Diplomatic hustle, damage control and urgency was again on view Wednesday Jan. 25, with the US and the EU appearing to be working to somewhat placate Serb nerves only days after a weekend that saw an “ultimatum” given to Serbia—at least according Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and local press, which equated normalization with Kosovo as a price for EU accession.
While this may indeed be true, although—at least according to press releases from both the US and EU—the Serb position is also being weighed.
In a press release issued Tuesday, the High Representative/Vice President for the EU Josep Borrell was noted to have met with the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia Ivica Dačić, with Borrell “reiterating the the EU’s commitment to Serbia’s EU path.”
The press released added that “in this context, [Borrell] looked forward to continued progress in implementation of reforms and commitments taken in the framework of accession negotiations, including on rule of law and media freedom. He also welcomed Serbia’s steps towards aligning its visa policy with the EU.”
On Wednesday—literally the same day that Vucic stated again that he would be wiling to resign if necessary to further better dialogue (and two days after he called a visit of envoys from the EU and the US and “ultimatum”), Counselor of the US State Department Derek Chollet confronted Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti to accept an EU proposal on normalization of relations with Belgrade.
And while the devil is in the here-to-fore unpublished details, that proposal appears to include the creation of an “association of Serb municipalities,” which has long been promised, but never enacted—even though this has been a clear sticking point for Serbia and ethnic Serbs in North Kosovo.
“We also discussed the importance of Kosovo’s multi-ethnic character and moving forward with discussions of the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities in the context of the Dialogue, and the need for Kosovan Serb officials to return to their posts,” Chollet said in a “Tweet.”
Serbia-Kosovo tensions have been running higher than normal since late 2022, with a series of crises worrying the EU and the US, which are both anxious to prevent violence in the Balkans, which would be concurrent with both Russian meddling and the ongoing war in Ukraine. A sticking point has been recognition of Kosovo as an independent state–a no-go topic for Serbia, but a theme that appears to predicate further Serbian EU accession progress. That said, both the EU and the US are eager to prevent a turn toward China or Russian.
Photo of Chollet and Vucic by Voice of America, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.