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26th Sep 2021

EU and US continue tug-of-war on Balkans talks

  • EU special envoy Miroslav Miroslav Lajčák (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Serbia and Kosovo are fully committed to EU talks, Brussels has said, despite a rival US process that caused irritation on Israel.

"It is important that both leaders this morning, coming from the meeting in the White House ... confirmed that they attach the highest priority to the EU integration and to continuing the work on the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue," EU special envoy Miroslav Lajčák said on Monday (7 September).

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And their decision "is essential for progress in their respective European paths", he added.

Lajčák spoke after meeting Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo prime minister Avdullah Hoti in Brussels.

The resumption of EU talks on normalising relations came after Vučić and Hoti already signed a deal on closer economic ties in the White House last Friday.

US diplomacy had already annoyed the EU foreign service in the past.

"The EU-facilitated dialogue is the only way to turn Kosovo's European future into a reality for its citizens," the EU foreign service said in June when the rival US talks began.

And Friday's deal saw them annoy the EU once again, when Kosovo and Serbia agreed to follow America in moving their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem, which the EU does not recognise as Israel's capital.

"The EU expects both to act in line with this commitment so that their European perspective is not undermined," an EU spokesman said Monday.

"Any diplomatic steps that could call into question the EU's common position on Jerusalem are a matter of serious concern and regret," he added.

The US deal also saw them agree to build new road and rail links between Belgrade and Pristina, reopen a border crossing, recognise each other's professional qualifications, and expedite efforts to find missing persons from their 1990s war.

Meanwhile, Monday's EU talks also focused on "economic cooperation and missing and displaced persons", Lajčák noted, covering similar ground.

"We also discussed for the first time ... arrangements for non-majority communities and also the settlement of mutual financial claims and property," he added, referring to talks on the powers of ethnic-Serb enclaves in Kosovo.

Both tracks of talks - in the US and EU - are to continue in the future.

But Kosovo is unable to apply for EU membership until the five EU states that do not recognise its sovereignty - Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Spain, and Slovakia - have changed their minds, the European Commission said on Monday.

And that is unlikely to happen until Serbia changes its mind first, in a decision that no one is taking for granted despite the multiple diplomatic efforts.

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