Serbia and Kosovo need to pursue a deal to mend ties before their allies become preoccupied with elections in the US and the European Union, according to the Kosovar prime minister.
(Bloomberg) — Serbia and Kosovo need to pursue a deal to mend ties before their allies become preoccupied with elections in the US and the European Union, according to the Kosovar prime minister.
“There is this sense of urgency to implement the agreement and normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia, centered on a mutual de-facto recognition, at the latest by spring next year,” Prime Minister Albin Kurti said in an interview in Brdo, Slovenia on Monday.
Under the auspices of US and EU mediators, the two Balkan states agreed in March on a path toward normalizing ties, which they must do to advance toward EU membership. At the meeting in North Macedonia, Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic verbally endorsed a plan that obliges both sides to respect the territorial integrity of the other.
But the progress unraveled two months later as violence broke out in northern Kosovo, home to the majority of the country’s ethnic Serbs. Protesters from the community clashed with Kosovo police and NATO peacekeepers after Kosovo installed ethnic-Albanian mayors elected in local elections that the Serb population boycotted. Dozens of people were injured
Read more: Violence in Kosovo Exposes Perilous Limbo in Europe’s Powder Keg
For his defiance against his Western allies, who had asked Kurti to refrain from installing the ethnic-Albanian mayors, the EU slapped Kosovo with measures targeting its economy and military cooperation with the West.
“The measures are hurting us in terms of financial and material support of funds and grants and loans that we receive from the EU,” Kurti said. “They are hurting our state agencies and our business community.”
Still seemingly bitter at the snub, Kurti said that “both the EU and the US want to help and support Kosovo.” But they also want to wrestle Serbia from Russian influence, he added.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, following a brutal offensive against Kosovo’s mostly ethnic-Albanian population that was stopped by NATO air strikes against Serbian targets in 1999. Serbia refuses to recognize its former province’s independence and has blocked its efforts to join some international bodies.
Kurti reiterated a willingness to call new municipal elections. To trigger a process toward a new ballot, at least 20% of the local population must petition for the mayors’ terms to be terminated, and international mediators said they will try to ensure that this time the election isn’t boycotted, he said.
For Kurti, going back to the agreement endorsed by both sides in March is the only way forward.
“The agreement is still on the table,” he said.
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