Top EU diplomat warns Kosovo, Serbia of ‘running out of time’ to join EU

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned on Thursday the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia that they will not be part of the next round of EU enlargement if they fail to normalize relations.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Borrell said “without normalization, there will not be a European future for either Kosovo or Serbia” after the talks ended in a deadlock.

“Kosovo and Serbia are risking to be left behind when other regional partners are moving quicker towards Europe,” he warned, adding that the countries are “running out of time.”

His remarks came after EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday called on EU member states to respond to the “call of history” and advance with EU enlargement as the Western Balkans’ future belongs with the 27-member bloc.

Borrell explained that despite all the efforts of the EU diplomacy, “it was not possible to bridge the differences today” at their dialogue meeting.

Kurti insisted on a “de facto” recognition of Kosovo as a starting point, while Vucic wanted to address “the establishment of the association community before engaging on its obligations,” the EU official said.

Borrell also questioned the parties’ commitment to normalization because “six months later, only three elements have been addressed” of the deal they struck in March.

The EU-brokered agreement implies, among other points, the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state by Serbia, which high-ranking Serbian officials ruled out shortly thereafter.

Tensions rose so high in May in Northern Kosovo following municipal elections in ethnic Serb-dominated areas that NATO decided to deploy 700 more troops in the peacekeeping KFOR mission after 93 of its soldiers were injured.

Launched in 2011, the EU-led Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue aims to normalize relations between the two Balkan neighbors and to find a mutually agreeable solution to disputes within the framework of a legally binding agreement.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, with most UN member states, including the US, UK, France, Germany, and Turkey, recognizing it as an autonomous country.

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