Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Belgrade-Priština dialogue continues in Brussels

BRUSSELS -- Another round of the EU-sponsored Kosovo dialogue is taking place in Brussels on Thursday. The participants will continue their talks "for as long as they can".
(EU, file)
(EU, file)
Serbia's PM Ivica Dačić first met with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Both Asthon and Dačić are now meeting with Kosovo PM Hashim Thaci over a "working lunch".
This lunch is set to last "indefinitely", according to a Brussels-based diplomat, who explained that the three would continue the talks "for as long as they can".

If time is short to reach agreements on Tuesday - they will continue the meeting on Wednesday morning, the organizers of the negotiations have said.

Ahead of Tuesday's talks, Dačić told Belgrade's daily Večernje Novosti that Serbia's proposal was establishment of a community of Serb municipalities which would have clearly-defined jurisdictions in education and the judiciary, and the Serbs would get to vote for their own authorities.

"Serbian institutions will not withdraw from Kosovo until a final agreement is reached. We will seek firm guarantees for any agreement. We will certainly not leave our people in Kosovo stranded," Dačić said, calling this the toughest round of dialogue yet.

On Tuesday morning, Thaci met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels.

"This is the key year, but also the key week in this year," said Barroso after the meeting, and said he expected this round of negotiations to go "in the same constructive spirit as previous ones", and also lead to progress "in the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo".

He asked Thaci for "more intensive engagement" in carrying out reforms and fighting organized crime, as well as implementing the recommendations of the EC related to visa liberalization.

According to Barroso, Kosovo is "making progress on the European road step by step" - this despite the fact that five EU members do not recognize the ethnic Albanian unilateral declaration of independence made over five years ago.

Still. Barroso said there was "a real chance that Kosovo might start negotiations on the signing of the SAA in June".

Thaci, meanwhile, was asked about "the modality for northern Kosovo" - where Serbs who reject the authority of his government are a majority, and which is the main topic of this round of the dialogue.

He answered by saying that the solution to this issue "must be sought within the framework of the Kosovo Constitution", that the north was "special compared to other parts of Kosovo", and that "this issue cannot be solved without the normalization of relations with Serbia."

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