Serbian, Kosovo leaders to meet ahead of EU summit

The prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, Ivica Da?i? and Hashim Thaci, are to meet in Brussels today (20 June) to discuss the implementation of the agreement on normalising relations – the key condition for the two countries' progress in European integration. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

The meeting is meant to take stock of results achieved so far and advance technical negotiations between the teams in Belgrade and Pristina in charge of implementing the agreement, which is part of an EU-sponsored dialogue between the two sides (see background).

After the meeting, EU Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle are to send a letter to EU countries detailing the measures taken to implement the Brussels agreement.

The Serbian and Kosovo prime ministers will meet ahead of the 27-28 June EU summit, at which EU leaders will consider the next steps of Serbia and Kosovo’s European integration.

Belgrade is hoping to be given a date to start EU membership talks, while Kosovo is hoping to begin negotiations on a stabilisation and association agreement. Both decisions depend on the EU’s assessment of the implementation of the agreement on the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, reached on 19 April.

Arduous process

The implementation of the agreement has proven to be arduous, but both sides, aware of the risks accompanying a standstill in European integration and the economic consequences stemming from it, are reportedly making efforts to produce results.

Belgrade and Pristina have harmonised their plans to implement the normalisation agreement, which contains activities and deadlines, and their teams in Brussels are negotiating concrete solutions in the fields of telecommunications, judiciary, police and security.

A positive step is the exchange of liaison officers between Belgrade and Pristina, based on the agreement made in Brussels. Their job is to facilitate communication and assist in the normalisation of relations.

However, those plans suffered a setback on Wednesday when Kosovo's first envoy to Serbia resigned after two days on the job for making statements likely to irritate Belgrade, Reuters reported.

Great expectations

Although Belgrade expects a positive decision from the EU leaders, it is becoming increasingly clear that the initiation of the talks will be approved in principle, while the actual negotiations would start later this year or in early 2014, after more conditions are met.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikoli? said on 18 June that Serbia could no longer wait for the decision to open talks, and that this would be the moment of truth whether Serbia was wanted as a future member of the European family or not.

“Serbia has done everything to meet the conditions set before it and the ball is now in Europe’s court. We stand calmly at the crossroads, because we know that we are responsible and honest people, both to Europe and to ourselves,” said Nikoli? after a meeting with his Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias.

Speaking at the European Forum Wachau in Austria, on 16 June, Da?i? warned that any result other than a positive decision would have a negative impact on the country's reform process.

“The Serbian government has shown its firm intention of completely fulfilling its obligations and thereby removing all obstacles. At the same time, we expect the EU to keep the promise it made in the form of conditions late last year. Any negative result will have a negative effect on the reform process, which contributes to the overall regional and European stability and security,” Da?i? stressed.

Achievements so far

The Belgrade-Pristina agreement envisages the establishment of an Association of Serb Municipalities and the annulment of current Serbian institutions in Kosovo, which is due to be finished this autumn, after local elections in Kosovo.

Pristina representatives have said that the local elections in Kosovo, in which the heads of the Association of Serb Municipalities will also be elected, will be held in October 2013.

In the meantime, steps have been taken to that end – a managing team of the Association of Serb Municipalities has been formed, which will carry out important duties in line with the agreement on the normalisation of relations until autumn, and the closing of offices used by the Serbian Interior Ministry in northern Kosovo has begun. The first such office was shut down in Leposavi? on 14 June.

Pristina is also demanding that Belgrade, in concordance with the agreement, stops financing the parallel structures in Kosovo by the end of June, whereas Belgrade insists on the idea that the current Serbian institutions in Kosovo must be financed until the institutions of the Association of Serb Municipalities are established and take over jurisdictions and personnel.

One of the topics of the negotiations is amnesty, which the Pristina authorities must grant to members of Serb security and judicial bodies so that the Association of Serb Municipalities can be established smoothly. The Pristina government is asking that the amnesty includes not only the Serb, but all communities in Kosovo.

Thorny issues

The talks between Belgrade and Pristina on giving Kosovo an international land telephone calling code and granting a Serbian mobile operator license for operation in Kosovo have so far failed to produce any agreement, and the two sides have submitted new proposals in writing to the European Commission.

There is also a standstill in the matter of electricity supply and transmission in Kosovo, because Pristina is rejecting the idea of a Serbian company also being involved in the job.

Background

The EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina began in March 2011, with lower-level meetings taking place in Brussels.

After a new Serbian government was formed in July 2012, the dialogue was raised to a higher level and the prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, Ivica Da?i? and Hashim Thaci, met for the first time in October. At a meeting in December, Da?i? and Thaci agreed to exchange liaison officers.

Agreements have been reached on several issues – the free flow of people and goods, customs stamps, the acknowledgment of diplomas, integrated border management in Northern Kosovo, and the representation of Kosovo at regional conferences.

Timeline

  • 27-28 June: EU summit do decide on the start of EU membership talks with Serbia, and the beginning of negotiations on a stabilisation and association agreement with Kosovo

Further Reading