Dačić and Thaci meeting again in Brussels

BRUSSELS, BELGRADE -- Ivica Dačić and Hashim Thaci will meet on Monday in Brussels over a working dinner with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton.

(file)
(file)

Ashton called the meeting with the two prime ministers last week after the relations between Belgrade and Priština worsened following a decision of the Kosovo authorities to ban officials from Serbia, including Dačić visiting Kosovo during the election campaign for the local elections to be held on November 3.

Dačić said that if the ban remains in effect, he withdraw from the dialogue between Belgrade and Priština.

On the other hand, officials in Priština said that their decision was irreversible.

Dačić said that the ban was "an unprecedented scandal," adding that even before that, when he received information that something of the kind could happen, he warned the "Quint" ambassadors fifths and the EU of the consequences it may cause.

"Among other things, that it could completely remove the meaning from the dialogue and from my own participation in it, because if I, as a signatory to the Brussels agreement, cannot go to Kosovo and agitate in favor of elections that are scheduled according to Priština's laws, then the question is what is the purpose of such a decision is, and then it is pure obstruction of the Brussels agreement," he said.

Dačić, however, pointed out that it was in Serbia's interest to continue the normalization process and believes that the pressure from Brussels on Priština will produce results.

"I am an optimist in the sense that the very fact the meeting was convened shows that everyone understands the weight of the problem at the moment, but if the decision is unaffected by them, as for me, my involvement is over," Dačić told reporters in Vrbas.

On the other hand, Thaci said last week that the ban was " an autonomous decision within constitutional and legal authority" of the Priština government while his deputy Hajredin Kuci said that "visits that have a political or party character will not be allowed."

EU officials have been careful to avoid public comment on the dispute, although it is clear that behind the scenes holding extensive consultations are being led.

"We are carefully monitoring the situation we are in contact with both sides," Ashton's spokesperson May Kocijančič told Tanjug earlier, while Special Representative in Priština Samuel Žbogar said that the ban on Serbian officials showed "nervousness of both sides."

"I think it's excessive to ban all visits by Serbian officials to Kosovo at the time of the election, because we know it is in the interest of all of us for as many people as possible to participate in elections."

An EU official who insisted on anonymity told Tanjug on the eve of the new round in Brussels that they believed that, despite the strong words from both sides, the dispute would be resolved.

"It is in everyone's interest to continue the dialogue, among other things because the process of European integration is closely related to the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Priština, while the European Commission will in ten days submit the annual progress report on Serbia and Kosovo," he recalled.

"Elections main topic"

The preparations for the forthcoming local elections in Kosovo will be the main topic of the meeting between Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and his Kosovo counterpart Hasim Thaci under the EU auspices late on Monday, spokesperson of the high EU representative Maja Kocijancic told reporters on Monday.

The talks will cover the implementation of the Brussels agreement (between Belgrade and Priština) but the preparations for the November 3 elections will be the main topic of the meeting, Kocijancic told reporters ahead of the working dinner to which High EU Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy invited the two prime ministers.

The 17th round of the dialogue late on Monday was called after the Priština authorities decided to ban visits to Kosovo for Serbian officials in the course of the election campaign, after which Belgrade threatened to withdraw from the dialogue.

Ahead of the meeting, Dačić told the Belgrade-based daily Večernje Novosti that he expects Brussels to exert pressure on Priština to withdraw the ban, adding that he believes the pressure would produce results.

When asked why Brussels failed to react to the introduction of the ban last week, Kocijancic replied that the invitation for the two prime ministers to come to the meeting can be interpreted as a reaction.

Ashton assessed that such a meeting would be useful, Kocijancic said and underscored that the EU expects well-prepared, fair and inclusive elections in Kosovo.

This also covers the electoral campaign, she said.

The EU expects the Monday talks, which will probably last until late at night, to produce a positive outcome and the optimism is based on the fact that Dačić and Thaci accepted the invitation of the high EU official without hesitation, a European official who wished to remain anonymous told Tanjug.

The Priština delegation expects a reasonable solution to be reached tonight, as well as an agreement on the visits of Serbia officials to Kosovo during the campaign.

Belgrade officials will have to state the reason for the visit upon entry to Kosovo so that the Kosovo government could then adopt individual decisions and grant or deny access to Kosovo for every official, Tanjug learned from sources close to the Priština delegation in the dialogue in Brussels.