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The Belgrade–Pristina dialogue is a series of EU-facilitated talks between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo.[a] Serbia claims Kosovo as its southern province under United Nations administration, and rejects its independence. Kosovo considers Serbia as a neighboring state. The negotiations began in March 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence. They are the first negotiations between the two entities since Kosovo declared independence in February 2008.
The Republic of Kosovo declared independence on 17 February 2008, and has been partially recognized internationally. Serbia took the issue to the International Court of Justice for their advisory opinion. The court's verdict was that Kosovo's Declaration of independence was in accordance with international law. After the verdict Serbia and the European Union submitted a resolution to the United Nations General Assembly which called for technical negotiations between the governments in Belgrade and Pristina. The Serbia-EU resolution passed in the UN General Assembly. The talks were delayed due to the collapse of the Kosovar government, forcing Kosovo into early elections.
The dialogue serves the interests of both Kosovo and Serbia. For Serbia, progress in the dialogue, in the implementation of agreements reached and in the normalization of relations, is a key condition to advance in accession negotiations. Kosovo's progress on its EU path – such as the signing of its Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union, is linked to progress on the dialogue.
The EU facilitated Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was launched in March 2011 following a United Nations General Assembly Resolution in September 2010 co-sponsored by the European Union and Serbia, which affirmed the readiness of the EU to facilitate the dialogue and recognized the process as an important transformative power for peace, security and stability in the region.
The dialogue is held in Brussels and is facilitated by the European Union High Representative, the Vice President of the European Commission, and the team in the European External Action Service (EEAS). Meetings and working groups are convened at various levels in Brussels, Belgium, both technical – at chief negotiators' level – and political – at Prime Ministers' and/or Presidents' level.
The talks were first mediated by Robert Cooper. Oliver Ivanović said that Belgrade and Pristina were urged to continue talks in Brussels, but Serbia is not obliged to recognize Kosovo at any point in the process. Borko Stefanović led the Belgrade negotiating team and Edita Tahiri led the Pristina negotiating team.
The talks began on 8 March 2011 and featured three main issues:
- Regional cooperation
- Freedom of movement
- Rule of law.
The first round of dialogue took place on 8–9 March 2011 and covered economic co-operation between the two parties. Other issues on the agenda during the first round of dialogue were telecommunications, air traffic, customs seals, land books and civil records.
The second round of negotiations was delayed until 28 March 2011. Issues discussed in the second round of talks were electricity and possibly Freedom of Movement, as well as first round topics such as Kosovo's customs seal, air traffic and Kosovo's participation in regional initiatives. On 28 March, the representative discussed land books and registries of births, deaths and marriages, as well as power supply issues. Stefanović stated that "Certain progress has been achieved on land books, birth registries and electric energy supply; we laid out our proposal and hope that there will finally be a positive wrap-up of these topics at the next meeting".
The fourth round of dialogue was held on 17 and 18 May 2011. Agreement was almost reached on the cadaster and freedom of movement; the European Union proposed to also tackle the issues of missing people and cultural heritage.
The fifth round of dialogue was set to take place on 14 and 15 June 2011, but was delayed a few days before. It was assumed that the meeting would instead be held in late June, but it was pushed back to 2 July 2011. It was expected that solutions would be reached on the cadaster, freedom of movement and vital records. Electricity and telecommunications issues may also have been resolved in that round. Agreement was reached on freedom of movement across the border (both persons and cars), exchange of information regarding Serbia's civil registries to help Kosovo establish its own civil registry, and recognising each other's educational diplomas.
The sixth round of dialogue was set to take place on 20 and 21 July 2011. They were postponed to September on 19 July, allegedly because Kosovo's representative wanted to have Kosovo's state symbols shown, which the Serbian representative rejected. They were later set for 2 September 2011. Agreement was reached on the customs issue (the stamp will only feature the words "Customs of Kosovo") and on the cadaster; while telecommunications and university degrees were also discussed, no agreement was reached on these issues.
The seventh round dialogue was scheduled for 28 September 2011 (it was initially scheduled for 27 September, but was postponed shortly before due to a flare-up in violence). The Serb delegation refused to continue with the talks whilst Kosovo police and customs officials controlled border posts, which were not previously agreed upon, resulting in violence. The talks were then set for 14 October 2011, though only technical issues were planned to be discussed.
- Kosovo representatives agreed on freedom of movement across the administrative border, both for persons and cars.
- Belgrade has agreed to give Pristina copies of land registries and documents on births, deaths and marriages in Kosovo.
- Mutual recognition of each other's university diplomas.
- Belgrade has agreed to accept Kosovo Customs stamps stating "Customs of Kosovo".
- End of the trade embargo, restoring trade between the two entities.
- Integrated operations at North Kosovo crossing points.
