The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo met in North Macedonia on Saturday to discuss a deal put forward by the EU to improve ties between Belgrade and Pristina.
Kosovo formally declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, almost ten years after the 1999 NATO bombing campaign that separated the territory from Belgrade. But Serbia and many other countries have never recognized Kosovo as an independent state.
Under the eleven-point deal put forward by the EU, Kosovo and Serbia would agree not to resolve disputes with violence and wouldn’t block each other from joining international organizations. Both Serbia and Kosovo seek EU membership, and Brussels wants them to mend ties before joining.
The deal would also result in a de facto normalization by requiring each country to recognize the other’s national symbols and official documents, including passports, diplomas, license plates, and customs stamps. The EU plan would also allow some degree of autonomy for Kosovo’s ethnic minority Serbs.
The deal calls on both governments “to ensure an appropriate level of self-management for the Serbian community in Kosovo and ability for service provision in specific areas, including the possibility for financial support by Serbia.” Tensions often flare between ethnic Serbs who live in northern Kosovo and don’t recognize the government in Pristina.
Following 12 hours of talks between Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, the two leaders said good progress was made, but a final deal was not signed. Kurti blamed the Serbian side for the lack of a formal agreement. “The other side, just as in the last meeting in Brussels on 27 February, is avoiding signing the agreement,” Kurti said.
Vucic signaled that more talks will happen soon. “I think we have made one important step in a constructive atmosphere and we will start to work on something. Of course, it was not some D-day but it was an okay day,” he said. A day before the talks, thousands in Belgrade protested against the EU-proposed deal, which they think will lead to the formal recognition of Kosovo’s independence.