‘We have a deal’: Serbia and Kosovo are close to a deal



After 12 hours of marathon negotiations in Ohrid in North Macedonia, the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo have made significant progress. “We have an agreement,” Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, told reporters.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti had previously negotiated a new agreement that would essentially regulate relations between the two Balkan trespassers. Borrell and the EU’s special envoy to the Balkans, Miroslav Lajác, played the role of mediator.

Kosovo, now populated almost exclusively by Albanians, broke away from Serbia in 1999 with NATO help and declared independence in 2008. Serbia still does not recognize this.

According to the planned agreement, Belgrade will not recognize Kosovo under international law, but will recognize the residence of the state in its former territory. In particular, it should recognize Kosovo passports, vehicle registration plates and customs documents. Kosovo must institutionally guarantee the rights of the country’s Serb ethnic group.

Vucic: “I didn’t sign anything today”

At the first meeting on February 27 in Brussels, the two sides verbally approved a draft agreement in principle submitted by the European Union on the basis of the Franco-German proposal and which has the support of the United States. The focus on Saturday was on deadlines set out in the agreement’s appendix for implementing its points.

As in Brussels, Vucic did not want to sign the agreement reached this time either. “The agreement and its supplement are acceptable,” Borrell said after the talks ended. At the same time, he admitted that the two sides did not follow the “most ambitious ideas” of the EU mediators. He did not enter into differences in content. He added that the work would continue “until a comprehensive agreement is reached.”

“I didn’t sign anything today,” Vucic told reporters in Ohrid. “Each of us showed in different ways where the red lines are for us.” He described the atmosphere of the talks as “constructive”. Right-wing extremists in Serbia with “heated” protests if Vucic “surrendered” in Ohrid.

Kurti, in turn, faces pressure from Kosovar Albanians and voters, who refuse to make concessions to the Serb community. However, Article 7 of the agreement provides for the right of Kosovo’s Serbs to “an appropriate degree of independent regulation of their affairs”. Borrell said that Pristina has now committed to implementing this point immediately.

Moscow uses the struggle for influence

In Kosovo, there are fears that excessive veto rights for a future Serbian League of Municipalities could derail the state. In addition, one remembers the persecution of the Serbian security forces when the region was still part of Serbia. An armed uprising by Kosovo Albanians in 1998/1999 led to massive human rights violations by Serbia. the NATO It responded to this in the spring of 1999 with bombings in what was then the rest of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).

Then Serbia was forced to completely withdraw from its then province. From 1999 to 2008, the United Nations Unmik administered the area. In 2008, the country declared its independence. More than 100 countries, including Germany, have recognized an independent Kosovo — five EU member states, including Spain and Greece, have not.

The relationship between the smaller European country and Serbia remained unresolved. Diplomatic efforts by the West in recent years have not led to any significant normalization of the situation. Tensions had risen again the previous year, with road closures and shootings.

Against the backdrop of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the settlement of the Kosovo conflict has regained importance for the West. Moscow exploits weaknesses in the political system of the various Balkan countries to gain influence. Belgrade is dependent on Russia because the major power in the East with veto power UN Security Council Preventing Kosovo’s admission to the world body. Serbia is the only country in the region that does not support EU sanctions against Russia.

note: This report is part of an automated service provided by the German Press Agency (dpa), which operates under strict journalistic rules. It is not edited or vetted by AZ Online Editors. Questions and hints please feedback@az-muenchen.de


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