The EU diplomat-in-chief, Josep Borrell has restated the union’s commitment to advance the EU-sponsored dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, amidst growing US engagement in recent months pushing for a final agreement.
In an interview for Euractiv in Croatian language, Borrell said international partners like the US are welcome to contribute to the dialogue.
Are you concerned about US involvement in Kosovo-Serbia relations? Is the EU losing influence in the region and who benefits from Washington’s mediation?
As I said during my visit to Kosovo and Serbia in January, the Western Balkans is a priority for the European Union and myself. As a mediator, I am committed to supporting the progress of the EU-sponsored dialogue. In order to strengthen my engagement and efforts, I decided to appoint a Special Representative for Dialogue and the Western Balkans.
Any engagement in supporting EU-sponsored dialogue is welcomed by both Member States and our international partners. Working with all partners, the situation still requires the efforts of all who want to achieve the same goal – the prosperity of the people in those countries as well as their European perspective.
The unclear situation on who will be the chief mediator in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue that is expected to resume is also reflected in the domestic politics of Kosovo, namely will Thaci or Kurti lead the Kosovo team?
This week, Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaçi met with Serbia’s President Alexandar Vucic in Washington, at the invitation of President Trump’s envoy Richard Grenell. Thaci, Vucic and Grenell have also achieved the signing of three agreements on reestablishing airline, railroad and highway connections between the two countries, although their implementation remains questionable.
In a press conference held yesterday, he slammed the EU’s failure to mediate an agreement between the two countries while Thaçi himself led Kosovo in the dialogue for several years. Thaçi specifically attacked the EU’s choice to appoint Borrell and Lajcak to mediate between parties, whilst assuring his people that only the US could make an agreement possible. The president also blamed the EU for not fulfilling their and Thaçi’s promises for free visa regime for Kosovo.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti, on the other hand, in letters sent to presidents of the US and EC has informed them that the government and he personally will take Kosovo’s lead in talks with Serbia, thus replacing Thaçi. Kurti has also expressed full commitment to reaching an agreement with Serbia, and has decided to lift tariffs on Serbian goods within March. A Constitutional Court decision from June 2019 states that negotiations should be carried out by Kosovo’s government.
However, it appears less certain whether the US and EU will be able to find common ground on principles and process of talks between Kosovo and Serbia.