Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia: No agreement in crisis meetings with EU

Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia: No agreement in crisis meetings with EU

Status: 08/18/2022 19:40

In the dispute over entry plates and documents, there is still no rapprochement between Serbia and Kosovo. EU-brokered discussions continued without success. The conflict also concerns NATO.

By Stephan Ueberbach, ARD Studio Brussels

A small, sparsely furnished conference room, water, lemonade, and some rolls on the table. It doesn’t get much simpler. You could also put it this way: the gloomy picture for the crisis meeting corresponds to the bad outcome.

Stephen Ueberbach

SWR Logo Stephan Ueberbach ARD Studio Brussels

Because in the matter, in the dispute between Serbia and Kosovo, nothing is obviously moving. “Unfortunately, we didn’t reach an agreement today, so I’m sorry,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a brief statement after the talks.

This is not a surprise. The heads of government of Serbia and Kosovo have already accused each other of provocation and blamed them for the recent tensions. The atmosphere at the beginning of the meeting was correspondingly cool. Serbian Alexandar Vucic and his Kosovan colleague Albin Kurti sat facing each other without looking at each other’s faces but instead leafed through their files – at least as long as the cameras could be there.

Dispute over passport rules and license plates

The border situation between the two countries deteriorated in late July after Kosovo’s leadership wanted to introduce new passport rules for Serbian citizens, citing comparable regulations in Serbia. In addition, Kosovo Serbs must replace their Serbian plates with Kosovars. As a result, Serbian militants took to the streets and set up barricades, and shots were fired.

Under pressure from the US and the EU, the controversial plans were initially delayed by a month. After all, further talks at the highest level should follow in the coming days. “There is still some time until September 1st,” said Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat. And: “I’m not giving up.”

Also concerned NATO

The explosive situation in northern Kosovo is also occupying NATO. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the international security force KFOR would intervene if peace and stability in the region were threatened. NATO currently has around 3,700 troops stationed in Kosovo. In the event of an escalation, troops can be increased quickly, according to NATO Headquarters.

Kosovo, a former Serbian province, declared its independence in 2008, which Serbia has not accepted until today. Both want to join the European Union. Serbia is already a candidate for membership, negotiations have been ongoing since 2014. Kosovo is considered a “potential” candidate.

However, the obstacles to possible membership are high. Also because five EU countries do not recognize the country’s independence. Furthermore, Brussels makes the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo a prerequisite for membership. But both countries are still a long way from that, even after today’s crisis meeting.

No relaxation: Kosovo-Serbia crisis meeting ends without result

Stephan Ueberbach, SWR, 18.8.2022 21:26