Serbia and Kosovo Still Apart on North

As the EU-led dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia is set to resume on March 4, the two sides have made some advances on Serb-run northern Kosovo while areas of disagreement remain. In a meeting on Tuesday with the Kosovo President, Atifete Jahjaga, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said the two sides had agreed to dismantle Serbian-financed police and intelligence structures in northern Kosovo and “transform them into new structures”.

Thaci also revealed other details of his talks with his Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dacic, saying the two sides had agreed that “an association” of Serb-majority municipalities would be established in Kosovo.

However, as usual, the two sides have different interpretations of what was actually agreed in Brussels.

In Belgrade, Dacic maintained that while Serbia wanted to ensure the formation of the association of Kosovo Serbian municipalities, Belgrade had given no commitment about explicitly or implicitly recognising its operation within an independent Kosovo.

Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence, proclaimed in 2008, and has vowed never to do so.

The Serbian Prime Minister told media in Belgrade he had “agreed to work on overcoming ‘parallelism’ in institutions, but without impinging on the [from Serbia’s point of view unrecognised] status of Kosovo”.

While Kosovo wants Serbia to dismantle its so-called “parallel” structures in the north, Serbia insists on broad autonomy being offered for all Serb-populated areas in Kosovo first.

Since the end of the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s, the north has been beyond the Kosovo government’s control, while Serbia has continued to finance local security, judicial, health and educational institutions.

However, as part of its EU accession process, Belgrade has come under growing pressure from the EU to dismantle its so-called parallel institutions in the north of Kosovo.

The security situation in the northern Serb-run part of the town of Mitrovica remains fragile, meanwhile.

Several blasts – the latest was on Monday night- have rocked the region during recent weeks though no causalities have been reported.

The EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX, condemned recent grenade attacks in northern Kosovo and appealed to those who have information about them to come forward.

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