After a policeman and three Serb gunmen were killed in clashes in northern Kosovo, tensions between Belgrade and Pristina have reached their highest level in years in recent weeks, prompting European leaders to urge dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia after the recent escalation of tension between them during a regional summit of Balkan countries hosted by the Albanian capital Tirana on Monday.


 

Edited by| Hugh Gey

 

Europe  section -  CJ journalist

 

Tirana - October,16,2023

 


"The time has come to move beyond the conflicts that have lasted too long,"German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at the summit. "The recent escalation of the situation in northern Kosovo has proved how important this is,"he added.

On the eve of the summit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged Belgrade and Pristina to return to the dialogue on the normalization of relations, which is being held under the auspices of Brussels.

"This is the path towards a future in which Kosovo and Serbia will be part of the European Union,"she said in Tirana.

But Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic missed this year's annual summit, he left for Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum where he is supposed to sign a free trade agreement with China.

However, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic came to the Tirana summit.

The agenda of the meeting includes the discussion of deepening rapprochement with the EU and"supporting the environmental and digital transformation" in the region.

During the one-day meeting, the leaders are expected to ratify an agreement on mutual recognition of professional qualifications and announce the opening of the campus of the College of Europe in Tirana.

Monday's meetings are the ninth summit within the framework of the "Berlin Process" launched by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2014.

The "Berlin process" aims to support political dialogue, cooperation and reconciliation between the six Western Balkan countries-Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

It also provides a space for rapprochement with the EU, as nine of its member states, including France and Germany, participate in the annual summit.

Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain are participating in this year's summit at the invitation of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Last year's meeting resulted in several agreements related to freedom of movement and residence in the region and the recognition of certain universities and professional qualifications.

Ursula von der Leyen also announced at the time an energy subsidy plan worth one billion euros (1,1 billion dollars).

"The Berlin Process in the last decade has produced a lot of agreements but little follow-up,"said Florian Pieper of the Balkans and Europe policy advisory group.

"In Vienna, in 2015, the foreign ministers of all six countries signed a declaration so that bilateral disputes would not stand in the way of the European Union,"he added.

But despite pledging to resolve their differences, the countries have not set up a monitoring mechanism, Bieber said, meaning their differences "continue to confuse the region".

Following the recent tensions, the Kosovo government has reviewed a large arsenal of weapons and equipment and accused Belgrade of supporting Serb militants in the clashes in the North.

An adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron said: "there is a lot we have to do.. With concerns related to Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia".

Macron arrives on Monday evening and will stay in Albania on Tuesday for bilateral meetings.

Political researcher Katarina Radic pointed out that" with regard to Kosovo and Serbia, Vucic's absence can be read as a clear indication of the absence of good intentions, " which could lead to Belgrade's international isolation.

"When we return from Tirana on Monday, I doubt that Serbia or the region will be different in any way from what it is now,"she said.

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