Leaders of Serbia and Kosovo fail to make progress in normalisation dialogue

Leaders of Serbia and Kosovo fail to make progress in normalisation dialogue
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje June 15, 2021

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti met in Brussels on June 15 for the first time as part of the EU-mediated normalisation dialogue, but failed to make any progress in the talks.

Belgrade and Pristina are engaged in an EU-mediated dialogue on the normalisation of their relations, which stalled due to the February general elections in Kosovo. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, following a war in 1998-99, which ended with Nato strikes on Serbia, but it is not recognised as a separate country.

“It was not an easy meeting but it was important that it happened. The two leaders had an open discussions about what they want from the dialogue,” EU special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo, Miroslav Lajcak said.

“What is important from the EU is that both leaders confirmed that there is no other way but to normalise relations. Both are committed to work to reach a comprehensive agreement through the dialogue,” Lajcak said following the meeting.

He added that the talks will continue before the end of July. According to Lajcak, the EU has high expectations for both Serbia and Kosovo to overcome the legacy of the past and to move towards a European future through a comprehensive binding agreement.

Vucic was cited by news agency Tanjug as saying that there was absolutely nothing at the meeting that the two sides could agree on, and that the Pristina side tried to provoke Serbian delegation to end the dialogue.

Vucic said that Belgrade does not want to halt the dialogue process, but that Pristina has great obligations that it needs to implement.

“The signed documents must be implemented, but it must be done in an appropriate way, and only after that we can talk about other things," Vucic was cited as saying.

“I stressed that mutual recognition is the only way forward, that Kosovo wants to resolve all outstanding issues and we put forward four concrete proposals,” Kosovo's PM Kurti said in a tweet, following the meeting.

One of the proposals is the after mutual recognition, minorities in both countries would have their own National Councils. 

Kurti has also proposed that the existing South European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) be advanced to SEFTA (South East European Free Trade Agreement), and for Kosovo and Serbia to sign a peace declaration pledging to never attack each other.

On the issue of missing persons, Kosovo asked Serbian delegation to replace and investigate the head of the delegation, Veljko Odalovic, who during the conflict in 1997-1999 was the chief for the Kosovo region and ruled occupied Kosovo together with Zoran Andjelkovic.

EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said before the meeting that the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo is not going to be easy, but that this process and sincere engagement by both sides is necessary for the benefit of the people of the two countries.