EU meets with Serbian and Kosovan leaders to ease tensions

EU meets with Serbian and Kosovan leaders to ease tensions

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo will meet with the European Union’s foreign policy chief in Brussels later this month. This was announced by officials on Friday (August 5), as the international community seeks to ease the growing tensions between the two countries.

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti had accepted the invitation of the EU High Representative for the common foreign and security policy, Josep Borrell.

“I can confirm that the Prime Minister [Albin] Kurti and the president [Aleksandar] Vucic have accepted the invitation of High Representative Josep Borrell […]. They will be welcomed in Brussels on 18 August by Mr Borrell and the European Union special representative for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, to discuss the way forward”, Mr. Stano said.

Mr. Lajcak will also participate in the discussions between the two countries.

The EU invitation follows a new rise in tensions in northern Kosovo between the territory’s ethnic Serb minority and the Kosovo authorities in Pristina.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, less than a decade after a bloody war that killed thousands of ethnic Albanians and caused nearly 1.5 million people to flee, as well as after NATO intervened against Belgrade’s forces.

In recent weeks, Serbs living in Kosovo have reacted strongly to the ethnic Albanian-led government’s plan to introduce new travel documents for visitors with a Serbian identity card.

Mr Kurti’s government also wants motorists with Serbian number plates to replace them with plates issued in Kosovo.

Both of these measures were taken in response to those that Belgrade has put in place for the citizens of Kosovo, but this announcement led to strong reactions and protesters blocked roads in northern Kosovo.

A 3,775-strong NATO peacekeeping force is still present in Kosovo and has signaled its intention to intervene if the order is broken.

The American ambassador finally persuaded Pristina to suspend the new measures.

Enlargement of the EU

Serbia was granted the status of an official candidate for EU membership in 2012, but the accession process has been stalling since then.

Kosovo has also mentioned its desire to join the EU, but five of the 27 EU members do not yet recognize its independence.

Serbs in northern Kosovo have long refused to recognize Pristina’s authority and have remained largely loyal to the Belgrade government, which provides financial support to their community.

The EU-led talks between Kosovo and Serbia, launched in 2011 to renew ties between the former enemies, have failed to reach an agreement between the two countries.

Kosovo is recognized by about a hundred states around the world, including the United States, while Serbia and its allies, China and Russia, categorically refuse to recognize its independence.

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