The Youth, the Agreements and the Dialogue

The EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia that was initiated in 2011 aims to promote cooperation between the governments, support their EU path and improve people’s lives on both sides i.e. the agreements reached during the dialogue affects the life of young people. The implementation of these agreements provide the youth, primarily those living in Kosovo, with some opportunities to enjoy their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. According to the official sources (, 65 per cent of people in Kosovo are under the age of thirty, while in Serbia (, this number is about 30 per cent.

The EU-facilitated dialogue addressed some important topics that affect youth; the recognition of the university diplomas was among the first topics discussed in Brussels in 2011. The agreement established a two-step procedure for validating university degrees. In the first instance, a technical diploma verification is performed, making sure that it is issued by an accredited institution; whereas in the second stage the diploma is certified by a group of experts. Young people, primarily in southern Serbia had great expectations for diploma recognition. Due to the limited university education opportunities in Albanian language in Serbia, the vast majority study in Kosovo, but over the years their diplomas were not recognised. Employment of the youth of the Albanian community in Serbia was impossible without a recognised degree, which was a strong incentive for them to leave. Similarly, the diplomas of young Serbs were not officially recognised in Kosovo, though they were still able to get jobs in institutions.

In Serbia, the process of diploma verification was challenged by the 2014 Constitutional Court’s decision which found the agreement unconstitutional. However, in May 2016, both Pristina and Belgrade agreed to resume the implementation of the agreement on diploma recognition; although some problems still exist. The publication Education in the Serbian Language and Diploma Verification in Kosovo from May 2018 shows that the status of the University of North Mitrovica, a higher institution in Kosovo providing studies in the Serbian language, remained unresolved. Nevertheless, assisted by the European Centre for Minority Issues Kosovo, and supported by the EU, Kosovo’s Ministry of Education developed verification procedures enabling Kosovo Serbs to get their qualifications recognised for employment. In February 2018, the Ministry claimed that around 1200 diplomas obtained from the University of North Mitrovica had been verified.

The agreement on the return of certified copies of Civil Registry Books from Serbia is among those agreements that does not directly target the youth, but can have a vital impact on young people’s employment opportunities. Although the process of retrieving Civil Registry Books was slow and complicated, it has eased Kosovo citizens’ access to their civil documents by enabling them to get copies of their documents without requiring them to travel to Serbia. The agreement has facilitated civil registration procedures for the Serbian community and others, especially in the north of Kosovo. Young people living in the northern municipalities are provided with the opportunity to obtain Kosovo documents and enjoy the available services such as social welfare, employment, property transactions, bank and financial registry and transitions, driving licenses and other benefits.

The freedom of movement agreement has directly affected young people. It eradicated the existing obstacles for the mobility between Kosovo and Serbia and enabled people to travel through or visit “the other side”, crossing only with IDs. Enforcement of this agreement has enabled exchange visits and participation of the youth from both sides in various projects, exchange programmes, study and cultural visits. The number of young people from Kosovo visiting Serbia, and vice-versa, for most of
them for the first time in their lives, has increased. And, these exchanges prove to be quite beneficial; most of the participants declared that before they met young people from the “other side” they had prejudices, coming mainly from the biased media information. Direct contact between youth from both sides was an opportunity to start breaking enemy images, building friendships and networks, and deepen the cooperation.

Implementation of the Agreement on Regional Representation of Kosovo and Agreement on Freedom of Movement provided the groundwork for effective functioning of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO). So far, RYCO has supported two projects from Serbia with at least one partner organisation from Kosovo, three projects from Kosovo with at least one partner organisation from Serbia, and six projects from other countries of the region which had partner organisations from both Kosovo and Serbia. Such exchanges created opportunities for partner organisations from Kosovo to be represented in regional initiatives and build regional partnerships, including organisations from Serbia.

Despite some benefits for the youth arising from the dialogue process, the involvement of the youth perspective in this process is of utmost importance and is still missing. Both governments should consider the issues which are at stake for young people, such as the inability of a young Albanian from Kosovo to attend an international youth conference in Serbia or Bosnia and Herzegovina, which should be of an immediate concern for the dialogue teams. Youth want to have full mobility, travel, network and associate, not only between Kosovo and Serbia but in the whole region. This speaks in favour of the youth involvement in the dialogue, which will provide active pace, speed-up the process of finding practical solutions, and also bring new perspectives, which currently seem to be quite needed. Allowing young people to voice their opinions on important matters such as education, employment, health, security, environment, connectivity, and so on, could raise issues which were not previously tackled by the dialogue, but also provide innovative solutions.

Through networking and associations, young people could potentially come up with creative solutions on how to tackle even more sensitive issues, such as the textbooks in Kosovar and Serbian schools, thus contributing to bringing the societies closer. Young people, devoted to working on developing sustainable peace between Kosovo and Serbia, could bring a lot to the dialogue and the implementation of the agreements, and at the same time benefit by having their pressing issues directly addressed.

This article has been produced with the financial assistance of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Kosovo. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Balkans Policy Research Group and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Kosovo.

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