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Normalizing Relations between Serbia and Kosovo without an Agreement: Serbia’s Quest

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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday that Serbia wants normal relations with Kosovo but still will not sign any agreement with it, a day after he verbally agreed to implement a Western-backed plan to normalize relations.

Serbia wants to join the European Union, and the condition for membership is the normalization of relations with Albanian-majority Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 but Belgrade still considers it a Serbian province.

Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti agreed to implement normalization steps at a meeting with EU officials in the lake resort of North Macedonia on Saturday, although no document was signed and the EU said it wanted to go further.

“Serbia wants to have normal relations with Kosovo. We want to travel, we want to do business and you can’t live isolated behind 100-meter walls,” Vucic told reporters on Sunday.

“I didn’t want to sign the executive annex agreement last night, nor the EU-backed agreement (in Brussels last month),” Vucic told reporters. “I do not want to sign any legally binding international documents with Kosovo because Serbia does not recognize its independence,” he added.

Late Saturday night, Corte said the agreement represented “a de facto acknowledgment.”

Under their oral agreement, Kosovo committed to granting greater autonomy to Serb-majority regions, while Serbia agreed not to block Kosovo’s membership in international organizations.

The European Union pledged to organize a donors’ conference for both countries, provided that the disbursement of financial aid depends on steps to improve relations.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Saturday after the 12-hour meeting that the deal reached fell short of the “more ambitious and detailed” EU proposal the two sides could not agree on.

He said Kosovo lacked flexibility on the substance of the proposals, while Serbia refused to sign the document even though Belgrade was “fully ready to implement it”.

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