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EU Warns Kosovo, Serbia of Repercussions if Deals Not Implemented

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, in a statement on behalf of the European bloc’s member states, urged Kosovo and Serbia on Tuesday to “engage constructively and in good faith”, and to implement agreements they have made or risk losing “opportunities for progressing on their European paths”.

Borrell’s statement expressed concern about “the lack of implementation” of the two countries’ commitments under their agreement on the path to normalisation of relations and its implementation, “which both parties agreed to earlier this year, and which are binding on them”.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met in Brussels on September 14 but no progress was registered and recriminations have continued since then.

On Monday, Kurti accused the EU’s special envoy Miroslav Lajcak of being biased by taking Serbia’s side and giving false information about the talks.

“After the [September 14] meetings ended and after my appearance in the media, the mediator [Lajcak] issued a sequencing document that he said Vucic accepted and Kurti rejected. Such information is untrue,” Kurti told a press conference.

“Such a document from Lajcak was rejected on July 19 by [Kosovo’s] Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi. Why this nonsense of information from Lajcak’s office?… On September 14, there was clear positioning by the mediator against Kosovo in general and against the agreement in general,” he added.

Borrell’s statement on Tuesday said that the establishment of the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities in Kosovo – a body to represents Serbs’ interests that has been strongly advocated by Belgrade but has caused concerns in Pristina – must start “without any further delay or pre-condition”.

Borrell also said there must be new local elections in the four Serb-majority municipalities in the north of Kosovo, where tensions have been high after the last polls were boycotted by Serbs.

“We encourage Kosovo Serbs to fully engage in the electoral process and publicly state their unconditional participation,” he said.

He reiterated his regret about what he said was insufficient progress to de-escalate the situation in the Serb-majority north of Kosovo.

“Despite repeated calls by the EU and other international partners, the steps taken so far remain insufficient and the security situation in the north remains tense,” he said.

He also accused Kosovo of violating the rule of law by “expropriations of land in the north of Kosovo, eviction orders, on telecommunication, and on the use of Special Police forces for community policing duties”.

He further condemned what he called “continuous small-scale attacks by criminal groups and intimidation of newly recruited Kosovo Serb police cadets [and] the local population” and accused Serbia of blocking an energy ‘road map’ to normalise consumer payments for electricity in the north of Kosovo.

But Kurti said on Monday that he sees the immediate establishment of the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities as being in Serbia’s favour, and argued that it should not be prioritised over the rest of the agreements.

“Either we will implement the basic agreement in full or we cannot implement what Serbia wants,” he said.

Kurti also insisted that Kosovo has taken enough steps to de-escalate tensions in the country’s Serb-majority north, and that there is a clear path towards holding early elections in the four municipalities in the north.

But Kosovo opposition parties claimed that Kurti is putting the blame for his failures on others.

Avdullah Hoti, a former Kosovo prime minister and a MP for the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, described Kurti’s press conference as ” proof of his inability to lead this process”.

Hoti said that Kurti has turned what was a dialogue on mutual recognition and normalisation of relations into a “dialogue for crisis management”.

“It must be said that the crises were provoked by Serbia, but they were managed badly and without coordination with [Western] allies by the government of Kosovo,” Hoti wrote on Facebook on Monday.

After the September 14 meeting in Brussels, Borrell told media that “the two parties started from opposite ends” and “it was not possible to breach the differences”.

The EU proposed that the implementation of various aspects of the two countries’ agreements were supposed to “run in parallel”, he said.

But Borrell claimed that ” Kurti was not ready to move forward on the start of a process towards the establishment of the Association [of Serb-Majority Municipalities], he insisted instead in formalising de facto recognition as the first step”.

NOTE: This article was amended on September 19, 2023 to clarify that Josep Borrell made his statement on behalf of the EU’s member states.

Source : Balkans Insight