The European Union’s foreign policy chief warned on September 19 of potential measures against Kosovo and Serbia, and a stalling of their European integration, if they fail to fulfil their commitments toward normalising their relations.
Josep Borrell issued the statement after the failure of the latest round of talks between the two countries’ leaders in Brussels on September 14.
Borrell stated the EU’s deep concern regarding the lack of efforts by both sides to de-escalate tensions, and issued a warning about potential sanctions should Belgrade and Pristina choose to escalate rather than normalise relations as outlined in the agreement brokered by the EU earlier this year.
“The EU expresses its concern over the lack of implementation by the Parties of their commitments under the Agreement on the Path to Normalisation and its Implementation Annex, which both Parties agreed to earlier this year, and which are binding on them and play a role in the European path of the Parties,” the statement said.
After the meetings with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovan Prime Minister Albin Kurti on September 14, Borrell criticised both sides for their failure to make progress in reducing tensions, particularly in the northern region of Kosovo, emphasising that the steps taken so far have fallen short, resulting in an ongoing tense security situation.
He urged Kosovo to organise early local elections to ease tensions, encouraged Kosovo Serbs to actively participate in the electoral process, and called on Serbia to engage constructively.
Borrell highlighted recent actions by Kosovo, such as eviction orders, property expropriations and the use of special forces for local policing, steps that could exacerbate tensions.
However, he also criticised Serbia for obstructing the energy roadmap and other actions that run counter to the EU-brokered agreement on normalisation.
Borrell urged both parties to begin implementing the agreement and stressed the need to establish the Association/Community of Serb Majority Municipalities (ASM) without any further delay or preconditions.
He stated that the EU is prepared to lift the punitive measures imposed on Kosovo in June if there is progress in meeting the existing requirements. However, he cautioned that the EU could consider additional measures against both parties if necessary.
“The reversible measures that the EU has taken remain in place, including the suspension of high-level meetings with Kosovo. The EU stands ready to lift these measures in case of progress in fulfilling the existing requests, or assess further measures towards both parties, if needed,” said Borrell.
“Both risk losing opportunities for progressing on their European paths,” the statement concluded.
The EU has been working for years to resolve the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia back in 2008. However, despite an apparent breakthrough earlier this year when the two countries’ leaders verbally endorsed a comprehensive plan to mend their relations, the situation has deteriorated sharply since late spring.
Tensions flared in May in northern Kosovo following municipal elections in areas predominantly inhabited by ethnic Serbs, prompting Nato to deploy an additional 700 troops as part of the KFOR peacekeeping mission after 93 soldiers were injured.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, with the majority of UN member states recognising it as an independent country. However, Serbia continues to assert its sovereignty over Kosovo and has successfully prevented it from joining the UN and other international bodies.