of 337 police officers, a total of 292 have been integrated.
The Association of Serb municipalities
The main part of the First Agreement on Principles Regulating the Normalization of Relations (the Brussels Agreement) is dedicated to the establishment of the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities (ASM).
The Agreement envisaged the establishment of the Community/Association of Municipalities with Majority Serb Population in Kosovo – Northern Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Zvečan, Leposavić, Gračanica, Štrpce, Novo Brdo, Klokot, Ranilug and Parteš.
The idea of the Brussels Agreement, in particular of the ASM, is to facilitate the full integration of Kosovar Serbs (from the four Northern municipalities) into Kosovo’s system, as well as that of the institutions functioning within the Serbian system, including educational and health care institutions.
In accordance with the competences endowed by the European Charter of Local Self-Government and with Kosovo’s legislation, the participating municipalities shall be entitled to cooperation in collective execution of powers through the Community/Association, which shall have oversight of the areas of economic development, education, health care, town planning and rural development. This community shall be established pursuant to its Statute.
In August 2015, Kosovo and Serbia reached the Agreement on General Principles/Main Elements of the ASM defining the goals, organizational set-up, relations with the central authorities, legal capacities, budget and support to the ASM.
The support to this Agreement was lacked in Kosovo; it was criticized by the opposition and the public, causing crisis and massive protests. The petition against this agreement launched by the opposition was signed by 200,000 citizens.
In such an atmosphere, the President of Kosovo asked the Constitutional Court on 31 October 2015 to assess the constitutionality of the ASM’s general principles.
Although the court deemed constitutional the ASM’s establishment in keeping with the First Agreement on Normalization of Relations, ratified by the Parliament of Kosovo, it assessed its certain provisions from 2015 as non-constitutional:
The goals, organizational set-up, budget, financial support and general provisions are beyond the framework of Kosovo’s Constitution in the area of local self-government;
The right to legislative initiative envisaged also for the ASM under the 2015 Agreement belongs solely to Kosovo’s President, Government, Members of Parliament or a minimum of ten thousand citizens.
The Constitutional Court also deemed that the ANM could not be conferred exclusive powers to represent the interests of the Serbian community in Kosovo and in relations to the central authorities.
Following this decision, the implementation of the Agreement became impossible, given the unwillingness of both parties to agree to further compromises.
While Priština is insisting on the implementation of the 2013 Agreement, not envisaging any exeutive powers for the ASM, Belgrade would accept only the establishment of the ASM in accordance with the Agreement on General Principles/Key Elements as agreed in Brussels in 2015.
In April 2018, the European Union confirmed the mandate of the ASM managerial team tasked with drafting the Association’s statute, however, although the Serb party claims the statute developed, it has not been presented to the EU or the public in Serbia or Kosovo to date.