The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia on Saturday, March 18, failed to sign an agreement on the normalization of their relations during marathon talks under the auspices of the European Union (EU).
Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spent 12 hours negotiating on the shores of Lake Ohrid, in North Macedonia, led by the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell. Westerners have increased pressure on Belgrade and Pristina in recent months to prevent a possible eruption of tensions in the fragile Balkan region as war rages in Ukraine invaded by Russia just over a year ago.
The meeting in Ohrid came after the February breakdown of talks in Brussels, where an 11-article European peace plan had been unveiled more than two decades after a deadly war between Kosovo independence rebels and Serb forces.
Brussels wanted the agreement of the two sides on an annex for the application of this European proposal aimed at normalizing relations between Serbia and its former province. “The parties could not find a mutually acceptable solution as ambitious as the one we proposed”, Josep Borrell told reporters.
“Okay one day”
Serbia refuses to recognize the independence declared in 2008 by the former province, whose population of 1.8 million, mostly of Albanian descent, includes a Serb community of about 120,000 people. Since the war, which ended in 1999 with NATO bombing Serbia, relations between Pristina and Belgrade have moved from crisis to crisis.
In Ohrid, the two leaders acknowledged that progress had been made, but did not hesitate to throw spades at each other.
“The other side, just like at the last meeting in Brussels on February 27, avoids signing the agreement, and now the annex”Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti told reporters. “It is now up to the EU to find a mechanism to make this agreement legally and internationally binding”he added.
The Serbian president also pouted the outcome of the meeting. “I think we’ve taken a big step in a constructive atmosphere and we’re getting down to business. Of course it wasn’t a D-day, it was an OK day.”
The European proposal stipulates that the two camps will not use violence to resolve their differences. The draft would lead to de facto recognition between Belgrade and Pristina as it provides for the two sides “shall mutually recognize their respective national documents and symbols”.
Test your general knowledge writing the “World”
That is also in the text “Serbia will not oppose Kosovo joining an international organization”, a key request from Pristina. At the same time, he proposes granting “an appropriate level of self-management” for the Serbian minority in Kosovo.
The question of Kosovo remains an obsession for some of the 6.7 million Serbs, who consider the area their national and religious cradle, where crucial battles have been fought over the centuries. Thousands of people demonstrated in Belgrade on Friday at the call of nationalist parties to reject a deal they say would amount to a « capitulation ».
In Kosovo, many members of the Serbian minority refuse all loyalty to Pristina, encouraged by Belgrade. Especially in the north of the territory, near the border with Serbia, is the scene of frequent clashes, demonstrations and sometimes violence.