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The Missing Persons and the Status of the Serbian Orthodox Church: Is There Room for Significant Progress in the Dialogue?

The Missing Persons and the Status of the Serbian Orthodox Church: Is There Room for Significant Progress in the Dialogue?

When the dialogue on the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina resumed in July 2020 after an 18-month blockade, new topics were put on the Brussels table. New Social Initiative dealt with two new topics in the past months – the issue of resolving the fate of the missing people and the status of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The results of the research were presented in North Mitrovica on Friday.

The issue of the missing people has been the subject of negotiations for the past two years, and optimists are also announcing progress in the form of a joint statement by two sides regarding this topic.

In the analysis The Game of Numbers: Resolving the Issue of the Missing, 20 Years on, author Milica Radovanović provides insight into the progress made in addressing the issue of missing persons in Kosovo, the shortcomings made in addressing this issue in the past two decades and the how formal inclusion of this topic in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina can contribute to resolving it, with an emphasis on the experiences of family members of missing Serbs in Kosovo. 

Two decades of failures in the work of numerous actors have led to the fact that even if there were political will on both sides to fully resolve this issue, the fate of a certain number of people will most likely never be clarified. This is one of the conclusions of Radovanović’s research that points out that all political messages that do not explain this reality are misleading the public.

The report is divided into several parts, and the one related to the statistical data of various governmental, non-governmental, and international organizations is summarized in this video:

In her research, Radovanović covered some of the legal and administrative problems faced by family members of the missing, with a focus on the Serbian community.

The NSI researcher’s report is available in Serbian, Albanian, and English.

The status of the Serbian Orthodox Church was included in the list of eight topics agreed upon by the then government of Abdullah Hoti and the Serbian side after the renewal of the dialogue. The readiness of the government of Albin Kurti to honor this agreement of the former negotiating team is questionable; many interlocutors of NSI researcher Milica Andrić Rakić agree.

In the analysis of public policy options, New Apple of Discord: SOC in the Dialogue on Normalization examines the likelihood of including the status of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the dialogue on normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina and the acceptability of different models of possible participation of church representatives in negotiations for Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Albanian communities.

In the analysis, Andrić Rakić conveys the arguments of the two sides for and against the inclusion of this topic in the dialogue, lists the possible issues of negotiations on the status of the SOC, and provides an overview of the ways to include representatives of the SOC in the dialogue.

The SOC, due to its significant influence on the Serbian public, can play the role of a dealmaker or dealbreaker of the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, making it an indispensable actor in this process, concludes Andrić Rakić. If this topic were to be raised, the most acceptable for most stakeholders would be the indirect involvement of SOC representatives in the negotiations, where they would have meetings with mediators in the dialogue but would not be part of the negotiation teams.

The NSI researcher’s report is available in Serbian, Albanian, and English.

Both documents were created as part of the OPEN project, which is implemented by the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society (KFOS) in cooperation with the New Social Initiative.

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