Serbia and Kosovo are teaming up to track down people who went missing in the 1990s war. The leaders of the two countries have agreed on this in Brussels, in talks led by EU foreign policy chief Borrell.
The fighting after the breakup of Yugoslavia cost the lives of more than 13,000 people. Some 24 years after the war, more than 1600 people are still missing.
Kosovo Prime Minister Kurti and Serbian President Vucic reached a data-sharing agreement late last night. They will exchange (secret) documents and will use satellite data and other technology to detect suspected mass graves.
The majority of the dead and missing are ethnic Albanians. More than 20 years later, families still live in uncertainty about the fate of their loved ones. “They have the right to find out the fate of their relatives and society should know that too.”
The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia are negotiating in Brussels with the aim of normalizing relations between the countries. In March, Kurti and Vucic also agreed on a number of other points, but yesterday’s talks yielded little.
One of the most difficult issues is how much autonomy should be given to the Serbian minority in Kosovo. Kosovo was reported to have pledged some form of autonomy in March, but little progress has been made since then.
There are tensions, especially in the north of Kosovo, where many Serbs live. Some 50,000 Serbs in northern Kosovo still refuse to recognize Kosovo institutions, such as the police and the judiciary. They also boycotted the local elections last month.
Worry about situation
Borrell said he expressed “serious concerns” about the situation in conversation with Kurti and Vucic. He urged both sides to reach a compromise and warned that further escalation could undermine negotiations to normalize relations.
Yesterday, Vucic and Kurti failed to work out plans for more autonomy for the ethnic Serbs. Kurti says a bill presented at yesterday’s meeting was inconsistent with the Kosovo constitution and therefore he cannot approve it. “I’m very worried,” Vucic said afterwards. “It is clear that Pristina does not want to fulfill his obligations.”
Serbia and Kosovo have been at odds for decades. This led to a guerrilla war in 1998 and 1999, with which the Albanian majority in Kosovo wanted to achieve secession from Serbia. Kosovo declared independence in 2008 after ethnic cleansing and NATO bombing of Serb targets, but Serbia continues to view it as its own province. Since then there have been countless conflicts, such as riots, roadblocks, border closures and threats of war.
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