European Western Balkans

What are the takeaways from another unsuccessful round of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue?

Josep Borell at the press conference after the separate meetings with Vučić and Kurti held on 26 June; Photo: European Union

The latest round of the Dialogue on the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo shows that the EU currently has no way to persuade the two sides to implement the agreements reached last year, experts assess.

Our interlocutors believe that the fact that there was no direct meeting between Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who on 26 June had separate talks with the representatives of the European Union – Josep Borrell and Miroslav Lajčak, serves as one more confirmation that one should expect no progress to be made in the near future when it comes to the implementation of the agreements reached in 2023.

Vučić and Kurti last sat at the same negotiating table in Brussels on 14 September 2023. The topic of the meeting was the implementation of the Agreement on the Path to Normalisation of Relations between Kosovo and Serbia, reached on 27 February 2023 in Brussels, and of the Annex to the Agreement, reached on 18 March 2023 in Ohrid. Ten days later, an armed attack took place in Banjska, resulting in the death of a Kosovo police officer and three Serbs.

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borell said on Wednesday, 26 June, that “the talks were difficult, as it had been the case so far, and we expected that”. He noted that there was no trilateral meeting because Kosovo was not ready for it.

“Today it was impossible to agree on how to move forward. It is not enough that the EU wants to normalise relations between the two sides if they cannot agree on how to move forward. We cannot do the deal for them. Our role is to help and support the parties in trying to continue the Dialogue, and we will remain committed to that”, Borrell said.

Miloš Pavković, a Researcher at the European Policy Centre (CEP) in Belgrade, states for EWB that the latest unsuccessful round of dialogue in Brussels, this time at the highest level, is “another confirmation of the crisis which the Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is facing”.

“The EU currently has no mechanisms to persuade the parties to move towards full implementation of the 2023 Agreement on the Path to Normalisation. This, of course, is the result of the fact that the current administration in Brussels is outgoing and that Borrell will most likely be replaced as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy by the current Prime Minister of Estonia – Kaja Kalas,” Miloš Pavković says.

Our interlocutor emphasizes that, although the mandate of EU Special Representative for Dialogue Miroslav Lajčak, who visited Belgrade and Pristina last week, was extended until January 2025, “it did not have any positive effect on the latest round of dialogue”.

“In the end, the information that the direct meeting between Vučić and Kurti did not take place in Brussels is another blow to the credibility of the EU and its role as a mediator in the dialogue”, Pavković concludes.

Vučić: Kurti did not want to see me, he was not ready

Aleksandar Vučić told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday that the meeting with Kurti did not take place because Kurti “could not or did not want to meet” with him.

“Kurti did not want to or did not dare to meet me, but I believe the Europeans will also announce it. I went back three times and they showed me his messages. He did not want to see me, he said he was not ready. Whether he did not want or did not dare to do so – I do not know”, the Serbian President stated.

Vučić called the talks with Borrell and Lajčak “respectful”, stressing that “the implementation of the agreements, everything in the Dialogue, the current situation were discussed”, and he announced that the Chief Negotiators of Belgrade and Pristina (Petar Petković and Besnik Bislimi) would meet early next week, on Tuesday or Wednesday, noting: “they hope that we will recognize Kosovo”.

Aleksandar Vučić and Josep Borell at the meeting held on 26 June in Brussels; Photo: EEAS

Kurti:  I asked for the fulfilment of three conditions

On the other hand, Albin Kurti said that the meeting with Vučić did not take place because he asked for the fulfillment of three conditions.

According to FoNet, he said that he demanded the full implementation of the Basic Agreement with Serbia, the withdrawal of the letter to the European Union, which was signed in December 2023 by then Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and which expressed reservations about the obligations arising from the Agreement and the Implementation Annex, as well as that “the organizer of the attack in Banjska, Milan Radoičić must be extradited to the Kosovo authorities, otherwise there will be no normalisation and peace in the region“.

According to Kurti, the Basic Agreement and the Implementation Annex is a prominent achievements in foreign policy, but also an achievement made by the EU, the mediator in the Dialogue.

“The last time we had a trilateral meeting was on the 14  September last year. A lot has happened since Banjska, but also the letter of withdrawal from the basic agreement. This letter is a direct attack on the Basic Agreement. In early July, we will discuss the sequence of the steps. What we have done today is to defend the Basic Agreement,” Albin Kurti said.

Ahead of yesterday’s talks with EU representatives, the Kosovo Prime Minister stressed that the meetings “will serve as a recapitulation of the dialogue process”.

Albin Kurti and Josep Borell at the meeting held on 26 June in Brussels; Photo: EEAS

The upcoming general election in Kosovo is one of the factors

Commenting on the fact that the trilateral meeting in Brussels did not take place this time, Igor Novaković, a member of the Council for Inclusive Governance (CIG), underlines for EWB that at one point this was a practice – the delegations of Belgrade and Pristina did not meet directly at all, but the negotiations were only held with the help of mediators”.

“In this case, Belgrade is trying to appear cooperative because it expects the implementation of the agreement and insists on it, while Pristina is not interested in it, at least not at the moment, because the election is coming, and Kurti’s statement that the latest meeting in Brussels was only a recapitulation of what had happened before shows that. There will be a general election in Kosovo, most likely in October. I doubt that there will be any progress in the negotiations until then”, Igor Novaković says.

Our interlocutor points out that Miroslav Lajčak’s term of office has been extended until the end of this year, “but his term has essentially expired”.

“We are waiting for some new momentum that will come with the election of new institutions of the European Union, as well as with the completion of all election cycles in Europe. Thus, such behavior of Kurti may be expected, because there is no incentive on the part of the EU”, Novaković concluded.

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