Serbian Prime Minister says he is ready to compromise on his first visit to Kosovo | Political news
A compromise is necessary for “the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina”, declares Ana Brnabic.
Serbian Ana Brnabic expressed willingness to compromise on her first visit to Kosovo since becoming prime minister nearly five years ago, a day after Germany and France called on Serbia and Kosovo to resolve a voltage surge.
Unrest among northern Kosovo Serbs over demands for the use of Kosovo documents has raised fears of a conflict between the two countries, more than two decades after NATO bombed Serbia to end a crackdown on the Kosovo Albanian majority.
Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence and around 3,700 NATO peacekeepers are still on patrol to prevent violence between the Albanian and Serbian communities.
Dozens of US and NATO troops stepped up patrols in northern Kosovo earlier this month to maintain calm after the government in Pristina set a two-month deadline for Serbs in the border region of Serbia to switch to Kosovo license plates.
Earlier attempts to introduce Kosovo license plates into Serb-dominated northern Kosovo led to clashes between police and local Serbs, who set up roadblocks. The barricades were only dismantled when NATO peacekeepers stepped in to oversee the process and Kosovo agreed to postpone the license application.
On her first visit to Kosovo since taking over as prime minister in 2017, Brnabic said: “A compromise in the interests of peace and stability – definitely yes.”
In the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica, around 1,000 local Serbs greeted Brnabic, waving Serbian flags and holding signs reading “We have only one prime minister” and “Welcome to Serbia, the holy land of Kosovo”.
“I sincerely hope that the temporary institutions in Pristina will genuinely engage in dialogue and find some necessary compromise for the long-term normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina,” Brnabic told a press conference, saying reference to the Kosovo authorities.
“It’s something we need – not just for our European integration – but for ourselves,” she said.
Serbia has been a candidate for European Union membership since 2012. However, most experts doubt the country has a chance of entering the bloc until Belgrade strikes a deal to normalize relations with the country. Kosovo.
The Brnabic delegation traveled with a large security force, while NATO troops were stationed along the main roads in the region and a helicopter circled overhead.
During her one-day Kosovo tour, the 46-year-old was to visit educational institutions, a Serbian Orthodox monastery and chat with local farmers.
In another show of willingness to mend relations, Kosovar ministers visited parts of southern Serbia where Albanians are in the majority.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron wrote to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti on Sunday saying that normal relations between Kosovo and Serbia are “of crucial importance” for the region.
“Recent tensions have shown that constructive progress is urgently needed, both practically and politically,” Scholz and Macron wrote in the letter, which was released by the offices of Vucic and Kurti.
Talks between Kosovo and Serbia under the auspices of EU and US envoys have so far failed to resolve the issue of license plates, although Belgrade and Pristina have reached a agreement on the use of personal identity documents.
Serbs represent 5% of Kosovo’s 1.8 million inhabitants and Serbia accuses Kosovo of violating their rights, an accusation denied by Pristina.
Kosovo is recognized by around 100 countries, including the United States and all but five EU members, but not by a number of other states, including Russia and China.