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The EU mediation impotent to resolve dispute between Kosovo and Serbia

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Tensions between Kosova and Serbia are unlikely to decrease. Calling for restraint on both sides, High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell and EU Special Representative of Europe Miroslav Lajcak invited Kosova Prime Minister Kurti and Serbian President Vucic to an urgent meeting in Brussels. Looking of a quick agreement, after 8 hours of talks in the tripartite meeting, the EU’s special representatives failed to convince the parties to agree on the solution of the license plate issue. 

Although no agreement was reached after this meeting, the High Representative of the EU Borrell came out with a reprimanding statement for both parties, placing the blame more on Kosova. He harshly accused the Kosovar side, represented by Prime Minister Kurti, for the lack of respect for international legal obligations, while Kosova has rights to fully enforce its sovereignty and strengthening the rule of law in the north of the country. The EU request was that Kosova should not start issuing penalties and Serbia should not produce new license plates for Kosova Serbs. According to Borrell, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accepted the proposal given by the EU, but not the Prime Minister of Kosova, adding that for any tension, both parties will be held responsible.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Kurti stated that he had gone to talks for the final agreement according to the Franco-German plan supported by the EU and the USA, while he did not expect that there would be discussions about postponement of license plate deadlines. According to Kurti, during this meeting, Borrell gave up the previous deadline for an agreement before March 2023 and the EU’s proposal for the normalization of relations. During the urgent meeting held in Brussels, Kurti was practically negotiating in front of three officials whose countries do not recognize Kosova’s independence. Spain and Slovakia, where the EU mediators come from, do not recognize Kosova as a state, just like Serbia. 

Seeing that the meeting with the EU mediators was not productive for Kosova, meanwhile Serbia which maintains parallel structures in the territory of Kosova was favored by EU mediators, Kurti after this meeting, returned to implement the request of the USA, for a 48-hour postponement of second phase decision for license plate registration. All this in principle looks like a chess battle between Kurti and Vucic only, but in fact it is a failure of EU mediation because the situation actually is quite fragile and unstable, risking the expansion of the conflict.

On the other hand, Vucic is playing the victim and dedicated to peace while the European Union is accommodating him, and putting pressure on Kosova. Vucic is the only one who has not condemned the Russian invasion in Ukraine and execute Putin`s instructions to destabilize Western Balkans. By threatening to ignite conflict, if Kosova strengthens the law within its territory, by decision on license plates, Vucic is buying time to undermine Kosova statehood and the dialogue process, the consequences have already begun. Due to the situation in the north, the proposal for visa liberalization, which was said to be held today, has been removed from the agenda of today’s meeting of the ambassadors of the EU member states. Although the EU has always stated that visa liberalization and the dialogue process are two separate issues, in practice we have seen several times that these two processes are closely linked and if the agreement between Kosova and Serbia is not reached, visa liberalization for Kosova will be denied too.

Considering that dialogue issue is experiencing crises from time to time, and attempts to enforce its sovereignty in the north of Kosova are constantly failing, the license plate issue, in fact, would not be so problematic in a normal situation, but in this case it is used as a pretext by Serbia to cause tension. However, the USA is committed to finding a solution within the 48-hour period that would reduce tensions in the north of the country. Currently there cannot be a comprehensive agreement between the two countries to be applauded, but in the next few hours left, I think there will be a ‘compromise’ between both parties which would de-escalate current situation, in order to leave room to continue with the dialogue process, and this will only be done with the mediation of the USA, because the EU seems to have failed to offer neutrality in the dialogue process between Kosova and Serbia.

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