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Kosovo and Serbia set for controversial new topics in Brussels talks

Financial claims and arrangements for non-majority communities will be discussed in the EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia in the coming days, with the latter topic generating more controversy over the Association of Serb-majority municipalities.

Delegations from Kosovo and Serbia will meet in Brussels in the coming days to discuss two new topics as part of the EU-facilitated dialogue, currently being mediated by EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak. The meeting will be held at the expert level, following a high level meeting between Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on September 7. 

Lajcak has announced that Hoti and Vucic agreed at the meeting that their negotiators would now discuss the issue of “mutual financial claims and arrangements for non-majority communities.” The special representative added that while the issue of financial claims will be discussed on Thursday, arrangements for non-majority communities would be addressed in the coming days. 

The Kosovo delegation will be led by State Coordinator for the Dialogue Skender Hyseni, while two economic experts, Muhamet Mustafa and Robert Muharremi are also reported to have travelled to Brussels.

Speaking to a platform of civil society organisations on the dialogue in Prishtina, Prime Minister Hoti stated that “pensions from the 90s, war reparations and damages” would be discussed on Thursday. 

However, it is discussions over arrangements for non-majority communities which has generated more attention in Kosovo, due to questions over the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities, which was first mentioned in the Brussels Agreement in 2013.

In 2015, an agreement to establish the Association that outlined some of its key features caused turmoil in Kosovo politics, triggering large scale protests and a blockade of the parliament

To try and resolve the deadlock, then-President Atifete Jahjaga referred the agreement to Kosovo’s Constitutional Court. The court stated that while some principles of the agreement did not fully comply with the spirit of the Kosovo constitution, these principles could be harmonised through a legal act of the government.

A management team employed by the Kosovo Government submitted a draft statute of the Association to the EU in August 2018. However, nothing has been discussed on the topic since.

Marko Djuric, the head of Serbia’s so-called Office for Kosovo and Metohija who will lead the Serbian delegation, has stated that the Association will be “the first topic on the agenda” in the talks for the Serbian side.

Hoti has spoken of Kosovo’s need to honour the agreements it has made regarding the association. However, he insisted on Wednesday that it would not have executive powers, and that any agreement made must be in accordance with Kosovo’s Constitution.

Meanwhile, a press release from the Office of President Hashim Thaci released on Wednesday described discussions over the Association as a “big and dangerous mistake.” 

The press release states that issues over non-majority communities in Kosovo have already been resolved by previous agreements, including the Ahtisaari Plan which formed the basis for Kosovo’s constitution.

“No one has a mandate to speak on behalf of Kosovo on closed topics, in Brussels or anywhere else,” the statement reads. “The discussion tomorrow in Brussels, on the subject of the Association, is the beginning of the installation of the Republika Srpska inside the territory of the Republic of Kosovo.”

The Office of the President went on to encourage MPs to pass a parliamentary resolution forbidding the prime minister to negotiate on topics that “endanger the internal state order.”

The statement is quite a reverse from Thaci, who in 2015 hailed the agreement reached over the Association with Serbia.

“The agreement signed today marks progress in telecommunications, energy integration, the association and the barricade on the Ibar River,” he wrote on August 25, 2015, when he was serving as foreign minister and deputy prime minister. “This is an investment in the European future of our children.”

Thaci also promised that the agreement would lead to visa liberalisation, as well as membership into INTERPOL, UNESCO and the Council of Europe, none of which have materialised.

17/09/2020 - 09:44

17 September 2020 - 09:44

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