EU expects breakthrough in Serbia- Kosovo talks after Vucic electoral win

Special Representative for the Pristina-Belgrade Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak (L) and the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic (R), during a press conference following an official visit in Belgrade, Serbia, 22 June 2020. [Koca Sulejmanovic/EPA/EFE]

EU-mediated negotiations aimed at normalising relations between Serbia and Kosovo will restart in July after being stalled for almost two years, EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak said on Monday (22 June).

After meeting Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić, whose ruling Serbian Progressive Party won a landslide victory in general elections on Sunday, Lajcak said that the future agreement should “solve all issues and be mutually acceptable”.

Serbia is a candidate to join the EU, but the bloc says Belgrade must first resolve its relationship with Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008, which Belgrade does not recognise.

Talks between them stalled in November 2018 when Kosovo imposed 100% import tariffs on Serbian goods.

Kosovo hits Serbia, Bosnia with 100% customs fees after Interpol snub

Kosovo on Wednesday (21 November) raised customs tariffs on Serbian and Bosnian goods from 10 to 100% after Serbia blocked its former province from joining Interpol, the international police organisation.

“We are proposing a comprehensive deal that would solve all issues once and for all,” Lajcak told a news conference, speaking through an interpreter.

Other conditions for Serbia’s EU membership include reforming the judiciary, improving rule of law and rooting out corruption and organised crime.

“Serbia is a part of Europe, your problems are our problems, your solutions are our solutions,” Lajcak said.

On 6 June, Kosovo removed all trade barriers, paving the way for the resumption of talks. But Kosovo remains adamant it wants full recognition of its independence by Belgrade.

“We are entering these talks in good faith,” Vučić said.

Authorities in Pristina have opposed Lajcak’s involvement in the talks as his native Slovakia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence. They prefer to see the United States as the main mediator.

Ethnic Albanians account for 90% of the population of Kosovo, where NATO air bombardment helped drive out Serbian forces during a 1999 war.

Kosovo is recognised by more than 110 countries including the United States, but not by Serbia and its allies Russia and China, which have been blocking Kovoso from joining international organisations, including the United Nations.

Last week, Vučić said he would reject EU membership if Belgrade does not receive concessions in return for recognising Kosovo, and that no solution would be possible without Russia’s consent.

Under the auspices of U.S. negotiator Richard Grenell, delegations from Belgrade and Pristina will meet in Washington on June 27 to discuss economic relations.

Why Serbia’s President Vucic chose Richard Grenell over Angela Merkel

Although EU membership is Serbia’s official foreign policy goal, Russia and China – and perhaps the USA in the future – are providing something that is much more valuable for the Serbian leaders: a hope that the drawing of the national borders will be possible again, writes Filip Milacic

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