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Expectations run low ahead of Kosovo-Serbia crisis talks in Brussels

Leaders of Kosovo and Serbia are to meet in Brussels on Thursday for EU-mediated crisis talks with hopes for lasting change low after tensions between the two countries had led to violent protests.

Brussels, 18 August 2022 (dpa/MIA) — Leaders of Kosovo and Serbia are to meet in Brussels on Thursday for EU-mediated crisis talks with hopes for lasting change low after tensions between the two countries had led to violent protests.

“We are going to have difficult discussions,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Wednesday, “we do not agree almost on anything.”

EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, called the meeting after a dispute over car licence plates and identity documents in late July resulted in street barricades and shots fired.

Tensions eased after Pristina agreed to continue to recognize Serbian-issued licence plates and documents for Kosovar citizens for another 30 days.

Heated words from both sides however led to the EU issuing a statement last weekend saying “both parties must immediately put an end to mutual hostilities and dangerous statements and act responsibly.”

Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 1999 following a war and declared independence unilaterally in 2008.

The EU has been mediating for over a decade with little chance of a quick breakthrough as both sides are lacking strong incentives, Dimitar Bechev, a visiting scholar at the think-tank Carnegie Europe, told dpa.

Serbia’s accession process to the EU is stalled over the conflict with Kosovo.

Kosovo remains the only Western Balkan state excluded from visa-free travel to the bloc and has not yet been recognized by all EU countries.

Thursday’s meeting could “ideally [bring] a solution to the tussle over license plates and ID documents,” says Bechev.

If that fails, the minimum outcome could be “another delay before Kosovo implements its decision,” says Bechev, potentially avoiding further escalation.

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