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Brussels To Host Serbia-Kosovo Talks Amid Tensions Over Tariffs

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says she is planning to host a new round of normalization talks between the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels on November 8, two days after Pristina announced its decision to impose tariffs on Serbian goods.

Kosovo’s move prompted anger in Serbia, where Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic accused Pristina of undermining the ongoing EU-mediated process to normalize relations with Belgrade.

The two neighbors 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 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.

At the planned Brussels meeting, Mogherini’s office said on November 7 that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar President Hashim Thaci were “expected to confirm their readiness to intensify work to reach a legally binding agreement on comprehensive normalization.”

“On my way to Brussels for yet another difficult meeting with counterpart from Serbia, but a necessary one to achieve the final, comprehensive legally binding deal between Kosovo and Serbia,” Thaci tweeted.

“Only this will open EU perspective for our countries and ensure UN membership for Kosovo.”

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 7 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 Dacic said Kosovo’s “unilateral decision” showed that Pristina is not willing to continue dialogue with Belgrade.

European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic 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.

With reporting by Balkan Insight