Serbia, Kosovo restart talks in Brussels after 20-month hiatus

By bne IntelliNews July 17, 2020

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti in Brussels on July 16 marking the restart of the EU-mediated dialogue between the two countries after it was halted in November 2018 when Kosovo introduced 100% tariffs on Serbian imports.

The meeting took place following a preparatory virtual summit on July 10 hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris, which ended without results.

Kosovo’s new government led by Hoti, which was inaugurated in early June, lifted the tariffs immediately after it took office, which opened the way for the re-launch of the stalled dialogue that is crucial for both countries to advance in their EU path.

“After 20 months, today we resumed the dialogue process between Kosovo and Serbia. Mutual recognition and normalisation of relations between the two countries are the basic principles and the ultimate goal of this process,” Hoti said in a Facebook post after the meeting.

Hoti added that the two topics at the first meeting included the issue of missing persons during the independence war with Serbian forces in 1998-99 as well as economic issues. 

“For us, the economy also includes compensation for war damages, succession, state debt, pensions, bank savings, lost wages of fired employees and other issues,” Hoti underlined.

Vucic said that important issues were raised in Brussels, but that the process would be difficult.

"It was difficult, but we did not expect it to be easy for us in Brussels," the Serbian president underlined.

Next Wednesday, the Serbia-Kosovo talks will continue at the technical level. Vucic and Hoti will meet again in early September in Brussels to open other important issues such as property, as Vucic said.

Hoti took over the talks from the Kosovan side after President Hashim Thaci was indicted for war crimes last month. 

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but it is still not recognised by Belgrade as a separate country. The proclamation of independence came one decade following the Kosovo war in 1998-1999 which ended with Nato attacks in Serbia. The independence war claimed more than 10,000 victims.

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