- Representation of Pristina authorities at regional organizations.
- Liaison officers would be exchanged between Belgrade and Pristina – to be stationed in EU missions.
- energy cooperation issues – electricity transmission, implementation of the Energy Community treaty
- telecommunications issues – landline and mobile phone services in North Kosovo, roaming
Negotiations since 2013
The first stage of the dialogues 2011-2012 were referred to as the 'Technical Dialogue' and led to a significant number of technical agreements addressing the most pressing issues of concern.
The second phase, which began in 2013, is referred to as the 'High Level Dialogue' and is chaired by the High Representative-Vice President of the European Commission, with the "First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations", signed on 19 April 2013, as its crowning achievement. After the signing of the agreement, the European Commission officially advised that work could start on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Kosovo and accession negotiations with Serbia.
In July 2017, the EU facilitated dialogue moved to pursuing comprehensive normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
In its 2018 strategy 'A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans', the European Commission wrote that, without effective and comprehensive normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations through the EU-facilitated dialogue, there cannot be lasting stability in the region. A comprehensive, legally binding normalization agreement is urgent and crucial so that Serbia and Kosovo can advance on their respective European paths.
The lack of stability is clear due to the lack of consensus as well as an increase in violent developments. On 16 January 2018, Kosovo Serb politician, Oliver Ivanović, was assassinated in North Mitrovica and on 26 March 2018, the former Director of Serbia’s Kosovo office Marko Đurić was arrested and deported after illegally entering Kosovo and attending a meeting in North Mitrovica.
From 2018 until July 2020, talks between Serbia and Kosovo halted. The negotiations ceased due to the increasing violence, particularly the expulsion of Marko Ðurić as well as the introduction of a 100% tariff on imported goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina by Kosovo government. Despite the stall in negotiations, the European Union continues to support open dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.
September 2020 talks
In July 2020, attempts were made to revitalize the negotiations by the EU. However, progress was made at the Kosovo and Serbia economic normalization agreements in Washington D.C. on 4 September 2020. While not a legally binding document, the international document provided a declaration of will and political commitment by both Kosovo and Serbia.
On 7 September 2020, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti met for talks in Brussels, hosted by Josep Borrell under the auspices of the European Union. At a press conference after the talks, EU Special Representative for the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue Miroslav Lajčák stated that "full progress" had been made in the areas of economic cooperation, missing persons and displaced people. Vučić and Hoti met again in Brussels on 28 September 2020 where they discussed arrangements for minority communities, the settlement of mutual financial claims and property and attempted to make progress towards a more comprehensive agreement.
|Albania||Then Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha stated that he supports the "technical talks".|
|Austria||Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said that he believes the start of the talks between Belgrade and Pristina was good and yielded results despite a dose of restraint. He also welcomed the progress made in the talks, but stressed that normal relations between Serbia and Kosovo were still far away.|
|Croatia||On 28 March 2011, Gordan Jandroković, the Croatian Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Integration, stated "We support technical dialogue between the two states of Kosovo and Serbia, as two independent states. On this question, Croatia can serve as a model for regional cooperation, resolving technical issues between regional states".|
|European Union||EU Mediator Robert Cooper stated "The atmosphere was good. This was the first official meeting held in the last few years. The atmosphere was really good, friendly and sincere".|
|France||French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Kosovo has progressed since declaring independence in 2008. However, he said that Kosovo needs more reform and that reform is the objective of the dialogue with Belgrade.|
|Iran||Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast stated "The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes the beginning of direct talks between Serbia and Kosovo in line with the UN General Assembly's resolution."|
|Kosovo||On 10 March 2011, the Kosovo Assembly passed a resolution (63 for and 57 against) in support of negotiations between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The resolution states that the negotiations should deal with "technical issues of common interest" and "can in no case involve the sovereignty ... and territorial integrity of Kosovo".|
|Serbia||On 9 March 2011, Serbian Minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanović stated that the negotiations were "an opportunity to get to a historic compromise and historic reconciliation because the problems in the relations between Serbs and Albanians have already been there over the past few centuries" however "we will never recognise Kosovo as an independent creation, and it is good that these discussions have not been given a fixed term and that participants in the talks will not go to Brussels with ready-made solutions". Borko Stefanović stated that Belgrade wants to discuss the status of Kosovo during the negations however Pristina is strongly opposed to negotiating on status and says that status is not up for negotiating. Stefanović rejected the claim that these were only 'technical negotiations', he states that "some issues only appear technical, but have a strong political dimension. Pristina's continued insistence on independence is nothing but self-encouragement".|
|United States||U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Mary Burce Warlick stated "We hope that this will be a positive and constructive process which will lead to betterment of everyday life of people in both countries. We strongly support the talks, and both teams have opened the dialogue well."|
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