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News 19 Feb 13

Kosovo and Serbia Keep Discussions Quiet

The fifth EU-mediated meeting between Kosovo and Serbia's prime ministers takes place on Tuesday but little is known about what's been discussed at the talks so far.

BIRN Pristina

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will host the latest round of discussions between Kosovo's premier Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic in Brussels.

“Ashton will host the fifth round of the dialogue for normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. She and the two PMs will continue to discuss issues already addressed, including the north of Kosovo [home to the Serb minority],” Maja Kocinjancic, Ashton's spokesperson told Balkan Insight

Kosovo’s deputy prime minister, Hajredin Kuci, said on Monday that Pristina mainly wants to talk about “Serbian security and [Serb-run] parallel judicial structures” in the northern part of Kosovo.

“I am convinced an agreement will be achieved. There are signals also from Belgrade that parallel structures [set up by Serbs outside Kosovo government control] have to be dismantled,” Kuci said.

Meanwhile Belgrade is insisting on broader autonomy for Serb-populated areas.

Thaci and Dacic have so far agreed a border management deal, the development of measures to protect Serbian cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo, and the preparation of a feasibility study for a motorway between the Serbian city of Nis and Pristina.

Both prime ministers have also agreed to exchange liaison officers, step up work on missing persons and on the collection of customs duties, levies and VAT at crossing points in the northern part of Kosovo.

But differing interpretations of these issues have raised suspicions about the actual form of these agreements.

The Kosovo government has refused to reveal further details about what has been discussed.

Kosovo’s legislation only allows access to official documents if their publication does not pose a threat to national security and international relations, public safety and criminal prosecutions.

Balkan Insight asked the Kosovo government press office for access to all the agreements and the transcripts of the talks with Serbia, but only the conclusions of technical dialogue were provided.

No reason was given for this.

Since the start of the EU-mediated talks, opposition parties and civil society have criticised those involved in the discussions for a lack of transparency.

“This [the dialogue] is the foggiest political process I’ve seen since 1999. The Kosovo government is keeping the agreements secret because they are damaging the state’s interest,” Glauk Konjufca, a lawmaker from the opposition Self-Determination Movement, told Balkan Insight.

Shpend Kursani from the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development said that “the government has given itself a degree of flexibility in order to achieve agreements which violate the Kosovo constitution”.

Seven technical agreements have been reached since March 2011, covering issues such as integrated border management, freedom of movement, acceptance of university diplomas and customs stamps.

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