On Thursday, in Brussels, there was a total breakdown in talks between Kosovo and Serbia. “Today, there is no agreement,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, shared his disappointment.
According to sources who agreed to speak to The Pavlovic Today on condition of anonymity, Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti “rejected all proposals the EU diplomats put on the table.”
These proposals, sources say, were “specific and reasonable.” They related primarily to two items which have played a major part in escalating tensions in the region. The first of these is the fallout of the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations, also known as the Brussels Agreement. In 2013, Kosovo, during EU mediated talks, assented to the Brussels Agreement, which among other provisions, would permit a devolution of power to certain Serb-majority municipalities within Kosovo. The resulting Community of Serb Municipalities, however, has as of yet not officially been established, due to conflicts about extent of powers and Kosovo’s failure to implement the Brussels Agreement. A resolution to these conflicts was one of the main items on the table in the current Brussels discussion.
The other hot item is Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s attempt to deprecate Serbian license plates and IDs, making them no longer valid in Kosovo, which was originally planned to be instituted on August 1, 2022, but has been postponed.
Kurti says “no”
In Brussels on Thursday, PM Kurti “refused” to discuss any of those issues with the Serbian delegation despite pleading from the EU and US officials. PM Kurti, sources revealed, first said “no” to Miroslav Lajcak, the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue. The US State Department Assistant Secretary Gabriel Escobar also got a hard “no” from Kurti. The sources claim PM Kurti did not want to discuss the Brussels Agreement provision to establish a Community of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo and has rejected Gabriel Escobar’s proposal for this issue even to be on the agenda.
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also failed to get through to the PM. After that, one high-level US official made a direct phone call from Washington to Kurti, but even then, our sources say, Kurti remained stalwart.Then, The Pavlovic Today was told, the American Ambassador to the EU Mark Gitenstein brought a letter, to be relayed through the EU, “from someone in the White House” about American expectations for the talks. All EU-US diplomatic efforts were met with PM Kurti’s rejection.
PM Kurti said that his government has already decided on the ban on Serbian license plates and IDs. The decision has been, Kurti repeated, “only postponed” and “not abandoned.” Kurti has rejected the possibility for the Serbian minority in Kosovo to continue to use Serbian plates. He will not accept a compromise of mutual license plates recognition, where Serbia would recognize Kosovo’s plates and Kosovo would do likewise.
“Kurti does not want a mutual recognition of the license plates. He only wants to ban Serbian license plates,” said the source close to the Serbian delegation, adding that this is an “unattainable negotiation position.”
What would make a jointly acceptable compromise would be for Serbia and Kosovo to “mutually recognize license plates enabling Kosovo Serbs to use Serbian license plates” and assert that plates have “nothing to do with the territorial status.”
A source in the EU told The Pavlovic Today that the team led by Serbian President Vucic maintained a “constructive” approach and did not reject or exclude any proposal the EU put on the table.
“Pristina was resolute in their refusal to discuss any topic the EU proposed,” confirmed another source.
Because the EU could not make Kurti agree to discuss with the Serbian delegation these crucial issues, Kosovo-Serbia talks in Brussels have failed.
At this point, it is unclear how PM Kurti intends to move forward. Recently, Kosovo’s LDK President Isa Mustafa said that Kurti is behaving in government the same way he acted in opposition.
“Albin Kurti’s Government is one of violence,” Mustafa told KoSSev, alluding to Kurti’s past violent obstructionist behavior, such as his detonating a tear gas bomb during a heated argument in the parliament in 2015.
Ned Price told The Pavlovic Today on Thursday that “We encourage both sides to use the dialogue effectively. And we urge the parties to remain at the negotiating table.”
The Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic is expected to address the Serbian nation tomorrow or after his meeting in Belgrade with the Serbian leaders from Kosovo.
“A difficult day is behind us; it was hard for all Serbian citizens, for the whole of our country,” said President Vucic. “I cannot say it ended successfully,” he continued, adding that he hopes and wishes “that by some miracle we could reach a compromise agreement in the days that are ahead.”
According to those familiar with plans for the continuation of the Brussels talks, the next round of Serbia-Kosovo meetings has not been scheduled yet.
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