Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić met with the Prime Minister of the autonomous province of Kosovo in Brussels on Friday to discuss the Franco-German proposal to normalize relations between them. The meeting was hosted by Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Miroslav Lajčák, EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue. There had been speculation that a deal would be signed at the meeting and Serbia was under immense pressure from Western powers to do so, but no formal agreement was penned.
The European Union and the United States have consistently backed the regime in Kosovo and have been placing immense pressure on Serbia to comply with their demands. Kosovo’s Prime Minister hoped that pressure would result in a signed agreement at the meeting on Friday. Kurti posted on Twitter, “I offered to formally sign, but Serbia wasn’t ready. Negotiations on implementation will follow soon.”
Serbian President Vučić said in Brussels that the two leaders had a difficult meeting and that believes that there will be more meetings in the coming period. The two leaders are expected to meet again in North Macedonia on March 18, when Borrell will visit the region.
One of the major sticking points is the formation of a Community of Serbian Municipalities (CSM) necessary to ensure self-governance and protect the rights of the Serbian-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo and Mehotoija. Vučić insisted on “the necessity of implementing all previous agreements. I insisted on the Community of Serbian Municipalities, as did the European representatives. Kurti was not ready to accept it now, we will see if he will in the future.”
The Serbian President expressed hope for compromise to resolve the differences between the two sides. “I believe that we will be able to overcome unilateral moves that would threaten the safety of people on the ground, I hope and believe that we will be able to work on what we called implementation and, above all, the implementation of previously reached agreements,” Vučić told the media.
When asked whether Serbia is ready to recognize the independence of the autonomous province of Kosovo, Vučić replied that Serbia is a member of the United Nations and that Kosovo is not. “We always support the international legal order, the Charter of the United Nations, and the Constitution of Serbia,” the Serbian President added.
Asked if the Community of Serbian Municipalities is part of the road map for the forthcoming negotiations, Vučić said that there is no road map as of yet. “We don't have it. We have to sit and work on the road map. As we started to work, that’s when we stopped at that issue. All the time there was talk about implementation, so let’s see what they want and how they want to implement it,” he said.
Vučić emphasized that “at the beginning of the road map, regardless of whether it is the implementation of the Brussels Agreement or the new Franco-German (proposal), the implementation of the Community of Serbian Municipalities must always come first.
“Kurti came with the idea of signing something, but it was not even discussed. I’m waiting to see the implementation plan, which concerns previously agreed-upon obligations. As for the road map, it must be worked on. It’s implementation. And at the beginning of that roadmap must be what someone [Kurti] does not want to fulfill – the Union of Serbian Municipalities…. How can anything be agreed when you must have the CSM first. Once you have agreed on the CSM, then you move on....”
“They said that I came to sign. Forget that nonsense, but thank you for the question, since I saw that a campaign was being conducted against the Community of Serbian Municipalities, and I will talk about that separately tomorrow and present the details so that people can see what was signed in 2013 and 2015,” Vučić added.
Josep Borrell summarized the meeting in a post on his official Twitter account, saying that Vučić and Kurti “have today agreed that no further discussions are needed on the EU Proposal – the “Agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia. We have made some progress today, but more work is needed.” The head of EU diplomacy went on to add, almost cynically, that “The Agreement is above all for the citizens of Kosovo & Serbia. I will convene another meeting between the two leaders in the course of March with the aim to finalise the discussions on the Implementation Annex, which will guide the implementation phase of the Agreement.”