Rama: Relationship with Vucic aimed at not having ‘a radicalized Serbia’

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said during a visit to Kosovo that Albania’s efforts to build good regional relations with Serbia were in part to keep Belgrade in the Western orbit.

“It’s not in our interest to have radicalized Serbia, especially in today’s world”, Rama said at a joint press conference with his Kosovo counterpart in Prishtina, Albin Kurti. 

Rama was responding to criticism over perceptions that he is placing his relations with Serb President Aleksandar Vucic over Albanian interests in the region, especially those in Kosovo, where Rama and Kurti led a joint Albania-Kosovo governments meeting on Monday (20.06).

Rama and Kurti made it clear that they don’t see eye to eye on some issues, especially on Serbia and participation in the Open Balkan initiative, but said they would work together to bring Albania and Kosovo closer.

“I don’t think our different views on Serbia harm our shared goal – Serbia recognizing Kosovo as independent and the just peace needed for all”, Rama said.  

Prime Minister Kurti was repeatedly asked about Open Balkans, which Kosovo has refused to join as it is seen as a Serb-led initiative outside the EU’s Berlin process, saying he prefered to talk about bilateral cooperation with Albania and plans to have a port section dedicated to Kosovo in Albania’s Adriatic coastline and the construction of a new railway linking Kosovo and Albania.

Cooperation has never been wider and more intensive, both in the use of human resources and natural resources, Kosovo Prime Minister Kurti said at the joint meeting. 

“Relations between our two countries are proof that when there are no unresolved political problems, the success of relations in all other areas is guaranteed. It is also proof that cooperation, integration and sustainable development throughout the region is ensured by solving political problems at the beginning and not at the end”, Prime Minister Kurti said.

The countries’ governments approved 13 intergovernmental agreements and 8 interinstitutional agreements at the eights joint meeting, which have become a regular occurance, twice a year. The agreements ranged from law enforcement and education to customs and energy.

Belgrade-Pristina Negotiators Agree Energy Roadmap

Negotiators from Belgrade and Pristina agreed a roadmap for the implementation of energy agreements, European Commission envoy Miroslav Lajcak said on Tuesday (21.06). 

“Very pleased to announce that Kosovo and Serbia just adopted the Energy Agreements’ Implementation Roadmap in the framework of the EU-facilitated Dialogue. This is a major step forward”, Lajcak tweeted. 

According to the roadmap which Lajcak published on his Twitter account, the Elektrosever power company will be issued a licence by the Kosovo energy regulatory body (ERO) and will provide the Kosovo power company (KEDS) data on its customers within a week. Elektrosever will sign technical agreements with Kosovo energy authorities allowing it to operate on the Kosovo energy market. The roadmap says that Kosovo power companies and institutions will get access to Elektrosever infrastructure within 30 days and will submit an investment plan and planned expenses which the Kosovo authorities will approve within another 21 days. 

The roadmap allows ERO to revoke Elektrosever’s licence in case of non-compliance. 

The Elektrosever company was formed under the 2013 Brussels Agreement which included an energy agreement. The company was supposed to operate under Kosovo regulations and bill consumers in the north of Kosovo. The majority Serb populations of North Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok have not been paying their power bills for more than 20 years. The Kosovo authorities have claimed that the losses for 2021 alone totaled some 40 million Euro. 

Scholz and Kurti Met in Pristina

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Friday (10.06) in Pristina that countries refusing to recognize each other have no place in the European Union (EU) and that Kosovo’s path to the EU is linked with its dialogue with Serbia.

It is important for Kosovo to move the EU-facilitated dialogue forward, Scholz told a news conference following his meeting with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

Scholz is currently on a Balkans trip and is also scheduled to visit Serbia, Greece, North Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Kosovo and Serbia should arrive at political solutions by means of a comprehensive agreement. A dialogue is the path that paves the way for Kosovo’s European prospects. A political agreement between the two countries is an important prerequisite to the future of Kosovo’s youth. The agreement should, in the end, also solve the Kosovo issue because it is inconceivable for two countries that do not recognize each other to become part of the EU. Rapprochement is expected from both sides, Scholz is reported to have said.

The German Chancellor said that Kosovo is a reliable partner which was proved by its response to the Russian aggression on Ukraine and that his visit to Kosovo, which marks the beginning of his Balkans tour, speaks of the close Berlin-Pristina relations.

Announcing that Kosovo will apply for EU membership candidate status this year, Kurti said he asked Scholz for support in the process. The Kosovo PM thanked Scholz for Germany’s continued support, adding that Kosovo will continue to be its loyal ally.

Serbia Not Allowing Kosovo to Participate in EUSAIR as an Independent Country

Serbia said on Monday (30.05) that it would not allow Kosovo to be part of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Region (EUSAIR) as an independent country.

EUSAIR is a forum bringing together Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, and San Marino, launched in 2014 by the European Commission to help candidate countries and potential candidates draw closer to EU membership.

The ten countries are Adriatic or Ionian countries or are in the hinterland of the two seas, and they gathered in Tirana for an annual conference on 16-18 May. A Kosovo delegation led by Local Government Minister Elbert Krasniqi visited Tirana but did not attend the conference, however, the delegation met with European Commission officials, requesting accession to EUSAIR.

For a country to be admitted to EUSAIR it needs to have the consent of all ten member countries. “Under international law and the UN Charter, Kosovo and Metohija are an integral part of the Republic of Serbia, a member of the United Nations”, the Serbian Foreign Ministry said in an e-mail sent to the Croatian state news agency Hina, noting that parts of EUSAIR member countries cannot participate in EUSAIR because the countries of which they are part of, are already members. In 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia and its independence has been recognized by 22 of the 27 EU member countries.

This month Bosnia and Herzegovina took over the presidency of EUSAIR, to last until 31 May 2023, when the chairmanship will be taken over by Croatia. Krasniqi told Hina on Sunday (29.05) he believed that Croatia would support Kosovo’s bid and that during its chairmanship Kosovo could become a member. Croatian state secretary Andreja Metelko-Zgombic, who attended the meeting in Tirana, told Croatian reporters that Kosovo “should certainly be included in all initiatives, including international organizations.”

The EC, the EU’s executive body, said that EUSAIR could further expand but that the admission of new members did not depend on it but on the consent of all ten members, and that Serbia was blocking Kosovo’s entry. In its reply to Hina, the Serbian Foreign Ministry notes that among the EUSAIR member countries are also countries that have not recognized Kosovo’s independence, such as Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina. EUSAIR member-states local and regional authorities, universities, associations, and companies apply jointly for projects financed with money from EU funds.

Kosovo participates only in cross-border cooperation with North Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro as part of the IPA program, which enables potential candidates and candidates to use money from EU funds. Krasniqi said that those projects were excellent and that it was a pity Kosovo did not have such projects with Serbia or EU countries like Italy”, as it would provide citizens with additional opportunities. “The Kosovo and Serbian delegations did not meet or talk in Tirana. The Serbian ministry said Krasniqi had not been invited to the forum itself and only attended events on the margins of the conference.

The last country to join EUSAIR was San Marino, in February 2022 while North Macedonia joined in 2021.

“Serbia has good cooperation with the member countries of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative and EUSAIR, and the latest work results of all four pillars show that EUSAIR has a future that will benefit all participating countries”, the Serbian ministry said. EUSAIR builds on the former Adriatic-Ionian Initiative adopted in Ancona in 2000 to promote regional cooperation and political stability as a foundation for the process of European integration.