x

WORLD

Serbia and Kosovo in High-Stakes EU-Mediated Talks

OHRID, North Macedonia (AP) — Western officials are hoping for progress on Saturday in EU-mediated talks between Serbia and Kosovo’s leaders, in a new attempt to ease decades of tensions between the Balkan wartime foes and solve one of Europe’s longest standing disputes.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti arrived at North Macedonia’s lakeside resort of Ohrid for meetings with international envoys and rare head-to-head talks.

They tentatively agreed last month to the wording of an 11-point EU plan to normalize relations following the neighbors’ 1998-1999 war and Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008.

Both countries hope to join the European Union one day, and have been told they must first mend their relations.

Solving the dispute has become more important as war rages in Ukraine and fears mount that Russia could try to stir instability in the volatile Balkans where it holds historic influence.

“This is the time for the leaders of Kosovo, Serbia, and of the entire Western Balkans to show courage and to demonstrate shared responsibility for the success of the EU accession process of the region,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who will chair Saturday’s meeting.

He said the talks will focus on how to implement the EU plan that calls for the two countries to maintain good neighborly relations, and recognize each other’s official documents and national symbols. If implemented, it would prevent Belgrade from blocking Kosovo’s attempts to seek membership in the United Nations and other international organizations.

The tentative agreement, drafted by France and Germany and supported by the U.S., doesn’t explicitly call for mutual recognition between Kosovo and Serbia.

“We will focus our discussion on the Implementation Annex of the recent EU Agreement that will result in the far-reaching normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia,’’ Borrell wrote in a blog ahead of the summit. “Both together will, in essence, result in the normalization of life of people in the region and open Kosovo’s and Serbia’s respective paths towards joining the EU.”

Although tentatively agreeing on the EU plan reached last month, Serbia’s populist President Vucic seemed to backtrack on some of its points after pressure from far-right groups which consider Kosovo the cradle of the Serbian state and Orthodox religion.

Vucic said Thursday that he “won’t sign anything” at the Ohrid meeting and earlier pledged never to recognize Kosovo or allow its U.N. membership.

On the other hand, Kurti said the implementation of what was already agreed should be the focus of the Ohrid talks.

“I’m an optimist but it is not up to me whether this will succeed or not,” Kurti said. “I offered to sign the European proposal (at the last meeting in Brussels) but the other side was not ready and refused.”

Thousands of far-right Serbian supporters, chanting “Treason, Treason,” marched in downtown Belgrade Friday evening demanding that Vucic reject the latest EU plan. They carried a large banner reading “No to Capitulation” and called for the Serbian president’s resignation if he signs the plan.

Kosovo is a majority ethnic Albanian former Serbian province. The 1998-99 war erupted when separatist ethnic Albanians rebelled against Serbia’s rule, and Belgrade responded with a brutal crackdown. About 13,000 people died, mostly ethnic Albanians. In 1999 a NATO military intervention forced Serbia to pull out of the territory. Kosovo declared independence in 2008.

Tensions have simmered ever since. Kosovo’s independence is recognized by many Western countries, but is opposed by Belgrade with the backing of Russia and China. EU-brokered talks have made little headway in recent years.

Serbia has maintained close ties to its traditional Slavic ally Russia despite the war in Ukraine, partly because of Moscow’s opposition to Kosovo’s independence and possible veto on its U.N. membership at the Security Council.

___
By FLORENT BAJRAMI Associated Press

RELATED

A devotee knelt and gently touched his head on the dome of the Boudhanath Stupa, an iconic Buddhist monument in Kathmandu, as a mark of reverence on Thursday, which marks the birth of Buddha.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Three Little Piggies at a Yoga Class = Maximum Happiness

SPENCER, Mass. (AP) — Three little piggies went to a yoga class.

CHALKIDA, Greece - As Greece is pushing to rein in tax evaders - which no government has been able to do - the director and four employees at the Halkida tax office on the country’s second-biggest island of Evia, were arrested on bribery charges.

MYKONOS – Apanemi, Mykonos Theoxenia, hosts an unforgettable culinary experience on June 2, 9 PM, with its the Michelin All Star Voyage Culinaire Night.

BINGHAMTON, NY – In a lively fusion of tradition and philanthropy, the Riverdale Banquet Hall in Endwell, NY, played host to the annual Greek Night organized by Leonidas AHEPA Chapter 77.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.