Efforts to negotiate a normalization of ties between Serbia and Kosovo have ended in failure today, with EU officials calling it quits after 12 hours of talks yielded no real progress. Both governments remained willing to engage in further talks, but the EU has refused to call any more, at least for the time being.
Kosovo has traditionally been part of Serbia, though a multi-century occupation by the Ottoman Empire led to a division between the ethnically Serb north and the mostly Albanian southern portion. NATO attacked Serbia in 1999 and declared Kosovo independent afterwards, a move Serbia did not recognize.
The future for NATO occupied but nominally “independent” Kosovo has not been straightforward, with the Kosovar Serbs in the northern cities still insisting they never wanted to break away from Serbia, and the Albanian-dominated government launching multiple crackdowns to prevent northerners from trading with neighboring Serbian towns. The US has been browbeating Serbia since the war to accept the new borders exactly as drawn, insisting they will never allow any change.
Indications from Serbian officials are that they were open to a “compromise” deal whereby they would recognize the NATO-mandated borders but Kosovo would grant the north a degree of autonomy, as well as a pledge not to deploy their military against ethnic Serbian towns. In effect, this would model Northern Kosovo along the lines of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Serbian officials say that the proposals were a non-starter for the Kosovar Albanian officials, who insist autonomy would violate their sovereignty. EU officials are suggesting that the lack of a final deal could keep Serbia from joining the EU, and Kosovo officials seem to be counting on that threat being enough to force Serbia to eventually give in on all demands.