From: Bledar Qalliu
EU, US Urge Kosovo to Propose Models for Association of Serb Municipalities 

The European Union and United States have urged Kosovo to propose models for the establishment of the Association of Serb Municipalities (ASM) that would not infringe the functioning of state institutions. Their envoys stressed that they do not want a parallel Serbian state within Kosovo but the latter must find ways to establish the association in compliance with agreements signed in Brussels.

The EU and US envoys, Miroslav Lajcak and Gabriel Escobar, made the statement in Prishtina, following a two-day visit in Kosovo aimed at advancing the dialogue with Serbia, after which they left for Belgrade.

They stressed the EU and US support for Kosovo’s principles in the dialogue regarding non-violation of its territorial integrity, constitutional order and functioning of state institutions.

In their meetings with Kosovo’s leaders, political parties and civil society in the past two days, the senior diplomats received the parties’ full support for the dialogue, which they noted should advance quicker.

Lajcak highlighted that Kosovo is an equal part in the dialogue and should not be afraid that anything would be imposed on it, including an association of Serb municipalities with executive powers that would rival the central government. 

Prime Minister Albin Kurti replied later today that Kosovo is not afraid but his government is “responsible, cautious, constructive and serious” in relation to the dialogue and in defending the country’s interests. He stressed that while they have discussed no model for the establishment of the association, the government has presented the envoys with their proposals for the advancement of the dialogue, which he insisted should result in mutual recognition.

In an earlier interview before the visit, Lajcak avoided a direct answer to the question whether the association should have executive powers, noting that it’s up to Serbia and Kosovo to establish that during the dialogue.

The EU and US are not going to propose any model for the association, the two diplomats stressed, but would offer support if asked by parties in the dialogue.

The establishment of an association were Serbs are a majority was agreed in Brussels in 2013 and details were drawn in another agreement in 2015, after which the Kosovo Constitutional Court deemed it in breach of the constitution because it was not inclusive of other ethnicities and could entail executive powers.

Kosovo authorities say they will comply with the court’s rule and prevent the establishment of an association with executive powers that would effectively be a state within the state. However, the EU and US maintain that there are ways to reconcile the 2015 agreement with the court’s ruling.

The dialogue between the two countries has yielded little results since it was launched in 2011 under EU facilitation. It has practically stalled since last summer after Serbia’s insistence for the establishment of the association. Most of the 34 agreements signed between Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels in the last 10 years have only been partially implemented.

The latest joint visits shows that the two powers – EU and US – have rejoined forces and are committed to advance the dialogue with fresh energies. However, a more clear view on how the dialogue could advance can only be expected after the April general elections in Serbia.