With the US forging its own path to a deal between Serbia and Kosovo, the EU has invited the two sides to Brussels before they head to Washington.
The European Union is to bring the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo to Brussels this week as the bloc tries to keep the upper hand in negotiations between the two ahead of a much-anticipated meeting between Aleksandar Vucic and Avdullah Hoti under the auspices of the Trump administration on Saturday.
Keen for a foreign policy success to tout, observers say the United States is increasingly sidelining the EU in a unilateral effort to broker a deal between Serbia and its former southern province 12 years after Kosovo declared independence with the backing of the major Western powers.
Trump’s special envoy, Richard Grenell, will bring Serbian President Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hoti to Washington on June 27, having said that “economic normalisation” must come before any EU-mediated political normalisation.
But Hoti has announced he will first travel to Brussels, and Vucic said on Monday that he too hopes to spend a day there after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. It was not clear whether Vucic and Hoti will meet while in Brussels.
The EU-mediated dialogue has been on hold since late 2018 in part due to a row over import tariffs, but Brussels hopes it will resume in July. Serbia does not recognise Kosovo but the EU says integration into the bloc depends on the two countries ‘normalising’ their relations.
The Washington meeting comes just weeks after Hoti was installed as prime minister and days after a landslide election win for Vucic’s ruling Progressive Party that critics said risked turning Serbia into a one-party state.
Writing on Facebook on Monday, Hoti said he would be in Brussels on June 25 to meet, among others, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and the EU’s enlargement commissioner, Hungary’s Oliver Varhelyi.
He said they would discuss the fight against COVID-19, EU support for Kosovo’s economic recovery from the pandemic and visa liberalisation for Europe’s youngest state.
After meeting EU mediator Miroslav Lajcak in Belgrade on Monday, Vucic told reporters: “I go to Moscow tomorrow, I hope I’ll have one day for a visit to Brussels, because of our European future, and after that I go to Washington.”