Last Thursday’s failed Brussels talks on the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia prompted a terse statement by an unnamed US State Department representative, who noted that the clock is ticking on an agreement between the two states.
“We are disappointed that progress was not made today,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said, as cited by Radio Free Europe/RFE. “As we’ve repeatedly said, the EU-facilitated Dialogue is the only path forward for Kosovo and Serbia.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti were present for talks in Brussels that were headed by EU High Representative Josep Borrell. Curiously, Borrell stated that while Vucic was willing to go forward on an EU proposed deal, Kurti refused.
“Kurti was not ready to take a step forward,” Borrell said, as cited by RFE, which added that Borrell stated that Kurti “insisted instead on formalizing de facto recognition as the first step.”
The deal reportedly included a framework to move forward on the Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) in North Kosovo, which was actually agreed on in 2013 negotiations. Kurti demanded that Serbia recognize Kosovo as an independent state first.
In short, the odds of this happening were highly unlikely.
Where this leaves negotiations is anyone’s guess. The US and the EU have long pressed Serbia to “align with Western politics”—i.e. to join in on sanctions against Russia. At the same time, the EU has offered the carrot of potential EU accession in 2030, not to mention liberal grants and funds along the way.
Yet the CSM issue is a stickler, and over the past six months quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) frustration with Kurti’s hard line stance has sometimes raised its head. This latest refusal is bound to increase said frustration, as will histrionic comments by Kurti following the meeting that the EU had sided with Serbia.
Meanwhile, the plight of Serbs in not only Kosovo, but also in Croatia decades after the war in Yugoslavia is beginning to get more and more recognition, with the UN calling Croatia on the carpet this week for the treatment of Serbs there.
That said, the EU and the US have appeared to also state that Serbia has no choice. In short, recognize Kosovo and the path to EU accession and the West is open. Which also, paradoxically appears to mean, ignore this choice at your peril.
Photo of Kurti and Borrell by European Commission, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.