Relations between Kosovo and Serbia during 2018

Relations between Kosovo and Serbia during 2018
Relations between Kosovo and Serbia and the north of Mitrovica have been two of the most important topics for 2018. At the beginning of January, the murder of the prominent Kosovar politician belonging to the Serb ethnic group, Oliver Ivanovic, led to growing tension in the relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

The majority of Kosovar analysts declared at that time that his murder was orchestrated by Belgrade and Moscow, which, according to them, aimed at destabilizing the region and Kosovo. Later on, Kosovo’s police also arrested several Serb citizens, suspected of participating in this murder.

But this was not the only event which caused tension and unrest. A month later there was also the arrest of the head of the Office for Kosovo at the Serb Government, Marko Djuric, who had entered the North of Mitrovica without permission.

Hundreds of Serbs gathered to protest against this arrest. At that time, authorities in Kosovo said that the illegal entry of the Serb official was an attempt to destabilize security in Kosovo. Meanwhile, Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaci called for calm and peace, while declaring that Kosovo’s police had acted in compliance with the law. On his part, the Serb president considered the arrested of the Serb official as a terrorist act.

US and EU representatives expressed their discontent by saying that dialogue between the two countries is the only way forward.

This arrest was followed by an urgent meeting of the Lista Srpska leadership to take a decision on the boycott of government’s institutions in Pristina. Several days later, this party decided to boycott parliament and other state’s institutions.

During this period, the talks for the normalization of ties between the two countries resumed, while the establishment of the Association of Serb Municipalities and Kosovo’s UN accession were two of the main topics that the sides were focusing on.

Meetings between the two countries continued, while the normalization of ties was not marking any progress. In the period from May to June, Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj declared that Kosovo will only accept reconciliation with Serbia in exchange of its recognition.

Meanwhile, Serbia’s Foreign ministry launched an initiative to block Kosovo’s accession in international organizations, such as Interpol and UNESCO. Serbia’s initiative turned out to be successful. Kosovo failed to become a member of these two organizations, but this had a serious repercussion for Serbia. Kosovo introduced a 100% tax hike on goods coming from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This tax caused real financial damage for Serb companies, while sparking numerous reactions by the international community.

Kosovo’s authorities declared that these tariffs will only be lifted once Serbia recognizes Kosovo and it stops its campaign against the recognition of Kosovo’s independence.

Meanwhile, the president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci and the Serb president, Aleksandar Vucic continued their meetings in Brussels, UN and New York to discuss territorial swaps, correction of borders and painful compromises.

This became a topic of debate in Pristina and Belgrade, while many were speculating that both presidents had reached a secret accord which was waiting for the blessing of the international community.

This agreement, which foresees the reconciliation and normalization of relations between the two countries, has not become public, but the US president, Donald Trump has addressed a letter to the two presidents, asking from both countries to reach a deal as soon as possible.

Representatives of the EU, such as Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn have also called for the two countries to intensify dialogue. Both of these officials have worked hard toward a peaceful agreement between the two countries before elections for EU institutions are held.

A new round of talks has been announced for January, while IBNA learns that through the pressure of the international community, the deal between the two countries may be reached during 2019.

Serbia is interested to overcome this obstacle in order to continue accession talks with Serbia; Kosovo is interested on mutual recognition, while the international community is interested on putting an end to all disputes in the Balkan region. /ibna/

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