European Western Balkans

New HR Kallas to focus on Russia, appointment of special representative for Serbia and Kosovo expected

Kaja Kallas at the press conference during the meeting of the European Council, 27 June, Brussels; Photo: European Union

Estonian politician Kaja Kallas will be faced with difficult tasks in the next phase of negotiations on resolving the Kosovo issue, when she replaces Spaniard Josep Borrell as High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy this autumn, our interlocutors note. Kallas is expected to lead the Brussels Dialogue on Kosovo at the highest political level, as Borrell did, but it is believed that a new EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue will be appointed, since Miroslav Lajčak’s mandate expires in January 2025.

At last week’s summit, EU leaders agreed that Kaja Kallas, the Prime Minister of Estonia, would be nominated as top EU diplomat, while Ursula von der Leyen was nominated for a second term as President of the European Commission and Antonio Costa as President of the European Council.

Kaja Kallas told reporters after the EU leaders’ decision to nominate a “leading trio” was announced: ”We will be a great team”.

“Your trust means a lot to me. We must continue to work together to ensure that Europe is an effective global partner and that our citizens remain free, secure and prosperous,” she said.

Asked what he expected if Kaja Kallas became the EU top diplomat, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he would wait to see what it looked like.

Johanna Deimel: Kallas to be faced with difficulties, territorial swap could be back on the agenda

Answering the question of how Kaja Kallas, known for her hardline opposition to the  Russian President Vladimir Putin and her open support for Ukraine, will behave in the negotiations between the highest political representatives of Belgrade and Pristina, bearing in mind the fact that the Serbian state officials did not impose sanctions on Russia, Johanna Diemel, an independent German Analyst for the Western Balkans and Southeast Europe, says for EWB that she comes from a state that recognizes Kosovo.

“Kaja Kallas is the third female politician to hold the post of High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. A first major difference to her predecessor Josep Borell is that she comes from a state that recognizes Kosovo, and secondly that she has called on the non-recognizing EU-5 to recognize Kosovo. She is a vocal critic of Russia and this also adds a new dimension that requires a great deal of assertiveness and diplomacy for her work, Johanna Deimel underlines.

Deimel claims that “in view of the pro-Kremlin EU countries, such as Hungary and Slovakia, but also due to the shift to the extreme right that is currently looming in France, Kallas will be confronted with difficulties both in relation to EU’s support for the Ukraine and with regard to EU enlargement”.

“If we then turn our attention to Washington, where Donald Trump’s election victory is becoming increasingly likely, Serbia and Pristina will also find themselves in a new geopolitical and security environment. For Kallas, this could also mean that the territorial swap is back on the agenda”, our interlocutor stresses.

Deimel underlines that the Dialogue is currently deadlocked and needs a new approach.

“I think that she will once again appoint a Special Representative for the Dialogue for this purpose. It will be interesting to see who (and from which country!) she will appoint for this task”, Johanna Deimel concludes.

Igor Novaković: The EU-Russian relations will be in focus

Speaking on the same topics, Igor Novaković, Senior Associate at the International and Security Affairs Center, notes that it is difficult to predict in advance what approach Kaja Kallas will take in the next phase of the Brussels dialogue, but that it is “very likely” that she will not have the Dialogue in her focus, but the situation with Russia.

“Bearing in mind that, in all likelihood, the EU currently cannot agree on the successor of Miroslav Lajčak, it is possible that there will be some change of focus, if it is estimated that in terms of security, the relation between Serbia and Kosovo may worsen the situation in the region. In any case, I think that new Special Representative is needed, because there is a technical part of the negotiations as well. At the same time, Kalas will probably be a mediator at the Belgrade-Pristina talks at the highest political level, as Borell was”, Igor Novaković notes.

Novakovic thinks that there is no room for panic in Serbia when it comes to the election of Kaja Kallas as the EU top diplomat, since: “policies are formulated in institutions”. However, he stresses: “It should not be expected that she will be particularly favourable to (Serbia) in the context of its relations with Russia”.

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