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Talks with EU leaders in Brussels Yield No Progress in Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue, on Paper at Least

Another high-level meeting in Brussels, the first of this size, did not yield clear results, at least not for the public. Preconditions set by both Kosovo and Serbia were the primary cause of this impasse, according to EU.

Without clear progress, Kosovo and Serbia concluded their separate meetings with EU leaders on Thursday in Brussels. 

The dialogue meeting, the highest in terms of rank of leaders so far, had Kosovar PM Albin Kurti and Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic met with  German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, the Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, the European Union’s Chief Diplomat, Josep Borrell, and the EU envoy for dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, to discuss the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Kurti and Vucic did not meet with each other, as Kosovo conditioned the meeting to EU imposing sanctions on Serbia for the Banjska attack, prior. 

The topic of discussion in Brussels was a new and so-called ‘modern proposal’ from Western diplomacy regarding the status of the Association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo presented to both leaders on October 21, 2023.

“We presented a new European serious and balanced proposal for the establishment of this Association of Municipalities and insisted on the parties to take this occasion […] the parties were not ready to agree on that without preconditions that were unacceptable by the other party,” declared the  EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell.

Kosovo’s PM, Albin Kurti, on the X social network stated that Serbia refused to sign the agreement and the October 21 draft status of the Association.

“Despite my offer, Serbia refused to sign both the agreement & Oct 21 draft. To the contrary, it demanded a side letter that would nullify 3 principles of the Basic Agrmt, Annex & the Oct 21 proposal. Acceptance means signing, and signing guarantees acceptance & implementation”, Kurti stated.

In a statement from the Government of Kosovo on Thursday, it was emphasized that President Vucic has set new conditions.

“The Republic of Kosovo has accepted the Basic Agreement of Brussels of February 27, 2023, and the Implementation Annex of Ohrid of March 18, 2023. These agreed documents are a joint success with the European Union. The agreement must be fully implemented, without conditions, without delays,” stated the Government of Kosovo.

Additionally, PM Kurti declared that after the aggression in Banjske of Zvecan on September 24, security in Kosovo is a priority, especially the security of the border with Serbia.

In a declaration that caused confusion in public, Albanian PM, Edi Rama, congratulated Kosovo for accepting the Association. 

“I congratulate the Prime Minister of Kosovo for accepting the EU’s proposal to move decisively towards an unblocking solution regarding the AKSHS [Association of Serb Municipalities], through self-management instruments as a framework for subsequent negotiations” wrote Rama on X. 

On the other hand, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic expressed that they are ready for the formation of the Association but not for the recognition of Kosovo as a state.

“We are fully prepared for the formation of the Association in line with the proposals we have received, but Serbia cannot accept Kosovo’s membership in the United Nations or Kosovo’s independence,” he said.

Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni also stated that the two leaders have been asked to take steps forward in the implementation of the documents and agreements reached in recent months and years.

“We will see how the day will go and we hope to take some steps forward”, stated the Italian Prime Minister after the meeting that took place on the sidelines of an EU summit.

The European Council on Friday will continue to discuss the relations between Kosovo and Serbia during the second day of the European Union summit.

On October 21, the European Union’s envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, accompanied by the U.S. envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, and envoys from Germany, France, and Italy, visited Kosovo and held a meeting with Kurti.

A handout photo made available by the Kosovo PM, shows (L-R) German Chancellor’s Advisor Jens Plettner, French President’s Advisor Emmanuel Bonne, European Union envoy Miroslav Lajcak, Kosovar PM Albin Kurti, US Deputy Assistant Secretary Gabriel Escobar and Italian diplomat Alessandro Cattaneo, October 21, 2023.

Following this meeting, Lajcak stated that they had proposed a plan to Kurti, without revealing its details, adding that they would present the same plan to the Serbian President.

A handout photo made available by the Serbian Presidency shows (L-R) Italian diplomat Alessandro Cattaneo, French President’s Advisor Emmanuel Bonne, European Union envoy Miroslav Lajcak, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, US Deputy Assistant Secretary Gabriel Escobar and German Chancellor’s Advisor Jens Plettner posing for a photo ahead of their meeting in Belgrade, 21 October 2023. The envoys are visiting Kosovo and Serbia in an effort to return to the dialogue after tensions run hight between two sides following the killing of a Kosovo Albanian police officer on 24 September 2023 by 30 gunmen who later stormed the Serbian Orthodox Banjska monastery in Kosovo near the border with Serbia, starting a gunfight with Kosovo police that have left three assailants dead. EPA-EFE/DIMITRIJE GOLL /

A few days later, the EU confirmed that the European bloc had presented a modern European proposal for the Association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo.

Kosovo and Serbia reached agreements on the creation of the Association of Serb Municipalities in 2013 and 2015. However, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo in 2015 found that the Agreement on the principles for establishing the Association was not entirely in harmony with Kosovo’s constitution and stated that it needed to be harmonized through sub-legal acts.

To this day, Kosovo has refused to establish the Association of Serb-majority municipalities, expressing concerns that it may undermine the functionality of the state. Serbia, on the other hand, insists on its establishment.

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