In an interview for the British daily, The Guardian, Kosovo President, Hashim Thaci has said that Serbia and Kosovo could still reach an agreement on normalization of relations this year regardless of the existing problems, just like Greece and Northern Macedonia reached the historically important agreement too.
“We have to sit down even with our arch enemies, but without any preconditions, and try to listen to each other,” Thaci told the Guardian in an interview ahead of a conference in Berlin on 29th April.
Talks between the two countries have been suspended since November when Kosovo imposed 100% tariffs on goods from Serbia. Thaçi said there was no plan to lift the tariffs, but stressed the need for quick progress.
“Kosovo Serbs have withdrawn from political life in Kosovo, including the police and judiciary in northern Kosovo. No one has the answer of how to proceed and the biggest victims are Kosovars, especially Kosovo Serbs, “Thaci said.
International hesitancy and mixed messages were “creating space for nationalists and populists on both sides of the border”, he said. “Too often it boils down to big egos and clashes of personalities, and we hear too rarely about principles, standards and values.”
Thaci also said he had invested all the political capital he had built up over two decades in the success of the talks, and the price of continued failure would be damage to the whole region.
“In current circumstances, with these tensions, I do not see why any foreign investors would come and invest in our region. Only a peace agreement will bring prosperity,” he said.
“Kosovo’s current halfway-house status, where it is recognised by some EU states and not others, means its citizens are the only Europeans west of Belarus who require a visa to travel to the Schengen area. These restrictions do not apply elsewhere in the Balkans. A third of Kosovo’s workforce is jobless,” The Guardian writes.
Thaci blames “EU Member States” for “complicating the entire process”, indirectly taking a jab at Germany which opposes some parts of Thaci’s proposal, especially the one that he described as “a border correction.”
The British daily also writes:” Plans have been unofficially floated for the predominantly Serbian region in northern Kosovo surrounding Mitrovica to join Serbia, and the mostly ethnic Albanian Preševo valley to be transferred to Kosovo. In practice, the north Kosovo region operates a form of dual sovereignty, with influence from Kosovo and Serbia.”
“Thaci was an advocate of the territory swap, but it has been opposed by Germany, which fears it might fuel semi-dormant demands for other geographical borders in the Balkans, including in Serb-dominated parts of Bosnia, to be redrawn on ethnic lines,” the daily says.
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