New attempt at dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo under the aegis of the EU
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The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia meet on Saturday in North Macedonia to try to ease their diplomatic relations more than two decades after a deadly war between Kosovar independence rebels and Serbian forces.
Towards normalization between Belgrade and Pristina? The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia meet again on Saturday, March 18, in North Macedonia, to discuss once again under the aegis of the European Union (EU), which has recently stepped up pressure for normalization between old enemies.
The meeting on the shores of Lake Ohrid, in the south-west of the small Balkan country, comes after the breakdown last month of talks in Brussels, where a European peace plan was unveiled.
Once again, the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, will try to convince the Kosovo Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, and the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic, to reconcile their positions, more than two decades after a murderous war between Kosovar independence rebels and Serbian forces.
The European document, which has 11 articles, stipulates that the two parties will “mutually recognize their respective national documents and symbols” and that they will not use violence to resolve their differences.
The text also provides that “Serbia will not oppose Kosovo’s membership of an international organization”. It also proposes granting “an appropriate level of self-government” for the Serb minority in Kosovo.
Serbia refuses to recognize the independence proclaimed in 2008 by its former province, whose population of 1.8 million inhabitants, overwhelmingly of Albanian origin, includes a Serbian community of around 120,000 people.
Since the war, which ended in 1999 with NATO bombings, relations between Pristina and Belgrade have gone from crisis to crisis.
After the talks in Brussels, Aleksandar Vucic vowed never to recognize Kosovo, adding that he had no intention of helping Pristina enter the United Nations.
The Serbian president again warned, a few days before the meeting in Ohrid, that he “did not intend to sign anything”. The meeting “will be neither historic nor revolutionary”, he said.
The Kosovar Prime Minister for his part said he was optimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement, adding however that the responsibility for a signature lay with the Serbian side.
National and religious cradle
“Whether we succeed or not, you know very well that it does not depend only on me,” Albin Kurti told reporters.
Analysts point out that a possible signing would not necessarily be synonymous with immediate success.
“I expect both sides to accept the project,” said Dusan Milenkovic, from the Center for Social Dialogue and Regional Initiative in Belgrade. “I can’t say it will be heavy, because the heavy will only happen when the project has been implemented”.
Most of the previous agreements concluded under the aegis of Brussels have remained a dead letter.
Albin Kurti hopes that a pact will allow Kosovo to enter the UN and international institutions, a crucial demand for Pristina.
Aleksandar Vucic acknowledged that his government was under intense international pressure to sign, while assuring his public opinion that he would not give in.
The question of Kosovo remains obsessive for some of the 6.7 million Serbs, who consider the territory as their national and religious cradle, where crucial battles have been fought over the centuries.
In Belgrade, thousands of people demonstrated on Friday at the call of nationalist parties to refuse an agreement which they said would amount to a “capitulation”.
Many members of the Serb minority in Kosovo refuse all loyalty to Pristina, with encouragement from Belgrade. Especially in the north of the territory, near the border with Serbia, the scene of frequent clashes, demonstrations and sometimes violence.