Kosovo Public Opinion on Dialogue with Serbia

Monday, December 31, 2018

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This report presents findings of National Democratic Institute (NDI or the Institute) public opinion research in Kosovo on attitudes about normalization of bilateral relations with Serbia through negotiations referred to as the Brussels Dialogue (Dialogue), following the 2013 Brussels Agreement signed by Belgrade and Pristina under European Union (EU) auspices. Key findings include:
 
  • The Brussels Dialogue is seen to be of paramount importance among Kosovars of all ethnic communities to improve relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Citizens want the Dialogue to continue, but at the same time question its effectiveness and express distrust about the process. They desire more information about the purpose, content, and expected outcomes of negotiations. They perceive conflicting public positions between the parties about what has been agreed upon, and criticize the lack of implementation of past agreements.
  • There is no public appetite for territory exchange or so-called border corrections or for greater autonomy for majority-Kosovar Serb municipalities through an Association of Serbian Municipalities, which is intended to oversee local economic development, education, and health matters, and perform a representative role to central government authorities, as agreed between Kosovo and Serbia in 2015. Many within Kosovo believe that a border/territorial change could destabilize the country and deteriorate interethnic relations. Given these choices, citizens would rather the Dialogue continue, regardless of delays, in order to advance Kosovo’s EU integration prospects.  
  • The economic situation and unemployment remain major concerns of Kosovars. They link the Dialogue process to an improved economic outlook, although few believe the economic situation in Kosovo will improve.
  • Various ethnic communities appreciate that they share similar conditions and challenges. Those in multiethnic communities tend to speak of greater tolerance for and harmony with other ethnicities than those in more mono-ethnic municipalities. No one thinks radicalization on ethnic or religious bases is happening or foresees its growth. They suggest, instead, that conflict is driven by political actors.

The research included a series of targeted focus groups in July 2018, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), in Dragash, North Mitrovica, and Pristina. The Institute used these focus groups to provide qualitative information on what citizens think about the Dialogue, their views on individual and collective identity, and their perspectives on interethnic relations. Following the July 2018 research and in the lead-up to a September 2018 meeting in Brussels between Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, territorial exchange along ethnic lines was raised as a primary focus of the negotiations. NDI incorporated questions regarding the Brussels Dialogue, territory exchange, and interethnic relations into subsequent research conducted with support by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This included a series of 12 focus groups in September 2018 in Gjakova, Gjilan, Gracanica, North Mitrovica, Pristina, and South Mitrovica, as well as a country-wide quantitative survey, conducted in September and October 2018.

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