Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat and main facilitator for the Kosovo-Serbia talks, has singled out Kosovo for allegedly stalling the dialogue on the normalization of relations between the two countries.
“We’ll continue to prepare for the next meeting, but that will only happen if the two sides find common language over positive and substantial results. That’s why Lajcak and I will continue to engage with the parties involved, especially with Kosovo, which is showing that it is not willing to sit at the table,” Borrell said during a press conference with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Tuesday.
He also announced that the EU and US envoys for the dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak and Gabriel Escobar, will be visiting Prishtina and Belgrade next week in an attempt to push both governments to advance the dialogue that has stalled since July 2021.
This is not the first time Borrell blames Kosovo for the lack of progress in the dialogue he is mandated by the United Nations to facilitate.
Kosovo has been under pressure since 2010, when Serbia’s case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Kosovo’s declaration of independence failed. The ICJ concluded that the latter was in line with international law. Serbia still refused to recognize Kosovo.
The ICJ’s decision was followed by an EU-Serbia resolution asking the UN General Assembly to mandate the launch of a “dialogue for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.” The resolution passed, and the dialogue began.
For the past 11 years, the EU has been facilitating this process, resulting in 33 agreements only some of which have been partially implemented to date.
Kosovo wants the dialogue to end with Serbia recognizing its independence, which Serbia vows will never happen. Meanwhile, the EU is pushing for the “normalization of relations” – a vague phrase that not only fails to address the main point under contention, but adds more confusion to the process.
During 2021, Serbia has been able to focus all international attention on the implementation of one single agreement from 2013, which prescribes the formation of an association for Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo.
In 2015, Kosovo’s Constitutional Court ruled that the agreement was unconstitutional because the creation of the association would require that it be endowed with executive rights that are reserved exclusively for the central government. This would mean that a parallel government be created within the same state.
The government of Kosovo says it will stand by the court’s decision. It argues that such an association would turn Kosovo into a dysfunctional state resembling Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Serbs have the power to block the work of all state institutions, and they do so continuously.
Serbia has conditioned its participation in talks with Kosovo with the formation of the Serb-only association of municipalities with executive powers, while it tries to put aside the rest of the agreements, almost all of which it has failed to implement fully.
In December last year, Borrell was harsh towards Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti during a live joint press conference, interrupting him and pointing out that this agreement enjoyed priority compared to the rest.
“I am sorry, Prime Minister [Albin Kurti], we have to continue asking for the implementation of this agreement. I know that there are other agreements pending. I know that on both sides there are agreements which have not been implemented, but this is a very important one,” he stated.
His attitude towards Kosovo leaders stands in contrast to how he treats Serbia, who has defied the EU by denying the genocide perpetrated by their regime in Srebrenica. Borrell chose to speak in general terms on this genocide during his press conference with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who has repeatedly denied the Serbian genocide against Bosniaks.
Singling out Kosovo as a scapegoat might temporarily divert attention from the fact that the 11-year-dialogue that Borrell now facilitates has not yielded any tangible results over the last two years, but it won’t help the dialogue, nor any of the parties involved, including the EU.
The facilitator should find ways to bring real issues to the dialogue table, and provide possible paths towards tangible agreements. A preliminary requisite for this is to be and be perceived as fair and credible.
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