EU-led negotiations to resolve tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have so far been unsuccessful. “Unfortunately, we did not reach an agreement,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday after talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti. But this is not the end of the story.” More talks would take place in the coming days.
“I’m not giving up,” Borrell said. “We have to look for a solution.” Borrell met first with Kurti and then with Vucic before bringing the two politicians together as part of the “Belgrade-Pristina dialogue”. This has been managed by the EU Commission since 2011.
The conflict between Serbia and Kosovo has recently intensified because Pristina, in response to the corresponding Serbian regulations, wants to demand a temporary residence permit from Serbs entering the country. In addition, members of the Serbian ethnic group in Kosovo must replace their Serbian plates with Kosovars. Serbs in northern Kosovo have erected barricades to protest these plans. As a result, Pristina postponed the new regulations until September 1.
“Illegal Serbian Structures”
Even before talks on Thursday, Vucic showed little optimism that a deal could be reached. “Even if I continue to hope for some form of solution, I remain skeptical,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Kurti criticized “illegal Serbian structures” “that have turned into criminal gangs” and erected barricades in northern Kosovo.
Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that NATO-led security forces are ready to intervene if necessary “if stability is threatened.” Troops could also be reinforced if needed.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade still considers it a breakaway territory and does not recognize it as a separate state. The majority of the Serb population in northern Kosovo remains loyal to the Belgrade government. In the late 1990s, 13,000 people were killed in the war that followed Kosovo’s struggle for independence.
About a hundred countries around the world recognize Kosovo as their own country, including most EU countries and the US. Serbia’s allies, China and Russia, on the other hand, refuse to recognize Kosovo. Both Serbia and Kosovo aspire to join the EU. Serbia has been granted candidate status and has been negotiating EU membership since 2014. The EU classifies Kosovo as a “potential candidate”.