Monday

19th Nov 2018

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."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

News in Brief

  1. EU set to tighten rules on foreign strategic investment
  2. Macron repeats call for unified Europe in Bundestag speech
  3. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  4. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  5. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  6. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  7. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  8. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated

Opinion

Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Few people commented on one key point in Macron's statement: he did not justify the idea of a European army by the need to intervene in Africa, which would have been France's traditional approach. Instead, he invoked the Russian threat,

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us