European Western Balkans

Low expectations from the Vučić-Kurti meeting in Brussels

Miroslav Lajčak, Albin Kurti and Aleksandar Vučić in Berlin; Photo: Twitter / @MiroslavLajcak

The Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue at the highest political level will continue on Thursday. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti will meet in Brussels as part of a process mediated by the European Union after a one-year break. The EU announced that all current issues would be discussed during the meetings. The goal will be to reduce tensions between the two sides. In addition to the joint meeting, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borrell will hold separate meetings with Vučić and Kurti. 

The meeting is being held in a tense atmosphere of inflammatory statements by the highest officials of both sides. The incendiary speech significantly intensified after the escalation of tensions in the north of Kosovo at the end of July due to Pristina’s decision to start implementing measures on license plates and Serbian identity cards. 

On July 31st, barricades were placed north of Kosovo on the main roads leading to the border crossings with Serbia, Jarinje and Brnjak. After tensions due to barricades and consultations with the international partners, the Government of Kosovo undertook to postpone the implementation of the measures for one month until the begging of September. 

Due to all the tensions in the recent two weeks, expectations from the meeting are minimal. Belgrade and Pristina have completely different expectations of what should be on the agenda. While Belgrade insists that licence plates and identity cards should be discussed, for Pristina, it is a question of reciprocity and implementation of previous agreements. 

What both sides have in common are high expectations from the international community and the EU.

Before the meeting, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said he expects more from the European Union as a mediator in the dialogue. Kurti told BBC that he believed the EU could be more precise and active as a mediator. 

“We have the right to expect more from the EU, especially to show more clarity and firmness regarding its positions when it comes to events like the latest barricades and incidents in Kosovo”, said Kurti, reiterating that Kosovo will start implementing the measures in September. 

On the other hand, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, said he was going to Brussels for a dialogue to “try to preserve peace and stability”. He said that Serbia does not threaten anyone with anything but only “wants to ensure compliance with international rules, norms from UN Resolution 1244 to the Brussels Agreement”. 

“I am going to Brussels to talk. I don’t hope for any results, but I’m going to talk”, said Vučić adding that the only hope to achieve something more is if the Quinte countries exert political pressure on the Kosovo side. 

Recently, the leaders of the European Union declared that they favour a compromise in solving the Kosovo problem. On the other hand, the question arises as to whether a compromise is even possible. Therefore the President of Serbia points out that “it seems to him that dialogue no longer makes sense”. 

Due to the series of harsh statements a few days ago, the European External Affairs Service (EEAS) also reacted. That announcement, in which both sides are called to stop “incendiary rhetoric” and that they will be held responsible if there is an escalation of violence in the region, caused sharp reactions from Belgrade and contributed, as it seems, to increased pessimism before the upcoming meeting.

After a statement from the EU, official Belgrade has accused the European bloc of tensions in the former Serbian province.

“Looking at this statement by the EEAS, one would think that today is April 1st. It must be a very tasteless joke,” said Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić in her reaction on the same day. 

Tense security atmosphere

After the tensions in the municipalities in the north of Kosovo, many believe that the security situation in Kosovo has deteriorated.

KFOR, under the leadership of NATO, is carefully monitoring and is ready to intervene if the stability in Kosovo is threatened, following its mandate, which derives from Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council from 1999, it was announced from this mission

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said that the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, and the Director of the Office for Kosovo in the Government of Serbia, Petar Petković, are most responsible for the situation in the north of Kosovo. Petković, on the other hand, said that the only one to blame for the current situation is Kurti, who is “causing a new crisis” in Kosovo with irresponsible moves.

As announced on the eve of the political dialogue in Brussels, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, and the Prime Minister of Kosovo will meet separately with the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg. 

A dialogue lasting over ten years

Kosovo and Serbia, with the mediation of the European Union, have been conducting a dialogue on the normalization of relations since 2011. Kosovo insists that the final agreement implies mutual recognition, while Serbia seeks a compromise solution.

One of the major stumbling blocks of the dialogue is the 2015 agreement on the creation of the Community of Serbian Municipalities, which Serbia insists on. In December of that year, the Kosovo Constitutional Court judged that its establishment would be unconstitutional, so it has not been formed to date.

Even after ten years, for Belgrade, “comprehensive normalization” means anything but recognition. The normalization of relations without recognition for Pristina is unthinkable, and the European Union says it is time to end the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

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