US diplomat assures Kosovo that new draft of association of Serb municipalities offers no autonomy

Nov 9, 2023, 5:40 AM

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The U.S. ambassador urged Kosovo’s government on Thursday to proceed with establishing an association of its Serb majority towns in order to unblock European Union-facilitated normalization talks with Serbia.

U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey M. Hovenier said “there is no reason for the government of Kosovo not to move forward with this draft statute.”

Normalization talks between Kosovo and Serbia have failed to make progress, particularly following a September shootout between masked Serb gunmen and Kosovo police that left four people dead and ratcheted up tensions in the region.

The EU and the United States are pressing both countries to implement agreements that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti reached earlier this year.

During a trip to the region at the end of last month, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Kosovo to establish an Association of the Serb-Majority Municipalities and pushed Serbia to deliver “de facto recognition” of the independence of Kosovo, which Belgrade still considers its province.

The 1998-1999 war between Serbia and Kosovo killed more than 10,000 people, mostly Kosovo Albanians. It ended after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign that compelled Serbian forces to withdraw from Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 — a move Belgrade refuses to recognize.

Kosovo fears such an association would be a step toward creating a Serb mini-state with wide autonomy, similar to Republika Srpska in Bosnia.

The EU and the U.S. have given assurances that the association will coordinate work on education, health care, land planning and economic development in communities of northern Kosovo mostly populated by ethnic Serbs.

The association’s establishment was first agreed in Brussels in 2013, and approved in the Kosovo parliament. But Kosovo’s Constitutional Court later deemed it unconstitutional because it wasn’t inclusive of other ethnicities and could entail executive powers.

As part of the EU-facilitated dialogue, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni offered a new draft on the association two weeks ago which Kurti has accepted in principle, according to Hovenier.

“The United States believes strongly that the Association of Serb-majority municipalities should conform with Kosovo’s current constitution. It should conform with the Constitutional Court decision. It should not be an additional layer of government. There should not be any executive authorities,” Hovenier said.

“I don’t see how you have autonomy under those circumstances,” the ambassador said.

The new draft has set clearly that Kosovo’s Constitutional Court is to decide whether it is within the constitutional boundaries.

Both Serbia and Kosovo have said they want to join the 27-nation European block, but EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said their refusal to compromise is jeopardizing their chances for membership.


Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.


Follow Llazar Semini at https://twitter.com/lsemini

United States News

A portion of UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s campus in Minnetonka, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)...

Tom Kuebel

Cyber attack on health insurance provider could prevent Arizonans from getting prescriptions

A cyber attack against Change Healthcare has prevented some patients from being able to fill prescriptions at local pharmacies.

1 minute ago

Stuart Dryden reaches for an item at a grocery store on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, in Arlington, Va....

Associated Press

Consumers are pushing back against price increases at stores — and winning

Consumers are fighting back against food price increases by turning their backs on high-end brands and purchasing store-label products instead.

6 hours ago

A calendar shows the month of February, including leap day, Feb. 29, on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in S...

Associated Press

What would happen without a Leap Day? More than you might think

NEW YORK (AP) — Leap year. It’s a delight for the calendar and math nerds among us. So how did it all begin and why? Have a look at some of the numbers, history and lore behind the (not quite) every four year phenom that adds a 29th day to February. BY THE NUMBERS The […]

17 hours ago

FILE - Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim greets supporters outside Central High School on the day of the r...

Associated Press

Fatigue and frustration as final do-over mayoral election looms in Connecticut’s largest city

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — It’s been nearly four months since a judge tossed out the results of a Democratic mayoral primary in Connecticut’s largest city due to allegations of ballot stuffing, sending voters repeatedly back to the polls and thrusting Bridgeport into an unflattering national spotlight. Many frustrated local voters say they just want it […]

17 hours ago

Homes are seen on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in the southwest Portland, Ore., suburb of Beaverton. Th...

Associated Press

A housing shortage is testing Oregon’s pioneering land use law. Lawmakers are poised to tweak it

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A severe lack of affordable housing has prompted Oregon lawmakers to consider chipping away at a 1970s law that made the state a national leader in leveraging land use policy to prevent suburban sprawl and conserve nature and agriculture. The so-called urban growth boundary, a sacred cow of Oregon’s liberal politics, […]

17 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump hugs and kisses the American flag a...

Associated Press

Trump calls himself a ‘proud political dissident’ in CPAC speech

In a CPAC speech, Trump painted an apocalyptic vision of the future if President Joe Biden wins again as the two prepare for a rematch.

21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

US diplomat assures Kosovo that new draft of association of Serb municipalities offers no autonomy