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15th Aug 2020

Kosovo status issue threatens EU-Balkan summit

  • Kosovo's flag is taboo in Belgrade (Photo: Shkumbin)

The Spanish presidency is "working" on getting minister-level delegates from all Balkan entities, including Kosovo, on board for an EU-Balkan summit in June, with Serbia threatening to boycott any gathering which would imply a recognition of its former province's independence.

"We are working very hard to organise this EU-Balkan summit in Sarajevo early June, hopefully at ministerial level and maybe with representatives from other countries who have an interest in this region," Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for the Spanish EU presidency told this website.

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As reported by WAZ.EUobserver on Thursday (29 April), EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele have signaled they would only attend the meeting if all were represented, including Kosovo, whose independence is not recognised by Serbia and a handful of EU countries, including Spain.

"Commissioner Fuele maintains his position that he would be happy to participate in a meeting in which all players in the region are represented," Mr Fuele's spokeswoman Angela Filote said.

The plan - aimed at to avoiding a second fiasco, after Serbia boycotted a recent regional leaders' gathering organised by Slovenia - is to hold an informal meeting where only the names of the ministers are displayed, not those of their countries or their flags.

In EU talk, these meetings are called "Gymnichs," after the German castle where the first informal gathering of EU ministers took place in 1974.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, who visited Belgrade on Wednesday, presented the "Gymnich solution" to the Serbian government and was met with "increased flexibility" and a "constructive approach," Apcom reported. He also indicated that Kosovo would agree to participate under this format.

Serbian officials speaking on Thursday said the Gymnich format could be a solution, but stressed that Kosovo delegates should be escorted by representatives of the UN mission to the country.

"A delegation of the interim authorities of Kosovo, if it goes to Sarajevo, and we hope they will, will be asymmetrical by the very fact they will be escorted by the UNMIK chief, who would speak before the delegation of the interim institutions," said Borko Stefanovic, political director in the Serbian foreign ministry, as quoted by B92 News.

In Pristina, the Kosovo president's spokesman, Dzavit Beciri, said that his country "will accept to participate in the summit if all countries are represented on an equal footing."

Commenting on the possibility that the UNMIK chief or EU representatives in Kosovo might also take part in the Sarajevo conference, Mr Beciri said that "only representatives of Kosovo's institutions can speak on behalf of Kosovo and its institutions."

With roughly one month to go, the date of the summit itself is also uncertain, with 2 June being floated as "working date," but with one dinner on the evening before or a breakfast on the morning after also taken into consideration.

EU top brass to drop out of Sarajevo event

In a political blow for next month's planned Sarajevo conference, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele have indicated they will only attend if the presence of all Western Balkan countries, including Kosovo, is guaranteed.

Kosovo to restart EU/US-led Serbia talks

Restarting talks on Serbia relations will be the new Kosovo prime minister's top priority, he said, but will the EU or the US lead the process?

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