Serbia doz wants to normalize relations with Kosovo but refuses to sign deal | Balkans

Serbia says it wants normal relations with Kosovo but will not sign any deal with Pristina yet, President Aleksandar Vucic said Sunday, a day after he verbally agreed to implement a Western-backed plan to normalize ties between the two countries.

Serbia intends to join the European Union, and a condition of membership is that it normalizes relations with Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority, which declared independence in 2008, but which Belgrade still considers a Serbian province.

Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti agreed to implement the normalization measures at an EU-brokered meeting in the North Macedonia seaside resort of Ohrid, although no documents were signed and the EU said that it was necessary to go further.

“Serbia wants to have normal relations with Kosovo. We want to travel, we want to do business, we cannot live isolated behind 100-metre walls,” said Vucic.

“I did not want to sign the agreement on the implementation annex last night nor the EU-backed agreement (in Brussels last month),” the Serbian President said, adding: “I do not want to sign any legally binding international documents with Kosovo because Serbia does not recognize its independence.”

At the end of Saturday’s meeting, Kurti had said the deal represented “de facto recognition” by Belgrade.

Under the terms of the verbal agreement, Kosovo committed to giving greater autonomy to Serb-majority areas, while Serbia agreed not to block Kosovo’s membership in international organizations. The EU has committed to organizing a donors’ conference for both countries, with the disbursement of financial aid being dependent on steps taken to improve relations.

The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, admitted on Saturday after a 12-hour meeting that the agreement reached fell short of the EU’s “more ambitious and detailed” proposal.

The head of European diplomacy said Kosovo had not shown flexibility over the content of the proposals, while Serbia had refused to sign the document, although Belgrade was “fully ready to implement it”, Borrell said.

According to the 11-point plan proposed by the EU – which did not contemplate the recognition of Kosovo as an independent nation by Serbia – the two sides should develop normal good neighborly relations based on equal rights and mutually recognize their respective documents and national symbols, including passports, diplomas, license plates and customs stamps.

The agreement further establishes that the parties must assume that neither can represent the other in the international sphere or act on behalf of the other, further establishing that Serbia cannot object to the integration of Kosovo in any international organization, namely the European Union and the UN.

Tensions between Belgrade and Pristina have risen over the past year over a series of episodes, ranging from a ban on cars with Serbian registration plates in Kosovo to a pro-Serb party’s refusal to participate in local elections, forcing them to be postponed.

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