Kurz: Belgrade-Pristina talks must continue and find solution

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (R) and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Belgrade on 5 November 2018 [BETAPHOTO/MILOS MISKOV/MO]

Austria, the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, will support any agreement reached by Kosovo and Serbia in the process of normalising relations, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told Belgrade and Pristina during a mini-tour of the region. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

Kurz said in Belgrade on Monday (5 October) that it is crucial to continue and wrap up the dialogue between Serbia and its former province because that was the only way for Serbia to join the EU. At the same time, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić warned that Serbs and Kosovars were miles away from any solution.

At a press conference after the meeting, Kurz voiced hope that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue would end successfully because, he said, he was confident the entire region deserved to be a part of the EU. He added that the EU would be complete only after the Western Balkans, including Serbia had joined.

The achievement of a comprehensive legally binding agreement between Belgrade and Pristina is one of the key conditions facing Serbia on the road to EU membership.

Kurz said Austria believed any agreement between Belgrade and Pristina which could ensure long-term peace – even if it entailed border modifications – should be supported. As for the other EU members, Kurz said he thought that was the majority stance in the EU.

He also underscored that the EU had to actively support rather than obstruct such an agreement.

Five EU member states, as well as Serbia and Russia, do not recognise Kosovo’s independence, declared in 2008.

The Serbian president said the positions of Serbia and Austria differed on Kosovo, but was grateful that Austria supported any solution the Serbs and Kosovars might reach.

Miles away from solution

But Vučić also said that an agreement was a distant prospect, reiterating that it was not possible for Serbia, which is willing to be a partner to anyone ready to engage in talks, “to get nothing”.

As part of the dialogue on the normalisation of relations being led in Brussels under the mediation of EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini, Vučić and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci last met in mid-September.

But they did not talk face-to-face on that occasion, due to heightened tensions. Instead, each meeting separately with Mogherini. Brussels officials then announced that a new meeting would be held soon but that has not yet happened. Vučić said he expected the dialogue to resume but added that “I do not know when that will happen”.

The Serbian President also said that he had “understood perfectly” the message from the Austrian chancellor and thanked him for saying everything so openly because Serbian citizens “should know what are the conditions for joining the EU’.

At a meeting with Thaci on 6 November, Kurz reiterated his message – that Austria would support any agreement reached by Kosovo and Serbia. He underscored in Pristina that any agreement, even border corrections or an exchange of territories, would be supported by the EU if the two countries agreed on it.

Vučić said he would attend a summit in Paris on the occasion of Armistice Day (the end of World War One on 11 November), despite opposition from a portion of the public after the Kosovo flag was raised on the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, because he believed Serbia must not isolate itself in international affairs.

‘Should we isolate ourselves? Do you want Serbia not to be represented in Paris? For Thaci to be represented there and for Serbia, a country that lost 28% of its population in that war, not to be represented? Is that a reason for me not to talk with Putin, Trump, Macron… or for us not to trade with anyone? Serbia cannot play an offended bride’, Vučić said.

According to AFP, the management of the Notre Dame Cathedral said the decision to include the Kosovo flag as part of the Armistice celebrations was based on the list of officials invited to the ceremony in Paris.

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