Monday

18th Dec 2017

Interview

Kosovo: EU meeting is 'de facto recognition' by Serbia

Kosovo's foreign minister has said that a meeting between the Presidents of Kosovo and Serbia is "de facto recognition" by Serbia of Kosovo's independence.

Serbian chief Tomislav Nikolic, an outspoken nationalist, Kosovo head Atifete Jahjaga, a former police commander, and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will in Brussels on Wednesday (6 January) eat dinner and talk, in the words of an EU agenda note, about "normalisation of relations."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The event marks the first time the two sides have met at the top level since Kosovo declared independence in 2008.

There is plenty which is not normal.

For one, Serbia and five EU countries (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain) do not recognise Kosovo or Jahjaga's "President" status. For two, Kosovo says Serbia keeps armed militias in a Serb enclave in north Kosovo and wants to split Kosovo in two.

At the same time, the EU-mediated talks have already seen Serb and Kosovo Prime Ministers meet in Brussels five times.

Their next meeting, on 22 February, is to discuss dismantling the north Kosovo militias and the two sides are to shortly post diplomatic "liaison officers" to each other's capitals.

"I think both representatives [Nikolic and Jahjaga ] are meeting as representatives of two sovereign states," Kosovo's foreign minister, Enver Hoxhaj, told EUobserver in an interview on Tuesday.

"I think the meeting is nothing else than the de facto recognition of the independence of Kosovo by Serbia," he added.

Hoxhaj spoke after returning to Europe from a tour of African and Asian states in his job to drum up de jure international recognition.

He already has 98 UN members in the bag. Last year he added 13 to the total and hopes to get another 20 this year.

He believes the Nikolic-Jahjaga event will spur the five EU non-recognisers and Russia, Serbia's ally in the UN Security Council, to gradually change their approach.

When things fall into place in what Hoxhaj calls an "irreversible process," Kosovo plans to apply for full UN membership.

"If Indonesia and East Timor were able to come to a peaceful settlement after 24 years of warfare in this troubled part of Asia, I don't see why Kosovo and Serbia, as two nations in the heart of Europe, who both aspire to jion the European Union, cannot do the same," Hoxhaj said.

It is doubtful if Nikolic will give the same appraisal as the Kosovo minister of Wednesday's EU meeting, however.

A former member of the government of Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia's late, ultranationalist wartime leader, Nikolic has, since coming into office last May, twice denied that the Serb murder of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 was genocide. He has also said the town of Vukovar in Croatia belongs to Serbia.

Hoxhaj noted that Nikolic has a "difficult legacy" and that some of his statements feed the kind of "ethnic nationalism" which caused the wars.

But for the Kosovo minister, the feeling among average Serb people is more important than the words of its political elite.

He noted that polster firm Politika put Kosovo as issue number eight for Serb voters last year, behind concerns such as economic growth. He also noted that 80 percent of ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo already accept Pristina's rule.

In terms of deeper reconciliation, the process still has a way to go.

When asked by EUobserver if Kosovo also committed crimes during the war, Hoxhaj said there were Kosovar "victims" but that the source of the conflict was Milosevic's attempt to stamp Serb hegemony on the region.

He pointed out that even Dragoljub Ojdanic, Serbia's wartime military commander, on 29 January accepted a guilty verdict by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague and voiced "regret" for causing "suffering."

"This shows Serbia has really started the process of coming to terms with its past ... It's a very good sign that Serbia has started to change," the Kosovo minister said.

Opinion

Kosovo-Serbia: will they or won't they?

Both sides have much to lose if Kosovo-Serbia talks on 2 April go badly, but they can only go well if Serb leaders face up to the reality that Kosovo is gone.

Feature

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

EU complicit in Libyan torture, says Amnesty

The EU and its members states have signed up to 'Faustian pact' with Libyan authorities in the their effort to prevent migrant and refugee boat departures towards Italy, says Amnesty International.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives