Escobar: Status-quo in dialogue not working

Gabriel Escobar, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary and envoy to the Western Balkans, said ahead of his visit to Prishtina and Belgrade that the current, status-quo situation in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue is not working as the youth continue to leave the region.

He also underlined that the establishment of the Association of Serb-majority municipalities would not undermine Kosovo’s sovereignty.

In an interview with the Prishtina-based Reporteri.net news portal, Escobar said that the joint visit with the EU Special Representative for Dialogue Mirosal Lajcak will be focused on advancing the EU-facilitated dialogue: “The U.S. goal is a comprehensive agreement that normalizes Serbia-Kosovo relations centered on mutual recognition.”

He said that the message that he will deliver in Serbia will be the same. “Prioritizing the EU-facilitated Dialogue is the best way for leaders to deliver for their citizens. The status quo is not working, as we can see by the continued exodus of young people who believe their future is elsewhere. I have hope that leaders in Serbia and Kosovo understand the importance of moving forward, not backward, through the EU-facilitated Dialogue toward comprehensive normalization of their relations, which remains essential for their respective EU paths.”

Escobar further called on Kosovo and Serbia to fully implement agreements and commitments they made in Brussels noting that this will require “flexibility, creativity, and, in some cases, compromise.”

“The Government of Kosovo has committed the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities (ASM) to exist. The United States has not and will not dictate what this ASM should do or what its authorities should be; that’s a sovereign decision for the Government of Kosovo. There are workable models available including many that would allow for better local coordination without adding additional layers of government or executive power. We encourage the Government of Kosovo to carefully consider these models.”

Reiterating the view that Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are “firmly established”, Escobar said that it was important to conclude the negotiations on a comprehensive normalization agreement centered on mutual recognition.

He also noted about Serbia’s referendum that Kosovo has every right to determine the terms under which other countries’ elections take place in its territory.

“However, we believe it’s important for residents of Kosovo that have the right to vote in Serbian elections to be able to do.”