Leaders of Serbia and Kosovo are meeting in Brussels for their first face-to-face talks in 20 months under a European Union-mediated dialogue process aimed at normalizing relations between the two Balkan neighbors.
Following a virtual meeting organized by EU officials last weekend, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo's Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti came to talk face-to-face in Brussels on July 16.
"Today I expect a constructive discussion on their first element of our talks, which will contribute to the comprehensive normalization of the relations between Kosovo and Serbia," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a video statement.
Borrell, who is chairing the Brussels talks with EU special envoy Miroslav Lajcak, called on both sides to “approach today's talks in the spirit of compromise and pragmatism and with the European future for their people in Kosovo and Serbia in their minds."
Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008 in a move rejected by Belgrade.
EU-backed negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade broke down in November 2018 over reports of a proposed land swap and after Kosovo imposed a 100-percent tax on Serbian imports.
Both Kosovo and Serbia, which aspire to join the EU, have been facing mounting pressure from the West to reboot negotiations.
On July 10, both sides agreed to resume talks after a video summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In those talks, Vucic and Hoti held firm to their positions. The Serbian president said the EU-backed process will be “meaningless” if they focus on whether Belgrade should recognize Kosovo’s independence. Kosovo’s prime minister said “mutual recognition between the two countries is the only way to normalize relations.”
Hoti and Vucic attended another virtual meeting on July 12, in which they agreed to hold talks in the Belgian capital on July 16.
The new push comes after prosecutors in The Hague charged Kosovar President Hashim Thaci with war crimes, leading to the postponement of a planned June 27 White House summit between Thaci and his Serbian counterpart.