Accessibility links

Breaking News

Brussels Hosts Serbia, Kosovo Leaders For 'Difficult' Normalization Talks

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (c), Kosovo President Hashim Thaci (l), and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic

The presidents of Kosovo and Serbia are meeting in Brussels as part of an EU-mediated dialogue on the normalization of relations between the two neighbors.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is hosting the November 8 talks between Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and Kosovo’s Hashim Thaci, amid renewed tension over Pristina's recent decision to impose tariffs on Serbian goods.

The two countries have had tense relations since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Although more than 110 countries recognize Kosovo, Serbia does not.

Both Serbia and Kosovo have been told they must resolve their differences reach a binding agreement on their ties in order to make progress toward European Union membership. However, the EU-sponsored talks between the two countries' leaders have been stop-and-go in recent months.

After the Brussels talks, which lasted less than an hour, Mogherini said the parties had "decided to remain in constant contact in the coming days to assess the followup of today's meeting."

She urged both sides "to refrain from words, actions, and measures that are contrary to the spirit of normalization," according to a statement released by the EU's foreign policy service.

"In today's meeting we will reconfirm Kosovo's full commitment to achieve a legally binding comprehensive agreement with Serbia," Thaci tweeted ahead of the meeting, while Vucic said he had no big expectations of a breakthrough but said it was necessary to talk, Serbia's national broadcaster RTS reported.

Amid talk of land swaps between Serbia and Kosovo, Vucic in September refused to hold face-to-face talks with his Kosovar counterpart in Brussels, casting new doubt over prospects for a landmark agreement between the countries.

In another sign of renewed tension in the region, Kosovo's government on November 6 announced it had decided to slap a 10 percent tax on Serbian and Bosnian products in retaliation for what it said was the two countries' hostility toward the young republic.

Officials in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which also does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, blasted Pristina’s decision, arguing that it violates the terms of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA).

Bosnian Foreign Trade Minister Mirko Sarovic called the move "intolerable," while Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Kosovo’s "unilateral decision" showed that Pristina was not willing to continue dialogue with Belgrade.

The EU called on the Kosovar government to revoke the new measures, saying they undermine regional cooperation and are in "clear violation" of the country's obligations under CEFTA.

The regional grouping, which comprises Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Moldova, aims at stimulating its members' economic development and EU path.