Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj does not want EU Vice President Federica Mogherini to remain involved in the Belgrade-Priština normalisation dialogue, and has said that under her guidance, the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia, as well as Albania’s prime minister, had “probably” negotiated a division of Kosovo.
Citing reports by Priština media, Belgrade media say Haradinaj has asked that the Brussels mediator – the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy – no longer oversees the talks on normalising relations between Serbia and its former province, which declared independence in 2008.
“We will meet with Serbian representatives in Paris, and then again in Washington, so Washington might be directly involved. That is part of the process aimed at getting Serbia to recognise Kosovo within its existing borders, with respect for human rights, improvement of economic relations and Euro-Atlantic integration,” said Haradinaj.
Haradinaj has often called into question the EU’s role in the dialogue with Belgrade, though he always says that Kosovo is a part of Europe, geographically, ideologically and historically, and that more EU in the Western Balkans means more opportunity and prosperity.
He has also stressed Kosovo’s commitment to the dialogue and normalisation of relations, but has refused to lift tariffs imposed on goods from Serbia, despite demands from the EU and Washington.
After a recent meeting in Berlin organised by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, Haradinaj said there was “reasonable suspicion that (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vučić, (Albanian Prime Minister Edi) Rama and (Kosovo President Hashim) Thaçi have discussed the partition of Kosovo,” and that there was suspicion that “this happened under Mogherini’s leadership.”
“It is good that they are seeking to apologise for having wasted time on that theme. All this could have been even worse,” Haradinaj told at a round table in Priština.
Haradinaj expects talks on elements of a potential agreement on recognition between Kosovo and Serbia to take place at the next summit of the Western Balkans Six in Paris in early July.
The Belgrade-Priština dialogue has been stalled since last autumn, and things went downhill with the imposing of import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Although the EU and other international actors are asking that the two sides resume talks as the only way to solve problems, neither Haradinaj nor Vučić are relenting.
The Kosovo prime minister is asking that the recognition of Kosovo within existing borders be negotiated, while Vučić keeps repeating that the dialogue will be possible only after Priština has abolished the import taxes.
According to the latest estimates, in the six months that Kosovo’s 100% tariffs have been in place, Serbia has sustained damage of up to €300 million.
At the same time, some analyses in Priština show that the taxes have not brought Kosovo anything other than a reduction of Serbian imports, which have been offset by imports from other countries, primarily Slovenia, Turkey and Israel.
Kosovo president Thaçi had not been not as “firm” as Haradinaj on import taxes and announced, after a request from Washington, that the suspension of taxes might be considered. Now, however, Thaçi also believes that imposing the tariffs on Serbian goods was a correct and legitimate decision by Kosovo institutions.
Negotiations with Priština aim to reach a comprehensive agreement, which does not entail a formal recognition of Kosovo by Belgrade. They are one of the key requirements set by Brussels in Serbia’s European integration.
Serbia has so far opened 16 out of the 35 negotiating chapters, including the two key chapters on judiciary and the rule of law, as well as chapter 35 (‘other issues’), which in Serbia’s case pertains to reaching an agreement with Kosovo.
Meanwhile the EU is sending messages of peace and cooperation. The last is a message by European Council President Donald Tusk, who pointed out that he could not understand how anyone could see a national interest in not building the best possible relations with neighbours, especially with those with whom they had the most difficult history.
In an interview with the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, Tusk said it was a success to have kept the European perspective for the Western Balkans, despite the EU’s ‘enlargement fatigue’.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]