Bilateral dialogue brokered by the European Union between Belgrade and Priština was scheduled to resume in Brussels on January 15 2013, a few days after Serbian prime minister Ivica Dačić signalled a change in policy on Kosovo and two days before he was due to meet Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaçi.
The process of technical dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo began in March 2011 and proceeded through several rounds in the ensuing months, achieving agreements on some issues but also facing hurdles in the process over problems such as Kosovo wanting to display state symbols and also periodic tense incidents at the mutual border.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on February 17 2008, a step that Serbia has refused to recognise.
However, with Serbia holding ambitions of joining the EU, prime minister Dačić said on January 9 2013 called for autonomous institutions for ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo and – speaking ahead of a resolution by parliament in Belgrade on the technical dialogue – said that “we must take into consideration the reality in Kosovo”. Dačić said that Serbian authority in Kosovo was “almost non-existent”.
“I think it was a mistake of Serbs in Kosovo who have been listening to Belgrade for the past 13 years, instead of creating their own autonomy, their own association of municipalities, their own institutions,” he said.
While observers have interpreted this as a more moderate and pragmatic line on Kosovo, Thaçi reportedly said on January 14 that he would not allow the Serbian parliament’s resolution to become part of the EU-brokered dialogue.
Representatives of Serbia and Kosovo met in the framework of the EU-brokered dialogue on January 10 and 11. A spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that some progress had been achieved. At this stage, the technical dialogue is dealing with issues connected to the collection of customs duties on goods bound for northern Kosovo.
Serbia is hoping to be given by mid-year a date for the start of the accession negotiation process with the EU.
(Photo: Sébastien Bertrand)