BRUSSELS - A day of EU-brokered negotiations between the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia broke up late on March 23 without any reported progress on efforts to normalize relations.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic did not appear at a news conference immediately after the meeting, but he later on Serbian TV Pink accused Kosovo of stalling the implementation of a 2013 agreement on special rights for municipalities with a majority Serbian population.
Kosovo has a large ethnic Serb minority population but the central government is controlled by its ethnic Albanian majority.
"For almost 1,800 days, the six main points [on Serb municipalities] remain untouched," Vucic told Serbian TV. He also cast blame on the European Union for not enforcing the 2013 agreement.
"The blame can’t be on the Albanians only; the EU also signed that," he said.
Kosovar President Hashim Thaci after the day of negotiations, including a dinner with EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, stressed the urgency for the two countries to reach an agreement on normalization this year.
"The longer we prolong this, our countries will pay the price because our European future will be delayed. Therefore I consider that we have to engage more dynamically to reach this agreement, hopefully, this year," Thaci said.
Thaci said the most important thing was that both Kosovo and Serbia want to reach an agreement. "The agreement on full normalization is seen as a very difficult thing, but it is the only way forward," he said.
Mogherini in a statement after the talks stressed that a comprehensive normalization agreement between two countries is a key condition for both countries to further their bids to join the EU.
The EU is pushing for completion of the normalization agreement by the end of 2019.
Addressing the concern raised by Vucic, Mogherini urged Kosovo to move ahead on the agreement on Serb-majority municipalities.
But she also addressed accusations made by Kosovo that Serbia has been dragging its feet on implementation of an agreement on energy and the removal of barriers in the divided town of Mitrovica. Mogherini said Serbia needed to make progress on carrying out those accords.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but Serbia has refused to recognize the former province's statehood despite its recognition by 116 other countries.
The EU-sponsored talks started in 2011. The first political agreements between Serbia and Kosovo were reached in April 2013, in what was considered a historic milestone.