BRUSSELS— High-level meetings between Belgrade and Pristina resumed on Tuesday, aimed at moving negotiations forward to implement the Brussels Agreement. The talks marked the first tête-à-tête between Serbian President Vucic and Kosovo’s PM Kurti since Ohrid.
According to the High Representative Josep Borrell, the parties have made progress on an essential point of the implementation annex, which is the declaration on missing persons. Finding and identifying the remains of about 1.621 persons still missing, missing because of the conflict, and giving their families the possibility to find closure. Borrell emphasized that finding and identifying the remains is “an important humanitarian issue” that “should not” be politicized.The EU expects that the leaders’ commitment to redouble their efforts will enable this to happen.
What happened today in the dialog was “an important and symbolic step towards the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities.”
Part of the Brussels Agreement from ten years ago, the Management Team comprised finally presented Serbian President Vucic and Kosovo’s PM Albin Kurti the first draft of the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities today. “It is not the final draft; it is a starting point,” clarified Borrell.
However, there were disagreements between Vucic and Kurti on the nature of the associations, with the Prime Minister of Kosovo sharing his own views for the protection of the rights of the Serb community in Kosovo. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell acknowledged the differences, but also said that “even if they disagreed, they agreed to start negotiations” on the statute of the association unity in the near future, taking this first draft as a starting point for discussions.
“The process should be guided by the past Dialogue agreements and will be inspired by existing European good practices and models. And we have a lot in Europe,” Borrell said, citing the examples of associations and municipalities models in almost every EU country. He urged both parties to engage constructively and in good faith and to be ready to reach compromises.
Borrell also expressed concern about the situation in the north of Kosovo following the recent by-elections with a very low turnout. “This is not what we want to happen. I hope nobody wants it to happen. But there is a big risk, and therefore I have urged both parties to find a solution that enables Kosovo Serbs to swiftly return to the institutions they left in November last year,” he said.
Regrettably, the leaders could not agree today, and Borrell feared that “we will be facing, maybe, I hope not, a critical situation.” He stressed that the talks need to continue soon. Borrell thanked EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajck for his “good work” and said Lajcak would convene the inaugural meeting of the Joint Monitoring Committee that was created in the Ohrid Agreement this month.
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