Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell after High-Level Meeting with President Vučić and Prime Minister Kurti
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Today, I had the pleasure to host President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia and Prime Minister Albin Kurti of Kosovo for the first High-level meeting [of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue] this year. But it is the sixth High-level meeting of the Dialogue since I started my mandate here, in Brussels.
The focus of the meeting was to discuss the European Union proposal on the normalisation of the relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
This is an important and significant development because since last summer, we have been involved in crisis management, focusing only on crises: one crisis after another, trying to control the tensions on the ground.
Now we are going out of the crisis management [phase], and we are looking for a structured solution to the normalisation.
This proposal - that we have been discussing today - we call it a “European Union proposal” because it was endorsed by the 27 Member States at the highest possible level at the last European Council. This is a proposal approved by the European Council: 27 Member States supported it.
I want to recall that it was first presented to the parties last September. Since then, we have engaged in intense shuttle diplomacy. Since last September, when the proposal was first presented, Miroslav Lajčák, the Special Representative of the European Union [for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issues], has been travelling in the region, he went ten times to Pristina and eight times to Belgrade – since last September.
It is clear that we have been engaging in intense diplomacy activity, and the two leaders discussed [the European Union proposal] jointly here for the first time.
We have had intense discussions in different formats; both leaders have shown responsible behaviour and readiness to find solutions.
I am pleased to announce that President [of Serbia, Aleksandar] Vučić and Prime Minister [of Kosovo, Albin] Kurti have today agreed that no further discussions are needed on the European Union proposal – a proposal that has the title: “Agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia”.
And, since both leaders agreed that no more discussions are needed, the text of the Agreement will be published on the European External Action Service website shortly.
This Agreement is, above all, for the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia. It is not for the European Union: it is for the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia.
It sets out that people can move freely between Kosovo and Serbia using their own passports – mutually recognised – IDs and license plates. It entails that people can study and work without wondering whether their diplomas and where they obtained them may be an issue.
The Agreement can bring new economic opportunities through increased financial assistance, through business cooperation, and [through] new investments in Kosovo and Serbia.
It provides for better employment opportunities for everyone in Kosovo and Serbia without unnecessary bureaucracy. And it also means more trade, because certificates needed for import and export will not be an issue anymore.
For the Serbs in Kosovo, it means more security, certainty and predictability – when it comes to their protection and rights in Kosovo – including for the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian cultural and religious heritage sites. More security, certainty and predictability.
I hope the Agreement can also be the basis to build much-needed trust and overcome the legacy of the past. Much-needed trust.
The parties have expressed their readiness to proceed with the implementation of the Agreement. We have quite a long history of agreements that have not been implemented yet. The parties have expressed their readiness that, with this Agreement, they will proceed swiftly with its implementation.
But further negotiations are needed to determine specific implementation modalities of the provisions.
I repeat: they expressed their readiness to proceed with the implementation of the Agreement, but further negotiations are still needed to determine specific implementation modalities for the provisions of the Agreement.
It means that shuttle diplomacy will continue, and 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.
This implementation annex is an integral part of the Agreement, and it has yet to be finalised.
I want to say that the European Union has reminded the parties of their obligation to implement all past Dialogue agreements, which remain valid and binding.
In the meantime, until the middle of March, the EU Special Representative, Miroslav Lajčák, will have to go again to Kosovo and Serbia to visit them, to follow up on today’s discussions, and prepare for the next High-Level meeting.
We expect the parties to engage constructively in this process.
Also, it is very positive to say that both parties have agreed to refrain from any un-coordinated action that could lead to renewed tensions on the ground and derail these negotiations. I hope it will happen in this way and there will be no un-coordinated action that could jeopardise the continuation of the work in progress.
The Agreement will put the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia on a new and sustainable basis, and the European Union-facilitated Dialogue on a forward-looking trajectory towards comprehensive normalisation – without which neither of the parties can realise their European future.
Yes, reaching an agreement on normalisation is not only an important thing for Kosovo and Serbia. It is also [important] for the security, stability and prosperity of the entire region. And it shows to all of us that progress is possible.
To conclude, progress was made today, and I commend the parties for their engagement.
At the same time, more work is needed, to ensure that what was accepted today by the parties will be implemented. It is important to agree [but] it is still more important to implement what has been agreed. And this is the thing that still needs to be finalised.
I am sure [EU Special Representative] Miroslav Lajčák will continue with his shuttle diplomacy and, before the next European Council – by the middle of March, end of March – we could finalise completely the work.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-237812