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EU's New Serbia-Kosovo Envoy Dismisses Talk Of U.S. Rivalry

Miroslav Lajcak (file photo)

The European Union's newly appointed special envoy to Serbia-Kosovo talks says he is committed to resolving all of the Balkan neighbors' outstanding disputes.

In statements to RFE/RL on April 17, Ambassador Miroslav Lajcak stressed there was only one EU-moderated Pristina-Belgrade dialogue but said he would also continue to work closely with his U.S. counterparts.

"The U.S. has been the main partner of the EU in the Western Balkans and the main partner of the EU in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina," Lajcak said.

The EU-brokered talks on normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina broke off in late 2018 after Pristina imposed a 100 percent import tax on Serbian and Bosnian goods.

The import tax was Pristina's response to a campaign by Belgrade aimed at convincing other countries to reverse their recognition of Kosovo's independence.

The United States has intensified its push for Serbia and its former province to return to so-called normalization talks since U.S. President Donald Trump appointed Richard Grenell as his special representative in October.

Grenell recently suspended projects in Kosovo worth millions of dollars in an effort to spur a restart of talks. Other U.S. officials have suggested that Washington could withdraw hundreds of troops stationed there.

U.S. officials on April 17 had no comment to RFE/RL regarding Lajcak's statements or whether a final agreement would best be reached under U.S. leadership versus European leadership.

Lajcak told RFE/RL that he understood Kosovo's frustration over the lack of progress in the visa-liberalization process so far.

"This is a message Lajcak is bringing to the EU member states' capitals: 'If we demand from our partners to fulfill their obligations, we must also fulfill our obligations,'" Lajcak's statement said. "The European Commission stated very clearly that Kosovo has fulfilled all the criteria. The question is not 'if' but 'when' will visa liberalization happen. So, it will come; I have no doubts."

Lajcak said achievements in the nine-year-old dialogue included the movement of goods and people between Kosovo and Serbia, an international dialing code for Kosovo, elections in Kosovo that include its predominantly ethnic Serb region, and integration of Serbs within the Kosovar justice and law enforcement systems.