Mixed signals provide background to continued Serbian-Kosovo normalization talks

Mixed signals—many negative—were again the norm by the end of the first week in April, with the EU near berating Kosovo and Serbia for wavering on normalization and this followed by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stating that he “believes Kosovo will be part of Serbia” in a televised address the night of Thursday April 6.

With regard to the EU, EU High Representative Josep Borrell came off as something of an angry schoolteacher, following April 4 meetings, stating very directly that the union expects progress and for Serbia and Kosovo to avoid “escalations” during the normalization process.

„Serbia and Kosovo made a commitment to the Agreement on the path to normalization and its annex,” Borrell said in a Tweet, as cited by the Daily Sabah. “The EU expects both to honor all obligations from it and start implementing as soon as possible.

„The parties must avoid any escalations,” he added. “Translation of their commitments into their European paths is ongoing.”

Yet the problem is that, despite endless rounds of talks, there has been no written commitment by either side when it comes to either the February agreement or a March annex—beyond continued talks.

Vucic has also gone further, stating that he will not sign an agreement with Kosovo, as any signature would de facto imply recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, and that he must also watch his words to avoid such a trap, according to international law.

And when it comes to escalation, this may or may not be under the control of either side. Kosovo police briefly arrested and released a former ethnic Serb police officer on the border last week, and meanwhile five vehicles, which had re-registered from Serbian to Kosovo plates were burned by persons angry at the possibility of Kosovo independence.

And although talks have continued, with the sides having reached an agreement on missing persons and with Kosovo appearing to now consider the creation of a Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM), which was in fact first agreed to come into play in 2014, signals sent by Vucic himself did not exactly raise optimism—at least as far as Kosovo recognition is concerned.

“I think Kosovo will be in Serbia, and that’s what I told Parliament,” Vucic said, as cited by B92. Vucic also claimed that Kosovo police were purposely trying to arrest those most capable of opposing them locally, alluding to three men whom escaped arrest on the border.

And with regard to what he termed the “Franco-German” normalization plan, he stated added that “one good thing about the Franco-German plan is that we should live side by side with the Albanians and not fight. Apart from that, there is no other good news.

“We will implement some of the provisions of the plan, some we won’t,” Vucic stated, adding that without “the CSM, there is nothing.”

While some of the above bluster may have come to appease local hard-liners—especially at one point as Vucic appeared to feel the need to state that a conflict with NATO would be a losing proposition—in recent days the Serbian president also has assured French senators that Serbia is committed to dialogue.

Meanwhile, following implementation talks, German Special Envoy for Western Balkans Manuel Sarrazin stated that Kosovo had agreed to fulfil CSM obligations, although he could not state on just how this would come to fruition, as the sides have “different visions” of the CSM and “Serb self-management,” according to the news site n1info.rs

Which, all things considered, is not difficult to believe.

At all.

Photo of German Special Envoy for Western Balkans Manuel Sarrazin by SaOlaf Kosinsky, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons.


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