The first high-level meeting since the start of the latest crisis in the north of Kosovo, aimed at de-escalating the situation, did not bear fruit. On Thursday, the European Union presented the Serbian president and the Kosovo prime minister with a proposal, a „compromise solution“. Although accepted by Vucic, Kurti was not ready to move forward with the process of establishing the ASM, the high representative of the EU, Josep Borrell, announced after the meeting.
Borrell also complained about the lack of de-escalation of the situation in the north of Kosovo, as well as about the fact that Pristina fell short of meeting the requests made for full de-escalation. He once again requested early elections in the north, stating that the resignations of the mayors are the best way and faster solution than the petition, while he asked the Serbs to „engage unconditionally“ in the election process.
A high-level meeting between the Serbian president and the Kosovo prime minister was held in Brussels yesterday. Representatives of the European Union presented Vucic and Kurti with a proposal by which both parties would fulfil an obligation from the this year’s agreement from Brussels and the Roadmap agreed in Ohrid.
Both need to have the guarantees that their actions are rewarded with counter-actions by the other Party. This is the way we look for a balance point in a negotiation, the high representative of the EU, Josep Borrell, said after the meeting.
„The European Union and the wider international community, including our American partners, see this as the only realistic way [that] the implementation can work,“ Borrell said.
The Kosovo Prime Minister, however, was not ready to move forward with the formation of the ASM.
„Unfortunately, after quite a long meeting, Prime Minister Kurti was not ready to move forward and start a credible process towards establishing the Association/Community. He insisted instead on formalising de facto recognition as the first step,” Borrell said.
On the other hand, he emphasized that the Serbian president accepted the proposal of the European Union, although he came with his proposal.
„We tried hard, but unfortunately, it was not possible to bridge the differences today,“ he stressed.
The Serbian president came out with the same allegations after the meeting.
„We accepted the compromise solution, which was proposed by the European Union today, and which includes, first of all, discussions on the formation of the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities and that Belgrade should start with its obligations in parallel with that, but Kurti refused. The meeting thus ended,“ said Vucic from Brussels.
On the other hand, the Kosovo Prime Minister said after that he was actually the only one who presented the proposal, and that Serbia made the fulfillment of any obligations conditional on the formation of the ASM, which he did not agree to.
He said that he is ready to negotiate on the ASM – when „the time comes“ and with the application of the „Kosovo, European and American pillars“ – which guarantee that this body will be in accordance with the Kosovo constitution and will not have executive powers.
The high representative of the EU emphasized that there was no progress on de-escalation of tensions in the north of Kosovo.
He reminded that all 27 European Union Member States have asked in no uncertain terms, for concrete steps to resolve the current crisis.
While noting that some steps were taken by Kosovo: “They fall short of meeting the requests made for full de-escalation.”
Borrell urged both parties to take immediate action in the north of Kosovo to de-escalate the situation.
We cannot sit and wait for the next crisis. This has to take place immediately, in line with the requests made by the European Union and the broader international community.
He also addressed the early elections in the four Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities in the north of Kosovo, noting that the current mayors must be replaced.
For the EU, both the option of the mayors resigning or a collection of signatures to recall them are acceptable.
“Let me also clarify in this respect that the European Union sees resignation of the mayors, who have been elected by only 3% of the population, as the fastest and best way to enable early elections. The other procedure, looking for signatures, is lengthy and uncertain.”
Kosovo Serbs are expected to show constructiveness and engage unconditionally in the electoral process, he added.
“They have to participate, otherwise the whole exercise will be unmeaningful. I welcome the assurances I got today from President Vucic in this regard.”
Borrell also warned that if there is no progress on the elections – “the risk of new escalation will continue to loom over the implementation of the Agreement and through the broader normalisation process.”
“Since March, we have a very good Agreement. A very good Agreement that provides a clear framework on the way forward on normalisation of relations and brings tangible benefits for their citizens if the Agreement is being implemented.”
He underlined that the citizens are the ones who suffer most in such a situation.
“I am sorry to say: we are running out of time. At the end of the day, those who suffer most from the inability of their leaders to stay true to their words are the citizens.”
In his words, this is particularly worrying as both “the Kosovo Prime Minister and the Serbian President want to be members of the EU.”
“This is particularly worrying at a time when the European Union is so clearly moving forward on enlargement. Both President Vucic and Prime Minister Kurti declared that they want to be members of the European Union – a Union that is built on partnership, on compromise, on good relations between neighbours and the vision of a better future for all citizens,” Borrell said.
Without normalization of relations, he adds, there “will not be a European future” for either Pristina or Belgrade.
“I have to remind them that the path for both Kosovo and Serbia go through the Dialogue. There is no way around it. There is not another solution. Without normalisation, there will not be a European future for either Kosovo or Serbia. Kosovo and Serbia are risking to be left behind when others regional partners are moving quicker towards Europe.”
“I think it is now finally time to take the process forward, and to show that Kosovo and Serbia can live together in peace and be part of the European family. A family that overcame so many confrontations in the past and learned to live together in peace.”
Finally, Borrell thanked Special Representative, Miroslav Lajcak, and all of his team for their excellent work in “such difficult circumstances.” He also announced that they will inform the Member States after the meeting and “decided together on a way forward.“
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