Lajcak visits Kosovo to build and cross bridges amid ongoing Serbia dialogue

Lajcak visits Kosovo to build and cross bridges amid ongoing Serbia dialogue |

Miroslav Lajcak, EU envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, met Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Pristina Thursday to discuss the issue of establishing the Association of Serb Municipalities before crossing the highly-symbolic Ibar Bridge.

Following his meeting with Kurti, Lajcak said Kurti understands what the EU expects from him regarding the process.

“I talked in detail with the prime minister about how the European Union sees the process of drafting the statute, and I think we have an understanding about this process,” he said.

A draft for the association, drafted by an EU-backed team, was rejected by Kurti as unconstitutional. Kurti then presented his own proposal based on the Croatian model.

“What is acceptable for the EU is what is based on European norms and European values ​​and which is in accordance with the existing European model. We have said this from the beginning, and I will not say more about it,” Lajcak said.

He added that a middle ground between the two agreements would be found to ensure all sides are happy.  “The facilitators are to find a middle ground, and this is exactly what we will do”, Lajcak stressed.

He also indicated that there would be a meeting in Brussels between each side’s negotiators in the near future.

Kurti said that during discussions about the agreement’s implementation at the meeting, he demanded Serbia be held accountable for its own violations of previous agreements.

The association’s establishment was agreed on in 2013 but not implemented as Kosovo’s constitutional court ruled it incompatible with the constitution.

Serbia has kept up the pressure for it to be created, stating all previous agreements must be adhered to while not adhering to agreements it also signed, for example, by lobbying countries to withdraw recognition of Kosovo’s sovereignty and standing in the way of Kosovo’s membership to various international organisations.

“I welcomed the EU Special Representative, Miroslav Lajcak, to our government offices. I emphasised the need for the Basic Agreement to be implemented in its entirety and the need for the EU to hold Serbia responsible for the ongoing violations of that Agreement,” Kurti wrote on Twitter.

Lajcak then headed north of Kosovo for a “first-hand view of the situation there” and in the “hope that there will be a political solution to fully focus on normalisation.”

Lajçak said that he would also listen to the perspective of the mayor of South Mitrovica, Bedri Hamza, who later gave a statement to the media.

“We also talked about the progress achieved during these years, but also about the sensitivity that exists and is present in this part of Kosovo, and all of us will do our best to work for the benefit of peace, prosperity and the creation of conditions for a suitable life for all without distinction, with the priority of law enforcement”, he said.

After meeting with Hamza, Lajcak crossed the Ibar Bridge, a steel bridge over the Ibar River which separates some 80,000 Kosovo Albanians in the south from around 50,000 ethnic Serbs and other nationalities in the north. It was previously used as a military checkpoint and is a de facto border between the Serbian enclave and the rest of Kosovo.

The bridge is not currently open, but at the end of April, the assembly of the municipality or North Mitrovica voted to reopen it, a move disputed by the Belgrade-backed Serbian List party.

“The Mitrovica bridge was part of the dialogue, so I think the decision to open it should be taken in dialogue. Everything is in the hands of both parties. I want the opening of the bridge to be a contribution to stability,” Lajcak said.

(Alice Taylor |

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