24th Sep 2023

First deadline expires on Kosovo-Serbia plan

  • EU countries are watching to see if Serbia sticks to the agenda (Photo: Destination Europe)

Deadlines for taking the first steps on a Kosovo-Serbia pact expire at midnight on Friday (31 May), with Balkan officials racing against the clock.

Kosovar and Serb leaders agreed a 15-point treaty on how to normalise relations back in April.

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They also agreed a six-point Implementation Plan on how to make the treaty into reality at a follow-up meeting on 22 May.

The implementation paper, seen by EUobserver, says they will create a "management team" - a new civilian authority in Serb-controlled north Kosovo - by "the end of May."

It says they will appoint a new north Kosovo police chief by the same deadline.

It also says Serbia will "provide a detailed overview of all funding of institutions in Kosovo" in the same timeframe.

A spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton told EUobserver on Friday (31 May) that officials from Kosovo and Serbia are locked in meetings in Brussels, but it is "too early to say" if they will pin down everything on time.

Ashton mediated several rounds of gruelling talks between Kosovo and Serb leaders and recently visited the region to spur things on.

But her spokeswoman noted it is up to Kosovo and Serbia, not EU diplomats, to make the deal work.

"It's their process. It's facilitated by us, but it's their process," she said.

Some EU countries are also doing their bit.

British foreign minister William Hague visited Belgrade on Thursday.

He said: "The European Council will decide on 28 June whether Serbia has met the criteria to receive a start date for accession negotiations."

He added: "The key priority is to make tangible and sustainable progress by taking practical measures which will convince all EU member states that progress towards normalisation is now irreversible.”

The Implementation Plan calls for another series of steps by mid-June.

It says both sides must write the terms of the April treaty into national law.

More painfully for Serbia, it says Belgrade must "commence the closure of its security structures' premises in Kosovo" and "initiate necessary internal procedures for ceasing the payment of [their] salaries."

While not spelled out in the paper, EU diplomats also expect Serbia next month to let Kosovo get its own international dialling code.

By the end of October, north Kosovo is to hold elections for a devolved regional assembly to replace the "management team."

By the end of the year, all Serbian security personnel in north Kosovo are to be "fully integrated" into a Pristina-controlled police force and to get paid "exclusively from the Kosovo budget."

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