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Kosovo and Serbia fail to agree on a new European proposal for Association of Municipalities

Josep Borrell addresses the media at the European Council, 26 October 2023; Photo: European Union

BRUSSELS – Prime Minister of Kosovo and President of Serbia held separate meetings with EU leaders yesterday but failed to agree on a new European proposal that focuses on the establishment of the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities, which, according to the High Representative of the Union Josep Borell, represents a great obstacle for the continuation of the Dialogue.

Kurti said that he offered Vučić to sign the documents, which he refused, while Vučić stressed that signatures are not an issue and reiterated that Serbia’s red lines are Kosovo’s UN membership and independence.

Kurti and Vučić held separate meetings with Josep Borrell, Special Representative for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The meetings took place on the sidelines of the European Council summit in Brussels.

The discussions reportedly focused on the new proposal by Western diplomats for the status of the Association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo, presented by US-EU envoys in Pristina and Belgrade on 21 October.

Borrell: Parties did not agree on a new European proposal on ASM

“We are very much concerned by the impasse of the normalisation process between Kosovo and Serbia, and the recent terrorist attacks, that we have condemned again in the meeting, that today we had separately with Prime Minister Kurti, together with President Macron, Chancellor Scholz, Prime Minister Meloni; and after with President Vučić in order to discuss with them the situation, displaying once again that the only way forward is the normalisation with the Dialogue, that the European way – it requires normalisation of the relationship between the two of them”, Borrell said.

The High Representative said that there is a great obstacle which is the establishment of the Association of Municipalities of Serbian majority in the north of Kosovo.

“And in order to help the two parties to reach an agreement, we all together 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, which would be a great leap forward in the normalisation process, and to avoid the new spirals of violence. But unhappily, the parties were not ready to agree on that without preconditions, that there were unacceptable by the other party”, he said.

At the end, Borrell said that the EU required the parties to sincerely engage in the normalisation process, which can only be done in the framework of the Dialogue, because it is the only way for them to advance on their European path.

“We will continue insisting and working in order to get an agreement. But today, unhappily, it has not been possible without, as I said, preconditions from each party that were unacceptable for the other”, Borrell concluded.

Kurti: We offered to sign the agreements, Vučić refused

Following the meeting, Prime Minister of Kosovo posted on X (formerly Twitter), stressing that following the September 24 terrorist attacks, the importance of Kosovo’s security is preeminent, as is holding Serbia accountable.

“Kosova has consented to/adopted the Basic Agreement, and I offered to sign it today this time jointly with the EU-US proposal of Oct 21”, Kurti wrote, referring to the proposal presented by the envoys of the US, EU and European governments, who visited Pristina and Belgrade last weekend.

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

The Kosovo Government also released a statement that contains the same points Kurti wrote in his post on X, but also touches upon other issues, including the September 24 Banjska attack.

“Prime Minister Kurti emphasized that, after the attack of aggression of September 24, in Zveçan, the priority for him is security in Kosova, in particular the security of the border with Serbia, since the paramilitaries who carried out the terrorist and criminal attack came from the other side, killing and injuring Kosova police officers. Sanctions and punishment are necessary for Serbia, so that this never happens again”, the statement reads.

It adds that investigation of the paramilitary and terrorist groups sponsored by Serbia must determine exactly who did what, and how they executed this act of aggression, whereas there is no longer any dilemma even among international actors about the culprit.

Vučić: This is not a question of signatures, we reject Kosovo’s UN membership

Speaking to the journalists following the meetings, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić said that Serbia had clearly stated that it wants to implement all the agreements, from the 2013 Basic agreement to the agreements that were reached this year in Brussels and Ohrid.

“We have always insisted on one thing that was known from the beginning… which is that Serbia cannot accept Kosovo’s UN membership not the independence of Kosovo and from these positions, we said we were ready to implement everything that was agreed. We have also expressed our belief that the paper we received on 21 October is a good foundation for the continuation of the work in the future. Our only reserve is Kosovo’s UN membership and its independence or, as it is stated, its territorial integrity”, Vučić said.

He added that this is not a question of any new signatures, but the implementation of what had already been signed.

According to Vučić, no details leaked from the newest proposal, presented last week, because that was the agreement of all sides.

Rama congratulates Kurti for accepting the proposal

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama posted on X, commending the Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti for, he said, accepting the EU proposal to advance towards a solution on ASM through self-management instruments as a framework for upcoming negotiations.

“This is indeed an important milestone. The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia should demonstrate leadership and work closely with our Western partners to promptly implement the Basic Agreement on the normalization of relations, without any further delays. Our region deserves peace, stability, and cooperation for a shared, better future, rather than conflicts, blame games, and setbacks that harm us all”, Rama wrote.

Charles Michel also posted on X on Thursday, confirming that he met with Kurti and then with Vučić with other EU colleagues.

“De-escalation and return to normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina is essential. I expect the European Council to discuss further”, Michel wrote.

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