At the expert-level talks held in Brussels on Thursday, Kosovo avoided talking about the long-ago agreed Association of Serb-majority municipalities – despite Serbia insisting it should be the priority.
Expert level talks on Thursday between Kosovo and Serbia taking place as part of the EU-facilitated dialogue mainly focused on mutual financial claims and property – despite Serbian attempts to force a discussion of the thorny issue of the planned Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities in Kosovo – agreed back in 2013 but never implemented.
After the meeting, the EU Special Envoy to the dialogue, Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak, confirmed on Twitter that the discussions had only “confirmed the complexity and sensitivity of the issue”.
Descriptions of the talks provided by Skender Hyseni, Kosovo’s coordinator for the dialogue and Marko Djuric, the head of Serbia’s Kosovo office, underlined their very different approaches to the meeting.
Djuric accused the Kosovo delegation of coming to the meeting unprepared, and of trying to divert the discussions from the Association.
“We did not have a rational discussion but an emotional and heated discussion during which the Kosovar side tried to take us back 13 centuries and present Serbia as a colonizer, who occupied not only Kosovo, but also Toplica [in southern Serbia], trying to divert us from the topic with irrational and historically incorrect information,” he told the media afterwards.
Djuric had insisted before the meeting that the subject of the Association of Serb-majority municipalities within Kosovo would be the first item up for discussion.
However, he said, despite Serbian attempts to prioritize the issue, the Kosovo side refused to discuss it.
Hyseni, for his part, insisted that it had not been agreed whether the issue of the Association would be discussed at all – or when.
The EU spokesman, Peter Stano, however, said the “arrangements on non-majority communities” in Kosovo, i.e. for the Kosovo Serbs, would be discussed at the next meeting.
Stano said Kosovo must find some way to implement the Association as it already assumed an international obligation to do so when it signed the so-called Brussels agreement in 2013. In addition, he said, Kosovo had a domestic legal obligation to implement the Association because that agreement had received the necessary support of two-thirds of votes in the Kosovo Assembly in 2013.
Hyseni, however, disputed the terminology that was being used, saying Kosovo would not allow use of the phrase “community of non-majority municipalities”, as it has several non-majority communities besides Serbs, such as Bosniaks, Turks and others. “We will not allow this game with terminology”, Hyseni said.
Djuric, nevertheless, stood by Serbia’s point that “implementation of what the parties agreed on seven and a half years ago is an obligation on the road to normalization of relations”.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has complicated the issue of the semi-autonomous municipal association by attacking his government’s handling of the talks with Serbia, and urging the Kosovo parliament to pass a resolution banning it from even discussing such “closed topics” as the association of Serb-majority municipalities – calling such discussions “a grave and dangerous mistake”.