The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo have traded barbs in a round of talks that highlighted the differences between the two former Yugoslav entities and failed to bring them closer to resolving one of Europe’s thorniest territorial disputes.
In Brussels for the second time in a month, the talks on July 19 between Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic are part of decade-long negotiations aimed at resolving disputes that continue to taint relations more than 20 years after the 1998-99 Kosovo War.
But after only a couple of hours, EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak emerged from the meeting with the blunt assessment that ‘we achieved very little progress today.’
’The meeting was difficult and it demonstrated very different approaches of the two parties to the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia,’ he said.
’As far as the EU is concerned, it’s important to stress that the European future for both Serbia and Kosovo depends on the normalization of their relations and that they are expected to work together to overcome the past and solve the current issues among themselves,’ Lajcak said.
Kosovo, a former Serbian province, declared independence in 2008 after a 1998-99 conflict between separatist ethnic Albanian rebels and Serbian forces. The war ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign that drove Serbian troops out and a peacekeeping force moved in.
Both Washington and Brussels have said that normalization is essential for their further integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. Serbia and Kosovo are both seeking EU membership, and Kosovo hopes for NATO membership, too.
Kosovo’s independence has been recognized by more than 100 countries, including the United States and all but five of the European Union’s 27 member states. But Serbia still considers the territory as its southern province, and is supported by Russia and China.
Kurti said the atmosphere was little changed from the first meeting on June 15, and that Serbia needed to first face its past before it can look toward the future.
’The reason we don’t have a common position is because the Serbian side rejected the expression ‘facing the past,’ even though it was accepted by the European side,’ Kurti said, adding that Vucic personally ‘has a problem with dealing with the past.’
For his part, Vucic put the blame for a lack of progress squarely on his counterpart, saying Serbia accepted all three points for negotiations suggested by the EU and that Kosovo welcomed none.
’We are not talking about a rational principle, but we speak to people who only demand Serbia’s responsibility for a geocode in the continuum. That is all they are interested in.’
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036