The Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM), as a member of the Kosovo-Serbia Policy Advocacy Group (KSPAG), organized a roundtable on the "Technical Agreements and Cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina - Energy, Trade, Regional Development", with the aim to inform and promote the benefits of the technical dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
The roundtable brought together representatives of civil society, experts and representatives of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, who discussed the progress made so far in the implementation of technical agreements, their impact on citizens and consequences they have on energy, trade and regional development.
Speaking about the issues of common interest between Belgrade and Pristina, the expert in economic policy and international relations Srećko Đukić stated that long-term investments in energy is needed across the region, because "the energy is a decisive factor for further development".
He emphasized that energy management, specifically gasification, is essential for connecting the region, and above all for economic cooperation. Đukić said that if the region “wants to be part of the EU, it must at least halve its coal production”. “The region needs a large pipeline for the energy supply because it is important for development,” Đukić said.
Analysing the implementation of the technical agreement on the energy between Belgrade and Pristina, Đukić said that political will is needed to solve all the issues.
“If we look from a technical and expert point of view, these issues could be solved, but there is no political will on either side. There should be a thorough analysis to better understand how to improve matters in this area, because they deals with the most basic human needs. These are not unsolvable issues, it is possible to solve them in the near future,” Đukić stated.
The head of the Centre for Regional Cooperation of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Aleksandar Radovanović, emphasized that problems in trade affect regional cooperation. “The introduction of non-tariff barriers hinders cooperation and has a negative impact on both economies,” he said.
“The cooperation of business companies from Serbia and Kosovo contributed to the industrialization of Kosovo, as over 55% of imports from Serbia were raw materials which were used for further production by Kosovo companies. So, the introduction of tariffs has caused loss not only for small and medium-sized companies in Serbia but for the Kosovo producers as well,” Radovanović said.
According to him, the chambers of commerce of Serbia and Kosovo are cooperating but within other projects in the Western Balkans. “We hope that the tariffs will be removed because we all lose,” he added.
Talking about the results in the implementation of certain technical agreements, Dragiša Mijaćić, executive director of the Institute for Territorial Economic Development in Serbia, said that there has been progress in the issues related to freedom of movement, but much remains to be done.
“In all agreements, there are issue with implementation; for example in education, customs and so on, although these issues are not as difficult as the issue of the Association of Serbian municipalities. The energy agreement is perhaps the most difficult agreement, which has not been implemented yet and we don’t know what will happen,” he said, while adding that “cooperation is also needed in the field of environmental protection because pollution affects everyone.”
Mijacic stressed that “there are examples of good cooperation and it's not always so dark as it is being presented. Although maybe at a small level but there are certainly signs that people can cooperate if given the opportunity and framework to do so”.
Representatives of the Novi Pazar business community and civil society organisations have called for political disputes between Belgrade and Pristina to be resolved in order to restore a favourable business environment, stating that companies from the Novi Pazar region had good trade co-operation with the Kosovo businesses.
According to the participants, it is necessary to include citizens in the implementation of the technical agreements in order to provide a perspective for all, at local and regional level.
This roundtable is part of the activities of the “Promoting and Communicating Benefits of the Pristina – Belgrade EU Facilitated Dialogue” project, implemented by the KSPAG.
This activity was organized with the assistance of the European Union. The contents are the sole responsibility of Kosovo-Serbia Policy Advocacy Group and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.