Serbia, Kosovo talks aren’t over yet

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Talks between Serbia and Kosovo must continue to bring stability to the region, writes Miroslav Laj?ák.

Miroslav Laj?ák is Slovakia's minister of foreign and European affairs.

"The long wait is over, the doomsayers say, claiming that after months, weeks, days and hours the Brussels talks between Belgrade and Pristina had ended in a stalemate.

There is no progress to be expected, the obstacles are insurmountable. The future of the Western Balkans is bleak.

I beg to disagree with the prevalent opinion. The barricade Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Da?i? and the Prime Minister Hashim Traci of Kosovo have encountered on the road to a fair and sustainable arrangement of affairs in Kosovo is nothing more than a glitch.

The dialogue cannot and must not stop: both sides had already invested so much in it – including their own credibility – that anything less than bridging the “narrow although deep gap” is unthinkable.

The day after hitting the block might be a good time for fiery rhetoric, but the truth of the matter is: there is no other option but to compromise.

Of course it will be painful. Doubly so, since the topic has become a matter of internal political struggles in both Serbia and Kosovo.

However fierce the political preaching might be, Serbia must – and I hope will – realise that the invitation to the EU accession talks could be conditional upon renewing the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue in the open and upon offering a compromise, possibly in the form of backpedalling on the level of autonomy of the Serbian municipalities in Northern Kosovo.

On its part Kosovo must – and I hope will – realise that it must demonstrate generosity in addressing the issue of Serbian municipalities on its territory. Without exaggeration, the European future of the Western Balkans literally hangs on the thread of whether or not reason prevails.

Mind me well: I am not taking sides in the issue, nor do I have an ambition to step into the stalled dialogue as a mediator. I fully accept and strongly appreciate Catherine Ashton’s role and respect her endeavors in this matter.

On the other hand, the Balkans were and will always be lodged deep in my heart, and it pains me to imagine it falling into turmoil once again.

Therefore let me stress what I believe in: There is a cure for every problem, a patch for every hole, a bridge for every gap. The current situation in which Northern Kosovo is in essence a no-man's land with undefined rules of the game cannot and must not be allowed to continue and any chance for improvement is worth trying for.

I strongly disagree with the idea that the talks have failed. They have not. True, their shape will change. But their continuation is a must.

It’s not over yet."

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