European Western Balkans

Borrell: Both sides in violation of their obligations, Kurti not ready to move forward on Association

Vučić-Kurti meeting in Brussels, September 2023; Photo: X / @JosepBorrellF

BRUSSELS – There has been no progress on normalisation and de-escalation in the north of Kosovo at today’s high-level meeting in Brussels between President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić and Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti, High Representative of the Union Josep Borrell announced in a press statement.

According to Borrell, Kosovo wanted the de facto recognition from Serbia to be settled first, while Serbia wanted to start with the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities before engaging on its obligations. The EU proposed that these processes run in parallel. President Vučić ultimately accepted the EU proposal, but Albin Kurti was not ready to move forward on the establishment of the Association.

The High Representative of the Union reminded that in a meeting in Ohrid in March, the parties agreed to implement all their respective obligations stemming from the agreement reached in Brussels in February and its annex.

“Six months later, only three elements have been addressed: the Declaration on missing persons, representation within the management team for the Statute of Association/Community (of Serb-majority municipalities) and the announcement of the joint monitoring committee. But the implementation of the most important points has not yet started”, Borrell said.

According to him, this is very regrettable and it speaks volumes about the parties’ true commitment to the normalisation of relations or rather the absence of it.

“Lack of actions by each party means that both Kosovo and Serbia are in direct and serious violation of their dialogue obligations and in breach of their promises”, Borrell said.

The High Representative stressed that back in May, the management team presented their proposal for the Statute of Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities, and more than four months later, nothing else has happened. He urged that the negotiations on the Statute start immediately.

“Prime Minister Kurti wanted political aspects of normalization first, while Serbia wants to start with the establishment of the Association/Community before engaging on its obligations. That is why we proposed the only possible compromise today: that these two processes run in parallel. Both sides need to have guarantees that their actions are rewarded by a counteraction from the other party”, Borrell stated.

He said that, unfortunately, after a long meeting, Prime Minister Kurti was not ready to move forward and start a credible process on the start of the Association/Community. He insisted instead on formalizing de facto recognition as the first step.

Meanwhile, President Vučić came to the meeting with another proposal but in the end he accepted the EU proposal on the implementation of the agreement. And we tried hard but it was not possible to bridge the differences today.

Borrell said that there was also no progress on the deescalation of tensions in the north of Kosovo.

“Some steps were made by Kosovo, but they fell short of meeting the request for full de-escalation”, he said.

He urged both sides to enable the early local elections take place immediately and assessed that the resignation of mayors is the fastest and the best way to enable early elections. The other procedure, collection of signatures to recall them, is lengthy and uncertain, he said.

Borrell said that the Kosovo Serbs are expected to show constructiveness and engage in the elections unconditionally, and added that he received the assurances from President Vučić in this regard.

He concluded that the lack of progress is particularly worrying as the European Union is moving so clearly on enlargement.

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