Serbia and Kosovo agreed last month to exchange envoys for the first time in response to a broader European Union push for the two to improve relations. In an email interview, Stefan Lehne, a Balkans and European Union expert at Carnegie Europe, explained the overall progress of Kosovo-Serbia relations and the challenges that remain.
WPR: What were the factors that drove Serbia and Kosovo to exchange envoys for the first time?
Stefan Lehne: Whatever their differences on the status issue, Serbia and Kosovo will always be neighbors. Every day there will be problems to sort out between them and gains to be had through cooperation. Exchanging liaison officers will facilitate direct communication and allow this complex relationship to run more smoothly. Of course, this arrangement is only one achievement of the dialogue mediated by EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton. Other recent steps include the establishment of border controls in the north of Kosovo and a customs system. These measures make eminently good sense in themselves. However, they probably wouldn’t have happened without strong pushing by the EU, which has made progress toward a more normal relationship a condition for both parties to move toward participating in European integration.