Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  2. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  3. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  4. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  5. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules
  6. Turkey sends mixed signals on Sweden's entry into Nato
  7. EU Parliament sued over secrecy on Nazi MEP expenses
  8. Italy glacier tragedy has 'everything to do' with climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us