Summit between Serbia and Kosovo highlights EU ‘diplomatic’ weakness
4th May 2019
epa07537009 French President Emmanuel Macron (C-L), German Chancellor Angela Merke (C), Federica Mogherini (C-R) High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, join with other leaders for the family photo (group photo) of the participants at the end of the Western Balkan Conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 29 April 2019. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are hosting a meeting of European Union officials and Western Balkan leaders to restart talks between Serbia and Kosovo. EPA-EFE/Mika Schmidt / POOL
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Macron visited the German capital this week to co-host a summit of Western Balkan leaders alongside Angela Merkel aimed at jumpstarting talks between Serbia and Kosovo. Frustrated by the EU’s failure to forge a deal to ease the tensions, Merkel and Macron decided to take matters into their owns hands.
POLITICO reports how the tensions between the Balkan neighborsflared anewrecently after Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, imposed 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods in response to Belgrade’s efforts to block international recognition for Pristina. Serbia promptly made clear it would take no further part in an EU-sponsored dialogue between the two sides until the tariffs are lifted.
Going into this week’s meeting, neither side appeared willing to budge, prompting some diplomats to privately question whether the summit should go forward at all. Such high-level summits are usually carefully choreographed affairs, preceded by months of diplomatic spade work during which officials negotiate the contours of agreements, which then go to the leaders for the final touches. Big countries often use such meetings, which offer the leaders of smaller countries coveted international limelight, as an incentive to make compromises.
In this case, the participants could not even agree on the broad “conclusions” circulated by Berlin and Paris in the days leading up to the summit.
The possibility of agreement was a remote, even if one analyses media reports leading to the summit.
“Vucic said onApril10 thatBelgradewould be ready to engage in negotiations withPristinaonly when its 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods, introduced inNovember2018as a response toBelgrade’s blocking of Kosovo becoming a member of Interpol, were abolished. When asked if she believed that the meeting couldresultin sanctions removal, Stamenkovic was skeptical.
“Thisimporttariff is contrary toallof the signed regional agreements, as well as contrary to common sense.Serbiadid not respond to this with similar measures.
If Merkel and Macron really want illegal tariffs to be lifted, they would already be lifted. It is obvious they are playing a game with them,” Stamenkovic said,” reports Urdopoint.
POLITICO adds “by the time the summit adjourned in the early hours of Tuesday, they probably wished they hadn’t. Instead of presenting a breakthrough, Merkel and Macron unwittingly put Europe’s dysfunctional diplomacy on public display. The summit highlighted divisions not just between Kosovo and Serbia, but also between Paris and Berlin and between the EU’s member countries and its foreign policy apparatus in Brussels.“