BRUSSELS -- A meeting Monday between Serbia and Kosovo that is part of the European Union-brokered negotiations aimed at resolving a long-lasting dispute that remains a source of tensions in the volatile Balkans produced no progress.
The negotiations were headed by the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who urged Serbia President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti before the meeting in Brussels to achieve a “comprehensive legally-binding agreement.”
The EU's special envoy for the dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, who was part of the talks, said at the end of the meeting that it was “difficult and it demonstrated very different approaches of the two parties.”
“The only outcome I would report today is that the dialogue will continue,” he said, adding that chief negotiators will hold monthly meetings while both leaders agreed to meet again in September.
Serbia and Kosovo have been told that they can't hope to move forward in their efforts to join the EU before resolving the decades-old rift that exploded in a conflict in 1998-99, leaving more than 10,000 people dead and triggering an intervention by NATO.
“The European future for Serbia and Kosovo depends on the normalization of their relations. We therefore expect both parties to work together, to overcome the legacy of the past and solve all outstanding issues between them,” underlined Lajcak.
Kosovo, formerly a province in Serbia, declared independence in 2008. But Belgrade has refused to accept that. While Kosovo has been recognized by the U.S. and most EU nations, Belgrade has relied on support from Russia and China in its bid to retain claim on the territory.
Kurti said that Serbia didn't want to face the past and face the families of more than 1,600 people still missing from the war in Kosovo.
“Serbia should recognize Kosovo. Kosovo should recognize Serbia and everything else is resolvable and easy,” Kurti said.
Vucic argued that all sides committed crimes, adding that there was no agreement at all at the meeting, describing the Kosovo side as “irrational.”
“I am concerned. I don’t know what we are going to do,” Vucic said. “They see only themselves as a victim and only Serbs as criminals.”
After a stalemate since last year, the two meetings in the last two months have been fruitless.
Since the start of the EU-brokered negotiations, the delegations from Belgrade and Pristina have agreed on a number of issues, tackling problems from free travel to trade. While many of them still remain to be applied, they also remained far apart on Kosovo’s independence.
“The future is more important than the past. The past is important, but we have to look forward. And when we look forward, what we see at the end of the path is the European perspective for Serbia and Kosovo,” Borrell before the meeting.