Kosovo, Serbian leaders resume dialogue amid tensions

1 / 2
Kosovo president Hashim Thaci, left, and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic. (AFP)
2 / 2
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, right, with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, in Pristina. Kurz said his country “will support any deal that will be reached between Belgrade and Pristina.” (AP Photo)
Updated 08 November 2018
0

Kosovo, Serbian leaders resume dialogue amid tensions

  • EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini met with Kosovo president Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic
  • This was their first meeting since July 18, after a scheduled meeting in September between the two presidents fell apart at the last minute

BRUSSELS: Kosovo and Serbia’s presidents met Thursday under EU auspices to resume dialogue aimed at normalizing relations, amid increasing tensions between former foes.
EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was meeting with Kosovo president Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, her spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic tweeted.
This was their first meeting since July 18, after a scheduled meeting in September between the two presidents fell apart at the last minute due to ongoing tensions.
In 2008, a decade after the 1998-1999 war between Serbia’s forces and pro-independence ethnic Albanian guerrillas, Kosovo broke away from Serbia.
Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo’s independence, although more than 100 countries, including the United States and most EU member states, have done so.
“In today’s meeting we will reconfirm Kosovo’s full commitment to achieve a legally binding comprehensive agreement with Serbia,” Thaci tweeted ahead of the meeting.
Vucic said he had no big expectations of a breakthrough but said it was necessary to talk, Serbia’s national broadcaster RTS reported, ahead of the meeting.
After the meeting, that lasted less then an hour, Mogherini said it was “decided to remain in constant contact in the coming days to assess the follow up of today’s meeting.”
She urged both sides “to refrain from words, actions and measures that are contrary to the spirit of normalization,” according to a statement released by the EU’s foreign policy service after the meeting.
“The European Union expects Serbia and Kosovo to swiftly deliver on their commitment to the dialogue given the direct link between comprehensive normalization of relations between them and the concrete prospects for their EU aspirations,” Mogherini said.
Both sides need to reach a binding agreement on their ties to make progress toward EU membership.
The talks resumed two days after Kosovo raised taxes on Serbian goods by 10 percent on Tuesday, saying the move was in retaliation for Belgrade’s efforts to thwart recognition of its former province.
Belgrade is also upset with Pristina’s recent decision to form its own army, despite fierce opposition from the ethnic Serb minority and from Serbia. Kosovo’s security is currently ensured by NATO-led KFOR troops.
In addition, the diplomatic deadlock garnered attention over the summer when officials on both sides discussed the possibility of border changes as part of deal to reset ties.
Local media speculated that a Serb-dominated part of Kosovo could be traded for a mostly Albanian region of southern Serbia.
Rights groups have strongly condemned the proposal, warning that redrawing the map could have a dangerous domino effect in the fractured region.
However, some US and European officials have hinted they might accept such a deal.
Earlier this week, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said his country “will support any deal that will be reached between Belgrade and Pristina.
“I assume that the EU will also support it, even if the deal includes a land exchange or border correction deal” between Kosovo and Serbia, Kurz added during a visit to Pristina.


French minister resigns in luxury dinners scandal

Updated 17 min ago
0

French minister resigns in luxury dinners scandal

  • The Mediapart website accused him of hosting friends to opulent meals

PARIS: A senior French cabinet minister resigned Tuesday after reports accused him of extravagant spending, including on luxury dinners, but lashed out at what he termed a "media lynching."
Environment Minister Francois de Rugy has been under unrelenting pressure for a week after the Mediapart website accused him of hosting friends to opulent meals, complete with lobster and vintage wines, while he was speaker of parliament.
"The attacks and media lynching targeting my family force me to take the necessary step back," said de Rugy, who also held the post of minister of state which made him the number two in government after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
"The effort required to defend my name means that I am not able to serenely and efficiently carry out my mission. I presented my resignation to the prime minister this morning," he added.
Rugy lashed out at Mediapart, which has repeatedly published stories that have rattled the French elite since it was established in 2008.
He said he had filed a legal complaint against the left-wing publication for "defamation", accusing it of a desire "to harm, smear and destroy."
President Emmanuel Macron, in his first reaction to the revelations, said Monday he had asked Philippe for "full clarity" as he took decisions not "based on revelations but facts".
Macron, who is keen to promote his green credentials, has struggled to find a long-term occupant for the environment ministry.
De Rugy last year succeeded Macron's first appointment to the job, Nicolas Hulot, a celebrity environmentalist who quit after saying that his cabinet colleagues were doing too little to tackle climate change.