Kosovo, Serbia To Restart Talks After Video Summit With Merkel, Macron
By RFE/RL's Balkan Service July 10, 2020
Kosovo and Serbia have agreed to resume EU-backed normalization talks at a video summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
However, statements from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti after the video summit made it clear that the two sides remain far apart.
The talks will resume on July 12 with a video conference hosted by the European Union, the German government said in a statement on July 10.
"President Macron and Chancellor Merkel encourage President Vucic and Prime Minister Hoti to make substantial progress in negotiations," the German government statement read.
The July 10 video summit was attended by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell and Miroslav Lajcak, the EU's special envoy for dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008 in a move rejected by Belgrade.
EU-mediated negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade broke down in late 2018 over reports of a proposed land swap and after Kosovo imposed a 100 percent tax on Serbian imports.
Both Kosovo and Serbia, which aspire to join the EU, have been facing mounting pressure from the West to reboot negotiations.
Speaking after the meeting, Vucic said "we had really tough negotiations," and that he told Macron and Merkel that if Kosovo's independence "is what they want to talk about, then these talks are completely meaningless."
"We will not have an easy time in the future. I think we will be exposed to great, great, let me not say pressure, but expectations from our European partners, Vucic said. "At the same time we are faced with a completely unrealistic approach from Kosovo Albanians who want it all, leaving Serbia without anything," he said.
"No one is going to cuddle us or give us a present. On the contrary, we will be pressured to give in," he said.
European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said focusing on moving things forward and not getting bogged down in the thorny issues involved in the talks is the most important thing now.
"This is not a one-off event. Dialogue is a process," Stano told reporters. "What is important at this stage is to get things moving."
The new push comes after prosecutors in The Hague charged Kosovar President Hashim Thaci with war crimes, leading to the postponement of a planned June 27 White House summit between Thaci and his Serbian counterpart.
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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