Switzerland is committed to normalising relations between Serbia and Kosovo

In northern Kosovo, tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have increased in recent days. Pictures of Serbian army convoys are fuelling fears that the violence will escalate further. On behalf of the UN Security Council, the Kosovo Force (KFOR) has been present in the region since 1999 to ensure a peaceful and secure environment. Within the framework of military peacebuilding, Switzerland is also deployed in the KFOR mission with the SWISSCOY. Switzerland also supports efforts to normalise relations between Serbia and Kosovo with other instruments.

A map shows the borders between Serbia and Kosovo.

Switzerland supports the greater involvement of both states in Europe in various ways. © FDFA

23.10.2023 – Kosovo: Switzerland calls on both parties to return to dialogue

The situation in Kosovo was the focus of a UN Security Council meeting today, attended by Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić. Tensions and insecurity in Kosovo have increased since the last Council meeting. A Kosovar police officer was killed and several people were injured in an attack on the Kosovar police this September. De-escalation is therefore necessary in view of a serious return to the normalisation process.

In view of this, Switzerland condemned the recent violence in Kosovo in the Security Council and called on all parties to cooperate. In order to implement political solutions, inflammatory rhetoric or the increased stationing of troops near the border should be avoided. Switzerland called on the parties to engage in the EU-led dialogue and to implement their obligations under the agreement to normalise relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

A male and a female soldier of the Swiss Armed Forces in KFOR discuss next to a white operational vehicle in Kosovo.
The Swiss Armed Forces have been participating in the Kosovo Force (KFOR) with SWISSCOY since 1999. The Liaison and Monitoring Teams serve KFOR as an early warning system for potential changes in the situation. © DDPS

Switzerland maintains close relations with Kosovo for more than thirty years and is home to a large diaspora. Switzerland actively supports the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo and contributes to building trust. A central pillar in the reconciliation process is coming to terms with the past. Among other things, Switzerland actively supports both states in the search for and identification of missing persons. As part of its international cooperation, Switzerland promotes inclusive and democratic governance in Kosovo and creates decent jobs. In this way, it contributes to future prospects for the whole of society.

In addition, the Swiss contingent in the Kosovo Force (KFOR) is the largest Swiss contingent in a peace mission, with up to 195 members of the armed forces. KFOR has its origins in a UN Security Council resolution from 1999. KFOR pursues the goal of ensuring the freedom of movement of the population and providing a stable environment. Swiss Armed Forces personnel are making a concrete contribution on the ground so that KFOR can achieve this goal. At today's meeting of the Security Council, Switzerland underlined its support for KFOR as a guarantor of security.

Statement by Switzerland on the situation in Kosovo

29.05.2023 – Switzerland condemns the attacks in Zvecan

The FDFA strongly condemns the violent actions of the demonstrators in Zvecan, which were also directed against the Kosovo Force present in the area to maintain a peaceful and secure environment.

27.12.2022 – FDFA concerned over rising tensions between Serbia and Kosovo

Tensions are rising in Kosovo. The Serbian army has been put on a heightened state of alert and barricades continue to block many roads in the area. On Twitter the FDFA called on both sides to take measures to calm the tensions.

20.12.2022 – Switzerland supports efforts to normalise relations between Serbia and Kosovo

The deployment of SWISSCOY is an example of Switzerland's commitment to security and stability in the region. The normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo is crucial to promoting stability and development in the Western Balkans. This is in Switzerland's interests, given that it is home to 400,000 people from the Western Balkans.

With regard to normalisation efforts, Switzerland has consistently made it clear in official contacts with Serbia and Kosovo that they are primarily responsible for finding a solution. They are both looking to join the EU. The EU has led negotiations for the past 10 years. Various agreements were concluded in 2013 and 2015. Since then, the heads of government and technical negotiating teams of Serbia and Kosovo have conducted many rounds of negotiations, partly to prevent escalations and partly to hammer out the details of the agreements so that they can finally be implemented. 

Switzerland’s commitment

Since 2015, the FDFA has deployed its own complementary instruments to support these efforts. The Peace and Human Rights Division has organised regular meetings, which have been attended by representatives of the most influential parties in both countries. It was important to help representatives of both countries engage in regular dialogue on political issues, enabling them to forge relationships and build trust away from the public eye. This facilitated discrete direct contact between the parties, for example to prevent violence from erupting, and allowed them to test ideas that were later incorporated into official negotiations. One of these meetings was held in Switzerland one week after the Serbs withdrew from Kosovo's institutions.

Questions and answers

Will Switzerland offer Serbia and Kosovo further mediation services beyond its current commitment?

For many years now, the FDFA has made a discrete but significant contribution through its peace policy and good offices in line with the priorities set under Switzerland's foreign policy. We will continue to do so in the future not only because it is in our interests but also because we offer added value as a credible and independent actor in the Western Balkans. The SDC and DDPS are also making a substantive and widely recognised contribution through their participation in KFOR. The EU is mediating the negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo. Switzerland supports these efforts. In addition, the Peace and Human Rights Division will continue to facilitate confidential talks between various Serbian and Kosovar groups. Its aim is to build trust and provide ideas, analyses and concrete proposals to advance the EU-mediated negotiations. The Peace and Human Rights Division has also seconded a negotiation specialist to the Kosovar delegation to the talks. If the parties requested additional support from Switzerland, we would of course consider it.

Switzerland has been campaigning for both countries to be more closely integrated into Europe. What are the challenges here?

There are many, and they are felt across the region. While the countries of the Western Balkans have made considerable progress in terms of security and stability, many young people are still leaving the region because they do not see a future for themselves there. The Western Balkans must continue to work on creating the necessary conditions for sustainable economic development. Normalising relations and ensuring peaceful coexistence between different ethnic groups/minorities are key factors. Good governance, infrastructure development and vocational education and training are also critical. To this end, Switzerland is engaged in a broad range of long-term cooperation programmes that benefit the entire region. Serbia does not recognise Kosovo. Neither do five EU member states: Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. Serbia and Kosovo have formally applied to join the EU. Neither country can become an EU member state unless they normalise relations. The framework agreements concluded in 2013 and 2015 have so far only been partially implemented. The dominant narratives in both Serbia and Kosovo cannot be reconciled. The main challenge is for the EU – backed by France, Germany and the US – to set out a robust framework for negotiations that will lead the parties to make the concessions necessary for a final general agreement. 

Switzerland is working directly with Serbia and Kosovo to defuse tensions. Is it also working at the multilateral level towards this end?

As the situation develops, Switzerland raises issues of current importance within the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which remains a cornerstone of the European security architecture. It also advocates on a case by case basis for Kosovo to join international organisations such as the Council of Europe.

What are Switzerland's relations with Serbia and Kosovo?

Switzerland maintains close relations with both states and supports their greater involvement in Europe in various ways. This also promotes the stability and economic development of the Western Balkans – important pillars of Switzerland's foreign policy that are anchored in the Federal Council's Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23. Switzerland actively promotes closer ties between the two parties and supports, among other things, progress in normalising their relations.

FDFA State Secretary Livia Leu held several talks on this topic with Miroslav Lajčák, the EU Special Representative for the Western Balkans and the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. State Secretary Leu also met with Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian State Secretary Nemanja Starović, among others, in Pristina and Belgrade on 27 and 28 June. Their talks focused on Switzerland's bilateral relations with these two countries and on Switzerland's broad engagement in the Western Balkans.

Switzerland launched cooperation programmes with both Kosovo and Serbia in 2022 for the years 2022 to 2025.

Press release, FDFA State Secretary Livia Leu holds bilateral talks in Serbia and Kosovo, 28.06.2022

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