On Wednesday, envoys from the European Union and the United States pushed Kosovo to execute a pact offering more autonomy to Serb-majority towns that was inked as part of a normalization process between Pristina and Belgrade.
Albanians make up the bulk of the population. Following an insurrection in the late 1990s, Kosovo proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008. Kosovo agreed to EU-mediated discussions to settle remaining concerns in 2013, but the process has stalled due to concessions to Serb towns.
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti has refused to implement the agreement signed by his predecessor, claiming that it compromises the Balkan country’s sovereignty by granting broad autonomy to Serbs, who make about 5% of the population.
“There is a global concept that states that what was agreed upon must be carried out, and this is what we are urging both sides…
“There is a list of things that you still have to achieve for both Kosovo and Serbia, and one of them is association,” said EU special mediator Miroslav Lajcak.
He was speaking after meeting with Gabriel Escobar, the US Special Representative for the Western Balkans, and Kosovo government authorities in the Kosovo capital of Pristina. They will next proceed to Belgrade to meet with Serbian leaders.
Escobar also called for the deal on Serb municipalities to be implemented, saying Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity was guaranteed. “Beyond that, how Serbia and Kosovo get to a place of normalization should be left to the dialogue.”
Kurti, commenting on the talks, said Kosovo Serbs already have minority rights in line with the highest EU democratic standards and warrant no more concessions, and he again called for Serbia to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
Nearly half of Kosovo’s Serbs lives in the northern part of the country, bordering on Serbia, and they have refused to recognise the ethnic Albanian-led government in Pristina.
Serbia lost control of its former southern province in 1999 when NATO waged a bombing campaign to halt killings of ethnic Albanians in a two-year counter-insurgency war.
Kosovo’s independence is recognized by the United States and most EU countries, but not by Russia, a close ally of Serbia.
Serbia is holding accession talks with the EU but needs to resolve all outstanding issues with Kosovo to join the bloc.