After twelve hours of marathon negotiations in Ohrid, North Macedonia, the highest representatives of Serbian and Kosovo They have made considerable progress. “We have an agreement”the EU foreign affairs representative, Josep Borrelllate Saturday afternoon.
Earlier, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti had been discussing a new agreement that would settle their hostile relations. Borrell and the EU’s special envoy to the Balkans, Miroslav Lajcak, mediated.
Kosovo, today inhabited almost exclusively by Albanians, seceded from Serbia in 1999 with the help of NATO and declared its independence in 2008. Serbia still does not recognize it.
The planned agreement states that Belgrade will not recognize Kosovo under international law, but will take note of the statehood of its former province. In particular, it will recognize Kosovo passports, vehicle registrations and customs documents. Kosovo will institutionally guarantee the rights of the ethnic Serbs in the country.
In a first meeting held on February 27 in Brussels, both parties had verbally agreed on a principle of agreement, which the EU had presented on the basis of a Franco-German proposal and which has the support of the United States. On Saturday, attention was focused on the specific deadlines that appear in the annex of the agreement to apply its points.
Vucic has not signed the agreement
As in Brussels, Vucic did not want to sign the agreement reached. “The agreement and its annex are considered accepted”Borrell declared after the talks. At the same time, he admitted that the two parties had not seconded the “more ambitious ideas” of the EU mediators. He did not go into detail about the substantive differences. He added that they would continue to work “until a global agreement is reached.”
“Today I have not signed anything”Vucic told reporters in Ohrid. “We have shown in different ways in each case where the respective red lines are for us”. He described the atmosphere of the talks as “constructive”. For the Serbian nationalist, any softening of the harsh stance towards Pristina represents a political risk. Serbian right-wing radicals threatened demonstrations if Vucic “capitulated” in Ohrid.
Kurti, in turn, faces pressure from the population and the Kosovar Albanian electorate, which rejects concessions to the ethnic Serbs. However, article 7 of the agreement stipulates that Kosovo Serbs have the right to “a reasonable degree of autonomous solution of their affairs”. Pristina has now committed to implementing this point immediately, according to Borrell.
In Kosovo, the population fears that too strong veto rights for a future Serbian association of municipalities could paralyze the state. Also, people remember the crackdown by Serbian security forces when the area was still part of Serbia. An armed uprising by Kosovar Albanians in 1998/99 led to even more massive human rights violations by Serbia. NATO reacted in the spring of 1999 with bombing attacks on what was then the former Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).
Subsequently, Serbia had to completely withdraw from its former province. From 1999 to 2008, the UN administered the territory. In 2008, the country declared itself independent. More than 100 countries, including Germany, have recognized Kosovo’s independence; not so five EU Member States, including Spain and Greece.
The relationship of the youngest European state with Serbia remains unresolved. Western diplomatic efforts have not led to a significant normalization of the situation in recent years. Last year, tensions escalated again. There were roadblocks and gunfire.
With the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine as a backdrop, the resolution of the Kosovo conflict took on a new relevance for the West. Moscow takes advantage of the weaknesses in the political order of various Balkan states to exert its influence. Belgrade depends on Russia because the eastern superpower prevents Kosovo’s admission to the world organization with its veto in the UN Security Council. Serbia is the only country in the region that does not support EU sanctions against Russia.
Source: Euronews Español