News of Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak’s selection as the EU’s Special Representative for the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia has been met with scepticism in Prishtina.
The Council of the European Union announced on Friday that it has appointed Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak as EU Special Representative for the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues.
According to a statement by the Council released on Friday morning, Lajcak will serve for the next 12 months, and his duties will include achieving “comprehensive normalisation of the relations between Serbia and Kosovo.”
Lajcak is also tasked with improving “good neighbourly relations and reconciliation between partners in the Western Balkans, helping them overcome the legacy of the past,” as well as contributing to “the consistency and effectiveness of EU action in the Western Balkans.”
Lajcak, who was the president of the UN General Assembly from 2017-18, previously held the position of EU Special Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina between 2007 and 2009. He was also appointed as the personal envoy of the EU High Representative to Montenegro in 2006 to “negotiate, organise and supervise” the country’s independence referendum.
Lajcak was serving as the Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs until he lost his position following the country’s February 29 parliamentary elections.
The EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia has been suspended since November 2018, after the previous Kosovo Government imposed a 100 per cent tariff on Serbian imports.
However, President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo and President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia met in Washington DC on March 2 alongside US Special Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, Richard Grenell.
Following the meeting, Thaci told Radio Free Europe that “the possibility of reaching a final agreement” between the two countries was discussed, and later described the US as taking “a leading role” in the dialogue.
On March 31, the acting Kosovo Government temporarily lifted the 100 per cent tariff, replacing it with reciprocal trade measures with Serbia. The move was heralded by many EU figures, including High Representative for Foregin Affairs Josep Borrell, but criticised by the US Embassy in Prishtina.
Head of the EU Office in Kosovo, Nataliya Apostalova, welcomed Lajcak’s appointment. “A highly experienced diplomat, he will be assisting a challenging Dialogue process between Pristina and Belgrade. Best of luck Mr Lajcak!” Apostalova wrote on Twitter.
However, Kosovo political officials were less enthusiastic about the appointment.
Perparim Kryeziu, a spokesperson for the acting Kosovo Government, told Prishtina Insight that there were reservations about the two EU Officials responsible for the dialogue, Borrell and Lajcak, both being from two countries which did not recognise Kosovo in Spain and Slovakia.
“However the decision over the representation of the EU is not our decision,” Kryeziu told Prishtina Insight. “For us, it is really important that the dialogue is well prepared and with clear principles – and that it aims for a sustainable agreement between Kosovo and Serbia as two independent and sovereign states.”
Former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj was also sceptical about the appointment, criticising the EU for “stalling the process” of the dialogue during the “stages of the grand finale and a leading US role.”
The @EUCouncil just announced the appointment of #Lajčák as EU Special Representative for the #Kosovo – #Serbia dialogue. In the stages of the grand finale and a leading #US role, the #EU is stalling the process.
— Ramush Haradinaj (@haradinajramush) April 3, 2020
Rumours of Lajcak’s potential appointment that surfaced at the beginning of March were also met with criticism from Thaci, who claimed that as a politician from one of the five EU countries that do not recognise Kosovo’s statehood, his role in the dialogue would not be neutral. Thaci labelled his selection as “the wrong choice.”
“I have met Mr Lajcak, and I told him outright that he will not achieve success in Kosovo,” Thaci said during a press conference on March 4. “All these years he has served as the Slovak Foreign Minister, a country which has not recognised Kosovo. And what is his position towards Kosovo? Neutral? No thank you.”
Thaci also noted that Lajcak, representing Slovakia in the 2018 Interpol General Assembly, abstained from the vote deciding whether to accept Kosovo as a member state of the international law enforcement cooperation organisation. Kosovo failed to attain membership for the third time in November 2018, and has not submitted an application for membership since.
Lajcak has previously spoken against the possibility of a land swap between Kosovo and Serbia, mooted by Presidents Thaci and Vucic in 2018 as a potential tool in the settlement between the two countries. Lajcak described the notion as being against “the spirit of democracy and the very foundations of the EU” to BIRN in November 2018.
03 April 2020 - 15:24