Since Serbia and Kosovo began their political and technical dialogue mediated by the European Union in 2011, numerous agreements were signed, but few of them implemented. In addition, since 2018 the idea of partitioning Kosovo along ethnic lines has entered public debates. This article asks why that is the case and argues that Northern Kosovo – specifically, who has the right to claim statehood over this area – lies at the heart of why partition was suggested as a viable option and why so few agreements have been implemented. In order to demonstrate this, the article adopts a performative view of statehood, particularly suitable for states ‘in-becoming’, such as Kosovo. As only externally performed statehood has been examined so far, that is, efforts for international recognition, this article extends performativity to internally negotiated statehood, against the background of two political systems competing for legitimacy in the long run. This is the case with Northern Kosovo, conceptualized as an area of overlapping limited statehood. The developed analytical framework can be extended to other cases of territorial disputes, such as Crimea or Palestine. The framework can also be expanded to explore performativity of statehood in areas where statehood is not institutionally disputed, but rather symbolically.


Brussels dialoguediscourseNorthern Kosovopartitionperformative statehood